The first faculty lecture at the Town and Gown Lunch at the Forum for Fall 2019 featured Dr. Stephanie Takaragawa’s (Sociology) anthropological research at Disneyland. For over ten years she has taught an interterm class titled “Anthropology of Space and Place,” which uses anthropological theories and methods to critically examine the culture of Disneyland. Dr. Takaragawa’s lecture made me reflect back to when I was in her interterm class in 2017.
My classmates and I were exceptionally close, which made the classroom more cohesive and fun. We all still keep in touch to this day, recalling our memories of taking the course. In that class, there was a mix of sociology, anthropology, dance, kinesiology, and education majors that all shared a love and fascination for the Disney aura and magic.
The “Anthropology of Space and Place” course taught us preservation, curiosity, and mindfulness. A week before class was in session, we received a 20-page syllabus and had to prepare and present notes form our syllabus readings in front of the class. We divided into all kinds of themes and theories surrounding the power structure and popular culture of Disneyland, which opened up our thoughts about gender, race, and more.
Our final project for the class was to study any area of Disneyland that sparked our interest. I chose to research what made the perfect day at the park. I received a wide spectrum of answers from park guests about buying certain foods, riding favorite rides, and watching every parade. People looked forward to going to Disneyland because they were never disappointed, they knew what to expect and that the quality and value is always consistent with every visit to the park.
The luncheon made me realize how enthralled someone can feel once they walk through the Disneyland gates, as if you feel warped into a different reality. We step into this alternate world where we pay hundreds of dollars to be confined with strangers and their noisy children in long lines and continue to do so with a smile on our face.
But why do we continue to go back again and again?
According to Disneyland, Disneyland is the “happiest place on earth.” It’s an enclosed environment where people trust they are safe wherever they are in the park. They believe that they are being taken care of in exchange for the heavily priced entrance fee. Everywhere you go in the park is designed in a nostalgic, yet exciting atmosphere. From the sounds, smells, size, color, Disney continues to be successful at utilizing different expectations as they have created a place that people want to go to.
Dr. Takaragawa’s lecture at Town and Gown made the guests reminisce about their joyous memories spent at Disneyland, all while giving them the chance to realize why they are so captivated by the magic and nostalgia that is Disney.
Ashley Lee is a double major in Anthropology and PR/Advertsting and will graduate in Spring 2020.