Sociology Class Helps Put Human Face on Immigration in "Welcome Neighbor" Exhibit

"Welcome, Neighbor," an exhibition that depicts the broad and diverse history of immigration to the Lehigh Valley, will open Tuesday, February 8 at 6:00 pm in the H. Paty Eiffe Gallery of the Haupert Union Building at Moravian College. The project seeks to "put a human face on the powerful phenomenon that is immigration" through the telling of individual stories accompanied by portrait photography.

The 6:00 pm reception will include a selection of refreshments representing the Lehigh Valley's various cultures and ethnicities; at 7:00 pm, a panel of community members and scholars will discuss the impact of immigration. The exhibition, reception, and discussion are all free and open to the public.

Most of the interviews for the " Collective Memory Project" (on which the Welcome, Neighbor exhibit is based) were conducted by Moravian students under the direction of Hugo Cerón, Moravian sociology adjunct, during his Fall 2010 semester "Cultural Anthropology" class. The idea for the project originated with members of the local ACLU and Alliance for Sustainable Communities.
"When I heard about it, I had been preparing my class syllabus and thought it would be a great way to involve my students, who would be studying migration," said Dr. Cerón. The 22 students arranged and conducted 40- to 90-minute interviews—exploring the ways immigrants adjust their native culture to fit a new, local culture—with people from all over the world who now live in the Lehigh Valley. "The students' perceptions about immigrants really changed. At the beginning of the class, most produced fairly mainstream narratives. After doing the interviews and looking at the personal stories, the students had a more complex understanding of the process of migration."

Sandra Aguilar, Moravian assistant professor of history, also served on the planning team, along withEmma Cleveland of Allentown; photographer Marco Calderón of Allentown; Peter Crownfield of Bethlehem; local historian Karen Samuels of Hellertown; and anthropologist Jill Schennum of Randolph, NJ. Moravian College art major John Strader assisted in the photography.

The project was partly funded by the Leadership Center of Moravian College through a Community Grant.
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