Concentric Circles

This game highlights stereotypes and is good for large groups. It uses sounds, gestures, and has people of working with eyes closed and open. It's great for a group or workshop focusing on a particular issue, such as gender, sexism, whiteness, etc. Here are the basic steps:
  1. Group divides in half and stands in two circles, one inside the other, with everyone facing center. People in the inner circle (Circle A) close their eyes, while those in the outer (Circle B) watch with eyes open. 
  2. Facilitator names a theme and someone from Circle B steps into the center of Circle A to make a stereotypical gesture and sound based on the theme. Those in Circle A repeat the sound and—with eyes still closed—each makes a gesture presumed to accompany that sound. 
  3. Everyone in Circle A then opens their eyes and repeats their gestures with eyes open, and finally the maker of the original gesture repeats it for all to see. 
  4. After a few rounds, Circles A and B switch places and roles. When both halves of the group have spent equal time in each role, have a seat and debrief the exercise.
Facilitator's Note: I first learned this game as an exercise on gender. The facilitator divided the group into "female" and "male" and had the men make feminine stereotypes for the women to imitate, and then the group switched roles with the women making masculine stereotypes for the men to imitate. I've seen this be revelatory for people who have lived either comfortably or uncomfortably in this gender binary. I've also seen this be disastrous, as many people do not ascribe to this binary and thus stand aside when told to choose "female" or "male". To better understand this, imagine if the given topic were race and the facilitator said, "Black people in one circle, white people in the other." Where would people of mixed or other identities go? Our identities are not always as visible or as static as others perceive. The above variation on the Concentric Circles game is a way of letting people be free to show the pervasiveness of stereotypes without forcing people to squeeze themselves into an identity group that might not fit.

Multi-Issue Variation: When we first played Concentric Circles in Philly in the Spring of 2012, the group began this game making sounds and gestures around issues of gender—expressions that are stereotypes of femininity, masculinity and/or this gender binary. We then moved on to age stereotypes—another binary, this time young/old with some gradations (for example, expressions of "youth" could be infantile or adolescent). The group switched roles, and made stereotypical expressions of The United States of America, and eventually religion, which many found to be a difficult or sensitive issue to express this way. Let us know what variations you have of this or other games by leaving a comment below!

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