Intercultural Communication

Course Website for Tunghai FLLD Seminar

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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 »

Taiwanese not fond of Koreans?

Posted by thuicc on July 6, 2008

Muninn reports about and speculates on reasons for “anti-Korean sentiment” that he has noticed in Taiwan. He suggests a few possible reasons why a lot of Taiwanese people he has run into say they “hate” (討厭) Koreans:

  • personality clashes (he says that he has noticed that Koreans are “sometimes more intense and aggressive” in their style of expression than Taiwanese)
  • “a kind of insecurity complex” on the part of the Taiwanese when they compare themselves to the more internationally visible South Korea.

Muninn continues,

When it comes to Taiwanese sentiments towards Korea, if my very limited exchanges are at all suggestive of anything, the Korean brand power, food culture, and drama fandom seen here are not incompatible with a degree of emotional disdain.

This is all very new to me because I never noticed any kind of anti-Korean sentiment in Taiwan before. In fact, there was a Korean student in my Freshman English class last year who seemed well-liked by his classmates, as far as I could tell.

So what do my readers (or maybe there’s only one reader anymore!) think? Do you think Taiwanese have personality conflicts with Koreans any more than they do with, say, Japanese or Chinese from the PRC (maybe they’ll have more of the latter now that we’re letting PRC tourists in!)? Let me know…

Posted in Asia, conflict, Taiwan, websites | 4 Comments »

Miscommunication and culture

Posted by thuicc on June 26, 2008

Kerim Friedman and other folks at the Savage Minds anthropology blog have written frequently about how the United States military is using anthropology and anthropologists, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kerim writes here about the “myth” of cultural explanations for miscommunication. He argues that such explanations for misunderstandings often ignore the power differences between the people involved and the lack of respect the more powerful group (like the US military) might have for the other culture.

He also discusses a critique of Deborah Tannen’s work (which we read and discussed before) by Deborah Cameron, who points out

that much of the literature on miscommunication between men and women lets men off the hook for their inability to understand women’s speech, even though the actual linguistic evidence implies that men use the same linguistic strategies (such as indirect requests) when it is convenient to do so. The point being that such miscommunication is treated as a cultural problem when it is really a problem of unequal power relations. The same woman who fetches her husband’s ketchup when he asks “Is there any ketchup?” will treat a similar question from her daughter as a factual query, replying: “Yes, dear, its in the cupboard.” Cameron argues that treating such communication problems as a matter of intercultural miscommunication (as Deborah Tannen does), obscures the real problems.

This adds an interesting and needed angle to intercultural communication studies that I hope I can discuss in class whenever I teach ICC again.

Posted in conflict, miscommunication, websites | Comments Off on Miscommunication and culture

“Chinese” fortune cookies

Posted by thuicc on January 17, 2008

The China history blog “Frog in a Well” has a post on the history of the fortune cookie.

A grad student from Kanagawa University may have cracked the great riddle of Asian cuisine: the origin of the Fortune Cookie! As the NY Times reports, the original fortune cookies may have been produced by Kyoto-area confectioners in the late 1800s.1 The practice — and the distinctive iron grills used to make the sembei crackers, which are part of the historical puzzle — spread to Japanese-owned Chop Suey houses in San Francisco.2 From there, Chinese-owned restaurants began to offer them, and Chinese-owned bakeries supplied them.

(If you don’t know what a fortune cookie is, it’s a kind of cookie that Chinese restaurants in the U.S. give to patrons at the end of a meal. Inside the cookie is a piece of paper with a “fortune” written on it, like “You have a potential urge and the ability for accomplishment” or (my favorite) “Alas! The onion you are eating is someone else’s water lily.” There’s some discussion and some pictures of fortune cookies at Wikipedia.)

Posted in food, popular culture, websites | 2 Comments »

Muninn on “Foreigner Shock Meltdown” in parts of East Asia

Posted by thuicc on November 22, 2007

(Hmmm… long title…) Muninn has a great post discussing what happens in places like Japan and Korea when a stranger (someone clearly not native to that country) comes on the scene: “a paralyzing shock [is] exhibited by natives of the country when faced with a non-Asian, especially ones who show some proficiency in the language.” He describes three kinds of reactions to the foreigner:

1) Faced with a Caucasian (or, I assume, any other not-Asian-looking individual), the Korean or Japanese person in question will have complete a meltdown, and do their utmost to complete the entire transaction (at the post office, store, restaurant, etc.) without making any eye contact or speaking a single word. In extreme cases they can completely crap-out and request help from the manager or other co-worker before even beginning the transaction or confirming that their customers does not, indeed, speak Korean/Japanese.
2) If the NALI (not Asian looking individual) is in the company of anyone who looks even remotely Asian, they will completely ignore the existence of the NALI and speak/recognize only the Asian looking person. This will continue even if a) the NALI continues to respond to questions and speak passably well in the native language of the Japanese/Korean person in question and/or b) if the Asian looking person in question in fact does not at all know how to speak Japanese/Korean.
3) Faced with a NALI, the Korean or Japanese person in question will panic and try to communicate in a non-grammatical mix of their native language, really bad English, and hand signals. This can happen even if you speak passably well in the native language of the person and have not yet shown any inability to understand their regular Korean/Japanese.

It’s an interesting read–check it out!

Posted in Asia, greetings, nonverbal communication, politeness, race, websites, whiteness | Comments Off on Muninn on “Foreigner Shock Meltdown” in parts of East Asia

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

Online audio files for Deborah Tannen article

Posted by thuicc on December 8, 2006

As I mentioned in class, the audio for some of the conversations from Tannen’s article is available online. Click on the links to listen to the conversations from pages 138-139, 140-141, and 143. (Some of what’s on the recordings is not in the article, but don’t worry…)

Posted in assignments, media, websites | Comments Off on Online audio files for Deborah Tannen article

Exchange with our partners in Kuwait

Posted by thuicc on November 4, 2006

If you haven’t gone there yet, be sure to visit our Kuwaiti partners’ class website and respond to their questions about Taiwan.

Posted in assignments, Kuwait, Taiwan, websites | Comments Off on Exchange with our partners in Kuwait

WikiProject Taiwan

Posted by thuicc on November 4, 2006

According to its page on Wikipedia, WikiProject Taiwan

is intended as a politically-neutral platform for all contributors interested in increasing Wikipedia’s coverage of Taiwan-related articles, including but not limited to: History (of all time periods), culture, people, military, geography, science, politics and religion.

You can check it out and see what they’re trying to do to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of Taiwan.

Posted in media, Taiwan, websites | Comments Off on WikiProject Taiwan

This weekend’s assignment

Posted by thuicc on October 27, 2006

For this weekend, you should either watch the video about the Hajj that is linked to in the previous post, or look at the Wikipedia articles about Islam, Kuwait, and the Culture of Kuwait. If you choose the Wikipedia articles, look at the discussion pages as well as the articles themselves. Then post your thoughts, reactions, impressions, and questions on the course blog.

Note: when you post your thoughts, be sure to give us enough context. For instance, if you watch the video and have a question about the Hajj or what the video has presented about it, make sure to give enough detail about what the video presents. If you are writing about one of the articles, you can quote from the article or the dicussion to help us better understand your comments or questions.

Again, please publish your posts by the evening of Oct. 29 so our partners in Kuwait can read them. If you have any questions, let me know!

Posted in assignments, course admin, websites | Comments Off on This weekend’s assignment