Glory Road: Conflict, Communications And Culture Term Paper

Length: 4 pages Sources: 2 Subject: Anthropology Type: Term Paper Paper: #71264109 Related Topics: Cannibalism, Intercultural Communications, Intercultural Communication, Ncaa
Excerpt from Term Paper :

The 2006 American film drama "Glory Road" is a useful way of appreciating the notion, familiar to students of communications, of what constitutes a culture. There are two particular theses from the study of communications that are related to the idea of culture, and are illustrated in crucial ways by "Glory Road." The first is the idea that conflict constitutes a culture in itself, and a destructive one. The second is the notion that separate cultures need to communicate with each other, and that this issue of cross-cultural communication is complicated. It is therefore a useful way to approach these theories of communication and the definition of culture by examining them alongside the film. After first approaching a few basic definitions of culture and related terms derived from the discipline of communications, this study will then evaluate the two specific questions of culture outlined above in relation to "Glory Road." A conclusion will revisit the basic definition of culture, as defined from the standpoint of the study of communications, and will offer a summary evaluation of the film.

First it is necessary to define what we mean by culture. This is especially important when the subject of conflict as destructive culture is raised, wherein conflict is defined as a culture of its own: to the ordinary layman, conflict is a type of interpersonal or cross-cultural situation but it is not exactly a "culture" per se. The straightforward definition of conflict is "real or perceived incompatibilities of processes, understandings, and viewpoints between people" (Duck McMahan 2014,) However we need to consider from the standpoint of communications what constitutes a culture. For example, Americans of all races routinely refer to "black culture" however from a definitional standpoint black Americans are a co-culture, which is a smaller group of culture within a larger cultural mass (Duck McMahan 2014). Cultures define themselves with the way they communicate, which reflects certain assumptions. A collectivist culture, for example, uses speech purely to promote conformity and common ideals -- we might think of how people speak in North Korea (Duck McMahan 2014). The way a culture communicates is called its code, and essentially a code is how a culture distinguishes between issues that can be taken for granted (Duck McMahan 2014). What's not taken for granted is known as a persuadable, because people are susceptible to changing their minds about it. For example, it is taken for granted in American society that cannibalism is a taboo, and should not be practiced. Yet there is a very different way in which American society responded to Jeffrey Dahmer, who practiced cannibal behavior, and the 19th century Donner Party, who were trapped by blizzards when crossing the Rocky Mountains to settle California, and were forced to eat the bodies of the dead to survive. Americans are horrified by both situations, which indicates that this is part of our cultural code, yet it is understood that in the Donner Party situation extreme circumstances (death from cold and starvation) caused cannibalism to become, temporarily, a persuadable. It is indeed part of the American code that we can distinguish between Dahmer doing it for fun and the Donner Party doing it for survival.

In "Glory Road" we might consider the idea of conflict as destructive culture, which is basically a way of defining cultures that hold four assumptions in their code. The first is the conflict is a destructive disturbance of the peace, the second is that the social system should not be adjusted to meet the needs of its members, but that members should adapt to the established values, the third is that confrontations are destructive and ineffective, and the fourth is that disputants should be disciplined (Duck McMahan 2014). We might note that this pattern seems to occur repeatedly with the black community in America in the period between Slavery and Civil Rights: the four stages could just as easily be applied to Nat Turner in the 19th century (who was disciplined with death) as to Dr. King disciplined for being a disputant and punished in Birmingham Jail. What is uniquely interesting about "Glory Road" is that it establishes this pattern between white Americans: the man who disturbs the peace is the


He is not a black man, but a white man who places an all-black team in competition in Texas in 1966, at a time when segregated sports teams were still common. This means that the issue of conflict is re-defined due to Haskins being part of the dominant culture rather than the oppressed co-culture itself: among white men dealing with each other as equals, like Haskins facing off with the racist coach Adolf played by Jon Voight, conflict is considered a normal useful process -- this should be obvious from the film's focus on athletics, which are structured as conflicts and competitions. In this re-framing of conflict, all issues are subject to change through negotiation, direct confrontation and conciliation are valued, and conflict is a necessary renegotiation of an implied constract, insofar as it can redistribute opportunities, release tensions or renew relationships (Duck McMahan 2014). This is interestingly demonstrated in an article by Bardwell (2013) on conflict and communication in the workplace, which analyzes the internal dynamics of a university's policies regarding diversity: for Bardwell, the irony is that the active pursuit of tolerance here results in remarkable intolerant responses, which is essentially a part of the renegotiation process that replaces the original urge to discipline disputants.

However we might note that this is only made possible because coaches Don and Adolf share a code -- they are both white men with precisely the same job, although Adolf is obviously older -- and thus communication is possible as a means of negotiation, confrontation, or conciliation (Duck McMahan 2014). It is different between the black players and the dominant white culture (or at least the part of it which is represented by Jon Voight's character). This raises the issue of intercultural communication. We might consider, for example, that there are certain cultural tendencies which can make intercultural communication difficult. For example, let us consider how cultures view time. We define a culture as monochronic if it has an intense focus on time, and insists that the waste of time is transgressive (Duck McMahan 2014). We define a culture as polychromic if these tendencies are absent, and so the ability to turn up several hours later than the actual time of the appointment is considered a possibility (Duck McMahan 2014). To understand how this could relate to intercultural communication difficulties like the ones depicted in "Glory Road" it is only necessary to look at the Wikipedia page for "Colored People's Time," which includes citations from Langston Hughes and Toni Morrison. Wikipedia describes this as a stereotype, despite the endorsement of Langston Hughes and Toni Morrison, but it might just as accurately be described as a difficulty in communicating transculturally between monochronic and polychronic codes (Duck McMahan 2014). But in many cases these cross-cultural differences can be readily quantified, as in the 2014 article by Corey et al. which examines different conflict handling styles among business professionals in the U.S. And Puerto Rico -- unsurprisingly there are some huge differences, mostly based on Puerto Rico exhibiting a collectivist cultural code compared to the U.S. (Corey et al. 2014). In "Glory Road" this difference can be seen in the actual game play of the different athletes -- the black players dunk, the white ones do not (or do not successfully). Again, the cliche of "white men can't jump" could be viewed as a stereotype, or it could be viewed (like when Toni Morrison refers to C.P.T.) as an integral part of a cultural code. It is worth noting that the NCAA banned dunking in basketball games from 1967 to 1976, partly in response to the events depicted in "Glory Road." But this just recalls the notion of conflict as something that results in renegotiation of the rules rather than punishment. If a black player had tried to dunk the ball in 1969 the way the black players in "Glory Road" dunk it, they would have been penalized as surely as Dr. King was in Birmingham Jail. The renegotiation of terms rarely benefits the subaltern culture, except in terms of reorienting a culture's moral priorities -- it's sense of the directionality of justice's arc.

In conclusion, it would be easy and facile to critique "Glory Road" as being yet another Hollywood film about the black Civil Rights advances of the 1960s which features a white protagonist. The truth is that "Glory Road" is able to offer a more nuanced picture of how cultures work through conflict, particularly when the conflict is between cultures or co-cultures, by having the central conflict be between white men of different ages, the older Adolph Rupp and the young white hero of the film, Don Haskins. Haskins is a good coach, as the all-black team that he coached to victory would…

Sources Used in Documents:


Bardwell, S.H. (2013). Conflict and communication in the workplace: An inquiry and findings from XYZ university's study on religious tolerance and diversity suggesting ironies of cultural attitudes, free expression and conflict in an academic organization. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict 17.

Corey, C.M., Fok, L.Y., Payne, D.M. (2014). Cross-cultural differences in values and conflict management: A comparison of the U.S. And Puerto Rico. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict 18.

Duck, S, McMahan, D.T. (2014) Communication in Everyday Life. 2nd. Edition. Sage. ISBN: 9781412969574

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