2013 Cultural Considerations

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Cultural considerations are the shared set of inherited assumptions, beliefs, and values of a particular grouping 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, because they make up the fibers that connect us and make meaning out of our interaction.

One of the major challenges 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 another’s. The confusion that results from cultural miscommunication muddies the water of our working together in the world. It need not.

Clifford Geertz’s study, The Interpretation of Cultures, proposes that intercultural dialogue must be clear and characterized by understandings that are based on each participating person’s or group’s cultural and historical context. Meaningful exchange occurs when all parties express themselves openly and explicitly. This is the art of diplomacy.

In Geertz’s words, “. . . 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 video clips in this section, your students should consider how cultural perspectives are created, shared, interpreted, and misinterpreted.

Demographics, Robin Wright

Culture of Change Developing, Robin Wright

Music as a Factor in Political Change, Robin Wright

New Role Models, Robin Wright

Return to “Roots of Jihad”, Robin Wright

Women Participating in Process, Robin Wright

Proliferation of Democratic Values, Robin Wright

Divergence of Ideas, Robin Wright

Endemic Corruption, Robin Wright

Vaulted Status of Secular and Religious Parties is Over, Marwan Muasher

The Second Arab Awakening, Marwan Muasher

Transformation of Egyptian Culture, Mark Lynch

Cross-Sectional Involvement, Mark Lynch

Cultural Structures, Mark Lynch

Values and Cultural Exchange, Joshua Landis

Cultural Consideration, Gregory Gause

Arab Spring or Islamic Revolution (Cultural Assessment), Gregory Gause

Syria and the Alawis, Gregory Gause

Concluding Remarks, Shai Feldman

Iranian religious leaders forbid development/use of WMDs, Mousavian

Propaganda, Barbara Ibrahim

Mahfouz Video, Barbara Ibrahim

Protest Art, Barbara Ibrahim

Perceptions of US Among Libyans, Larry Pope

Study Guide for Cultural Considerations

1. How do cross-cultural misunderstandings contribute to international crisis or cooperation?

2. What is meant by “cultural perspective”?

3. What shapes culture?

4. What are the various cultural factors shaping the current conflict in the Middle East?

5. Are cultural misunderstandings best resolved through diplomatic or military means?

6. How do cross-cultural misunderstandings contribute to international crisis?