Personal Narrative Within A Cultural Journal
Excerpt from Journal :
Low-Context cultural factors assumes that very little is taken for granted; this dictates that there is less chance of misunderstanding various cultural aspects of a specific group or society. Hall draws the parallel between the French and American cultures to highlight the difference between High Context and Low Context ("Hall's Cultural Factors," 2010).
Hall asserts that French contracts are shorter in page count than American contracts. This is due to the fact that French contracts assume that those entering into the contract are well versed in French culture and will have an inherent understanding about the rule of French contract law and therefore these "assumptions" do not have to be incorporated into the specific language of the contract itself ("Halls Cultural Factors," 2010). Conversely, an American contract is quite longer than its French cousin. This is due to the fact that American contract law does not assume that individuals are familiar with such cultural assumptions and furthermore it is imperative that all relevant details pertaining to the contract are spelled out in such a manner to ensure that all parties are aware of their expectations under the contract ("Hall's Cultural Factors," 2010).
Once again this model predicates itself on the idea of making cultural assumptions. Just as the French "assume" that one will incorporate French culture into the body of contract, some individuals "assume" that a culture other than theirs many not place such a heavy emphasis on academic success as another group and therefore their purview on cultural "rule's may allow for them to have a low-context cultural attitude toward members of other cultures. The High-Context vs. Low-Context paradigm can be further linked together with the "mental processes" and "cultural assumptions" of the first two models to form a broader context.
Philippe Describable is a French culturalist that is recognized for analyzing the differences between French and American culture. According to D'Iribarne there are certain, high-level principles, that can predict how individuals within each of these countries will act ("French Strangeness," 2006). Therefore these broad principles can be integrated into the overall narrative analysis.
D'Iribarne's analysis occur within the management sphere. D'Iribarne makes not of the dynamic struggle between freedom and rank within the cultural context ("French Strangeness," 2006). According to D'Iribarne, these two constructs have suffered from a loss of cultural influence due to the increase in globalization. Globalization has lead to the interaction' of numerous cultures in a variety of contexts and therefore as a result of this interaction individuals may not feel as "free" as they did previously to express their cultural identity ("French Strangeness," 2006).
Moreover, D'Iribarne suggests that increased cultural interaction has led to the development of "rank" within certain societies. Specifically, this "rank" assumes that members of other cultures are not as sophisticated as others. As a result these lower ranked cultures are viewed as not being able to attain certain levels of achievement compared to more highly ranked cultural group members ("French Strangeness," 2006). This concept of "rank" is unique to D'Iribarne and it lends itself quite well to the overall narrative.
We, as Americans, are not accustomed to thinking in terms of "cultural rank" in modern society. However, this paradigm may be more prevalent than one would like to admit. Be-it intentionally or not all individuals engage in some form of "cultural rank" throughout their daily lives, it is just that most individuals consider it "stereotypes" and these "stereotypes" can be both positive and negative. Each ethnic group has their own stereotypes, however it is a question of whether those stereotypes or "cultural ranks" are noted by others Clearly in this narrative, my colleague had no problem noting her own preconceived stereotypes and expressing her thoughts regarding where my culture "ranked" in relation to her own world view. As a result, D' Iribarne would conclude that my colleagues actions conclusively demonstrated a lack of "freedom" in terms of assuming that those from different cultures were not as sophisticated as her own.
The final construct used to define this narrative is a construct derived from Intercultural Communication dynamics. There are three core themes in the arena of Intercultural Dynamics. These themes are: (1) Identity; (2) Otherization and (3) Representation....
The concept of Identity is at the core of Intercultural Dynamics. Identity is how individuals define themselves within the broader context as a whole (Casmir, 2007, p. 56). In relationship to other groups and individuals, self identification is the main focal point for defining what a culture means not only to the individual member but to society as a whole. In general, identity answers the question of "This is who I want to be represented by." Identity takes into account two critical concept: (1) the multifaceted of other people and society and (2) how people talk about other cultures (Holliday, 2004, p. 55).
This multifacetedness is reminiscent of D'Iribarne's concept of freedom and rank and how the degrees of cultural freedom have been hemmed in due to enhanced globalization. Individuals who normally would not have to concern themselves with interacting with individuals and groups from other cultures and backgrounds now find themselves struggling to accurately define the identity of these individuals within the broader construct of society (Hunsiger, 2006, 104). Often, these definitions are the result of negative assumptions and incorrect analysis predicated on faulty assumptions of group behavior.
It can be logically deduced that the actions of my colleague from this narrative represent a faulty definition of cultural identity. Her comment toward me assumed that she had a faulty predilection that individuals from my cultural background were unable to attain the same level of achievement as members of her cultural group had apparently become accustomed to. The question then becomes whether or not she felt threatened by the fact her world view had become threatened by the integration of someone from another background, similar to the thesis of D'Iribarne's concept of enhanced globalization curtailing the ability of individuals to express their cultural freedom as to the behavior of other cultural groups.
The second concept is "Otherization" (Holliday, 2004, p. 78). This theme will explore a major inhibition to communication by looking at how, so easily, we can construct and reduce people to be less than what they are. Otherization is reliant on two constructs that have been defined throughout this analysis, stereotypes and prejudice. Stereotypes are formed every day throughout our daily interactions with other individuals either foreign or domestic (Hunsiger, 2006, p. 39). However, these stereotypes can quickly divulge into prejudices. There are those who assert it is essential to form stereotypes based on the assumption these stereotypes assist in understanding foreign cultures. This concept walks a fine line between rationality and the development of crude prejudices.
It is very easy for an individual who has preconceived stereotypes regarding certain cultures to develop a level of prejudice involving these same cultural groups. Those groups that are "perceived" to be different either based on race, ethnicity, religion or political views can fit conveniently into the stereotypical group dynamics. However, if an individual feels threatened that their cultural matrix is being permeated by those they feel are distinctly different, these stereotypes may venture into dangerous prejudices that can lead to incidents like the one described in the narrative where members of one cultural group falsely and incorrectly assume that members of another are neither as smart or hard working as members of the so-called "majority."
The final construct, "Representation" details how macro-society attempts to define the inner most characteristics and qualities of a cultural group (Holliday, 2004, p.85). This "representation" generally occurs within the media and is inextricably linked to the presentation of stereotypes by the media and popular culture. This is most often an occurrence with refugees fleeing one geographic region and integrating into another area. More specifically, this can be seen when one ethnic group attempts to seek a higher quality of life within a different country. Those individuals, depending on the media portrayal are viewed as either illegals or having utter disregard for the rule of law. These "representations" are the culmination of false assumptions and negative connotations that have been infused into the national psyche and therefore result in these negative representations descending into further cultural ignorance about the qualities of an entire group.
There are numerous cultural contexts that can lend themselves to the narrative described at the outset of this analysis. Each of the frameworks presented from Hofstede to the Intercultural Dynamics lend themselves to placing the facts of this narrative within the overall context of each frameworks specific requirements. In the final analysis, it is doubtful, from personal experiences that my colleague sincerely doubted the intellect and diligence of a fellow colleague of hers who was in the same graduate program as hers. However, her comments…
Sources Used in Documents:
Casmir, Fred. Ethics in Intercultural Communication. London: Lawrence Erllbaum Associates, 2007. Print.
"Cultural Differences between France, Germany and Britain." Une societe de conseil pour l'economie du savoir: Innovation et KM. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2010. <http://www.syre.com/French_Strangeness.htm>.
"Hall's cultural factors." Changing minds and persuasion -- How we change what others think, believe, feel and do. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2010. <http://changingminds.org/explanations/culture/hall_culture.htm>.
Hofstede, Geert H.. Culture's consequences: comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2001. Print.
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