Generalizations

Lesson 1: Topic 5 of 25

There are broad concepts covered within the content in this course, and it is impossible to cover groups of world cultures without generalization. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines generalization as “a general statement, law, principle, or proposition.”  In other words, while the examples given will often be specific, they will illustrate some fairly sweeping constructs. And while individuals within cultural settings may behave in different ways (and even hold opposing values), cultures have values which they uphold as ideal. Those beliefs and values held by the larger cultural groups, as well as the constructs around them, are what we will focus on. 

In addition, while research on cultural differences has come a long way in the past several decades, there is still a propensity for cultural training to focus on nationality instead of ethnic groups. This is often a sort of mediated norm, recognized as a general expectation of behavior or values that reflects the most dominant culture(s) in a given geographic location. 

What does this mean? On a more specific scale, “American culture” will look distinctly different in an Iowa farm community (mostly White) than a west Texas town (Hispanic and maybe White). Western Baltimore (mostly Black) from the Louisiana Bayou (Creole and Cajun). The reality is that what counts as American culture in one United States location seems foreign in another. It would be more realistic to say “American cultures,” but that is beyond what we are able to do in this course. In other countries, there is sometimes much more complexity. 

Note that racial categories are mentioned here, but that Creole and Cajun are much more specific as recognized ethnic groups. It’s complicated! Our perceptions of others and even self-descriptions may shift according to context.

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But when considering culture on a broad national scale, there will be a negotiation of sorts that recognizes the various groups and their values, but meticulously averages out what those equal on a grand scale. This isn’t guesswork – far from it! Statistical analysis of carefully drawn up research is involved. We won’t bore you with those details, although you may easily find such minutiae within the sources cited in the Bibliography. Suffice it to say that although this course deals with broad strokes, the cultural research is not haphazard.