Sunday, January 7, 2018

Culture quote: Self-knowledge on the boundary

“Who knows one culture, knows no culture. We come to self knowledge on the boundary” – David Augsburger

In IDC terms, the two major ways we have of relating to others / other cultures are from an “ethnocentric” stance, and from a “global” or “ethnorelative” stance. Knowing one culture, in the Augsburger quote, is being ethnocentric – I know the world as I know it (as my people know it), and don’t realize that there are other ways of seeing things. On an individual level, it is equivalent to just knowing how I experience the world – for example, being an “extrovert” but not realizing that that is one way of being, that there are other people who are “introverts.”

Stephen Covey says that without self-awareness it is impossible to know other people as they are, because I relate to others as if they were me. Therefore, self-awareness and other-awareness, or realizing that there are different ways of being human, go hand in hand. To refer to the extrovert / introvert example, if I am an extrovert but unaware of the existence / reality of introverts, I may simply judge others who are introverts as being rude or unfriendly (by my standards, which are the only ones I possess). The knowledge that others are different, that there are other ways of being, comes “on the boundary” (of otherness), as Augsburger says – and once I come to understand that introvertedness is another way of being, I can know both myself and others more deeply.

The same is true of knowledge of other cultures / people in their cultural context. According to the IDC, Minimization is a transitional phase between “ethnocentrism” and a “global mindset.” One of the keys to growing out of ethnocentrism (through Minimization and into Acceptance and Adaptation) is a combination of self-knowledge and other-knowledge, which comes “on the boundary” between myself / my group and others, as I learn that there are different ways of being human – that some peoples, for example, see themselves not as free-standing individuals, but as part of a group, with the group having the right to speak into the lives of individuals and guide decisions, etc. (e.g., who they marry, where they live, etc. - this is known by interculturalists as a “collectivist” way of living out the relationship between individuals and their group).

The only way to gain awareness of my own culture (and of the fact that I am an encultured human being) is to go to the boundaries of others, and encounter them.  So if you are looking for growing self-awareness, step out. Or, to look at things from a different angle, if you travel and engage others in their cultural settings, realize that the “strangeness” you run into is not an indication that those others need to “get their act together” (i.e., become more like you, in how they drive or organize their society or approach time and appointments, etc.), but rather that you have encountered a different way of being human; and this represents a great opportunity to learn not just about those “strange” others, but about yourself as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment