2011 Cultural Considerations



Culture considerations explore the shared set of assumptions, beliefs and values of a particular group or nation state. The video clips, below, reveal how culture influences perception, and how perception shapes identity of self and others. These factors influence international relations significantly as they make up the fibers that connect us and make meaning out of our interaction.

One of the challenges of cultural differences in international relations is that differing perceptions and views of the world are not always made explicit. All too often, a wink and a smile from one person’s vantage point is interpreted and understood differently from the other’s. The confusions that results from cultural miscommunication creates confusion that muddies the water of our work in the world together. It need not.

Clifford Geertz’s groundbreaking work, The Interpretation of Cultures, sets the stage for dialogue that is clear and characterized by understanding based on each person’s or group’s cultural and historical context. Meaning comes out of an exchange where self and other exchange openly and explicitly. This is the art of diplomacy.

In Geertz’s own words, “Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning.”

In viewing the Camcast videos in this section, consider how perspectives are created, shared, interpreted and misinterpreted. How do cross-cultural misunderstandings contribute to international crisis? How do cross-cultural understandings contribute to international breakthroughs? What are the qualities, characteristics and skills required of an effective diplomat?

Cultural Considerations Video Links

Identity of “Asia” becoming a reality, Chas Freeman

“To get rich is glorious”, Chas Freeman

Asian influence on US culture , Chas Freeman

Islam-a new dignity among Muslims, Chas Freeman

Inequality of opportunity, Pranab Bardhan

Cultural Perceptions, Hannah Beech

Cultural differences in political philosophy, Lanxin Xiang

Culture & issues in the Middle East, Thomas Pickering

Study Guide for Cultural Considerations

1. How do cross-cultural misunderstandings contribute to international crisis or cooperation?
2. What is cultural perspective?
3. What shapes culture?

The 2011 Educator’s Guide is funded by the Camden National Bank.