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Produktart: Buch
Verlag: Diplomica Verlag
Erscheinungsdatum: 07.2011
AuflagenNr.: 1
Seiten: 86
Sprache: Englisch
Einband: Paperback


This book engages in a critical reading of cultural knowledge. By cultural knowledge I refer to cultural dimensions as introduced by Geert Hofstede, Edward T. Hall and Fons Trompenaars. Their research has manifold been taught to individuals who will face an intercultural setting in their business career at some point in the future. It aims to create understanding for cultural differences in order to decrease emotional discomfort and enhance (business) success of those who acquire the knowledge. At the same time it claims to present a foundation for respect for cultural differences since it gives (an imaginative) room to them. If one studies the knowledge (s)he will be aware of cultural differences and therefore treat them with respect. The book is composed of two perspectives on cultural knowledge. In a first step the book turns to post-colonial theory. Post-colonialism argues how a Western perspective has framed cultural identities and how these representations are flawed by colonial thinking. In a second step a Levinasian perspective is taken on cultural knowledge. The French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas was deeply concerned with our way of approaching the Other. He understood the Other to be incomprehensible to our understanding. The Other’s otherness cannot be grasped by framing her/him into categories. He argued that every encounter is of ethical nature and encouraged each individual to show infinite re-sponsibility (responsebility) towards the Other that is not confined by any pre-knowledge. The book concludes that cultural knowledge has been exposed to significant limitations. These limitations are mainly a product of control interests. Individuals who acquire cultural knowledge and are not (made) aware of its limitations face consequences that may compromise their respect for cultural differences. Even though cultural knowledge presents itself as foundation for respect, it prioritizes understanding for the sake of control. As a consequence respectful representations are not given and respect for cultural differences is only supported as long as it does not threaten control. Ultimately, this book shall present a plea for trainers and teachers of cultural knowledge to become acquainted with the limitations, reflect on them and forward this knowledge to their students. It shall also encourage researchers of cultural differences and other scholars to reflect and perhaps improve on it.


Text Sample: Chapter 4, Analysis of Cultural Knowledge: 4.1, HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: The idea of gaining cultural knowledge is closely linked to the development of ICT. Both did not evolve until after the Second World War. The father of the practice was Edward T. Hall (1914 - 2009) who depicted the term ‘intercultural communication’ in his book ‘The Silent Language’ in 1959. However the first interests in intercultural communication, even though it was not termed as such then, occurred a few years earlier in the Foreign Service Institute of the United States. The institute was concerned about members of the diplomatic corps that were not effective abroad. The reason was not only seen in the lack of language skills but also in the missing knowledge about the culture of the country assigned to. The institute decided to provide language training which was conducted by native speakers in order to make sure the trainees learned the linguistic peculiarities of the language. Hall was part of the team of instructors and initially had the task to teach the corps about the macro-level of culture. However the participants complained about the trainings’ content since a focus on the macro-level of cultures could not tell them how to communicate effectively. Hall learned about the importance not to simply provide information on a macro-level since it did not contain any information about particular characteristics of unfamiliar cultures and missed to teach strategies that help in new situations. The anthropological insights Hall used were too abstract. Consequently he changed his focus to a micro-level and to what is known today as ‘non-verbal communication’. Hall was especially interested in the ‘out-of-awareness’ level of communication and argued that one should pay attention to the subtle aspects of communication. His later book particularly emphasized proxemics (impact of space on communication) and chronemics (impact of time on communication). The task of teaching American diplomats signified the foundation of the concept of cultural knowledge designed for ICT. It is important to note that the field was founded in the United States and has until today significantly been influenced by Western theories and scholars. Cultural knowledge distinguishes itself from anthropological knowledge due to its focus on intercultural communication. Hall was the first to develop such knowledge: he focused on (hidden factors of) communication between cultures instead of focusing on one particular culture in its anthropological terms. His cultural dimensions centre on the factors ‘context’, ‘time’ and ‘space’. They are organized in binaries while cultures are understood to tend towards either of the groups. As outlined above, the focus on aspects of the actual communication between cultures was regarded to be more concrete and useful due to its practical character. All this driven by a ‘need’ to ‘function more effectively and sensitively with strange cultures during overseas assignments’. Thus the main goal of cultural knowledge at that time was to increase effectiveness to accomplish the task or mission Americans were sent overseas for. Today the goal is the same, however the target has shifted from diplomatic corps to business people. Organizational interest in the field has grown due to an increase in failure/ineffectiveness of employees exposed to intercultural settings. Since the 1960s several techniques for teaching intercultural communication have been developed. Intercultural workshops were conducted at American universities where international students were observed in interactions in order to investigate intercultural encounters. Corporations began to become interested in these trainings when they realized that Americans received negative attitudes abroad. In addition they became aware of the high cost of expatriate turnover in case of failure, which strengthened the interest to implement ICT. Europe developed its interest in the field slowly, starting in the Netherlands where the most popular, cited and applied research of cultural knowledge was conducted. In the next section the most important research in the field will be explained. Thereby I explain the content analyzed in this paper.

Über den Autor

Katharina Pilhofer, Jahrgang 1984. Nach dem Bachelorstudium der Internationalen Betriebswirtschaft entschied sich die Autorin ihre Leidenschaft für interkulturelle Thematik mit einem Masterstudium zu vertiefen. Wissenschaftliche Studien zu kulturellen Unterschieden faszinierten sie bereits in einer frühen Phase des Studiums. Während des Masterstudiums begegnete ihr die Philosophie Emmanuel Lévinas, die sie veranlasste, eine neue und kritische Perspektive zu kulturellem Wissen aufzubauen. Dies führte zu einer kritischen Auseinandersetzung mit der Thematik und der Motivation für die vorliegende Arbeit.

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