Cultural analysis (Gallestrup)



I am continuing this discussion with a reference to the relevance of culture for the purpose of understanding learning patterns. I have written elsewhere that the readings for this block, maybe with the exception of Wenger (which I still haven’t really delved into) seem to diregard culture from their discourses. I am convinced that any attempt to analyse data with the exclusion of the impact of culture will fail to address a series of issues and concerns that are necessarily culture-bound. Hans Gullestrup is a social scientist at the University of Aalborg in Denmark. In his recent book on Cultural Analysis, he wrote:

A given culture can never be described, analysed or understood empirically in its final form. ln its perpetual state of flux a culture never exists as a static entity. A given culture can never be described empirically, analyzed or understood objectively as all human description and understanding of the surrounding environment contain minor or major elements of social constructions. And yet in a number of individuals’ experience of a given culture – their own or others’ – or of a given intercultural interaction there will be such a degree of homogeneity that it will be meaningful – for a given culture actor in an actual context, and for a specific purpose – to outline a certain generally accepted picture of a certain culture to be used for a mutual understanding of one or several archetypes of interaction.

Source: Gullestrup, Hans (2007). Cultural Analysis: Towards Cross Cultural Understanding

Copenhagen, DK:Copenhagen Business School Press  p. 65

I believe his comments have merit and that Phenomenographic analysis or any other qualitative approach to understanding learners’ attitudes and understanding come under the spell of intercultural dynamics that would have a huge impact on the validity and the scope of such investigations.

All we can achieve is a fair approximation of trends, but only if we are willing to include cultural biases and factors in the relevant researches undertaken.Gullestrup makes it clear – and I happen to agree with him – that results are meaningful only within specific time and contextual limits.

Their transferability is not implied.

On page 330 of his book, Gullestrup humbly poses two self-reflective questions that in my opinion re-inforces my own questions:

“I can evidently not avoid this social constructivism myself, irrespective
of how mindful I have been of this. And therefore I have to raise the
question, in this last section of the book, of the extent to which the
preceding pages and the outlined models are characterised by having been
developed and written by a 69-year old Danish male social science researcher
with the life and education I have gone through up to now, and with the
personal experience I have had.

“How would a young Samoan social science researcher have treated the same
issue? How would a staunch religious Hindu woman from India, or for that
matter a die-hard Republican economist in today’s USA have treated the

Any comments?


Oct 27, 2008 – Adult Learning: contexts and perspectives

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