The Menlo Roundtable

Breaking the Mold, Orientalism and The Sympathizer

Western society obsesses over the excessive categorization of individuals. The United States is a prime example of how this fixation accelerates community division and expands prejudice.

Although social constructs like race and gender have become so intertwined in American society that their effects are commonly overlooked, they continue to create bias against societal groups. Academics like Edward Said and Jean-François Staszak studied this process, identifying its cause to be the over-emphasis on the traits held by a certain set of people. This emphasis allows certain groups to bond through their shared attributes, leaving others loosely and negatively defined by the traits noticeable to the dominant group. Professor Kristen Hoerl outlines the reason these societal inequalities persist, reasoning that the dominant group in a given society redirects attention on minority issues back towards themselves. By applying their research on dominant culture formation and its influence on the behavior of minorities, we can better understand and ideally reverse the processes that created the foundation for the societal turmoil we struggle with today.

Photo: National Archives at College Park, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons