I have collected 7 artifacts throughout the year to highlight and help me understand certain terms and concepts of intercultural communication. The following artifacts have ultimately helped me retain the terms and concepts I have came across. These artifacts can also be applied to my daily life and I realized that they have a strong significance to my life. I have included clips, images and one song. I will be talking about assimilation, the relationship between humans and nature, hidden histories, culture shock, proxemics, culture as a social science perspective and the concept of power.
This clip is from the movie Selena. Selena was a famous American singer, songwriter, spokesperson, model, actress, and fashion designer. She tragically passed away at the age of 23 but she left an unforgettable legacy that led to the making of this movie. In the clip, Selena is trying to convince her father to let her perform in Mexico. Selena’s parents were both born in Texas and their families have been in America for many years however, he mentions how tough it is to be a Mexican American. I see the concept of assimilation in this clip. Assimilation “is a type of cultural adaptation in which an individual gives up his or her own cultural heritage and adopts the mainstream cultural identity” (p. 324). The dominant group can be the one to force assimilation on minorities which can often lead to giving up or losing many aspects of your culture like language. As Selena was growing up she rarely spoke Spanish due to her parents assimilating to the dominant culture. Now that she is older and a world know super star, she wants to go to the other side of the border, where again she will be forced to assimilate to the Spanish language. It seems like no matter where she goes she will always be expected to be like the dominant group however, she has two different identities which makes it hard for her to fully assimilate to one culture. I can also apply this to myself because I also struggle with being Mexican American. When I used to go to Mexico I was expected to be more like them and when I would come back home I was expected to be more American.
Relationship Between Humans and Nature
In many societies nature dominates human. I am using this picture to understand the concept because I encounter things like this when I visit other countries. I know that there are people who care for the environment in the U.S. however, I notice a significant difference when I visit other countries. For example, the picture above has a sink and sign that said “cuida el agua” meaning take care of the water. The picture was taken by my friend who went to Chile on spring break. When I am here in the U.S. the only signs I see by a sink are “wash your hands.” Therefore, that leads me to the conclusion that in U.S. society, humans dominate nature. In general, countries that value nature over humans, make decisions differently than countries that believe humans dominate over nature. For example, countries that I have visited like Peru, Mexico and Puerto Rico, they have stricter rules on how you treat the environment. I remember seeing signs in Peru that would tell you that you would get a huge fine for any type of littering. I'm not saying that the U.S. allows littering however, their rules aren't as strict. Also, countries that believe in nature as dominate try not to mess with the course of how it is going. For example, they don't believe in controlling births or developing skyscrapers on their land.
The movie trailer is from the movie The Official Story (La Historia Oficial). I’m using this video to understand the concept of histories, specifically hidden histories. People from nonmainstream cultural groups often struggle to preserve their histories. However, they are important to learn about in order to see how others perceive them and why. The history of the dirty war plays a significant role in Argentinians cultural identities. Argentina’s military dictatorship killed about 10,000 to 30,000 citizens during the dirty war and many of them are considered “disappeared” Also, the children of the people who were killed were often taken by military officials. In this movie Alicia, like other members of the Argentine upper class, are not aware of how much killing and suffering has gone on in the country. Her views are challenged by another teacher and even one student who claims that the government-issued history textbooks are "written by murderers”. Soon she becomes suspicious, and that her adopted daughter might have been a child from the “disappeared”. The only reason she finds out the truth is through her own extensive research and then she comes across a woman who claims to be the grandmother of her adopted daughter. Alicia has to go out of her way to figure out these histories. I related to this because I like to research countries before visiting them. I one day want to visit Argentina which led to my interest in learning about the dirty war and watching the movie.
The picture above helps me understand and apply culture shock. Just a couple years ago I visited Peru to volunteer at an orphanage. I was a bit younger then and it was my first time out the country without my parents. Culture shock is “a relatively short-term feeling of disorientation and discomfort due to the lack of a familiar cues in the environment” (p.338). I experienced culture shock when I visited the girls orphanage because I imagined them girls playing with dolls or running around. However, the first thing I saw was the girls peeling potatoes. This is something that shocked me at first and gave me a bit of discomfort especially since I saw bugs on the potatoes. At that moment I didn’t know what to do but it turns out they were actually enjoying themselves and it was kind of a norm to them. I got down and helped them which helped me adjust to the unfamiliarity. Many people experience this at a higher level however, when I was younger I visited my parents town in Mexico. It is a very poor village so, early on in my life I knew about the struggles of not having enough money and the surroundings were almost the same as Peru's. However, I just pictured the girls playing or drawing instead of working which led to the shock. It has helped me understand that other cultures value and see things differently. I first started off feeling bad for them, and then I realized that it is the way of living for them and I can't judge that.
The norms for personal space vary considerably from culture to culture. Proxemics is the “study of how people use various types of space in their every day lives” (p.282). This image above is from one of my trips to NYC. It helps me understand the concept of proxemics and how people use their personal space. Each cultural group and in general each individual has their own “bubble”. Each person has their own rules to how much space they want when in the workplace, public place and simply when interacting. Each person knows what distance to use depending on the situation. In this picture i’m standing far from everyone because I wanted to take the picture. However, when I would communicate with the people their it was "normal" for me to stand relatively close to them. I have my own bubble however, in this setting I had to break the bubble a little. Seeing everyone communicate closely made it more comfortable for me to do that as well. However, I know that there are still some people who wouldn't communicate with the people the way I did. Since it is a tourist are there are people from all over the world who come and visit. In the book they give the example of the Arab and U.S. students and they noted that Arab students thought the U.S. students were distant and rude while the U.S. students thought they were pushy and rude. This shows how the U.S. is so diverse that even though we hold large tourist cities we still have our own personal space that is interpreted differently by others.
Social Science Perspective: Culture as Learned
The social science perspective views culture as a “set of learned, group-related perceptions” (p.91). The above image was taken by me at a Mexican History museum in Chicago near my hometown. The image helps me apply the concept because I do believe that culture is learned and shared since childhood. Growing up, I always new about the Dia de Los Muertos tradition. I knew that back in Mexico, on that day we honor the dead by decorating their tombstones with some of their favorite things. As I grew up in this country we would light up a candle for our loved ones in our home and put their pictures and favorite things near it. This was all acquired during my childhood which led me to assimilate to the tradition. In this particular museum they honored Selena on El Dia de los Muertos by keeping the Mexican tradition. This behavior shows how our culture has a learned pattern and of course, a person has the power to either keep it or not but seeing things like this helps me maintain that tradition.
Power and Communication
The song above is called “Latinoamerica” by Calle 13. This song can be applied to the concept of power. Many dominate groups attempt to conserve their positions of privilege in many ways. Subordinate groups can resist this type of domination by doing boycotts, strikes or by simply speaking up. I believe this song is speaks up to those of dominate power.
The lyrics of the song over all talk about pride and love for the land using examples of how roots and traditions have been maintained even after all the years of colonization by the dominant group.
The song goes into mentioning all countries, and referring to several injustices and political and environmental scandals. An example is when the singer says “soy una fábrica de humo, mano campesina para tu consumo.” (I am a factory of smoke, a farmer’s hand for your consumption) representing the injustice of farmer’s labor and exploitation for the consumption of others.
The references are not very explicit, but perhaps this is exactly what the band wants to portray, by speaking in first person and as the continent they really manage to portray the Latin American people.
Overall, these concepts and terms were all easier to understand after finding the artifacts and applying them. It is important to note how everything I have collected came from my own experiences. Our own experiences are something that truly show how intercultural communication plays a role in our lives.