Should a U.S. consumer care about a cotton farmer in India?

My senior year I took a class at Sarah Lawrence College called “Performing Identities: Class, Ethnicity, Gender, and Race.” It was a sociology class that looked at performance art and how it can make statements about identity issues. Every one in the class spent the semester examining his or her own identity and coming up with a ten minute performance piece that addressed an issue related to his or her own identity. Like the rest of the classes that I took my senior year, I chose that class because I wanted to take the experiences that I had had while studying abroad (see my post “Why India?”) and continue to explore my connection to the issues that I had learned about.

As my research picks up here in India I am thinking a lot about how to share this information with people who have never been to India and don’t know much about this issue. I spent the evening brainstorming like a maniac, and once again running into this feeling of hopelessness. How can you make people who feel so far removed from an issue like cotton farmer suicides in India care about what’s happening enough for them to
a. acknowledge that their consumer demand is part of the crisis and
b. want to do something to change?

I know the answer to my own question. I can’t make anyone care. I care because I’ve met some of the people on the other end of the spectrum. I’ve experienced my connection to these issues in a hands on way and because of that something within me changed. I can’t make people feel inspired or force feed them the desire to acknowledge these systems and be a part of changing them. But I do believe that I can do my part to expose these issues to people. And maybe I can do it in a creative and inspiring enough way that people will experience a connection without having to go on a study abroad to India. Maybe.

I still don’t know exactly which direction I will steer my project or what I will produce during my time in India. But in the mean time, I thought I’d post my final project for my Performing Identities class, the first of many attempts to produce something that inspires my audience to consider issues that are broader than their day to day experiences but so closely intertwined with them. Enjoy.

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