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Anthropology

Applied in: Winter 2013

University Offers: Bath, Cambridge

It was the testimony of a survivor of the Arab Spring I encountered during a research project that drew me to the study of human behaviour. Having been raised in a protected environment in a time without conflicts, the stories of the young women who endured the Egyptian Revolution, such as Asmaa Mahfouz, made me want to take a more active role in a world of potential "clashes of civilizations". This was an idea I first encountered in the work of Samuel Huntington. "Introduction to Anthropology" by Claude Riviere led me to believe it is only when you attempt to understand the origins of human interaction and social behaviour that you can truly begin to understand how society works. In class, we looked at Kant's theory that every man is able to think for himself and in so doing he becomes autonomous and free. This is what makes each human being different from one another and this is the aspect of Anthropology I wish to pursue.  

As a child, the collection of African masks exhibited in the Musee du Quai Branly fascinated me. I would stand for hours in front of them as I recalled the masks my father would bring home from trips to Nigeria and Congo. My fascination with these masks led to my desire to analyse how and why beliefs and customs vary so radically from country to country. For instance, why is it that masks in Africa are mostly worn in order to communicate with ancestors whereas in Bali they are used to scare off evil spirits and prevent sickness?

I chose the Economics and Social Sciences branch of the Baccalaureat because it requires a broad skill-set, encourages an open-mind and has a direct connection to current affairs. The Sociology module enables us to debate ideas regarding the construction of social identities in a formal framework and develop concepts and theories as a group. Our study of deviant behaviours was particularly interesting as we began looking at the root causes of deviancy. We encounter second-hand anecdotes about deviant behaviour regularly in the press but rarely, if ever, do such stories go beyond the consequences of this behaviour. By participating in debates in the Lycee Francais' Human Rights Club, I learned to develop a critical approach to my peers' received opinions regarding ethical questions such as: should deviant behaviour be punished as a crime or treated as an illness?

Last summer I taught English in a Sri Lankan orphanage. Staying with a local family gave me insight into some of the country's traditions and customs, such as attending religious ceremonies at the local Buddhist temple, experiencing how seemingly small differences can feel so alien to someone from a different culture.

I regularly attend yoga classes at Triyoga which I find very restorative, as it permits to join the body and the mind through relaxation and to take a step back from everyday life. I am also a keen diver and successfully obtained my PE40, a qualification allowing me to dive to 40 meters. Photography, however, is my main passion and one of my greatest pleasures is capturing moments from my travels in order to share memories with my friends and family. Indeed, with photography, I feel as if my emotions and reactions to places are truly revealed.

I have a Venezuelan stepmother, an English stepfather, was born in France and live in the UK. My grandfather lives in Argentina and my father lives in Gabon. I myself am a product of an increasingly globalized planet with evermore-complex interactions across national borders and cultures. Through the study of Anthropology I am seeking to gain a deeper understanding of those interactions and how these will evolve into new behaviours and beliefs.

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