AN101 Prof. Hefner April 11, 2007 Becoming American and American Culture Outside Reading Report Societies and cultures around the world are shaped around individuocentric and sociocentric values. Individuocentrism, a concept that teaches people to see themselves as individuals, and sociocentrism, a concept that teaches people to identify with his or her culture (i.e. something that is larger than himself or herself) combine to define societies; however, no society is dominated completely by one or the other. For the Khmer youth, as described in Nancy Smith-Hefner’s Khmer American , and Yemeni Americans, as described in Loukia K. Sarroub’s All American Yemeni Girls , elements of individuocentrism and sociocentrism alike are represented in their lives. The Khmer youth strive to find a balance between encouraging the individual and honoring their family values, while the Yemeni girls attempt to unite the life they want to live at school with the life they have to live at home. The elements of individuocentrism and sociocentrism must be combined and balanced with the intent of immersing oneself in America’s culture with the ultimate goal of truly becoming an American. The socialization practices employed by Khmer Americans in the early stages of childrearing are very individuocentric. In contrast to the typical overbearing manner in which Westerners raise their children, “parents thus focus on the infant not as an utterly new and natural being but as a preexisting social individual who brings from past lives inherent traits and abilities” (Smith-Hefner 64). Khmer parents carefully observe their
children in order to support the child’s own unique form of development without imposing their own rules and ideas. Their children, they believe, were born from past lives and already have a predetermined way of growing and developing that should not be upset. The way in which Khmer mothers decide to raise their children is also individuocentric. Instead of trying to fit the child into a predetermined schedule, like many Americans do, the Khmer mother will create a schedule based on the child’s needs. The child is free to want anything without having any restrictions or time limits. Once children have reached a certain age, though, individuocentric tendencies become sociocentric. It is at this time that a child becomes aware of his or her surroundings and begins to understand that he or she is part of something larger than him or herself. Khmer parents now expect this child to abide by the rules of the community and to act
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