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2.1: How Identities are Built

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    The same factors that make intercultural communication competence today so relevant – increased human mobility and open, worldwide communication networks – also have led to the formation of personal identities that are more varied and dynamic than ever before. It is of course always been the case that as we grow, we evolve. From the narrow starting point of the family, we enter into ever wider social circles, as we attend school, make friends, start working, and find a partner. Added to this traditional model now is the increasing likelihood of exposure to individuals from different cultures. This modifies how we think, how we view the world, how we react to different situations, which, in turn, adds a variety of flavors to how others see us and how we see ourselves, i.e. our identity. Today, part of that process may well happen virtually, through online social networks and media. More exposure to different kinds of people does not necessarily mean acceptance of growing social diversity. Unfortunately, the result can be increased prejudice and intolerance. In this unit we will be looking at identity formation, the roles of ethnic and social groups, and issues surrounding stereotyping.

    Laina Dawes: Identity assumptions sometimes go astray

    Laina's identity comes from many different sources, growing up in a rural part of Canada where there were few if any other blacks, being adopted into a white family, and being a woman in love with heavy metal music. Her situation demonstrates that personal identity doesn't necessarily match expectations based on stereotypes, for example, that all black people prefer hip-hop.

    Audio / Transcript of NPR story about Laina

    Picture 12

    Cultural identity

    Our identities are formed in a variety of ways. As we grow, we develop characteristics and personality traits that set us apart as individuals. Some of those are biological, such as skin color, height, hair color, etc. We may be shy or outgoing, enjoy playing sports or prefer computer games. Each of us has a personal identity which develops and changes over time. Some of our individual characteristics we develop on our own, but many aspects of our personality and preferences develop through contact with others. The starting point is the family into which we are born. Our family typically supplies our initial cultural identity – the values, beliefs, and behaviors inherited from belonging to a particular culture or ethnic group. Cultural identities provide a default framework for how we interact with others. That doesn't mean that we continue to have this perspective throughout our lives.

    Cultural identities are dynamic and can change with one's ongoing life experiences. This may be an individualized change or could reflect changes in views embraced by one of the cultural groups to which we belong. In the US, for example, a significant shift in attitudes towards Muslims occurred after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Many US citizens developed a new, often negative opinion of anyone perceived to be Muslim or from an Arab country. Major shifts have occurred in recent years in many countries in regard to same-sex marriage. It is certainly not the case that all citizens of those countries have changed their attitudes; after all, individuals have free will and the ability to adopt differing views.

    It may be also that one's views may differ from those of the cultural mainstream through the link one has to a particular subculture. This might be a traditionally identified minority group – based on ethnic, racial, or language characteristics – or might be a group we belong to out of personal interest or through other relationships such as employment. Minority groups – or microcultures – are traditionally characterized as being distinct in several different ways (Neuliep, 2012). There may be distinctive physical characteristics, such as skin color or dress. Sometimes, microcultures practice in-group marriage, known as endogamy (as opposed to exogamy – marrying outside your group). Often microcultures receive unequal treatment and face discrimination in a variety of areas, including housing and employment. The social status and rights of microcultures vary considerably depending on time and place. At one time in the US, Irish immigrants were discriminated against, but they (and other European immigrants) have long since become part of the mainstream white culture in the US.

    To indicate that subgroups exist within and must interact with the majority cultures, some use the term co-culture (Orbe & Spellers, 2005). The term is frequently used in the context of the power discrepancy between co-cultures and the dominant culture, highlighting the marginalization and disenfranchisement of many minority groups. In using the terms majority and minority, we are referencing a group's relative influence and power within a society, rather than numerical superiority. In some societies, such as in colonized countries, the largest number of inhabitants may not hold the levers of power, which may be in the hands of a smaller, elite group. In apartheid South Africa (before 1994), for example, the overwhelming majority of inhabitants were black, but the government, economic institutions, and school systems were all under the control of the minority white South Africans. One could point as well to similar discrepancies between numerical superiority and access to political, social, and economic power in Saddam Hussain‘s Iraq (Sunni versus Shi’a) or the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria (Alawi versus Sunni).

    Cultural identities tend to be constructed differently depending on whether an individual is a member of a co-culture or a representative of the mainstream. Often, those in the majority population lack the social consciousness that typically accompanies being part of a minority. Members of the dominant culture typically will be happy with the social status quo. They are likely never to have been led or forced to examine their position or role in society, seeing themselves as "normal" or "regular" citizens. In the documentary film, the Color of Fear (Wah, 1994), the white US Americans identify themselves as "Americans", while those representing minority groups use hyphenated terms such as African-American, Mexican-American, or Chinese-American; those men have much more to say than their white counterparts about their cultural backgrounds. This is typical of the mainstream in the US: "People who are white know that they are white, but this is often translated as being just American. They do not have any experience understanding race and how it shapes our lives. They typically don’t think about their whiteness, nor do they think about the privilege bestowed on them because of their race" (Sisneros, Stakeman, Joyner & Schmitz, 2008, p. 29). In fact, white Americans may be reluctant to acknowledge that "white privilege" exists. Peggy McIntosh has put together a compelling list of examples of white privilege in the US (see sidebar). Unearned social and economic privilege is not unique to European-Americans; that phenomenon has parallels in many other countries, in which elite classes enjoy rights and advantages not available to all members of the society. Migrant workers in many countries are denied many of the benefits (education, housing, employment) afforded other sectors of society.

    White Privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack

    I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of work cannot count on most of these conditions.

    1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
    2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
    3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
    4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
    5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

    [Note: the full text contains 50 items]

    Members of a majority group may be unaware of the reality of life for minorities in their society. On the other hand, members of minority groups cannot ignore the dominant culture — they typically encounter aspects of that culture and its representatives on an everyday basis, as they go about their daily lives. The societal apparatus — education, housing, media, government, employment – is controlled by the mainstream population. Members of a minority are well aware of the situation and must adjust accordingly. It is likely, for instance, that in African-American families today, parents talk to their children (especially the boys) about how to interact with police officers. That is not likely to be a necessary conversation in white households. Members of a minority need to balance issues of adaptation and assimilation into the dominant culture with the need to retain identification with their own communities.

    One of the issues with which microcultures often have to contend is language. The major institutions of a country – schools, government, industry – use predominantly or exclusively the language of the dominant culture. This means that members of a microculture who either speak a different language or use a dialectical variety of the standard language may be at a disadvantage. In fact, "muted group theory" suggests that those with less power in a society often have difficulty communicating effectively, as they must re-encode their thoughts to make them understood (Ardener, 1975). One response to this phenomenon is the creation of a unique language. African American Vernacular English, or Ebonics, is an example of that (Perry & Delpit, 1998). Spanglishcode-switching between English and Spanish – is characteristic of many Latinos in the US (Stavans, 2004). In Germany Kiezdeutsch (also "kanaksprach") is a version of German that integrates Turkish terms (Freywald et al, 2011). Similar language hybrid phenomena can be observed in other cultures. We will be exploring issues around minority language use in chapter three.

    Integration and Marginalization

    To what extent microcultures remain separate or become integrated and eventually inseparable from the mainstream culture varies considerably. The metaphor popularly used for many years in the US was that of the melting pot, with the implication being that immigrant communities were to assimilate, or give up their cultural identities (and language) and adopt the mainstream European-American culture. In the US today there is increasing recognition of the right of minority groups to maintain aspects of their cultures of origin (Alba & Nee, 2009). This embrace of pluralism – with a more appropriate metaphor for the US being a garden salad or a mixed stew – is by no means universal. That is the case in other countries as well.

    In the US, second and third generation immigrant families often have a quite different attitude toward their ethnic heritage than was the case for their parents or grandparents (Rumbaut & Portes, 2001). They may express considerable interest and pride in that heritage, its customs, and language. The degree to which descendants of immigrant families or representatives of indigenous minorities are able to blend successfully their family/ethnic backgrounds into the dominant culture depends on the extent of social acceptance. Some groups have been systematically marginalized, that is, denied the same basic rights and privileges as granted to other populations. They may face discrimination in areas such as housing, access to education, or employment opportunities. Examples are the indigenous populations of North America or Australia, the Romani in Europe, the Palestinians in the Middle East, or the "Untouchables" (Lower Castes or Dalit) in India. There are as well counter-examples of societies, such as Canada, which have embraced multiculturalism, enabling newcomers to maintain their original cultural identities, as they adjust to the new Canadian environment (Peach, 2005).

    Countries vary considerably in ethnic diversity. Japan and the Koreas, for example, are ethnically homogeneous, with small minority populations. That is characteristic as well of island nations, for understandable reasons. One of the main methodologies used to measure diversity is linguistic variation (Fearon, 2003). From that perspective, Papua New Guinea and South Africa rank particularly high in cultural diversity. That is the case as well for India, with 22 different languages and over 1500 officially recognized dialects. The cultural fabric of India (language, food habits, clothing, colors of houses, architecture, etc.) can vary tremendously from one region to another. The modern state of India, with its variety of cultures integrated into one political entity, is a byproduct of British colonialism. It was not uncommon for occupying colonial powers to construct arbitrary boundaries, determined by political and economic hegemonic interests rather than according to languages spoken or along traditional ethnic or tribal lines. This kind of forced political integration has led to conflict, as competing tribes or ethnic groups struggle for power, for example in Rwanda (1990-1994), Sudan (1955 to 1972), and Nigeria (1967-1970). Ethnic conflict is by no means limited to Africa. Tribal affiliations and religious differences have led to many conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Women in Japan: a largely homogeneous country

    Although European countries have tended to be largely homogeneous, there are exceptions such as Switzerland or Belgium. While the Swiss have managed to create a common national identity, which has largely shielded the country from strife among the linguistically and culturally diverse cantons, Belgium has not been so successful in national integration. The Flemish and French parts of the country have had considerable trouble cooperating politically and economically. Conflict has arisen as well in Latin America, with struggles of indigenous populations in Guatemala, Mexico, Columbia, and other countries for equal rights. In some cases, ethnic strife has led to countries breaking apart into separate entities, such as happened in Yugoslavia in the early 1990s or in Sudan in 2011. Separatist movements have arisen in a number of countries, such as Catalonia in Spain or Scotland in the UK.

    Just because a country is ethnically homogeneous, it does not mean that it will remain that way. Germany, for example, has traditionally been relatively homogeneous, but has seen several large waves of immigration which have made the population much more diverse. So-called "guest workers" (Gastarbeiter) were recruited in the 1950s and 1960s from Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, and Turkey to supply manpower for the growing post-war German economy (Herbert, 1990). Many of those workers and their families elected to resettle permanently in Germany. The large number of Turkish Germans has had a significant influence on German culture, with Germans of Turkish descent playing significant roles in politics, sports, entertainment and other areas. In 2015–2016, large numbers of refugees arrived in Germany, fleeing war, civil strife, and poverty in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Northern Africa. The substantial numbers of new arrivals placed stress on the ability of government agencies, churches, and citizen groups to provide sufficient services, such as housing and language training. As migrants are dispersed among different urban and rural areas in Germany, efforts to reach the different groups with information and training has been a challenge. One of the more successful methods that has been used is mobile technology (see sidebar). Not all Germans have welcomed the arrival of large numbers of refugees. Some refugee centers have been burned to the ground. Anti-immigrant movements such as PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamification of the West) have attracted popular support among some parts of the German population (Vorländer, Herold, & Schäller, 2015). As is the case in neighboring countries, that has also lead to political changes, with a new anti-immigrant and anti-EU party, the Alternative for Germany (AFD), which in 2018 entered the German parliament. In France, the National Front has attracted large numbers of French voters unhappy with economic stagnation and with the perceived cultural changes in French society through the large numbers of immigrants from Northern Africa.

    Smartphones and refugees

    In Germany, the hoped-for destination of many refugees, a number of apps have been created tar-geting the immigrant population. The Goethe Insti-tute, along with federal agencies dealing with im-migration and employment, have created Ankommen (Arrival), available in Arabic, English, Farsi, French, and German. As do other such apps, it is designed with minimal technical requirements, so as to be usable on older phones. It features three branched areas: German language study, German asylum procedures, and tips on living in Germany. Integreat offers a similar service for refugees in Germany. It is available in five languages and fea-tures information specific to one of the 80 German cities targeted. Daheim (At Home) offers a meeting platform for new arrivals and German natives, designed for language learning and intercultural exchange.

    Godwin-Jones, 2017, p. 11

    The extent to which members of microcultures integrate into the mainstream culture may depend on how that particular group arrived in the new country. This may have happened in a number of different ways: forced repatriation – as in the case of slavery –, voluntary immigration, for instance those seeking better job opportunities, or through refugee status, seeking protection from political persecution or dangerous living conditions. The integration process also depends on the nature of the group, and how similar or dissimilar its customs, language, and worldviews are to the mainstream culture. One of the central issues affecting the reception of recent migrants to Europe is that most are Muslims, while European countries are majority Christian. The difference in religion affects not only worship practices and religious doctrines but also social views, such as the role of women in society. Visibly different skin color or dress are likely to make integration, or even acceptance, into the mainstream culture potentially problematic. Diaspora communities tend to keep many customs and rituals from their places of origin. Indian families who migrated to Southern Africa, and from there to the UK, the USA, or Canada, may have never visited India, but still marry according to Indian customs. Yet, they also integrate Western customs, such as holding speeches at the wedding reception (A. Malik, personal communication, June 25, 2017).

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): PEGIDA demonstration in Dresden, Germany

    The degree to which particular groups maintain cultural ties to their family places of origin differs significantly according to both the group and the nature of the destination culture. In the US, for example, many people of European ancestry have largely integrated culturally into the mainstream, and have lost most of their association with their ancestral homeland and may not even be aware of their family backgrounds. They may not know about the stigma which used to be attached to immigrants to the US from countries such as Ireland, Italy, or Germany. Some white US Americans may have a symbolic ethnicity, a largely voluntary affiliation with a particular ethnic group which only surfaces in particular contexts, as in the celebration of a holiday such as St. Patrick's Day or Oktoberfest. While many microcultures become segregated due to prejudicial treatment by the mainstream culture, as has historically been the case with African-Americans, some microcultures choose to remain apart. The Amish community in the US live apart from the non-Amish, with their religious beliefs leading them to reject many aspects of contemporary US culture. They dress differently, speak a German dialect, and shun modern technology. Because living in an Amish community isolates individuals so completely from mainstream US culture, young people are given an opportunity to experience the "English", i.e. non-Amish, world through a tradition called rumspringa.

    Rumspringa: Amish youth exploring the world

    In many communities, Rumspringa is a period when some Amish youth, boys more than girls, experience greater freedom. They are no longer under the control of their parents on weekends and, because they are not baptized, they are not yet under the authority of the church. During this time, many Amish youth adhere to traditional Amish behavior. Others experiment with “worldly” activities—buying a car, going to movies, wearing non-Amish clothes, buying a television.

    Kraybill, 2016

    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): Amish family in New York farming

    Social Identity

    While our national origin and ethnic background typically contribute substantially towards forming our individual identities, they alone do not play a determining role in shaping who we are. There are likely to be a variety of groups we belong to, constructing what is commonly called our social identity. Some of these are involuntary, such as age, race, or family. Others are groups we choose to join, such as a club, church, or political party. There may be groups we do not belong to but with which we identify in some way, for example, a professional group we hope to join one day (i.e., physicians, lawyers, astronauts) or political action groups with whose views we agree. These are known as reference groups (Shibutani, 1955). There may be as well any number of impromptu, ad-hoc groups with which we identify, forging a variety of shifting small cultures and affinity groups. At least some of those are likely to be mostly or exclusively online, such as our Facebook friends or those we follow or who follow us on Twitter or through other social media.

    How we communicate with others may be strongly influenced by our group memberships. Some groups distinguish sharply between who is in and who is out. Members of the in-group may feel prejudiced against those in out-groups. Extreme nationalists, for example, may discriminate against or even harass immigrant communities. One way in which groups tend to shape individual behavior is through a phenomenon known as in-group bias, in which we as members of an in-group automatically favor other members of our group (Brewer, 1979). This is in contrast to out-group negativity in which we attribute automatically negative characteristics to those outside our group (Sherif et al., 1961). The same observed behavior might be judged quite differently depending on whether the other person belongs to our group.

    Interactions and communication among group members may also be influenced by individuals’ roles within groups. In some groups, roles may be formal and well-defined, with a strict hierarchy in place. This is the case in many working environments. In such cases, how we communicate is determined by our place in the hierarchy, with those at the top accorded a high measure of respect and being addressed in deferential language. Different cultures may see group roles quite differently, even within similar groups or organizations. In most university communities in the US, for example, there is a fairly relaxed, relatively egalitarian relationship between students and professors, with the language used informal and colloquial. In other countries, such as South Korea, the relationship is likely to be more hierarchical, with an accompanying shift in the language to a much more formal register.

    An increasingly prevalent approach to addressing the nature of social identity is the "communication theory of identity", developed originally by communication scholar Michael Hecht (1998). The theory provides a model for describing how groups create an identity through communication. The idea is that identity is negotiated in particular contexts, either between individuals of the same identity groups or individuals of different groups. In this view, social identities are constructed and fluid. We express our identities through such things as choice of language, nonverbals like clothing or body language, or the degree to which we emphasize our group membership. Depending on the situation, we may express our identity in different ways. The theory is helpful in breaking down into separate categories how our communication and behavior as members of a group affects our sense of identity in particular contexts. Identity components include the following:

    • Scope (how many people hold the identity)
    • Salience (how important the identity is to a person at a given point in time)
    • Centrality (how important the identity is usually to a person’s self-esteem)
    • Intensity (how vocal or expressive one is about an identity)
    • Changeability (some aspects of identities change and others do not)

    How this works in practice is demonstrated in the example of women in the Sahara (see the sidebar).

    In addition, the theory proposes that identities have both a content component – norms of behavior associated with an identity – and a relationship component, i.e., how we feel about an identity. The content may be actions, behaviors, or language expected or accepted in particular contexts such as using formal language when addressing a superior. The relationship component (sometimes referred to as "regard") refers to different views on particular behaviors or attitudes associated with an identity, which may be seen differently depending on the individual. Baldwin (2013) provides this example, "Two people might see themselves as 'geeks.' Both may agree what the identity means as far as characteristics (content), but one might embrace the identity (positive regard) and the other might dislike the identity (negative regard)". This approach treats identity as context-dependent and emergent, rather than static and fixed. This is in accord with views on identify formation current in the social sciences generally and has been of particular interest in applied linguistics and second language acquisition. In this view, we negotiate our identities on the fly, through our use of language and other identity markers such as body language or dress. The dynamics of that kind of identify assertion are dependent on the environment and on the background and behavior of those with whom we are communicating.

    Women in the Sahara

    If we think of the identity of gender in the Sahara, we can state that:

    • Scope: Sex has a much broader scope than, say, Jewish people
    • Salience: A woman might be a professional, a student, a researcher, or a Muslim. In some contexts, one identity will be more relevant or in the front of her mind than others.
    • Centrality: Because of the emphasis on gender in the Sahara, this identity is probably “salient” all or most of the time—thus, it has more centrality.
    • Intensity: Women may express their identity either more or less vocally. By wearing a head-covering, especially when such is optional, as it is in some countries, the women is expressing identity more explicitly. She is “out” about her religious identity.
    • Changeability: Clearly, as expressed in the photo above, gender identity in parts of the Saharan region is changing—but likely in other ways staying the same.

    Baldwin (2013)


    Worldviews and Religions

    One of the groups many belong to is a religious community. The religion to which we adhere may have a substantial impact on how we communicate with others:

    Religious differences have tremendous implications for intercultural communication. Religion is a powerful force in marking cultural differences, which can lead to both intercultural conflict and intercultural cooperation. Even when not explicitly noted, religion may influence our attitudes about right and wrong and may influence our own behavior. (Nakayama & Martin, 2002, p. 21).

    Religious beliefs often play a central role in a person's worldview, i.e., the set of values and beliefs about acceptable human behavior and about mankind's relationship to a supreme being and to the natural world. In some cases, religion and worldview are tightly connected. This is the case in what are deemed "sacred cultures", where there is a religious doctrine that plays a determining role in expected personal behavior, fundamental values, and appearance (Dodd, 1998). In some cultures, such as in Saudi Arabia, there may be a state religion which exerts this kind of controlling influence. In other cases, the connection between religion and worldview is not as clear-cut, as in the case of the Puritan influence in the US (see sidebar). Secular societies, such as the US, draw a sharp distinction between church and state. France has a long tradition of "laïcité" (secularity) which has been the expressed reason for controversial measures such as the banning of women wearing veils or headscarves in public schools (Caron, 2007). On the other hand, India, also a secular culture, has not banned religious symbols (Burchardt, Wohlrab-Sahr & Wegert, 2013).

    Pervasive Puritanism

    The influence of the Puritan settlers on US society can be seen in the fact that US Americans have rather conservative views about alcohol and nudity — something that many Europeans find rather prudish. This demonstrates the implicit influence of religion on worldview and perception — people in the United States who may not subscribe to Puritan or even Christian beliefs may still be influenced by that historical tradition and worldview.

    Nakayama & Martin, 2002, p. 22

    Kluckhohn & Strodtbeck (1961) developed a set of "value orientations" to distinguish worldviews. The values taxonomy indicates what instructions are implicitly provided by a culture as guidelines for living and interacting with others. They address the questions of man's place in the cosmos, namely:

    • Character of human nature (basically good – a mixture of good and evil – basically evil)
    • Relation of humans to nature (humans dominate–harmony of the two–nature dominates)
    • Time orientation (future-oriented - present-oriented - past-oriented)
    • Activity orientation ("doing"/action – "growing"/spiritual growth – "being"/who you are)
    • Relationships between people (individual - group-oriented – collateral)

    If applied to mainstream US culture, the human–nature orientation is that mankind is essentially good, with humans considered to be rational beings who have control of their own destinies (the much vaunted but elusive US "equality of opportunity"). The mutable nature of human character in the US view is demonstrated by the popularity of self-help groups, self-improvement seminars, and "life coaches". US culture sees mankind as empowered to rule over nature, with faith in science to solve problems. In terms of activity orientation, the US tends to value pragmatism and efficiency; that applies to time as well, which tends to be future-oriented. In their relationships with others, US Americans are seen as individualistic, with few binding group memberships. They are more likely to be willing to relocate to entirely new regions for education or employment.

    India offers a dramatically different profile. In this life, humans must accept restraints and limitations, but need to work towards enlightenment and perfection, but that may occur over successive lives. The human-nature relationship is seen quite differently, with an emphasis on harmony, not control, and a concern for the "welfare of all things" taking precedence over human concerns (Roa & Thombre, 2015, p. 67). Spiritual growth is highly valued and that may occur over successive reincarnations, so that both the past and the future are important and are not seen as distinctly different entities. From an Indian perspective, time is not linear but circular. Indians are "highly collectivistic in their local group, but are individualistic in dealing with outsiders" (Rao & Thombre, 2015, p. 81). Starkly different regional characteristics in language and customs tend to lead Indians to feel most comfortable living in their home regions, and less likely than North Americans to accept moving far from home for education or employment (Rao & Thombre, 2015).

    As is always the case with such generalizations, these value orientations need to be seen as just that — generalities which may be useful as default categories but do not hold for all members of a culture. In the case of the characteristics for US culture, for example, there are significant differences among different co-cultures, for instance in Native Americans' view of the relationship to nature or in the importance of family relations in the African-American household. A similar variety of values orientations are evident in India, as in many other countries. There are shifting views on man's relationship to nature, which derive in part from global warming and other natural phenomena. In India, for example, the concept of dharma (loosely, the right way of living) leads to environmentalism being built into Indian culture, while environmental pollution is viewed as an expression of karma (just retribution; Roa & Thombre, 2015). There are likely generational differences too, for example, in time orientation, with younger North Americans or Indians being more present-oriented, with greater interest in quality-of-life concerns. Looking at the value orientations of other cultures is likely to show similar results, that is, some common default values, with many discrepancies depending on group memberships.

    The forces of globalization and mass immigration which have increasingly mixed cultures together have also brought together different worldviews and religions. This can lead to greater religious diversity. This phenomenon is seen by some as a weakening or dilution of religious beliefs. In response, fundamentalist religious movements have arisen in different parts of the world, which strive to set boundaries and adhere to a perceived "pure" version of a religion. Often, this is also a reaction against particular social changes, such as equality between men and women or equal rights for LGBTQ communities (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning). Religion is often deeply tied to people's cultural identity and a disregard or perceived disrespect for a person's religious beliefs or rituals is seen as a personal attack. In such cases, communication may be shut down completely.

    Intercultural Communication and Ideology

    When we talk about worldviews, another term that frequently comes into play is ideology. Ideology is similar to worldview in that it references our conception of the order of the world and humans' role in society, but it places additional emphasis on what in an ideal world human relationships and behavior should be. This often involves political and socio-economic considerations, with a central concern being the individual or groups who exercise power and control. From that perspective, the question arises as to who controls culture – that is where do our values and mores come from. Italian theorist, Antonio Gramsci (1971, originally 1935), uses the concept of cultural hegemony to describe how those in power manipulate the value system of a society so as to co-op and control beliefs and behaviors among the population at large. In this way, the ruling class worldview becomes the accepted cultural norm and establishes and justifies a social, political, and economic status quo.

    Adrian Holliday (2010) sees the concept of culture itself as a form of ideology. Under the guise of culture, we (especially in the West) tend to establish and perpetuate static images of particular groups. Edward Said (1978) has shown, for example, how the West exoticized images of people from the East, creating a stereotype of "Orientals", which helped promote Western superiority and hence justify colonialism and subjugation. Holliday has shown that the terms of cultural differentiation often used in intercultural communication such as collectivism and individualism often in subtle ways denigrate particular cultures or peoples. For Holliday, the concept of culture, as usually understood, leads "easily and sometimes innocently to the reduction of the foreign Other as culturally deficient" (Holliday, 2010, ix).

    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\): Snake Charmer, example of image in the West of "Orientals"

    If, in fact, as Holliday states, the world is governed by "unequal global politics in which ideology plays a major role" (2010, ix), that holds consequences for intercultural interactions. It makes it important to recognize our own ideological framework, both as individuals and groups. That includes a consideration of how our gender, socioeconomic class, and ethnic background affect our views of the world and of others. This critical self-awareness can enable us to view others and their cultural values and behaviors with a clearer appreciation of how forces beyond an individual's control contribute to identity formation and particular worldviews. Developing a knowledge of the interaction between culture and political institutions can help in finding avenues for change that are feasible, given societal constraints. We may see injustices which, given our own backgrounds, seem to be evidence of "backwards" beliefs or of a corrupt political culture. Rather than judge harshly an individual engaged in what we see as negative behavior, it is better to understand the constraints at work. Individuals do not always have the freedom to change aspects of behavior that are controlled by institutional forces. It is also the case, that as outsiders, we are not likely to have a full understanding of what may be a quite complex interplay of factors which determine individual behavior.

    2.1: How Identities are Built is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Robert Godwin-Jones.

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