Written for ANTHRCUL 330: Culture, Thought, and Meaning by Professor Eric Mueggler in Fall 2016

Anthropologists, ethnographers, and philosophers throughout history have commonly struggled with the concept of freedom: do we ultimately have free will? Or is our freedom limited by a number of other factors which define us as individuals? Edward Sapir in The Unconscious Patterning of Behavior in Society, attempts to describe what he calls “social behavior,” a type of behavior conceivable only if certain aspects of individual behavior are ignored and only the associations between individuals are given attention. Sapir believes that this “unconscious patterning of behavior…


Written for ANTHRCUL 202: Ethnic Diversity in Japan, taught by Professor Jennifer Robertson in Winter 2018

Wasabi for Breakfast is a lighthearted yet pungent look at issues ranging from identity to discrimination, both in the context of Japan and of the United States in the 1990s. The book is a collection of two novellas. “Family Business” tells the story of a woman in her fifties returning to Japan to visit her elderly mother after spending twenty years in America, highlighting the difficulties a Japanese emigrant has when trying to readjust to a constricting and rule-ridden Japanese society after living abroad…


Written for ANTHRCUL 327: Medicine and Healing, taught by Professor Liz Roberts in Fall 2017

The expansion of biomedical technologies in recent years has introduced an array of faceless organizations and systems that increasingly tighten their grip on the lives of individuals through rules, regulations, and policies. These powers include pharmaceutical and insurance companies, medical practitioners, and governmental bodies. Individuals have begun to rely on biomedical products to maintain their own lifestyles and comfort, and thus, the distributers of these technologies have begun to exert a sort of “invisible control” over their lives. This phenomenon is clearly displayed in the…


In reality, the idea of a “mono-ethnic” culture has never existed. An example can be seen in Japan: while government-endorsed nationalism has espoused the idea that Japan is a society of one race, in reality, the nation was organized from several previously disconnected, feudal states, each with their own unique traditions and cultures. Additionally, many Japanese today are descended from other east Asian groups, including Chinese and Koreans, and Japan as a whole hosts a multitude of ethnic communities, including Brazilians, Muslims, and others together making up a multiethnic society. This “mixing” of cultures, while it has been a theme…


“Right now, there are more people on Facebook than there were on the planet 200 years ago.” (Kony 2012 2012). This is the opening narration of Kony 2012, a short film released by the American NGO Invisible Children that took young activist minds by storm through a quick viral spread and equally speedy decline. The video urged viewers to act against Joseph Kony, a leader of the guerilla group Lord’s Resistance Movement (LRA) in Uganda accused of several human rights violations, most notably the abduction of children to become soldiers and sex slaves. What ensued was a frantic campaign to…


My grandfather writing a graduation card to my sister, Ariana, who graduated this year


To me, the word ‘passion’ is overused and somewhat elusive in the world we live in today. Throughout the three tightly-packed, suffocatingly busy years of college I have lived through so far, I have struggled with and against that word.

People around me used it so freely: ‘I’ve always had a passion for computers. I knew since I was fifteen that I wanted to be a software engineer.’ Was life really supposed to be so straightforward? And if so, where did I fit in? I’m the type of person that could be labeled as a “dreamer.” I like to imagine…

Aliya Renee Khan

Adventurer, vegetarian food enthusiast, lover of all things colorful. Advocate of sustainable and ethical consumption and believer in human resilience.

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