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Oaxacan Ceramists and An American Author: A Case Study of Intercultural Communication

Global Education Colloquium

Speaker: Cynthia Weill, Ed.D., Teachers College Columbia University
Date: Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cynthia Weill
Cynthia Weill, Ed.D.

After two work experiences that were fraught with issues of intercultural miscommunication and poor partnership with artisans and illustrators in Vietnam and Mexico, Dr. Weill sought to create a non-hierarchical intercultural collaborative model around development of ceramic figures for a children’s book with internationally known ceramists, the Aguilar sisters of Oaxaca, Mexico.

There were three research goals to the partnership.  The first was to understand which behaviors were related to misunderstanding and which to cultural difference.  This knowledge was used to improve partnership and dialogue during the work period and for future projects.  The next goal was to examine how the publication of other books would work to the benefit or detriment of participating artisans.  The final goal was to examine the procedures of authors and artisans who have worked together in Oaxaca as well as perceptions on both sides. The last two goals were used to implement best practices with the ceramists.

The research was structured around a qualitative case study involving five women. Data were collected through interviews, participant observations, journal notes, diaries, logs and artifacts.  In my talk, Dr. Weill will describe the setting and partnership and will note how interactions concerning, aesthetics, intercultural miscommunication, collaboration and gender were analyzed to benefit the working relationship as well as future partnerships in cross-cultural artistic collaboration.

About The Speaker

Cynthia Weill works in teacher supervision and training at Teachers College Columbia University.  Dr. Weill received her master’s and doctorate degrees from Teachers College and also holds masters degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Wesleyan University. Before joining academia, Dr. Weill worked as a Spanish teacher in the United States and supervised an education department of a major nonprofit organization in Ha Noi, Vietnam.

Dr. Weill serves as a board member of the foundation, Friends of Oaxacan Folk Art, an entity seeking to promote and preserve Mexican popular art.  She is the author of six children’s books, with three more scheduled for publication.  She works closely with artisans in Vietnam and Mexico to create the illustrations and artwork for each book.  This artwork and other archival materials have been acquired by The Field Museum of Chicago for its permanent collection.

Access archived discussion here.