Letter to the editor


My name is David Rullan Cacanindin. I’m a third-year political science major and in a proseminar class where we discuss conflict and peace in international relations from many different approaches and at various levels of analysis.

To be clear, the professor does very little teaching, even less than in other seminars. As a result of an especially high level of knowledge evident from the depth and breadth of discussion, the style of the class is more about other classmates teaching each other in a powwow for two hours.

Not unexpectedly, one topic for debate broached by the professor was the origin of conflict. Of course theories as to the origin of conflict have been presented by a plethora of people throughout history, ranging from biology to sociology to anthropology to international relations and political science.

On the chopping block that particular day, however, was ethnic identity. This could have led in any number of different directions: human nature, ethnicity’s relationship to nationalism, or politicization of ethnicity. As often happens in this class, the direction of the discussion turned to the most overlooked, but most important question within the topic: What is ethnic identity?

Someone already educated in this field might assume the dialogue would begin with Primordialism, Instrumentalism and Constructivism. What happened instead was the class asked more specific questions. Is identity genetic? Is it learned from those around us? Is it how others perceive us, or how we perceive ourselves? Is it linked to a geographic homeland? Is it malleable? Can we be whatever we want to be? If so, does acceptance by the group that embodies our desired identity necessary to be part of that identity? Is there such a thing as a gray identity? Do beliefs and opinions have to do with our identity? And yes, ethnicity is not simply defined by race. Take the time to consider any one of these identities and how it relates to any form of conflict and it will fall into the marble bag if ethnicity.

Inevitably, students’ own identities were introduced and revealed as a way to use their own experiences to answer some of these questions. As every single student in this class of 26 revealed their identity through the discussion, we all realized the almost inconceivable variety of background and experience was present in the room.

No two people could honestly say they have ‘a lot in common.’ There are people of completely different races, religions, locations of origin, ideological alignment, traditions, beliefs, classes, ages, stages in their lives, the list goes on. I’m not just talking about the fact that every person on this planet is a unique person. This isn’t a result of someone doing research on these students’ backgrounds and finding people that are so different. These students somewhat randomly found themselves in this class, seemingly in deliberate defiance of the melting pot. If data could be collected for this particular group of students in terms of ethnic identity on the widest spectrum of analysis, it would look like our entire celestial sphere: ad infinitum.

I found myself thinking, as I was sitting in that class, that at very few places in the world could you find such a diverse population in one class and Cal State Northridge is most likely a leader for the bunch.

Perspective is something we hope to gain after our university education, by traveling abroad, doing internships, meeting people and following our interests, whatever direction they may lead us. Here at CSUN, we have the unique opportunity to gain perspective before we even get out into the world. I hope students at this institution will create more opportunities to take advantage of this diversity, as it’s manifested in the faces we see as we walk on this campus.

David Rullan Cacanindin,

Political Science major