Culture in Story-Telling: The Case of American and Pakistani Story Pals

Sanaa Riaz
Msu Denver


In 2016, a Colorado-based non-profit organization, Marshall Direct Fund working on providing free education to children living in the slum areas of Sheikhupura, Pakistan initiated a PenPal program between middle-schoolers in their headquarter town, Aspen, one of the most affluent areas of the U.S. being the most expensive ski-town in the country and middle-schoolers at the Sheikhupura Moqah Foundation non-profit school for slum children. Volunteering with the organizations, I initiated a co-construct story program between each PenPal pair at the two schools. This paper examines the cultural themes in the story-telling styles, topics, milestones, events and imagery co-constructed by the paired students in the two countries. Cultural anthropology analysis of storytelling is focused on not only the storytellers and listeners, in this case, readers, but also on the entities that take the role of characters in the story, who may be real persons or representations of real persons and stories are transformed based on the interest of the audience. In co-constructing stories, as students at the two schools wrote in drastically different socio-economic and cultural environments, there were points when the cultural relevance of the stories became unrelatable for one side or the other and a common ground of imagining, recounting and co-creating needed to be renegotiated. I will highlight the ways in which the social patterns and functioning of the paired students’ stories demonstrate their social positioning and their respective relational, class and gender identity conditioning as part of their home cultures.


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