Oxford Collage: a human sciences student

We speak to a human scientist student about what they do, and why they love or hate it.

A self portrait of the human scientist

Q. Talk to me about human sciences.

A. I turned up to Oxford like a biological determinist [I ask what this means]- oh- it means I just thought all human behaviour came down to chemical stuff. All of this came from The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. But soon enough, I realised that not only was I a ‘baby’ in being a fresher and spending most of my time outside Hassan’s but that suddenly everyone felt like babies in this unfolded plasticine: which changes according to the environment and sculpts who you are.

Q. So what have you done with this knowledge?

A. Well I guess I’ve done what I have to do: a dissertation obviously! After changing my mind loads of times I’ve finally decided to look at colonial policy and the environment; specifically how contact with Portuguese colonialists has affected the genomes of Native Americans.

Q. Any fun facts?

A. Native American women could actually own land under the colonial rule rather than necessarily being oppressed by patriarchy as well as colonialism.

Q. Nice, what other things did you enjoy?

A. So I really enjoyed a piece of coursework I did about whether institutional education is oppressive or not. I argued that it contributes to cultural genocides, creating an inferiority complex in the developing world since it is built for Europeans, and simply makes everything euro-focussed. I guess my own experience comes into this when I was working in India last summer. I worked with an NGO that helped children from slums to learn certain skills, and business-related project management. Even though I thought the children benefited a lot, it was still an extremely western style of education!

Q. Would you rather be growing vegetables in an allotment or studying in the Bod then?

A. The allotment, obviously, should be a priority…

Q. How has studying Human Sciences affected your personal life?

A. Well it’s changed it in a way that’s not always convenient. I tend to over analyse relationships and try to fit them into some kind of cultural/genetic complex. But then when it comes to analysing myself, it teaches you to become less hypocritical; especially when it comes down to heated things like cultural appropriation. Then it’s given me a lot of perspective. It reminds me to keep asking ‘why am I worried about little things when there is a whole world of problems out there ?’.

Q. And finally, what is the thing you most like doing in Oxford?

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A. Sometimes, when on Broad Street around sunset, stopping to look at the view of the Bodleian as the sun streams down. I think it’s one of the most beautiful (and distracting) views I’ve ever seen.