Understanding Culture: Bridging the Gap Between People

February 28, 2018

baba2As people come together from different backgrounds, understanding how societies are based around fundamental patterns of culture becomes essential at all levels of human interaction, from the interpersonal to the international. We interviewed Professor Claudia Baba about the subject of her upcoming class “Intercultural Issues: Developing Awareness to Understanding People” to find out more about the concept of culture and how to bridge the gaps between people of different backgrounds and traditions.

WIH Reporter: What is important to know about your class?

Baba: Because we live in an increasingly diverse and interconnected world we encounter different value systems and behaviors. Houston, for example, was ranked the most diverse city in the USA in 2017 with 1 in 4 Houstonians born outside of the country. There are 90 languages spoken and 92 foreign consulates here. The reality today is that we’re more than a multi-cultural society in which we live alongside one another with limited interactions. We are moving towards an intercultural community where people of different backgrounds are coming together and exchanging ideas and cultural norms to develop deep understanding and respect for all cultures.

WIH Reporter: What do we need to know to move into better understanding?

Baba: The key for this community to flourish beyond a superficial gloss is through intercultural understanding and communication.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken ideas do we have about culture and how can we bridge the gap between people of different backgrounds?

That culture is homogenous—a program on how to act.
That culture is a thing—without individual agency.
That culture is uniformly distributed with the group.
That the individual possess only one culture.
That culture is custom—based simply on tradition.
That culture is timeless.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about the concept of culture?

Baba: In 1952, two American anthropologists critically reviewed the concept of culture and compiled a list of 164 different definitions.

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Baba: Mostly lecture but there will be plenty of opportunity for discussions.

WIH Reporter: We like to find out what books are on your night table right now.

Baba: Recent books include Cultural Intelligence: Individual Interactions Across Cultures by P. Christopher Earley & Soon Ang, Culture and International Relations by Jongsuk Chay, The Truth Matters by Bruce Bartlett, The Reactionary Mind by Corey Robin, The History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani, and The Collected Stories by Grace Paley.

For more information or to register for this 6-week class starting March 22nd, click here.