. . . religion, combined with ethnocentric tendencies, provides a vehicle by which racial and ethnic repression is carried out by dominant groups in society who use religion to justify their actions against other ethnic and racial groups (Calloway-Thomas, et al., 2001, p. 133). This assertion from Intercultural scholars illuminates why there have been and continue to be so many wars and so much intercultural fighting regarding issues of religion, faith, spirituality, and ethical/moral beliefs and practices. Not only do institutional and governing bodies wage war against one another, but also we as individuals often practice discrimination, prejudice, and non-acceptance of other individuals whose religious/ethical beliefs differ from our own.
Using chapters 3, 4, 6, 7, & 11 from our text as a guide, think about your own religious and/or ethical views, beliefs, and practices. How do they direct your actions? Shape your perceptions? Influence your interpersonal and intercultural relationships? Record as much about your own views as you can (more notes are better than less, as you can always edit things out as needed).
Next, find a person to interview who is as culturally different from you as possible (this person should not be a parent or relative). This person may be someone you already know or a stranger who is willing to have a dialogue with you about this subject. Being as mindful and culturally sensitive as possible, engage in an open-ended dialogic conversation/interview about this persons religious/ethical stance and how it does and does not differ from yours. Again, use chapters 3, 4, 6, 7, & 11 as a guide to help you create meaningful and poignant questions. By engaging in such a dialogue, you will be conducting autoethnographic research. You will also be creating a shared narrative or living myth (as Joseph Campbell would call it) with your dialogic partner.
Be sure to explain your assignment to your partner prior to the interview. Let he/she know that in order to better understand and facilitate effective intercultural communication, we must first try to understand and (hopefully) accept the Others perspective of his/her own culture and mindset, as well as his/her perceptions of ours. As well, be sure to explain that your conversation is confidential, and will only serve the purposes of a class assignment (in written form). You will need to record your conversation by hand or with the use of a taping device. Please ask your partner for their permission to be taped if you choose to do so.
Papers should be five pages in length, double-spaced, using 1-inch margins and 12-point font. Please be clear, concise, and critical. Your paper should be written in narrative form (like you are telling a story). Hence, using personal pronouns is appropriate. You will need to incorporate relevant theories and ideas from the text that speak to the issues raised in your conversational exchange. Feel free to use anything from our textbook; however, chs. 4 & 11 will provide you with the most focus for this assignment. Be sure to properly cite the text material you do use.
Your papers should be comprised of the following areas:
1) Your personal religious/spiritual/ethical stance and concomitant practices
2) Your conversational partners religious/spiritual/ethical beliefs and practices
3) The major points of contention and/or difference in your two beliefs systems that could become obstacles to friendship and amicable interactions
4) Three ethical principles that you discuss and agree upon despite your differences and/or three mutual benefits to establishing an interpersonal relationship with one another. If you are seriously unable to reach any mutual viewpoints, discuss why you believe you and your partner were not able to come to any shared agreement on ethical principles. How did your different cultural practices and/or your religious perspectives inhibit your agreement? How did factors such as race, creed, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality influence your conversation?
Here are some definitions and explanations of Autoethnography taken from the Internet. This is the quasi-method of research you will be engaging in to complete this assignment:
the study of the awareness of the self within a culture
In problem posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world as not a static reality, but as a reality in progress, in transformation.
~ Paulo Freire, Brazilian Educator
“The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity.”
“Ideologies can be held by a person or a group or a culture. No doubt a personal ideology is a result of life experiences and education. But even though personal ideologies grow out of experience, they are not entirely private; experiences and our memories of them, are influenced by prevailing cultural attitudes about ethnicity, gender, class, appearance, ability, and occupation, among other things.”
~Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students; Sharon Crowley & Debra Hawhee
Autoethnographic essays, in composition courses, generally involve identifying, thinking critically, and writing about a specific ‘culture’ that you, the writer, have life experiences with. What is meant by culture is a highly interpretive concept/experience.Culture is generically described as – a group, or community of people with shared sensibilities and beliefs. Here is an alternate definition that seems to help:
1. Autoethnography is the study of the awareness of the self within a culture
2. Culture means a community of people with shared beliefs. But culture also means
3. Refinement is the manner in which one is ‘trained’, or ‘socialized’ to act and see
4. See – sight is a well-known metaphor for understanding
5. Continuing this thought process, culture, your refinement, is how you come to ‘see’, i.e. understand the world. Culture, in this sense, is what allows you to come to certain and unique understandings about the world
In order to write a provocative autoethnography one must come to recognize that not all cultures see or describe the world similarly. Each culture, looked at critically, can be seen as working according to unique systems of beliefs, actions, and ethics.
Auto-ethnography, then, is a demonstration of critical self-understanding, of self as influenced by the confluence of innumerable social and natural forces.
auto + ethnography = self + culture
the study and systematic recording of human cultures
a science that deals with the division of human beings into races and their origin, distribution, relations, and characteristics
Auto – self
Autonomous -self governing
Autocracy -government by one person having total rule
Automaton -self guided robot
Mary Louise Pratt on Autoethnography:
~Autoethnographic text – a text in which people undertake to describe themselves in ways that engage with representations others have made of them.
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