Topic 4:
 Selves & Cultural Worldviews

Today we will focus on how you define your identity. The first activity is designed to get you to think of yourself in as many ways as possible. These definitions along with your worldview help to inform your style of communication. This style of communication will guide you through cultural engagement and intercultural conflict. The exploration of your cultural self and other cultural selves will help raise awareness and sensitivity to other cultures. Applying your style of communication to an intercultural communication scenario will help you better understand self and how others MAY perceive you.


 Many perspectives on self have arisen from the views of indigenous psychologies, psychological anthropology, cross-cultural psychology and cultural psychology. Each account is grounded in one or more worldviews and offers a view on life as being human, along with a template of experiences on self and identity as they emerge in cultural contexts. 



Thinking dialectically about identity  
Making use of several paradigms of identity and communication we can develop a broader and richer account of identity in cultural and communication contexts.


SS, universal patterns of content      

Eg.  Heelas & Locke present a framework for Indigenous psychologies of the self that makes use of two principle dimensions. Inner / Outer and In control vs. Under-control giving rise to four major clusters of systems of self and identity.  They suggest this framework as a meaningful tool for sorting and organising indigenous psychologies .

One such indigenous psychology is the modern western self that arose through the Judeo-Christian notions of self represent an idealist orientation, being internalised and in control.  Others, such as the Dinka self are seen as a passiones approach with the self externalised and under control.

Similarly, mainstream cross-cultural psychology boast studies of Self organised dichotomously by content on a host of "universal dimensions" such as individualistic vs collectivistic, or 'western' vs 'eastern'.  Quantitative measurements of cultural characteristics are presented as judgment on the similarities and differences of self across cultures. 



IA,  selves as cases / indigenous

By taking each psychological or communication theory as having arisen within a cultural setting of its own, offering a biased foundation from which they construction their model of self in the world, Self in Western Perspectives is but another indigenous psychology.

Tonks (2008) identifies the origins of Self & Person as historical concepts arising out of the Judeo-Christian and Roman foundations to modern selves with right, duties and responsibilities.

Elsewhere he also provides a note book on Self in China with several cultural sketches of China-Self along with  a notebook on Self in Japan.  Here Tonks describes the dimensions of divided selves in Japan-Self, and in cross-cultural comparisons CCSelf.

Martin & Nakayama (2007) present the work of Ge Gao (1996) on the Chinese sense of placing a heavy reliance upon the familial self, in addition to the individualized self and spiritual self.  Avowal & Prescription of core symbols.


Erikson's Normative Identity framework (SS & IA)

 Erik Erikson (1968) patterns his perspective in considering identity to be at the nexus of environ-bio-psycho-socio-historico-political exchange.  Being multi-dimensional, identity forms vastly different patterns based upon the mosaic of influences upon it through important developmental turning points or sensitive periods.

Throughout the life cycle he states there are 8 major crises or turning points to face in becoming fully human. Each of these crises of identity pertain to a host of psycho-social experiences that are crucial to normative human development.  

 Like an accent in speech, cultural experience patterns our identities in myriad fashions. The particular blends and hybrids formed make the ever-developing bouquet of cultures more subtle and varied than snowflakes.  In adolescence and young adulthood, ideological identity takes centre stage where cultures tend to reveal themselves more fully.

 Erikson writes that identity involves the biological, psychological and social worlds leading one to a place of self understanding and discovery. Ultimately this is where a sense of "being at one with oneself" and "a sense of affinity with a community's sense of being at one with its future as well as its history" (1965).  

Therapy is an opportunity for empowerment, turning the passive "patient" into and active agent.



CA critique of constructions of selves.    

Identity & Language

Ascription of identity from the outside labels people and places them into power relationships with those who have done the ascribing. 

 Likewise interpellation can also involve volitional action and grounding of rituals of communication and identity formation.     

Historically empowered and disadvantaged groups have taken on the tasks of labeling and symbolizing of identity with  a political ideology or social movement. In his chapter on  the hermeneutics of identity (Tonks, 2004) discusses the ontological, epistemological and ethical dialectics of identity within socio-historical  traditions.

The social commentaries and critiques of constructions of self and culture on the the post-modern world bring us to the edge of deconstruction of the self and culture.  These types of 'critical' activities are present in the CA literature revealing not only the false and arbitrary constructions of self in 'scientific' literature but in everyday life as well (See Andy Warhol).

E.g., IDLE NO MORE - Medicinal traditions


Intercultural conflict scenerios

1. Vegetarian

2. Animal Rights Advocate

3. Translation

How to handle, then reflection upon styles



Identity and Communication

Social and Cultural Identity   Martin & Nakayama also describe the histories and identities for other groups such as community,  gender ,  age   racial / ethnic organisations. 

Each of the these groups have and will adopt a style of communication and  specific language to understand and present their interests.  They provide examples of these along with other central domains of identity and enculturation: religion, class, nationality, region, familial and personal. 

 Specific forms and types of language and communication are used to express, deny or assert their identities.  Each community has its own form of discourse, making histories of itself and its relation to others. 

These texts, movies, photo essays and films offer expressions of the lived experience of these people. These expressions, or performances, embody the culture and  the identity through communication.


Many other perspectives have a risen on person, self, and personality from the views of indigenous psychologies, psychological anthropology, cross-cultural psychology and cultural psychology. Each of these represent a different way to cut up the pie or the divisions of biology, psyche and social experience.

The following represent a collection of perspectives on the self and person seen from some of these views. 


A) Indigenous psychologies of the self: Heelas & Lock D) Self in Western Perspectives:  Self & Person
B) Self in China: China-Self E) Self In Cross-Cultural Psychology: CCSelf
C) Self in Japan: Japan-Self  



Multicultural People

For people living within a multicultural society like Canada there are encouragements and opportunities to adopt cultural practices from around the globe. 

As indicated above, identity issues become more complex as people negotiate living between and sometimes moving beyond traditions. 

 New cultural forms emerge in the confluence of cultures, new forms of communication emerge too. Tonks & Paranjpe (2000) provides some narrative themes on identity formation within a multicultural setting.

Other Identity Development Issues
Martin & Nakayama provide an account of the developmental issues at play for specific groups. E.g.

Minority identity development, according to Fergusson (1990) moves through the following stages:
       1) unexamined, 2) conformity, 3) resistance & separatism, 4) integration

Majority identity development has also been suggested to move through stages:

       1) unexamined 2) acceptance, 3) resistance, 4) redefinition, 5) integration.