2014 Cultural Considerations

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Introduction

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.

Cultural Considerations Video Links

“Considerations for a post-neocaloric world” – Fred Kirschenmann

“From conquerors to environmental stewards” – Fred Kirschenmann

“Empowering women for food security” – Fred Kirschenmann

“Women’s health and agriculture” – Ann Tutwiler

“Cultural change and its impact on African economic development” – Calestous Juma

“The developing world’s ecological and economic interests” – Andreas Merkl

“Hope for traditional Philippine fishermen” – Andreas Merkl

“Effect of prosperity on traditional Chinese diet” – Jim Harkness

“Greenhouse gases, the ocean and sustainable rate of energy consumption” – Final Panel

“International family planning and reductions in hunger” – Final Panel

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 affecting the world supply of food and water?

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

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