Intercultural Communication

Course Website for Tunghai FLLD Seminar

Archive for the ‘United States’ Category

Article on “hyphenated” labels for ethnic groups

Posted by thuicc on August 27, 2008

Saw this article via H-USA, an e-mail list I’m a member of:

Does the institutionalized usage of hyphenated-nationalities help, hurt, or distract a country from more pertinent issues?

America is a country of immigrants.

One side of the American street prides itself on not seeing the person as a combination of ancestral ethnicities but, instead, each individual becomes a culmination of their life experiences.

The other side of the American street takes pride in the achievements of their ancestors and believe their ancestor’s struggles, sacrifices and oppressions are intrinsic to who they are and how America treats/sees them.

This boulevard of contrasting views pervades most aspects of American social laws and policies. Almost every social issue faced by our judicial and/or legislative bodies, on national, state and local levels, have an ethnic/racial purpose or impact and we spend inordinate amounts of time debating, protesting, defending, and balancing these facets.

There is the beginnings of a new movement within our country to re-think the use of ethnic qualifiers to the American nationality. African-American, Hispanic-American, or
your-ethnicity-goes-here-DASH-American is of questionable benefit to the nation’s social fabric and, debatably of course, does more harm to national unity than good.  This same debate was part of the nation’s conversation at the turn of the 20th century when it was the German-Americans, Irish-Americans, and Polish-Americans that qualified their nationality.

In many aspects, where America goes, so goes the world.  Before any other country steps into this pit of social identities, there are some questions the people of that country should ponder:

  1. Are institutionalized hyphenated-nationalities  good for a country’s unity and socio-mentality or is it an institutionalized contradiction to the term “nationality”?
  2. Can you belong to more than one country and, if so, what happens when the two countries have conflicting policies?
  3. Can you maintain the cultures and customs of your ancestral homelands while still assimilating fully into your birth country?
  4. Does the use of hyphenated-nationalities proclaim an aversion to the idea of assimilation?
  5. Is the use of the hyphenated qualification a two edged sword that cuts both ways?  In other words, can you expect your country to treat you different because of your hyphenation but treat you the same despite your hyphenation?

What are the ideas of migration researchers in these points? What influence does the use of hyphenated labels by migration researchers have?

William Myrick Thomas

What do you think? Is the author addressing an important point? Check out the website and see what you think. (Note: I don’t necessarily agree with him myself…)

Posted in cultural classifications, identity, immigration, race, United States, websites | 2 Comments »

More on New York City dialect

Posted by thuicc on December 21, 2006

There’s a nice Wikipedia article on “New York dialect” that has a section on pronunciation. It also discusses the social and ethnic factors that contribute to New York dialect. It also mentions (as of this date) the topic that Levonar was asking about last week regarding education and/or social class as ways of “removing” accent. The article says (again, as of this date):

Nevertheless, not even all European American New Yorkers use this variety. Upper-middle class European American New Yorkers and suburban residents from educated backgrounds often speak with less conspicuous accents; in particular, many, though hardly all, use rhotic pronunciations instead of the less prestigious non-rhotic pronunciations while maintaining some less stigmatized features such as the low back chain shift and the short a split ….

Similarly, the children of professional white migrants from other parts of the US frequently do not have many New York dialect features, and as these two populations come to dominate the southern half of Manhattan and neighboring parts of Brooklyn, the dialect is retreating from their neighborhoods. Many teens attending expensive private prep schools are barely linguistically recognizable as New Yorkers. Nevertheless, many New Yorkers, particularly those of Southern and Eastern European descent from the middle- and working-class, retain varying degrees of what has been coined New Yorkese or Brooklynese within their daily speech.

There’s also a link to the homepage of the alt.usage.english newsgroup, which contains an audio archive of people with different accents reading texts. There are samples of a New Yorker reading “Arthur the Rat” and “I teach Ferdinand the calm cat to fetch cold cups of coffee. Who knows more about tasting things? He’s used the book.

(I should add that the discussion page on the Wikipedia article is pretty interesting, too…)

Posted in United States, websites | Comments Off on More on New York City dialect

US population passes 300 million

Posted by thuicc on October 18, 2006

Below are links to two articles about the US population’s recent estimated rise to/above 300 million. As they both mention, immigration is one of the key factors behind the relatively quick jump from 200 million in 1967 (the year before yours truly was born) and 2006.

As the articles also mention, immigration is one of the hot political issues in this election year in the United States.

Posted in immigration, media, United States, websites | Comments Off on US population passes 300 million

Article about American culture

Posted by thuicc on October 12, 2006

A recent (well, not that recent) article on American Exceptionalism (the idea that the US is different in significant ways from other countries) appeared in Inside Higher Ed. In the article, the author interviews Eric Rauchway, a history professor in the US. Rauchway has written a book titled Blessed Among Nations: How the World Made America.

Posted in identity, United States, websites | Comments Off on Article about American culture

Further information on “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington”

Posted by thuicc on October 5, 2006

Information on this episode of The Simpsons can be found here. This show references a movie entitled Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, which is also about government corruption and someone who tries to stop it.

Wikipedia also has an article that summarizes this episode.

Posted in media, United States, websites | 1 Comment »

Penn State students’ introductions

Posted by thuicc on September 21, 2006

To Dr. You’s students,

Please introduce yourselves in the comments section below.  I believe your professor will provide you with instructions about what to include. Nice to meet you!

To THU’s ICC students: enjoy reading!

Posted in course admin, greetings, United States | 11 Comments »

Immigration and race in the United States

Posted by thuicc on April 7, 2006

There’s a post over at the Savage Minds anthropology blog that discusses some issues related to the idea that the United States is an immigrant’s dream. Kerim Friedman (who teaches at National Donghua University) argues that

The reason immigrants tend to do well in America is not because America is a more welcoming society, but because we already have a permanent racial underclass in our African American population! (And, to some extent, Latinos and Native Americans as well.)

He contrasts this situation to European countries where the underclass is made up of immigrants. There are a lot of interesting comments in response to Friedman’s post, including some discussion over the idea that a lot of immigrants in the U.S. (particularly undocumented immigrants–what many people call “illegal immigrants”) do work that American’s don’t want to do. As Ozma writes,

This argument—that undocumented immigrants do work that “no one else wants” or “no one else is available to perform” masks both extant forms of institutional discrimination AND the fact that undocumented immigrants are hired to perform work under abusive conditions rather than hired to perform work for which no other workers are available. Their desirability as workers is not about general scarcity—it is about specific forms of exploitation.

(I would argue that this is similar to the situation of foreign laborers in Taiwan.) Anyway, we will discuss this in the fall when the course begins and we get into issues of subcultures and minority groups.

Posted in immigration, race, Taiwan, United States | Comments Off on Immigration and race in the United States

Some critiques of the movie Crash

Posted by thuicc on March 18, 2006

Since Crash is about race relations in the U.S., and since it won the Oscar for Best Picture, it’s probably something that students of intercultural communication should see to find out what it’s saying. So I borrowed the DVD a week ago and watched it.

I was not particularly impressed with it, I have to say, although I generally like movies that Matt Dillon is in. It seemed too preachy to me–it was more like an essay than a movie. I was also troubled by the treatment of Asians in the movie. There are a couple of posts on the blog Mixed Media Watch that also have critiqued Crash‘s portrayal of Asians (see here and here. They point out that the major characters in the film–black, white, and Persian–appear to be redeemed (to an extent, I’d say) by the end of the film, and the Latino characters don’t seem to need redemption. But the Korean characters are stereotyped and unredeemed at the end. They are not portrayed with any complexity at all. As commenter Christine Hong writes,

every other character come full circle, gaining some measure of redemption, except for the asian couple. the audience sees no resolution to their sinfulness whereas the sins of the other characters have some sort of reason or explanation. i am so conflicted about this movie. i am saddened because once again asians are left to the wayside, left there to rot in the unfavorable context in which the writer and director as created for them. it is apparent that writers and directors who do these kinds of films don’t give a shit about the whole truth of asian american lives. by no means are we flawless, but damn it, i wish someone would give us some measure of respect as human beings.

MMW also has a critique of the movie’s Oscar win here.

American movie critic Roger Ebert defends Crash, calling it

a movie of raw confrontation about the complexity of our motives, about how racism works not only top down but sideways, and how in different situations, we are all capable of behaving shamefully.

Now, I’m sure that people are complex and that everyone is capable of behaving badly, as Ebert says. But I can just as easily look at that Matt Dillon character (the racist cop) and say to myself, “Well, I’m not racist because I would never do the things he does.” And I can look at the Ryan Phillippe character (the cop who doesn’t think he’s racist) and say, “Well, I’m not racist because I wouldn’t shoot a hitchhiker (actually I wouldn’t even pick up a hitchhiker).” So the liberal white guy can come out of this feeling good about himself, not necessarily being challenged about any racism that lurks under the surface in his mind.

Derik Smith, writing in The Black Commentator (via MMW), argues that the movie “relies upon and covertly promotes social narratives that are problematically racist”:

It seems that, upon finally reaching an era in which polite company forces most to acknowledge that racism is inexcusable regardless of circumstance, America’s favorite “race movie” is now asking us to temper our judgment of the embattled figure of the bigot.

Smith also points out that one of the main black characters in the film, a carjacker named Anthony (played by Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), actually says some very “thought provoking” things about the situation of African Americans in the U.S.:

He thinks that white, corporate America may stand to benefit from the rampant use of the word “nigga” in contemporary hip-hop; he wonders why the names of black revolutionaries have been lost to history; and, although he’s a thief, he doesn’t want to steal from his own people.

But the movie doesn’t encourage us to accept those ideas as valid:

Yet almost as soon as they are uttered, Crash makes them laughable. The politicized commentary of the paranoid black man is framed in such a way that it ends up becoming the movie’s most consistent source of comic levity.

No conclusion here, just some things to think about if you get to see the movie.

Posted in movies, race, United States | 5 Comments »

An online discussion about what to call professors you don’t know

Posted by thuicc on March 2, 2006

Earlier in the semester the ICC class read an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education about what professors at different schools in the U.S. like to be called. Now there’s a similar kind of discussion here at the Crooked Timber blog. Professor (Dr.) Eszter Hargittai starts with this question:

On occasion, I get emails in which people address me as Mrs. Hargittai. I’m not suggesting that people need know my personal history or preferences. However, if you are going to contact someone in a professional context and they have a Ph.D. and they teach at a university (both of which are very clear on their homepage where you probably got their email address in the first place), wouldn’t you opt for Dr. or Professor?

There are quite a lot of interesting responses in the comments section, so don’t ignore them.

Posted in greetings, identity, politeness, United States | Comments Off on An online discussion about what to call professors you don’t know

Two “fun” sites related to culture and identity

Posted by thuicc on October 24, 2005

I came across two websites recently that are sort of related to culture and identity. The first site is You can go to this site and take a “geographic personality test“. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to tell you, except that they claim to be able to tell you what geographic location (city) would best suit your personality. Well, try it, but don’t take it too seriously.

The other website is called “ALL LOOK SAME“. At the top of the page is a “quiz” to take–it shows you pictures of different East Asian people (ordinary Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese) and asks you to identify their nationality based on their picture. See if you can get a good score on this. (I only identified 7 correctly out of 18.) Of course, someone could do the same with Euro-Americans and Europeans, I imagine. I don’t think I’d be able to tell a German from an Italian just by looking at a face. So…

Posted in Asia, identity, United States, websites | 4 Comments »