Tragedy of Virginia Tech Term Paper

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Ethnography of Event Sponsored to Evaluate Cultural Reactions to the Virginia Tech Tragedy

Anthropology is the way of culture, with every culture exhibiting its own unique characteristics. Anthropology in my opinion represents an expression of culture. One may conclude that the behavior of an individual may to some degree reflect the expression of their own culture. I decided to analyze the tragedy of Virginia Tech for this project. This incident represented a huge shock for Americans but also to the world at large. News stations around the world treated this incident very seriously, which is one reason I wanted to explore the cultural impact the event had further.

In my research, I wanted to find out how people within the American culture might treat this incident, or reflect on it, and what opinions they had of it. Also, I wanted to explore how Koreans were feeling about this event, especially given the attention the Korean news gave to the incident. Because of my own Korean background, I created this mini-ethnography paper comparing Korean and American cultural reactions following the events.


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For this Ethnography I focused my attention on the effects the Virginia Tech event had on people of varying cultures, including Asians and Koreans living in the United States. I am a Korean international student living in America. I decided to work with a volunteer to attend an event about the incident. Because I was not at Virginia Tech or Norris Hall where the actual accident happened, I decided to attend an event from April 23rd to April 27th, an event held in the Shine center Monday through Friday from 10:00 A.M. To 4:00 PM. I served two days, Thursday and Friday of this event as a volunteer. This experience and position allowed me to witness personally how people reacted and how they were thinking about the accident at Virginia Tech.

Term Paper on Tragedy of Virginia Tech Assignment

A worked with professor Ana Servigna who informed me of the event. When sending my application to volunteer, I felt a lot of Syracuse students were involved in and had strong enthusiasm for the accident. This was evident because the number of open spots for volunteers closed quickly. In discovering this I met Ron Baker, coordinator of the event to discuss my situation. There were various activities occurring at the event with each volunteer taking on different roles; for example, two volunteers were needed for each hosting table, and each student had a distention of role that allowed each student to do their own work. My work related directly with Virginia Tech.

What I did was receive cherish cards for Virginia Tech; these are cards that would be sent to Virginia Tech. We also provided special S.U. t-shirts to students subscribing to the event. These t-shirts sold out very quickly; again suggesting many students attended the event in support of the tragedy. My initial impressions were that on attending the event I would find students and volunteers to be grave and serious, but this was not the case at all. The atmosphere was more active and busy, in part because so many students frequent the Shine center where the event was held. Volunteers consisted of all SU students, so I could not identify any relationship with the categories of social make up. If you are a S.U. student, you have sufficient cause to attend the event. While working, I saw students, staff and faculty sending letters to people at Virginia Tech. We collected hundreds of letters, suggesting that people are cherishing our efforts at supporting this terrible tragedy.

I asked my partner sitting next to me at the hosting table about the work we were doing and about what motivated him to attend, as well as his feelings of the accident. He replied that although he felt sad about the tragedy of Virginia Tech, he also felt highly motivated to do something for the people in Virginia suffering from the loss of friends, family and siblings. While my partner and I were of different races, cultures and ways of life, we felt the same about the incident. If the accident like the one at Virginia Tech happened in my country, I would have a strong motivation to do something for the victims, the same response I witnessed here.


During my event, I learned many things about my guiding question, and incorporated many other people's viewpoints. There are various themes I identified in my research. One of the primary themes I identified is that although a tragedy has occurred, many people are upbeat and motivated to reach out to others who suffer, regardless of their race or ethnicity. While I expected some negative attitudes or even discrimination because of my Korean ancestry, I experienced none of this while working with S.U. To support the victims at Virginia Tech. On interviewing my associate volunteer, I learned that most people, regardless of their race or ethnicity had strong feelings of loss and tragedy over the affairs at Virginia Tech. This is evidenced through the facial expressions and gestures of people attending the meeting. On greeting my volunteer for example, we embraced with a hug. Some people were in tears, but this did not stop them from moving from booth to booth, collecting information and donating when they could.

Interestingly, I also noticed that while tragedy occurs, as it might in any country by anyone of any race, people also acknowledge, respond, support and then move on. It would have been quite easy for people to ignore the events that occurred that tragic day at Virginia Tech. But clearly what happened has left a lasting impression on people of all races, ages, cultures and social status. Consider for example, the fact that t-shirt's supporting Virginia Tech sold old within the first couple of days of the event. This suggests a strong bond between students at S.U. And the students that suffered at Virginia Tech.

The number of staff and faculty attending the event also showed everyone considered this tragedy serious. This tragedy reminds people that while we may be different in many ways (like culturally) we all have similar reactions to tragedy, and we all have fears for our loved ones. We all have an innate desire in most cases to support and help others who have suffered, especially if we can relate to them on some level. It was very easy for students at S.U. To relate to the students from Virginia Tech, because this tragedy might have happened anyone, to anyone, to any family or student.

The news reports available in the media did not discriminate; the Korean news took this incident as seriously as other international news agencies including those throughout Europe. The event probably did more to link people of varying cultures than it did to discourage them from connecting. It certainly does not seem apparent that these events led to stereotypes or prejudices against Korean people generally because the shooter happened to be Korean.

To focus my observations more clearly in the future I may create a list of specific things to look for when reviewing people. For example, in this case study I do not feel I paid close enough attention to the eyes of the people I interacted with. While I noticed may people were motivated, enthusiastic to help and hugging (a sign of affection and love and support), I failed to pay closer attention to witness to what degree sadness and fear might be evidenced in less obvious ways (as in how someone might look at another). You can usually discern how sad someone really is by looking into their eyes.

What I can conclude informally however, is that when tragedy strikes, people unite, regardless of whom they are and what there culture may be. This does not always seem to be the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Tragedy of Virginia Tech" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Tragedy of Virginia Tech.  (2007, May 4).  Retrieved May 8, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Tragedy of Virginia Tech."  4 May 2007.  Web.  8 May 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Tragedy of Virginia Tech."  May 4, 2007.  Accessed May 8, 2021.