Teaching, Learning and Working in Culturally Diverse Environments
Culture, Identity and Cultural Diversity
There is no doubt that human experiences are linked to the social context in which people live. Understanding the relationships between people and society, more specifically how people are transformed by society and reciprocally how they transform society, is important for effective functioning in everyday life. For years, social psychologists have been interested in these issues, more specifically:
(Chryssochoou, 2004, p. xvi).
Answers to these questions can be found, alternatively in the individual cognitive processes used by people to organise their experience, in the social dynamics within groups, in the positions or status of people involved in interactions or in the social beliefs and relations between groups.
uerstanding the interplay between social thinking and socio-historical dynamics leads to the notion of culture as the product of these interactions. The view that culture is a social construction is somewhat reflected in Triandis (2002, p. 3): "It consists of ideas about what has worked in the past and thus is worth transmitting to future generations" but provided this ‘shared perspective’ is understood to be in continuous flux and evolution.
Numerous definitions of culture can be found in the literature. Some include behaviour on the ground that behaviours are expressions of culture. Other definitions stress the notions of common understanding, shared values and meanings of the world. Kroeber and Kluckhohn’s early definition is often cited.
“Culture consists of explicit and implicit patterns, of and for behaviour acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievements of human groups, including the embodiment in artefacts. The essential core of culture consists of traditional (i.e., historically derived) and selected ideas and especially their attached values. Cultural systems may on the one hand be considered as products of action, on the other as conditioning elements of further action” (1952, p. 181).
Please note that these definitions of culture are contested as they convey an impression of stability in shared values and understandings. The terms ‘traditional’, ‘selected ideas’ and ‘attached values’ reinforce this impression. Conceptualising culture as socially constructed is intended to address the issue of evolution of values and patterns of behaviours, however the idea that cultures are distinct entities that can be identified and compared to others is contested.
To get started, read Ch 1 of the textbook by Verkuyten (2014). This book was selected as a textbook for this unit as it provides a valuable social psychological perspective on issues related to cultural diversity, the nature of social identity and multiple identities, acculturation, group identification, intergroup relations, with immigration as a contextual backdrop. Please note that although many of the examples provided in this book are from studies conducted in the Netherlands (Verkuyten’s home country), the issues of identity/ies, globalisation and living together in diverse societies are universal, the interest being “in more general social psychological processes and how these relate to and fuel questions of identity and cultural diversity” (p. 9).
The publisher (Routledge) points to the significance of Verkuyten’s book as follows:
“Immigration increases cultural diversity and raises difficult questions of belonging, adaptation, and the unity of societies: questions of identity may be felt by people struggling with the basic problem of who they are and where they fit in, and although cultural diversity can enrich communities and societies it also sometimes leads to a new tribalism, which threatens democracy and social cohesion”.
The publisher also highlights how Verkuyten “considers one of the most pernicious social problems: how conflict emerges from perceiving others as different “and also “the role of cultural diversity beliefs, such as multiculturalism and assimilation”, and how “the book concludes by exploring productive ways of managing cultural diversity”.
Chapter 1 focuses on the quest for identity and solidarity. After introducing the main constructs, Verkuyten stresses a most important point to the readers:
“The previous discussion might give the impression that identity, ethnicity, and community are concrete, real things that can be touched, looked at, and handled. But the on-going debate about national identity, as well as ethnic and racial identities, indicates that this is not the case at
all. These identities are not set in stone – they are socially constructed. Concepts such as identity and ethnicity should be used for thinking about forms and aspects of social relationships that are the outcome of never- ending social processes” (p. 9-10).
Verkuyten’s emphasis on the socially constructed nature of identities is critical and should be kept in mind when reading other work that may play down this aspect. For Verkuyten (p. 10), one should be cautious of “an ontology of the social world that assumes that ethnic groups are cultural groups and that people who belong to an ethnic group ‘have’ the culture of that group. However, anthropologists have convincingly shown that culture is not a very useful basis for the definition of ethnicity (Barth, 1959)”. An important reason is that such a definition leads to a static and reified notion of culture. For example, the notion of ‘multicultural society’ quickly leads to the idea that cultures are bounded entities, clear-cut wholes, clearly distinguishable from other entities that are linked to other groups. The consequence of this is that the differences and contrasts between groups are emphasised and that similarities and commonalities are neglected. Moreover, the similarities within groups are easily exaggerated and differences are forgotten” (p. 10).
Given identity and cultural diversity are such hot topics in today’s world – with “politicians, opinion makers, commentators, stake-holders, journalists and writers express[ing] their views and opinions, either for or against diversity” (p. 12), it becomes important, as stated by Verkuyten, not to add further voices to the “avalanche of opinions, beliefs, and ideas […] expressed and spread in society like wildfire” (p. 12) and instead to concentrate on research findings related to the complex and multi- faceted questions of identity and cultural diversity, studied from a range of theoretical perspectives and disciplines. This is the approach adopted in this unit.
In his book, Verkuyten takes the perspective of “the psychological citizen” (see p. 13 and p. 25), and discusses social psychological thinking and research, that is “geared towards a better understanding of multicultural societies” (p. 25). This perspective is important as it means paying attention to the underlying theoretical principles and processes that are at stake (e.g. feelings of insecurity, threat, alienation and exclusion), rather than entering public debates about responsibilities and loyalties on policy issues, and putting the blame on one another (p. 25-
26). For Verkuyten, and also in this unit, “it is important to take an analytical and theoretical approach – one that examines how and why certain phenomena come about, in other words, understanding how social psychological knowledge can contribute to a better understanding of questions and problems related to identities and cultural diversity” (p. 26).
Now read the Bastian & Haslam (2008) article focusing on the roles of psychological essentialism and social identity in hosts and immigrants perspectives on immigration.
The three inter-related studies reported in this article explore empirically in the Australian context, the implication of holding reified, essentialist beliefs - beliefs assumed to be associated with social identification and processes related to stereotyping, prejudice and intergroup perceptions. The findings of these studies have implications for multiculturalism and integration as they support the view that “although the benefits of multiculturalism continue to be recognized, there is a growing realization that this must go hand in hand with successful integration into the host society and culture”. The authors found that “essentialist beliefs [by immigrants] enhance a person’s likelihood of marginalization or separation during the acculturation process” but also that “essentialist beliefs held by members of the host culture predict the degree of prejudice that immigrants are likely to experience upon arriving, affecting the ease with which they can integrate” (p. 139). These findings are important as they stress the criticality of addressing such problematic beliefs within both the host nation and immigrant groups.
At this point, you may wish to have a look at the last article for this topic, by Colvin, Volet & Fozdar (2014). This article illustrates the negative impact of essentialist beliefs about culture by revealing evidence of a relationship between how students conceptualise culture, see diversity and experience their initial intercultural interactions on campus.
Verkuyten (2014) also addresses the implication of psychological essentialism more generally, on the development of identity and public policies, e.g. assimilation (see pp 130-132). You may wish to familiarise yourself with Verkuyten’s argument based on the empirical evidence provided.
You are now ready to examine critically Hofstede’s research on dimensions of culture. The main reason for scrutinising Hofstede’s research is that it is well known but also widely contested. For Hofstede, culture represents “the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another” (1991, p. 5). The first part of Signorini, Wiesemes and Murphy’s (2009) article outlines Hofstede’s cultural differences model, and the second part its limitations.
For years, cross-cultural psychologists have been interested in how culture can explain psychological and behavioural differences among people and societies, and what psychological functioning and human behaviours are universal or culture specific. Based on a number of large- scale studies (surveying over 70 countries), Hofstede identified four clusters of values (or dimensions) that distinguished countries from each other: Power distance, individualism vs collectivism, masculinity vs femininity, and uncertainty avoidance. Two more dimensions were added later, based on data from 93 countries: Long-term orientation (work by Michael Bond and Michael Minkov), and indulgence vs restraint (work by Michael Minkov). The country scores, obtained using Hofstede’s instrument, have been found to be correlated with a range of measures from the corresponding country, such as income inequality, national
Teaching, Learning and Working in Culturally Diverse Environments
Topic: Gender inequality in India
The case study here is the one that is related to the gender inequality concept in India. In one of my relatives' family, a baby girl was born and it was the third baby girl in that family. It was shocking that the whole family members, especially the father of the baby girl was disappointed with the birth of that baby girl. The reason behind this was that after two girls, the family members along with her father wanted a baby boy. In too many cases, it has been noticed that in India most of the family members prefer boys over girls.
According to Bell, Moorhead and Boetto (2017), gender is a social term that defines the roles and behaviours of both men and women in a particular society. On other hand, as mentioned by Carter (2019), ‘sex’ can be referred to a biological term with the definition of man and woman. From the social context, gender can be termed as a power relationship between men and women and with gender consideration; men are considered superior to women in society. Thus, gender is an artificial notion while sex is a organic character of men and women.
According to Shah, Jalal and Khosa (2018), gender disparity means inequality in the field of health, education, and politics and in economic growth in India. Gender inequality affects women’s health, their participation in higher education, higher posts within an organization and their economic condition. However, it can be said that if India's population is measured as a whole, it can be noticed that women face many challenges to attain their goals in several ways. The reason for choosing this study is to arouse the sense of people in India who are not culturally reformed interms of gender equality. The study will help people to understand women in Indian and in global society should be judged equally from the aspect of all skills and qualities. According to Singh and Lall, (2013), gender inequality in India since independence has been a common phenomenon and also a great concern in the lives of general people. In some states of India, the plight of women is very pathetic. Many women empowerment programs have been undertaken to bridge the gap between male and female in India.
According to the program of the UNDPH Development Report, 2013, India ranked 135 out of 187 countries from the aspect of gender inequality index (Human Development Reports, 2013). The report further expresses that among the South Asian countries, all the countries except Afghanistan gained better rank than India from the aspect of inequality among men and women. In this case study, all the family members of the baby girl except her mother were not satisfied because, after two baby girl, the third one was also a baby girl. They all wanted a boy for their pragmatic notion that only boy child can be successful in life and girl is to be mortgaged in another family. In the present case scenario, it can be deduced that all the family members of the Hindu family bore the same thinking in their mind that baby boy was superior to the baby girl and that is why they underestimated the baby girl.
Mentioning the above case study, it can be said that gender difference is not only heartbreaking because it excludes the women scopes and opportunities in the society but also it endangers the life prospect of the future generation in India (Sharma, 2015).Indian family members mostly prefer boy child to girl child and this is very widespread. In the opinion of Sharma (2015), 29% of Indian women have been reported to be engaged in the labour force of the country in comparison with 80.7% men. In the Parliament of India, only 10.9% of law-making personalities were women while in Pakistan 21.1% were female in 2015. In the US, 57.5% were women and 70.1 were men who were engaged in the labour force of that country. In China, the numerical figure was 54.8% for female workers and 70.4% were men workers at that time (Sharma, 2015). The above analysis reveals that India’s position is the most pathetic position among all other countries in the world.
On the other side, Thomas, (2013) expresses her views that in the working places, disparities between men and women are found on the ground of imbalanced wages, degrading considerations, sexual torture, engagement in dangerous industries, working two times as men and so on. In India, violence against women is found with sexual harassment, kidnapping and burning of women for dowry. Every 26 minutes a woman is molested and every 34 minutes a rape case happens. The facts prove that not only for the baby child but in real life, women are degraded due to some pragmatic notion of Indian people in working places. On the contrary, (Sanan, 2016) has shown that like India gender diversity distorts the financial performance of a business firm in an advanced country like Singapore.
The root cause of such inequality between men and women can be said to be the Patriarchal social system in India (Sharma, 2015). SylviaWalby defines that Patriarchal social system is a social system where men govern women and women torture is a common cultural incident of India. In India patriarchy gets its value in people’s religious beliefs whether in Hindu’s or Muslim’s or any other religion’s family. In the referred case study, it was noticed that the father of the girl child was responsible for such a patriarchal culture.
While the other family members were not accepting the baby girl positively, it was the responsibility of the father of the baby to accept the baby girl, but he was indifferent regarding this. It is expected that with the mother's positive attitude, the father of the girl child should have accepted her positively. Preference of sons in Indian family can be marked as a common factor. Boys are given all rights to inherit their family reputation; they are given more properties than girls. Another factor is the religious factors that can be performed by only sons for their parents’ afterlife. Robitaille (2020) has shown that Indian family thinks the girl baby as their burden due to marriage expenses and dowry practices. All the above-mentioned factors have created a pragmatic belief and culture in the minds of Indian family members mentioned in the case study thatforced the family members along with the parents to desire son rather than a daughter.
On the contrary, in the view of Kim (2016), women's education makes them enabled to take a decision in regard to their fertility and opportunities. Empowerment of women can be considered as a driving force for the education of women. For example, the Kenya Government initiated a family planning scheme in the year 1974 and by the mid-1980s knowledge of contraceptives was prevalent there (Kim, 2016). Apart from this, the primary education was broadened within a year. Women’s education was also driven. In the view of O’Neil, Domingo and Valters, (2014), hence, it can be said that education within women and men also should be developed in India to root out the pragmatic idea of those parents who say that sons are superior to daughters. In support of the argument, Akhtar (2018) has mentioned that information from NGOs can contribute positively to women empowerment and India can follow this path. In my opinion, the Hindu parents mentioned in the case were not reformed with enough culture and that is why they appreciated a baby boy and not a baby girl.
While the above discussions prove an inequality for women in India, it is the duty of the Indian Government and people to root out this pragmatic culture and reform the culture for the security and honour of women in Indian society. Stuart and Woodroffe (2016) have mentioned that the achievement of gender equality should be regarded as one of the objectives of the development goals of the millennium. When there are many explanations and ways to root out the women inequality in India, the goal of this study is to reform the entire culture within the Indian people and thus to empower women in India. Of the cultural theories for women empowerment, two theories can be useful with reference to the case study. In view of Khan, (2018).women empowerment is the key to socio-economic development. The first theory for women's empowerment can be mentioned as the economic modernity theory. In regard to gender equality, this approach refers to an economic development centrally to empower women in social positions. According to this theory, economic development in India will lead to more distribution of educational and occupational opportunities and more access to the educational and occupational opportunities will create more access of women to professional development giving them the power to political offices in India.
On the other side, Bayeh (2016) has highlighted how women can be empowered for sustainable development in a different way. The second theory, cultural modernity theory stresses on converting economic development into human development through culture. Through cultural modernity theory, the emancipative values within women in India will rise and they will be more responsive, development-oriented and others through the reform of their culture. In this way, women will be empowered in the society and the mothers can protest in their families where their girl children are neglected.
People’s perspectives are changing day by day with different interactions and they are also including their new rules and regulations in regard to the women empowerment in society. Gender hierarchies and patriarchal social system are mainly responsible for the distress of women in society. From the example of Kenya, it can be said that the Indian government is conducting many programs for increasing women empowerment and some people have been changed and they have learned to honour the women of society. The International community has shown interest in gender issues and women empowerment. In future, it is necessary to talk more about women empowerment and thus, the value for girl child will increase in Indian society in future.