New approaches to intercultural communication 2

Correct citation:

Vallazza, O. (2012, December). New approaches to intercultural communication_2. Published at http://tinyurl.com/a468kmd LinkedIn Forum on Alternative Perspectives in Intercultural Communication, available at https://worldconnections.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/new-approaches-to-intercultural-communication-2/

This thread is like a Pandora box full of possibilities. It continues the discussion posted at https://worldconnections.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/new-approaches-to-intercultural-communication/

Allow me to add a few comments about new approaches to Intercultural understanding, i.e. to the understanding of intercultural situations. This is something that I feel strongly about, and that’s also why I became a member of this group.

When we consider culture as a process in-flux, then essentialist definitions would seem too easy. If cultures develop like open systems, then their level of complexity increases, and at that point it’d be a poor choice to adopt linear, Cartesian tools to understand such complexity. We are now already using a new language, but we also need other tool.

I’d like to go back to the examples of Alsace and South Tyrol in my previous post and to your comments on the book American Nations by Colin Woodard. The discourse behind nation building intentionally avoids recognizing the existence of the cultures that existed prior to the creation of a national state. Consequently, I can safely say that nation states are funded on created myths, and sustained by the belief that those very myths represent the quintessential character of a nation. The word quintessential is an amplified form of the word essential, which – for the sake of our discussion – sounds a lot like essentialist. In other words, discourses behind nation building are politically motivated, to the exclusion of other, previously existing ones. Nation states are per se antithetical to multiple cultural identities, although there have been a few examples in history where the state was not in conflict with multiple, concurrent, transversal, overlapping language and ethnic cultural expressions. The Habsburg Empire was one such entity. It was declared unsustainable and dead way before its actual and factual demise, simply because it was at odds with the very premises of nation states. Something similar is happening today with regard to the European Union, which is presented in many circles as not-credible and utopian. This is a linear view of culture(s), one that lacks both depth and breadth, and only accepts one mono-dimensional cultural slant, eliminating or deliberately disregarding other possibilities. Such exclusiveness has been very often enforced through violent approaches aimed at the forced acculturation of entire populations, with ethnic cleansing being just one of the most obvious and brutal aspects of such endeavors. Discourses of nation building first remove other “competing” cultures (through a more or less violent process of cultural simplification and mystification), also by presenting other cultural perspective as threats and unworthy; then they reinforce the validity of the very mono-culture that they have imposed. To do that, the same linear view of culture that had been used to selectively install the prominent culture is used to establish strict guidelines within that same culture. That is when essentialist definitions are created, cherished, celebrated, and followed.

An example of such approach is the naturalization test administered to new US citizens (http://tinyurl.com/33u6r8z). To me, the test represents a quintessentially US-American example of acculturation, as it doesn’t offer an alternative to pre-defined definitions. That is of course understandable, if we consider the test as the product of the very nation building discourses on which the country is based. Going back to the supranational Austro-Hungarian Empire, it should not come as a surprise that its demise was sanctioned with U.S. President Wilson’s blessing. The question may be asked whether the mere existence of that type of state, if left on the map, would have represented a danger (or alternative) to the idea of nation on which the (US) Union was based as described in Woodard’s book on American Nations.

In our search for new intercultural communication frontiers, we are now faced with new possibilities offered by a non-essentialist approach to cultural understanding. That may entail two kinds of discovery: first, the non-conflicting and non-conflictual presence of multiple cultural views in the same geographic area; second, the non-essentialist character of each of these cultures. Let me briefly examine both.

I believe that a change of perspective would ignite a process of transformation. Whether the outcome of that is a desirable or a contested one remains to be seen. In the assumption that a desired outcome emerges from such transformation, the co-existence of multiple cultural views in a certain region (I avoid the use of the term “state” on purpose) may bring about more intercultural cooperation and even promote a process of third-culture building as suggested by Casmir, Evanoff and others. (see literature at the bottom). At the same time, the switch to a non-essentialist representation of each culture may heal issues of intra-cultural exclusion, power and access within each of the cultures present in the region. That will also require a new set of tools for dealing with cultural differences and nuances, tools that won’t be based on established definitions of culture, but rather on the understanding of the dynamics that govern the systemic interactions occurring within a web of multiple cultures and experiences stemming from their relevant historical, geographical, philosophical, religious, and environmental contexts.

My preceding comments touch on both personal and “professional” levels of inquiry.

Let’s start with the first one. You mentioned your family ties to the Habsburg Empire, and your desire to find tools that will allow you and others to elaborate and expand on “the streams of discourse that we carry with us.” I believe that is an interest that you share with a lot of people who are trying to achieve a more holistic form of ascribed identity. Let me say now that I also trace my roots to the Austro-Hungarian world. My grandfather was a career officer in the k.u.k. army, his personal path not unlike that of many of his contemporaries, who came from very diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. In my grandpa’s case, according to his military records, he spoke fluently German, Italian, Ladin and knew enough Hungarian to be posted in Budapest. When I was a kid little I knew of all this, as – after the end of WW I – his experience was banned even from family memories – no questions asked. It wasn’t until a later time that I became interested in my own family’s heritage, but by then it was too late to ask the protagonists, as by then they had already died. Apparently, the discourse that had sustained the first part of my grandpa’s life was quickly dismissed, demonized and removed from public view, with total disregard for all those people who shared that particular Weltanschauung. This refers to what I mentioned in my last post, i.e. that the discourse behind nation building intentionally avoids recognizing the existence of the cultures that existed prior to the creation of a national state. That kind of active plagiarism not only affected Austria-Hungary as an entity, but also the lives of millions who found themselves robbed of their personal histories. Now, having mentioned this, I would say that when it comes to tools, I’d definitely include personal engagement in the understanding of one’s own history. That is very important. Without framing culture within its proper historic context, it’d be very difficult to understand all the nuances of one’s heritage, and how that same heritage interfaces with personal experience and relevant discourses. I am talking here about the emergence of an individual narrative that is not separate from cultural archetypes and discourses. To achieve such level of consciousness, a good amount of genuine and inquisitive research must be carried out. A set of simple “tools” (as simple as paper and pen), and serendipity would probably help.

And here I come to the second level of inquiry – the professional level – that we need to consider in order to elaborate and enact new ways of understanding culture(s). Compared to the kind of personal inquiry I described above, this is a very different scenario. I said in my other post, that a linear approach would not serve well. Once we accept the idea that cultures are open system, always in flux and extremely non-essentialist, with an ever-increasing level of complexity, then we must find ways to move into a new era of intercultural inquiry. I don’t have the expertise to make scientifically sound suggestions, but I feel that system thinking would provide a plausible, viable alternative to the linear definitions and understanding of cultures that have been used so far. Of course, one thing is to build one’s own personal tools of cultural understanding: many of them have been already arrived at as part of the many discussions on Intercultural Competence and similar concepts. Another thing is to create a model informed by our new “theories” on culture, a model that would withstand empirical and practical challenges and that could be used as a new meta framework that could serve as a new reference for future intercultural work and research. Due to its non-linear, systemic nature, the crafting of such model will be a true challenge. Given the fact that similar models already exist in other disciplines, I am hopeful that in time even in our field we will make headway in that direction. This would require the elaboration of what Gregory Bateson called An Ecology of Mind. The kind of work he did may well serve as an inspiration for the vision we are trying to explore.

The good news is that we do not really have to start from scratch, as there has been already a great amount of intercultural work around these concepts. What’s missing is the kind of meta framework that I mentioned earlier. This could be undoubtedly a fascinating venue to explore, one that incorporates, expands, and transcends the very models that have guided the work of interculturalists for decades.

Casmir, F. L. (1999). Foundations for the study of intercultural communication based on a third-culture building model. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 23(1), 91-116.

Evanoff, R. (2001). Discussion Paper on intercultural dialogue and education. UNU – United Nations University Accessed on-line on September 2, 2009 at http://www.unu.edu/dialogue/papers/evanoff-s5.pdf

These are some additional thoughts.

In a discussion appeared in the Linkedin Group Competence in intercultural Professions, I posted some thoughts on the future of Intercultural Communication in which I elaborated on some of the issues I raised in this thread. You can read that post at: http://tinyurl.com/3z4lcbt

Next is an excerpt from a Master’s research on multicultural identity formation that I did in 2010. It connects the two levels inquiry mentioned in my last post — the contextualization of personal narratives along with the development of a systems-thinking meta model for the understanding of cultural complexity.

EXCERPT:

Furthermore, for Kim (1994) processes of intercultural identity formation depend on external (present, past, context) and internal factors (temperament, desirability), both influenced by power issues. In more recent studies, Kim (1994) embraces an alternative “Systems Approach to identity” that envisions the possibility of complex identities that interact in a constructionist, dialogical fashion towards possible identity transformation. This would lead to the emergence of an in-flux intercultural identity that “would discourage the obsessive adherence to the rigid categorization of people, [and the] exclusive loyalty based on past group affiliations” (p. 17). This is summarized in a recent paper on Intercultural personhood (Kim, 2008) on her systems-based evolutionary view of intercultural identity. The term intercultural personhood would then be synonymous of multicultural identity.

Kim’s views are clearly located within a systems-thinking tradition such as Casmir’s and Martin and Nakayama’s, although the latter place her among traditional humanistic, interpretive scholars (Martin & Nakayama, 1999).

CITED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Kim, Y. Y. (2008). Intercultural personhood: Globalization and a way of being.  International Journal of Intercultural Relations: IJIR. 32(4), 359.

Kim, Y.Y. (1994). Beyond Cultural Identity Intercultural. Communication Studies  IV:1 1-24. Retrieved on Dec. 2, 2008 at http://www.trinity.edu/org/ics/ICS%20Issues/04%20ICS%20IV%201/Microsoft%20Word%20-%20p%20%201%20%20Y.%20Y.pdf

Martin, J., & Nakayama, T. K. (1999). Thinking dialectically about culture and communication. Communication Theory, 9, 1-25.

Vallazza, O. (2010). Processes of nurturing and maintenance of multicultural identity in the 21st century. A qualitative study of the experience of long-term transcultural sojourners. Master thesis. Linköping University, Sweden. Available at Linköping University press: http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-59533

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Integral Theory and Transformation

INTEGRAL THEORY AND TRANSFORMATION

Posted on e-portfolio

In recent posts I noticed a growing discomfort related to possible future scenarios that would break through currently employed discourse. I would like to share some information I gathered over the past few days, as the result of a search that was no doubt prompted by some comments in the forums.

I believe one of the issues that emerged from the discussion is the search for something that would allow us to take a leap of faith and move beyond the current paradigmal thinking. (I like to call it Cartesian world view).

The second issue, directly related to our current course, is transformative learning.

I believe the two things can be looked at together. I spent hours on the web researching these issues, and eventually contacted several people working on transformation and Integral Theory. This is the great thing about the internet! As a result, I have now some initial information that gives more substance to my claim that there is more than just a dichotomous approach to today’s problems.

Here is a summary of some resources that I thought I’d share with you.

Transforming wholeness

INTEGRAL THEORY

Ken Wilber defines integral as:

“to integrate, to bring together, to join, to link, to embrace. Not in the sense of uniformity, and not in the sense of ironing out all of the wonderful differences, colors, zigs and zags of a rainbow-hued humanity, but in the sense of unity-in-diversity, shared commonalities along with our wonderful differences.” (A Theory of Everything)

“The word integral means comprehensive, inclusive, non-marginalizing, embracing. Integral approaches to any field attempt to be exactly that: to include as many perspectives, styles, and methodologies as possible within a coherent view of the topic. In a certain sense, integral approaches are “meta-paradigms,” or ways to draw together an already existing number of separate paradigms into an interrelated network of approaches that are mutually enriching.”

You can explore Integral Theory at:

http://www.integralresearchcenter.org/sites/default/files/integraltheory_3-2-2009.pdf (paper)

http://www.integralresearchcenter.org/vision

http://www.integralresearchcenter.org/source

Integral Education

http://i-edu.org/articles-resources.php very comprehensive collection of articles

http://i-edu.org/Articles/Integral-Education-Esbjorn-Hargens.pdf

MACROSHIFT

If you are interested in learning more about Dr Ervin Laszlo’s Macroshift check out the suggested links:

http://www.worldshiftnetwork.org/home/index.html

http://www.clubofbudapest.org/

http://www.wie.org/bios/ervin-laszlo.asp

DIALOGUE

I believe that learning and dialogue may be key tools in such paradigm shift. For now, we are still dealing with a world premised on the industrialization era where people in general are reluctant to move into uncharted land, and instead prefer to linger on whatever we have, in spite of its obvious failures.

As Richard Evanoff writes in an interesting paper on Intercultural Dialogue and Education,” “From the point of view of intercultural education the alternative model of development advocates democratizing the decision-making process in a way that fully takes the interests and concerns of non-elites into consideration.”

Evanoff, R. (2001) Discussion Paper on intercultural dialogue and education. UNU – United Nations University Accessed on September 2, 2009 at http://www.unu.edu/dialogue/papers/evanoff-s5.pdf

On dialogue:

http://www.transcultural-dialogue.com/documents/dialogue_process.pdf

TRANSFORMATION

On conflict transformation:

http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/transformation/

A Changing Worldview:

http://twm.co.nz/Harm_wldview.html

The Split between Spirit and Nature in Western Consciousness:

http://twm.co.nz/West_Consc.html#Western

Another scholar that addresses transformation in education is Mezirow, whom we encounter in our FLIP course.

———————-

These are examples of wholistic, non-essentialist approaches. I hope it’s clear that I am sharing this information not in an attempt to proselytize, but just to provide some examples of a different thinking paradigm.

Best,

Oscar

GLL:Example of global/local learning

COURSE: Global/Local Learning–GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, Trento, cultural diversity

Step 1 – Part 1: example of global/local learning

Link to forum

Link to blog

Illustrative example of “global/local learning”

My example stems from the historical, political, economic and cultural context of my home region (Trentino- South Tyrol), which is home to several languages and relevant traditions: German, Italian, Ladin, the dialects of individual valleys and the languages of newly arrived immigrants from Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. Within and beyond its geographic borders one notices a complex interaction among local and global cultural components. The region reaches out to the world, but also functions as a laboratory for cultural learning processes that are enfolding within its borders. By embracing the challenges and complexity of the larger globalized context, the local context transcends the limitations imposed on it by outdated nationalistic views. Let’s now examine some local aspects and how they intersect with old and new global trends.

Local context

The autochthonous populations in the region have lived peacefully together for many centuries. Such experience has resulted in some kind of mutual learning that, unfortunately, suffered a set back during the nationalistic conflicts of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Global influences

Today this original local context has been “broken into” by recently arrived immigrants, who are undoubtedly influencing the established socio-cultural-economic processes. The perennial flow of international tourists is another example of intersecting local/global experiences.

Adherence to the spirit and policies of the E.U. and the creation of a Euro-region that includes the Austrian Tyrol further contribute to shaping the interconnections between the region’s local and global characters.

These “external” phenomena strongly influence local learning attitudes and policies. (I believe that these phenomena are by now so embedded at the local level as to have lost their “external” character).

FLIP: IDENTITY (5)

COURSE: Fostering Learning in Practice

FORUM: Koala 5

TOPICS: Identity, professional practice, workplace, contradictions

WEEK 5: TASK 2: IDENTITY (5)

Link to my portfolio blog

Link to forum

REFLECTING ON IDENTITY

I spoke to one of my colleagues about the questions asked for this week’s task.

She told me that things were different before she took over as one of the academic deans. The approach was pretty much from the top down, and – so she said – “teachers resented that a lot.” Today the emphasis is on student-centered education and learning, which allows for broader participation by teachers.

She also talked about the “identity negotiation” process she engaged to negotiate her role inside the college. It has not always been easy. She pointed out that a way to allow everyone’s identity to become part of a collaborative approach to education is to step back from an egotistic affirmation of one’s identity when engaging in constructive work in the workplace.

HOW DOES THIS INFLUENCE MY PARTICIPATUION IN THIS PRTICULAR PROFESSIONAL COMMUNITY

I had noticed before how teachers at this college enjoy participating in activities that are focused on expanding their teaching skills and the student-centered learning opportunities of our student population.  I feel that having allowed the institutional context to become more accepting of the identity diversity found among faculty has served well to create a learning environment that is more beneficial to the students. As a person – as pointed out elsewhere in this forum – I consider myself as someone who is not easily pinned down to currently available categories, being them related to my nationality, cultural background, professional role, academic pathway, or educational philosophy. At this particular school I do feel that my voice may count, even though I am a part –time instructor. I don’t think it would be possible for me to work there if I did not get this impression. I also believe that I can work on expanding a specific role among faculty, i.e. the role of an intercultural resource instructor. This would allow me to link my personal experience to my current professional practice.

HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO MY HOT ISSUE

My hot issue relates to the need for intercultural communication to be more integrated into the curriculum and the learning environment at large. In a nutshell, this can be look at in at least two ways. With regards to the students, I believe it’d be beneficial to recognize differences in their learning approaches that stem from their cultural background. That could be done by implementing curricular changes in courses (the ones specifically designed for such purpose, i.e. Intercultural Communication, and others), and by including intercultural communication competence among in the list of the institutionally recognized competencies. That could be easily linked to today’s globalized nature of the work and learning dimensions. With regards to staff/faculty, through the implementation of appropriate initiatives (e.g. professional development opportunities, task groups, department meetings) aimed at creating, fostering and promoting an understanding and awareness of the intercultural communication dimension beyond the superficial and unofficial approach that is currently followed.

I believe that it’s possible to renegotiate my role and effectiveness within the college based on my level of “expertise” in this area. That would require a shift in my own identity towards a more pro-active and solution-oriented approach on my part.

CONTRADICTIONS

On one end, I see a work environment that, at least at the departmental level, seems to embrace a new learning paradigm as highlighted in Chappel et al. “The organization of Identity: For Cases”: “Today, epistemological discourses emphasise knowledge constructed as practical, interdisciplinary, informal, applied and contextual over knowledge constructed as theoretical, disciplinary, formal, foundational and generalisable.” (p. 2)

On the other hand, such process is not yet completed, and remains contested, both at the local and at the corporate level of management.

As for the need for a different approach to the intercultural dimension, it remains to be seen if the suggestions made in my hot case can be negotiated and will eventually stand a chance.

FLIP: IDENTITY (4)

COURSE: Fostering Learning in Practice

FORUM: Koala 5

TOPICS: Identity, Chappell, Rhodes, Solomon, Tenant and Yates, Selfwork

WEEK 5: IDENTITY (4)

Link to Wolrdconnections   Link to my portfolio blog Link to Forum

Chappell, Rhodes, Solomon, Tenant and Yates, Selfwork

Keywords:

Personal change / self-change

3        technologies of self (Foucault)

3        care of the self (Foucault)

5        pedagogical traditions

6, 17   power

7        dualism (individual and society)

8        new concept of self (multiple subjectivities, multiple lifeworlds, multiple layers)

experiential learning

10      reflection

10      assumptions

12      autobiographies

15      relational view

Article review

Chappel acknowledges that education influences self-transformation.

Such personal change occurs as part of processes of personal growth and examination, as elaborated by Foucault in his “technologies of the self.”

Several pedagogical traditions identify such change as emerging at the interface between the individual and society. Chappel calls this “dualism.”

In many such traditions – however – the existing social frameworks remain unchallenged, as individual identities remain anchored in established socio-cultural assumptions. This in turn perpetuates issues of subjugation and domination resting in “false consciousness.” (p.6) (see below: relevance to my hot issue)

Watson also talks about identity construction as a process whereby people “inventively, judiciously, purposefully” select the components of their own narrative. (p.511). She recognizes that the building of autobiographies lies at the core of personal identity building processes. (p. 12) Chappel calls that the personal “biography” that “is conceived a lens through which the world is seen, or as an internal model which guides identity and action.” (p. 12) This means that the identity building process results from the inclusion of carefully selected episodes in one’s history.  That needs to be done – however – through a reflective process.

However, Chappel suggests a different way to look at the self. She implies a new view that moves away from a coherent “authentic” self, towards a model based on “multiple subjectivities,” “multiple lifeworlds,’ or “multiple layers.” (p. 8)

Relational view

Chappel goes on presenting a relational view of the self according to which “the idea of the self changes according to the relationship in which one is engaged.” (p. 15) To me that means that the self is an ever-changing concept that varies based on the relational context we are in. It develops out of the exploration of multiple meanings. Identity is therefore in flux, and changes depending on and through the nature of a relationship.

I believe that it all comes down to recognizing the “relativity of meaning,” away from the notion that identity is fixed, towards an idea of identity as a process of “exploration of a multiplicity of meanings”  that is constantly transforming itself through the unfolding of relationships. This is particularly important for those who do not clearly identify with a single culture, but see themselves as the product of several influences. I personally came to know such view very closely, as I have developed the ability to “be a different person” depending on the cultural context I am in.

To strengthen the concept of an identity in flux, the pedagogy of self-reflection insists not on “discovering who one is, but on creating who one might become.”  (p.17)

Relevance to my hot issue

Reflection should not just inform my understanding of my hot issue; it should also provide me with answers to action-oriented questions, as suggested in the pedagogical relational view presented in Chappel’s article.

The readings also suggest that, in spite of all the good intentions, we may still remain trapped in the cultural framework from which we have emerged, and in which we operate. This means that we construct our professional identity as teachers not as freely as we may think, and frame it so as it conforms to a give established view of education. Such view remains for the most part unchallenged and is self-perpetuating. In this regard, Chappel mentions that in some cases “the self participates in its own subjugation and domination whether it is through ‘false consciousness’ produced by membership of a particular social group, or the internalisation of social ‘oppression’ through individual ‘repression’ ”. (p. 6)

At the micro-level, we engage in identity building (the building of our autobiography) based on our history, through the construction of a narrative made up of carefully selected episodes. Such narrative is likely to fit into existing discourses of education and personal growth.

At the macro-level, however, we need to engage with the contextual reality of our professional practice, which may result in having to negotiate our identity and “adjust” it to our workplace environment. Several pedagogical traditions deal with this issue, but the relational approach firmly anchors identity in the relationships that we engage in, thereby making identity a multi-layered concept that develops away from the traditional view of a fixed identity.

FLIP: IDENTITY (3)

COURSE: Fostering Learning in Practice

FORUM: Koala 5

TOPICS: Identity, Chappell, Rhodes, Solomon, Tenant and Yates, Selfwork

WEEK 5: IDENTITY (3)

Link to Blog

Link to Forum

Hi Terri, Edouard

I would like to write some comments to both of your thought-provoking posts.

I’ll begin with what Terri described as a two-level identity, one rooted in deeply entrenched cultural experiences, the other emerging almost “on demand” as required by a specific context.

I am familiar with both types of identity. I see the first one as a version of ascribed identity that we derive from something external. It has been embedded in ourselves through different processed of enculturation, education, up-bringing, and many people are not even aware of that. I personally do not always subscribe to those identity tags, as I believe they are meant to make me conform to a prescribed cultural framework. Chappel recognizes the danger of such lack of awareness when he talks about “how the ‘outside’ gets ‘inside’.” (p.6)

The other, “lighter” level of our identity instead sounds more like a form of avowed identity, one that we claim for ourselves to serve us in our relational interactions in a variety of different contexts. Interculturally I consider this as one very important intercultural competency, i.e. the ability to relate to different cultural contexts. In this regard, here is a quote:

“Intercultural communication competence then is defined as the mutual avowing confirmation of the interactants’ cultural identities where both interactants engage in behavior perceived to be appropriate and effective in advancing both cultural identities.” (Collier, 1989, “International Journal of Intercultural Relations”, 13, 287-302 in Wijseman, R.L. and Koester, J. “Intercultural Communication Competence”, 1993)

Cross-cultural contexts are complex scenarios filled with this kind of identity negotiation processes. Stella Ting-Toomey, a scholar of Intercultural Communication, defines effective identity negotiation as “the smooth coordination between interactants […] that requires an individual to draw on a wide range of cognitive, affective, and behavioral resources to deal with novel, identity-improvisation situations.” (Stella Ting-Toomey, Communicative Resourcefulness – An Identity Negotiation Perspective” in Wijseman, R.L. and Koester, J. “Intercultural Communication Competence”, 1993)

I believe that these definitions go hand on hand with the perspectives on identity presented in this course, and share the same vocabulary.

Edouard, you mentioned the role of ID cards. Those are artifacts that clearly reflect the identity that has been ascribed to us. One may carry a passport that does not really reflect that person’s national identity. The identity embedded in our ID cards is based on the assumption that identity is something that we are born with. To me, the data contained in such documents express a very static view of identity that does not recognize our personal bibliographies. As you said, the ID states “who the person is,” which is a picture of that person frozen in a specific time. ID’s do not reflect people’s rich narratives, but they can be useful resources for as to analyze and put together someone’s history. (think of the documents that allowed us to trace back the Diaspora of African slaves to their original place of birth from where they were taken).

A question you may want to ask is how much you believe such ID’s represent you. Think for example that in the 70’s U.S. President Nixon introduced legislation to classify Americans according to stereotyped ethnic groups – white, black, Asians/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Eskimo, and Hispanic. Today, countless forms require people to check a box that corresponds to one of those ascribed identities. Needless to say that I do not feel represented by any of them. A similar view of a static identity was presented in a movie called Classified People about racial profiling in Apartheid-era South Africa.

FLIP: IDENTITY (2)

COURSE: Fostering Learning in Practice

FORUM: Koala 5

TOPICS: Identity, Kate Watson: Narratives of practice and the construction of identity

WEEK 4: IDENTITY (2)

Link to Forum Link to my e-portfolio blog

Cate Watson: Narrative of practice and the construction of identity in teaching

Keywords: Professional Identity, Narratives, Discourses, Transcription, Power issues, Resources, (Avowed identity)

SUMMARY OF THE ARTICLE

In her narrative analysis of her interview with Dan, Watson emphasizes that Dan’s identity draws both from his personal history and from the institutional context of his professional practice.

This confirms Davies’ views on how identity develops at the interface of the INSTITUTIONALCONTEXT and our PERSONAL HISTORY, as I have pointed out in my previous post.

Basically our actions contribute to the contraction of our identity. “As Cameron (2001, p. 170) argues, it is not because of some essential core that we behave as we do, rather it is by acting in a particular way that we construct our identity.” (p.521)

This theme appears consistently throughout the article. Here are some excerpts:

“Identity only has meaning within a chain of relationships, i.e. there is no fixed point of reference for ‘an identity’.” (509)

“Professional identity is equated with Giddens’ (1991) notion of ‘self-identity’, as a reflexive project, when applied to the context of our working lives.” (p.510)

“But if identity is conceived as an ongoing process of identification, then how is this achieved? Hinchman and Hinchman (2001, p. xiv) suggest that ‘Identity is that which emerges in and through narrative’. This again highlights the external, relational nature of identity construction. In this view identities are constructed in the narratives we create and tell about our lives; how we externalize ourselves to ourselves and to others.” (p.510)

THEMES AND CONCEPTS

Watson explores the notions of discourses and narratives. We construct our narrative by collating selected episodes that we consider salient for out identity and the way we want to be perceived. This is again of case of avowed identity.

“In other words, people construct narratives and narratives construct people, and our identities emerge through these processes.” (p.510)

She cites a definition of narratives given by Gubrium and Holstein (1997, p. 146) as “accounts that offer some scheme, either implicitly or explicitly for organising and understanding the relation of objects and events described. Narratives need not be full-blown stories with requisite internal structures, but may be short accounts that emerge within or across turns at ordinary conversation, in interviews or interrogations, in public documents, or in organizational records.” (p. 513)

The task of a researcher is to identify and explore such narratives, and relate them to a specific context.

RELEVANCE TO MY HOT ISSUE

I believe that both articles examined this week are very helpful in framing my hot issue, as they defy the binary definition of identity.

The article provides a solid platform for further investigation of issues of identity and how they relate to my professional practice.

Given the prominence of the intercultural dimension in my hot issue, I will expand my study of such concepts to include literature that specifically addresses the intercultural dimension of identity.

In particular, I will review

Intercultural Communication: An Advanced Research Book by Adrian Holliday et al. ,

a book that provides for interesting and thought-provoking analysis of the themes presented by Davies and Watson.

I would like to adopt an interdisciplinary approach to understanding these issues, as I believe that a systemic view is necessary to allow personal histories to interface with context and relevant broader discourses.

Specifically, I will try to explore answers to such questions as:

  • What may have informed the construction of my identity and how does it interface with the context of my current professional practice?
  • What are the contradictions/tensions between my avowed identity and the institutional context in which I operate?
  • What is the ascribed identity that has been assigned to me?
  • What discourses (institutional, academic, personal, cultural) provide the background software on which my hot issue is playing out?
  • What are the lesson to be learned and the action to be taken?
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