Topic 3:
Worldviews & Histories

Successful intercultural communication requires people to understand other people’s worldviews. Worldviews are comprised of values, beliefs, and feelings regarding human nature in the universe. People communicating across cultures bring with them a worldview embedded in a unique composition of culture, family, and history contributing to their identity.

Awareness of the specific sources of your own identity and those of others better prepares you for intercultural communication. While we are discussing worldviews within culture, family and history take time to fill out this form. Next week more time will be spent on cultural identity.


This week’s journal reflection can be based on your response to the questions at the bottom of this form and the video clips we will be reviewing in today’s class (YAACDE ).


 ... a culture's orientation towards such things as God, humanity, nature, human existence, the universe, death, life, suffering, sickness, and other philosophical issues that penetrate all phases of human existence. Science makes use of worldviews that are often called paradigms, or perspectives that show how to experience the world. 

Worldviews are holistic perspectives on the world, like humanism, behaviourism, or  psychoanalysis. As indicated by Tonks (1997), a parallel  is made between what Kuhn (1970) suggests forms  the basis of all scientific activity (socially-driven paradigms), throughout everyday life we are also driven by tacit views that offer structure and meaning to our experience, these are the paradigms of life that we take for granted, our worldviews.

Comparison of worldviews


Some people divide the world into two categories, as do Samovar & Porter (2004) in considering the  following two:

1. Mechanistic view (scientific, objectivity) versus Non-mechanistic view (intuition, subjectivity).

2. Dualistic view (philosophy of two distinct principles) versus Holistic view (world as a fused unit).

These authors, as many others within the Social Science perspective take the dualistic form of theorizing as normative.

Others, such as Heelas and Lock indicate that indigenous psychologies of the self, are worldviews are in a myriad of forms.

While they do offer a nomothetic framework, they also present the specific details of each indigenous emic.

 These will be examined in more detail in the next topic (Identity & Worldviews of Self).

Wade Davis the Worldwide of interpretation video discusses many traditions offering worldviews and histories for the present.


Culture as a worldview


Classically cultures have been built around the importance of religion: tradition, one's place in the material and spiritual worlds. life and death, the temporal and eternal.

Samovar & Porter (2004) outline various aspects regarding the importance of religion in forming a worldview. Although differences are often emphasized, let's consider six similarities across world religions: 

sacred scripts provide a foundation for the perspective, but alternate interpretations arise

authority for the culture is found through religious leaders who give values and guidelines

rituals for indoctrination in the tradition provide points of transition of self and the bonds of community

speculation on the 'big' questions of life is made, some see science as a religion.

ethics or value base is transmitted through the religion for how to treat others, nature, find transcendence or admission to the promised land or heaven. 

security or comfort in self and community, one's place in the world

In understanding culture one can look to the roots of it in the structure of the culture that produces and maintains the sense of self, community and relation to the world.  

Deep Structure of a Culture


Samovar & Porter (2004) indicate that the roots of culture lie in the relationship the divine (god) and human kind,...

 "the individual and the group, the citizen and the state, parents and children, husband and wife, as well as differing views of the relative importance of rights and responsibilities, liberty and authority, and hierarchy." (p.82) 


These are the institutions that pertain to the notions of self and personhood. Through these sources we see that culture:

carries of the messages that matter most to people. Enculturation comes through the significant teachers one has in parents, religious and community leaders. Transmit values and morals, what it means to be a self, what roles are important to being a person. 

endures over time,  providing an historical tradition that maintains certain core values or structures of culture. 

 arouses emotional feelings. As part of the core of self and culture they are built around our emotional and intellectual base where we find comfort and stability. Thus loss or threat to  the core of culture raises strong feelings. 

 supplies the individual with his/her sense of identity. Personal / experiential identity is often called self, while the social  roles and relations we engage in are often called personhood. 

Much of this is done thorough storytelling and histories (see below)


The Role of Family in Culture & Communication

Importance of family - early socialization and nurturance of culture and self.  Basic emotions, sense of security, attachment, social relations, ....

Functions of family -regulation of behaviour and shaping of experience


Transmitting culture - primary enculturation occurs here, most narrow radius of socialization 

   Transmitting identity - Relationships to parents (family & clan), who am ? test of identity. 

Martin & Nakayama identify Family Histories as being important in the communication of culture from one genereation to the next.  Most family histories are communicated via storytelling.

There are historical stories and more recent ones that not only convey information about the family's past but also convey the meaning of such events in the present and they shape the nature of present selves, actions and interactions.

Types of families - birth family (family of orientation), marriage family (family of procession) or casual kinship groups that feel like a family.  Can be nuclear or extended in size.

Communication, culture and family - define the family type and the critical turning points of the development of stages of the life cycle. 

Gender Roles - for males and females are culturally set but vary in families.  Specific forms of interaction with mothers and fathers, and other family members of one gender or the other. 


     Eg., In Asia, males responsible for task functions with females for cultural functions.  In Mediterranean cultures mothers are regarded as saints or sacred while fathers are the undisputed authority (even though the mother may influence him). 

Many cultures prefer to have male children for prestige or power or money (dowry), while women may be burned on their husband's funeral pyre or expected to marry their dead husband's brother.       

 Individualism and collectivism - seen as a central dimension by many from the SS perspective. 

Individualism and the family - is the individual valued or the family?  

Collectivism and the family - what is the notion of familial  self ?

 Age - grading and different rights and responsibilities arise through the family.  What are expected of children, youth, adults and elders in the family?

Social skills -  what is expected of the children in terms of shaping their behaviour and experience? 



 History to histories
Many types of histories exist, the natural science perspectives adhere to a perspective on history that leaves it in the past, attempting to provide a single, objective record of advances in knowledge and technology (Tonks 1997). One truth if you will.

Tonks & Bhatt (2002, para. 6) contrast this where according to:

Dilthey (1894/1977) [who] states that historical understanding begins with the individual case [ and ] 

Collingwood (1965) contends that for history, in contrast to science, the individual is not to stand merely as a case of the universal but rather "the individual fact is the end" (p.132). 

He continues to suggest that 'the mistake of universal histories was that they did not take facts seriously enough.  They did not realise that every fact is unique and not replaced by another' (Collingwood, 1965, p. 132).  He continues, stating:

'there is no such thing as a total body of past facts which a sufficiently accomplished historian might know in its totality, . . .  the attempt at a universal history is foredoomed to failure . . . . as no history can be universal, so no history can be final. . .  All history is thus an interim report' (p. 138).

Not one Truth but many truths, many histories, many interpretations.


Interpretive Human scientists, consequently recognize a plurality of valid perspectives in developing collective understandings of human life and living. 

Hence interdisciplinary and theoretical, epistemological, ethical and ontological pluralism abound. People living in many worlds (views) with many truths, many histories and accounts.  

Power and legitimation play a role in which perspectives are to be accepted, let alone expressed (See Cuba & China, & US during operation enduring freedom (IRAQ invasion-Syria?).  

Tonks & Bhatt (2002) further state that:

 Human life is necessarily political, and the socio-political worlds into which we are thrown, provide the contexts of our understanding of personal and collective living history or identity (Erikson, 1975).  It must also be pointed out that a history of the present also involves political evaluation (Blackman, 1994), making commentary and interpretation potentially risky, given local political climates. (para. 3)

Here they point out that critique of mainstream or hegemonic History by other groups with their own histories becomes a political battle of legitimation and law.  This can be risky business.

Elsewhere, landclaims and traditional fishing rights are only a couple of areas where alternates histories are communicated as part of a political power play in the media and in the courts. Sometimes things are taken outside of the courts, as with Reporting News in Russia and the plight of 'detainees' in Guantanamo Bay USA.



Martin and Nakayama also discuss Ethnic & Cultural Histories as well as National Histories

which provide broader social histories of important events that need to be communicated to present and future generations.

Political, intellectual & social histories
Some histories have achieved or been ascribed official status according to a government, academic field, or society.

Recognised history may omit accounts that run counter to the political interests of those in power, censorship and reconstruction occur.

Other types of historical accounts emerge, such as familial, national, & cultural (macro and micro) stories that are shared and held dearly (not always). Individual family members or citizens hear tales of the past and eventually add to the stories their own accounts and interpretations.  Histories and the mythology that surrounds them form an essential part of our identities.

History and Power

Stories and accounts have the power to influence people. Martin & Nakayama discuss the power of texts in changing the social world. Not only texts but other publications or historical accounts of experiences have made a difference to world events.

Sometimes a voice speaks out and the change comes about (we are the world, Berlin Wall, Civil Rights movement) or even images (such as the lone man in front of the tanks in Tiananmen square).

Power shifts with telling the stories, our secrets are revealed or new perspectives or understanding unfolds. Changes are made in the power relationship between victims and perpetrators as in Truth & Reconciliation hearings, healing circles and courts of laws. 

Power is also transferred through inspirational communications both to the locuter and the audience. The speaker receives the followers and the listeners find a message to follow, a mythology of their own.

Telling stories to oneself is also seen as curative within the traditions of psychotherapy and even health psychology. The empowerment of hearing the stories and having the courage to tell them publicly along with the recognition of the events and the impact they have (had) on the actions and thoughts of the sufferer.


Martin & Nakayama discuss different types of Nonmainstream Histories. Offer different views of the grand narrative.

Important to ask the question…who’s history is recorded? Who’s history is not visible or hidden?

Negotiated Histories

Africans saving Noreweigians



 Mythology plays an important role in religion and spirituality. Together the overarching mythology provides religious and natural basics of a culture for its cosmology or worldview.

Cosmologies are shaped historically and transform with rituals and everyday practices, tools and technology, migration and cross-cultural contact, natural events and the people's relationship with nature.

According to Erik Erikson (1968) our perspectives on the world, our worldviews or cosmologies, arise through the gradual development of a sense of identity for an individual.  Over time the identity expands along with expanding circles of social exchange along with rituals of tradition and new practices. 

As the child grows, socialization, enculturation and education are influences on the core sets of beliefs and practices that the individual acquires.  In time these become normalised and expected as the child moves into the adult worlds following an adolescent transformation. 

Hence the collected perspective of the individual is constitutive of the worldview of their community and culture. 

The specific styles and transformations and substitutions of symbols and meaningful events that occur in each local or micro culture are imprinted upon the person and used by them in interacting with others (from other micro and macro cultures). 

With travel and cross-cultural experience (micro or macro) the perspective transforms, sometimes slowly as in evolution, sometimes rapidly as in crisis.


Identity & History 

Erikson is explicit about history playing a crucial role in identity formation and maintenance. Making one's identity, in part to realise it for your self, is to "make a history" of your life in the form of a case history or biography (Tonks, 2004).  By creating a history or account of one's life, meaning unfolds in terms of past, present and future selves.

Tonks & Bhatt (2002) have said:


Collingwood (1965) cites Croce in describing history as 'living' in the interpretations of individuals of a given era; he states "history is thought" (p. 7) and "thought is life" (p.15).  As such, history is embodied or grounded in the thoughts of historians as part of a semiotic (Blackman, 1994) and moral event (Tolman, 1995), as Erikson (1964) identifies psychohistory making as a process of interpretation that is grounded in the somatic, phenomenological and politico-ethological spheres of being (para 3).

Bringing together these spheres of human experience, history and the communication of it becomes the corner stone to our psycho-social identities.

Intercultural Communication & History

Martin & Nakayama (2007) discuss important aspects of initial stages of intercultural contact and communication by considering those:

We are left negotiating histories dialectically through interaction.  By having ongoing relationships with others, one's identity is being re-shaped and formed, re-cognised and re-recognised in transformation.

 Hence networks of identities are being reshaped through the communicative experience all of those within a given net or node .