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Unformatted text preview: in I Intercultural Contact Dominance and Subordination between Groups Attitudes among Cultural Members Outcomes of Intercultural Contact I The Ethics of intercultural Ethics—YourChoices a The Perils and Prospects for intercultural Competence Impact of National and international Events on Competence intercultural Communication When in Rome Forces That Pull UsTogether Are Cultural Values Relative or and Apart Universal? a Concluding Remarks Do the Endslustify the Means? Summary liEYiteriS dominantcuiture 3l4 mutedgrouptheory 3i4 contact hypothesis 315 cultureshock 319 re-entryshock 319 adaptation 32i assimilation 321 integration 322 separation 322 segregation 322 seclusion 322 marginalization 322 intercultural personhood 323 J’ _ It should be clear by now that we are personally committed to understanding the dynamics . 0f culture and its effects on interpersonal communication. William Shakespeare sugoested that the world is a stage filled with actors and actresses, but they come from different criitures and they need to coordinate their scripts and actions to accomplish their collective purposes The image of a multicultural society is one that we firmly believe will characterize most peo- ple’s lives in the twenty-first century. Intercultural communication will become far more commonplace in people’s-day-to-day activities, and the communication skills that lead to the development of intercultural competence will be a necessary part of people’s personal and professional lives. aaawaamaaummsaw-W ran-"daw‘ awflmmmmm xlhA'tha v” we mmunaww ,, » man-5mm» CHAPTER 12 The Potential for intercultural Competence 313 It should also be clear that intercultural communication is a complex and challeng- ing activity. intercultural competence, although certainly attainable in varying degrees, will elude everyone in at least some intercultural interactions. Nevertheless, we hope that, in addition to the challenges of intercultural interaction, this book also reminds you of the joys of discovery that can occur when interacting with people whose culture differs from your own. in this closing chapter, we turn our attention to some final thoughts about enhanc— ing your intercultural competence. First we look at intercultural contacts and explore what makes them more likely to be beneficial. Next we discuss some critical ethical issues that affect intercultural interactions. Following this, we offer a point of view about certain events that have been particularly newsworthy. By focusing on these events, we offer a glimpse into the ways that enormously powerful events and experiences can shape an entire generation’s intercultural interactions—that is, how members of that generation are likely to perceive and engage people from other cultures. We also look at the apparent dichotomies that seem to shape individuals and nations in today’s world. We conclude with an expression of optimism about the future of intercultural communication and with a renewed awareness of the need for a lifelong commitment to improving our mul- ticultural world. intercultural Contact Many people believe that creating the opportunity for personal contact fosters positive attitudes toward members of other groups. indeed, this assumption provides the ratio- nale for numerous international exchange programs for high school and college students. There are also international “sister city” programs, wherein a US. city pairs itself with a city in another country and encourages the residents of both cities to visit with and stay in one another’s homes. Sometimes, of course, intercultural contact does overcome the obstacles of cultural distance, and positive attitudes between those involved do result. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of historical and contemporary evidence to sug- gest that contact between members of different cultures does not always lead to good feel- ings. in fact, under many circumstances, such contact only reinforces negative attitudes or may even change a neutral attitude into a negative one. For instance, tourists in other countries are sometimes repelled by the inhabitants, and immigrants to the United States have not always been accepted by the communities into which they have settled. in some communities and among some people, there is still much prejudice and negative feeling between European Americans and African Americans. The factors that lead to cordial and courteous interactions among people from different cultural groups are very complicat- ed. One factor, that of access to and control of institutional and economic power, strong- ly influences attitudes between members of different cultures. Qominanee and Subordinatian between Crease Not all groups within a nation or region have equal access to sources of institutional and eco- nomic power. When cultures share the same political, geographic, and economic landscapes, , some form of a status hierarchy often develops. Groups of people who are distinguished by l" 2 3_l4 PART FOUR Communication in Intercultural Relationships (HAPTER 12 The Potentialgai intercultural Competence 315 their religious, political, cultural, or ethnic identity often struggle among themselves for dominance and control of the available economic and political resources. The cultural group that has primary access to institutional and economic power is often crarac— terized as the dominant culture. internationally, there have been numerous instances of genocide, “ethnic cleansing,” civi wars that pit one cultural group against another, and When you have been a refugee, abandoned all your loves and belongings, your memories become your belongings. images of the past, snippets of old conversations, furnish the world within your mind. When you have nothing left to guard, you guard your memories. You guard them with silence. You do not draw yourtreasures into the light, lest exposure soften their sharp—sad or gay—details (the best lesson i ever learned from visiting museums). Remembering becomes not numerous outbreaks ofviolence between mm the simply a preoccupation but a full-time occupation. What you once witnessed is the story that ls brought journalists to your doorstep, but they left without the scoop. What you once witnessed is ofcultuial ruu ssliariii tliesaiiieterriturrliii U 't d Sg ll. , g . i' 'he ~. whatscholarssoughtin the archives butdid notiind.Whatyou once witnessed is what biograpliers m e tates, racial tensrorrs between African - . - - - ' ' intended to write. But how much can biographers do if the Witnesses are Silent? in numerous incidents. lrnmigrants from various parts of the world have experienced open lios‘ility, and sometimes violent reactions, from people who live in areas where they have settled. When liese kinds of competitive tensions characterize the polit- ical and econom'c setting in which individuals from differing cul ures interact, intercultural corn— munication is obv'ously affected. ‘ :e‘rcultriralcontacrs do notalways lead to positive scholars have given considerable attention to ‘ “35 Bonito me redrawing“ Sign 3” tlttS ' the influence of dominant and subordinate aroup “C”PfOEGSLSU'S-"ll‘l"‘9"df‘°’llJOllflesrllUS‘ membership on 'nterpersonal and intercriltural communication processesl The results of their investigations 5 iggest that there is a very interest» . . iirg set of i'elrtioisliips ruining the factors that affect these interactions. For instance, members of dominant cultures will often devalue the language styles of subordinate cultural members ,nc judge the “correctness” of their use of preferred speech patterns. in some cases, members of subordinate cultures will try 1‘ to accommodate or adapt their speech to that of the corninant culture. in other circum- ; stances, they will very deliberately emphasize their grou ’5 unique speech characteristics when they are in the presence of people from the dor iirant culture. . As we will discuss in Chapter 9, special forms of l.nguage are often used to signal identification among members of the subordinate group and to indicate a lack of submis- sron to the dominant group. Similarly, members of the dominant group are likely to retain the special characteristics of their language, including preferences for certain i words, accents, and linguistic patterns, and may therefore devalue the linguistic patterns l of others. For example, there are instances in which European Americans have devalued ' the use of Black Standard English.2 Members of the dominant group also have much greater access to public and mass communication channels. They maybe excessively influential in determining the conver- sational topics that are regarded as socially relevant, the societal issues that are deemed important enough to be worthy of public attention, and the “proper” language for expressing one’s views in social discussions. As muted groan theory suaaests, individuals who do not belong to the dominant group are often silenced by a lack olfoopportunities to e tensions that can occur ii: some intercuirurai timers. Americans and European Americans have res ilted l Roya Hairakinn express their experiences, perceptions, and worldviews. Essentially, the power of the dom— inant group’s communication may function to silence or “mute” the voices of subordinate group members. To have their concerns recognized publicly, subordinate group members may be obliged to use the language and communication styles of the dominant group. Although muted group theory was initially applied to women’s marginalized voices,3 it has also been applied to cultural groups.4 Mark Orbe, for example, describes African American males as a muted group, since their talking patterns and worldview are not part of the dominant group’s norms in the United States.5 By addressing the ways in which groups are marginalized, muted group theory allows us to understand the basic concerns of nondominant voices and encourages a more equitable world where no voices are silenced. rat brain; Attitudes among Cairo The naive view of intercultural contact—that any intercultural contact is likely to be ben— eficial—has been proven repeatedly to be incorrect. But what, then, are the conditions under which intercultural contacts might turn out to be favorable? What do we know about the attitudes that form when people have frequent intercultural contacts with one another? In his classic study on the contact hypothesis, Yehuda Amir describes four conditions that are likely to lead to positive attitudes as a result of intercultural communication. interestingly, each of these conditions affects the motivational component of intercultur- al competence. The first condition is that there must be support from the top. That is, if the high-status individuals—those who are in charge or who are recognized as authority figures—support the intercultural contact, it is more likely to lead to a positive outcome. The second condition for positive intercultural interactions is that those involved have a personal stake in the outcome. This means that the individuals involved have something to gain if they are successful—or something to lose if they are unsuccessful—that makes them regard the interactions as personal. If someone is personally invested in the outcome of the interaction, there is increased motivation to do well and make it thrive. PART POUR Communication in Intercultural Relationships The third condition affecting the likelihood that intercultural interactions will be regarded as positive is that the actual intercultural contacts are viewed as pleasing and constructive. Interactions that are enjoyable make people feel good about their experi- ences and increases the prospects for further intercultural contacts. The fourth condition that Amir says will likely lead to favorable attitudes as a con sequence of intercultural interactions is related to the perceived outcome of the interac- tion. When all parties have the potential to be effective—that is, when the members of both cultures either have common goals or view the interaction as allowing them to achieve their own individual goals—then successful cooperation is possible, and the interactants are very likely to perceive the intercultural contact as having the potential to be beneficial.6 Additional investigations suggest that four more factors also affect attitudes and out- comes. One is the strength of identification that the members of a culture have for their cultural group. Do the individuals in an encounter think of the person with whom they are interacting as a unique individual, or do they view that person primarily as a repre- sentative of a different cultural group? Similarly, do the interactants view themselves as unique individuals or as representatives of particular cultural groups? One study finds that the outcomes of intercultural encounters depend on the extent to which cultural identities are seen as an important component of people’s interpersonal identities.7 Identification with their culture increases if they have a relatively high status within the group, as well as if the bonds to their culture are strong and all their friends and social networks are associated with it. Intercultural communication outcomes are also affected by the degree of perceived threat. If the members of a culture believe that certain fundamental aspects of their cul- tural identity—such as their language and special characteristics—are threatened, they are likely to increase their identification with their culture, and intercultural contacts are less likely to be favorable. Even groups that are in the majority sometimes see the presence of people from other cultures as threatening. For example, consider the perceived threat and consequent reactions of US. Americans to immigrants who are willing to work for a lower wage. Another factor is the degree of typicality with which the other interactants are viewed. That is, participants in intercultural encounters make a judgment about the degree to which specific individuals are typical or atypical of their culture, which in turn influences the positive or negative character of their attitudes. More important, typical ity affects the likelihood that experiences with one member of a culture are generalized to other members of that culture.8 For example, if someone is viewed as unique and unrepresentative of the typical members of a culture, a positive experience with that individual will not necessarily result in positive attitudes toward other people from the same cultural group. The nature of the interactants’ cultural stereotypes is another factor in intercultur— al contacts. Miles Hewstone and Howard Giles propose that these stereotypes are used as filters to assess the behaviors of members of other groups.9 They also suggest that, if a person does not conform to the cultural stereotype in some important way, that person is dismissed as atypical. Consequently, negative stereotypes toward the culture can persist even when there are positive and favorable interactions with a member of the culture. (HAPTER 12 The Potential for Intercultural Competence 317 Outcomes of lntercultural Contact Both fictional and nonfictional accounts of intercultural contacts are replete with references to individual and cultural changes. References are made to people who “go native” and who seem to adjust or adapt to life in the new culture. References are also made to those who retain their own cultural identity by using only their original language and by living in cul- tural ghettos. During the height of the British Empire in India, for example, many British officials and their families tried to recreate the British lifestyle in India, in a climate not con- ducive to tuxedos and fancy dresses, with layers and layers of slips and decorative fabrics. It is generally accepted that intercultural communication creates stress for most indi- viduals. In intercultural communication, the certainty of one’s own cultural framework is gone, and there is a great deal of uncertainty about what other code systems mean. Individuals who engage in intercultural contacts for extended periods of time will respond to the stress in different ways. Most will find themselves incorporating at least some behaviors from the new culture into their own repertoire. Some take on the charac- teristics, the norms, and even the values and beliefs of another culture willingly and eas- ily. Others resist the new culture and retain their old ways, sometimes choosing to spend time in enclaves populated only by others like themselves. Still others simply find the problems of adjusting to a new culture to be intolerable, and they leave if they can. People’s reactions also change over time. That is, the initial reactions of acceptance or rejection often shift as increased intercultural contacts produce different kinds of outcomes. Such changes in the way people react to intercultural contacts are called adaptation. Adaptation Words such as assimilation, adjustment, acculturation, and even coping are used to describe how individuals respond to their experiences in other cultures. Many of these terms refer to how people‘ from one culture react to prolonged contact withthose figm another. Over We loved living in Mexico, but ultimately tired of being outsiders. The downside of a culture rooted in family clans is that friends aren’t as integral. Annalena’s classmates rarely invited her home to play because there they played with their cousins. We had genuinely warm, but stubbornly superficial relationships with our neighbors. While it was possible for us to feel gloriously swept away by the splendor of saint’s day celebrations, these holidays would never belong to us. And because most of the expatriates we met were either cantina-hopping college students or cocktail party-hopping retirees, we didn’t fit in with the foreigners either.... But we've been home five months now, and I’m not sure we belong in California anymore either. We're struggling to reconcile the Mexican sky that now fills our hearts with the daily grind of a more or less upwardly mobile life. I find myself willfully spacing out, trying to slow down the pace, trying to hold onto the sense that time is simply time, not money. Perhaps we've become permanent expatriates— neither fish nor fowl, forever lost no matter our location. But this fluidity also means that we're now like mermaids and centaurs—magic creatures who always know there’s another way. _6ina Hyamr utercultural adaptations are made both by the host :ulture and by the sojourners. As this photo illustrates, :iany lrish grocery stores now carry traditional Polish bod items, since sojourners from other cultures often :ong for the familiar tastes from home. PART FOUR Communication in Intercultural Relationships the years, different emotional overtones have been attached to these terms. To some people, for instance, assimilation is a negative outcome; to others, it is posi- tive. Some consider adjustment to be “good,” whereas for others it is “bad.” We offer an approach that allows you to make your own value judgment about what constitutes the right kind of outcome. We believe that compe- tent adjustment to another culture will vary greatly from situation to situation and from person to per- son. We have used the broader term of adaptation to characterize these adjustments because it subsumes various forms of cultural or individual adaptation. Adaptation is the process by which people establish and maintain relatively stable helpful, and mutu- ally shared relationships with others upon relocat- ing to an unfamiliar cultural setting.” Note that this definition suggests that, when indi- viduals adapt to another culture, they must learn that different individuals and different groups will make the fit in different ways. Adaptation includes physical, biological, and social changes. Physical changes occur because people are confronted with new physical stimuli— they eat different...
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