A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
Oct. 21, 2010 Volume 41 / Number 2


Lessons from Bangalore

For a slideshow of Crosby's experiences in Bangalore,
Photo: From left, Matthew Bently and Dane Cameron

Nandi Crosby, Sociology and Mulitcultural and Gender Studies, spent one month this summer in Bangalore, India, with the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC). She taught a Sociology of Gender course and had a class of eight young women from the United States. They discussed controversial topics such as Indian hijras (men who dress and act like women), drag queens, misogyny, Latino machismo, and the strong black woman.

Crosby and her students also had the opportunity to volunteer in the slums of Bangalore. She spent much of her time in one slum and its “library,” although it wasn’t filled with books and they didn’t teach English as she had expected—there isn’t the money or the resources. She spent time with the children socializing, playing games like checkers, drawing or coloring, and helping them with workbooks for such things as practicing writing.

She also took pictures of the children and their families and had copies made for them to keep. “Rather than taking these photos and making it about our own experience or capturing their experience, how about we give back?” Crosby said to her students. The students printed their pictures and gave them to the children, who loved to see themselves in the camera’s viewing screen and in their prints. “That was one of the most significant things we did,” Crosby said.

She and her students learned a lot about Indian culture that they could not have learned from a textbook — things about themselves and their own culture, including what it means to be privileged. She believes that experience of lack of privilege is one of the more important understandings she will bring to her classes at home. Crosby believes that whether one has an education or lives in a safe place or was born in the United States and has certain freedoms, it is a contrast to many of the people she met living in the slum community. “It’s one thing to read about those who are not privileged and understand it intellectually; it’s another to witness it for yourself. It changes you, humbles you, heightens your consciousness,” she said.

In the future, Crosby would also like to teach in Ghana and in the Semester at Sea program. She is currently writing a book titled Someone Lost Their Life: Imprisoned Voices of Redemption, Resistance, and Remorse, stories of prisoners telling about their regrets, the changes they have undergone, and their triumphs. End

—Melissa Cheatham, Public Affairs and Publications