My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: VI. Cultural Differences and the Intercultural Encounter

My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: VI. Cultural Differences and the Intercultural Encounter


Culture, large groups and social identity

Communities, societies, and nations are large groups. Pertaining to one or more of these large groups, which tend to have common values, provides us a “social identity”. Large groups and culture are intertwined, and thus culture is essential in crystallizing our social identity. Culture has been defined in many ways, but I will use the term throughout this study as “the rich complex of meanings, beliefs, practices, symbols, norms, and values prevalent among people in a society” (Schwartz & Bardi, 2001, p. 138). The effect of culture on our identity is mostly an unconscious process, since culture tends to be taken for granted. Like much of the impetus to our personal actions is unconscious, also what drives large or cultural groups remains mostly unconscious. Consequently, large groups are viewed as driven by a social unconscious (Weinberg, 2003). In the social unconscious of large groups, there are anxieties and defenses against these anxieties. It was suggested that in the interactions of large groups, ‘otherness’ is powerful and that “we can enjoy human diversity when we are not preoccupied with the pressures and anxieties associated with the repair and maintenance of our large-group identity” (Volkan, 2009; p. 4). Becoming more aware of these unconscious processes in the large group was suggested as enhancing the development of the individual on a personal as well as on interpersonal and social levels (Weinberg & Weishut, 2011).

Cultural diversity

Ecologies shape cultures and cultures influence the development of personalities, so that there are both universal and culture-specific aspects in variation of personality (Triandis & Suh, 2002). Furthermore, human development as a whole may be seen as a cultural process, and humans could be defined in terms of their cultural participation (Rogoff, 2003). Nevertheless, cultural participation is rather difficult to analyze. We may participate in a variety of cultures, in our own society or country, and even more if we travel abroad and immerse ourselves in other cultures. We also may incorporate in our identity aspects of one or more cultures or try to keep certain cultures as far away as possible. Moreover, cultural communities are dynamic; they change across generations. This is because individuals who participate in the cultural lives of their communities, both maintain and create new cultural ways (Rogoff, 2003). At the core of a culture are its values. Around these values practices are built, which manifest themselves in rituals, heroes and symbols. Values are the most stable over time, while symbols are the most flexible. In our encounters with another culture we are inclined to learn its practices, but typically do not gain knowledge of its values (Hofstede, 2001). Actually, we may learn about a culture’s values through its practices although they may be less immediately accessible.


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About the Author

Daniel WeishutDaniel J.N. Weishut, born in the Netherlands but living in Jerusalem, is a professional with a diverse background. He holds an MA in Clinical Psychology and an MBA in Integrative Business Administration, both from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and a PsyD in Clinical and Organizational Psychology from the Professional School of Psychology (Sacramento). He has about thirty years of experience in consultation and therapy with a wide variety of clients and issues, more than twenty years of practice in group facilitation, and over fifteen years of know-how in governance and management in various organizations. Daniel Weishut offers his services as a "Partner on the Way", while taking a world-view that people are diverse but equal. He works with a variety of clients, but his special interest is in work with those who have found themselves persecuted or otherwise in conflict with their social environment, because of their culture, identity or belief system. For example: migrants, expats, refugees, Holocaust survivors, soldiers, pacifists, and individuals from religious, cultural or sexual minorities. Daniel Weishut is a social activist and in this capacity he volunteers as Chairperson of the Israeli Association of Group Psychotherapy, as Member of the Membership Appeals Committee of Amnesty International and as forensic expert for the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. He also is involved in raising awareness about the situation of Bedouins around Jerusalem; awareness which led among others to the writing of his dissertation "My friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: Challenges and opportunities in intercultural friendship".

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