Importance of Intercultural Communication to Ist

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Chapter 4 - The Deep Structure of Culture


Our interpretation of reality determines how we define the world and how we interact in that world. We believe the source of how a culture views the world can be found in its deep structure. It is this deep structure that unifies and makes each culture unique.

Meaning of the Deep Structure of Culture

Although many intercultural communication problems occur on the interpersonal level, most serious confrontations and misunderstandings are as a result of cultural differences that go to the basic core of what it means to be a member of one culture or another.

Cultural collisions are evident worldwide e.g. "ethnic violence" in Africa, clashes between Hindus and Muslims in both India and Pakistan, and hundred of people being killed in conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians.

In each of these instances it is the deep structure of culture and not interpersonal communication that is at the heart of these problems. When there are ethnic and cultural confrontations in various parts of the world, the deep structure of culture is being acted out. Great divisions among humankind and the dominating sources of conflict will be cultural.

The people of different civilizations have different views on the relations between God and man, the individual and the group, the citizen and the state, parents and children, husband and wife, as well as differing views of the relative importance of rights and responsibilities, liberty and authority, equality and hierarchy.

Such issues as (God, loyalty, family, community, state, allegiance, etc.) have been part of every culture for thousands of years. To better understand any culture, one needs to appreciate that culture's deep structure.

The deep structure of a culture not only has history on its side, but its roots are deep in the basic institutions of the culture.

As Delgado points out, "Culture produces and is reproduced by institutions of society, and we can turn to such sites to help recreate and represent the elements of culture." Our aim is to look at those "sites" so that we might better understand how and why cultures have different visions of the world.

The influence behind a culture's collective action can be traced to its:

(a) World view (religion)
(b) Family structure, and
(c) State (community, government)

These three social organizations working in combination, define, create, transmit, maintain, and reinforce the basic elements of every culture. Not only do these three institutions have a long history, but also remain the "essential components of modern life."

The are four interrelated reasons as to why world view, family and community hold such importance over the actions of all cultures and assist one appreciate the importance of a culture's deep structure to any study of intercultural communication.

i) Deep Structure Institutions carry a Culture's most important Beliefs

The three institutions, church, family and state carry the messages that matter most to people. Religion, parents and community are given the task of "teaching" an individual what is important and what one should strive for. Whether it be a desire to gather material possessions or a life that seeks spiritual fulfillment, the three institutions of church, family and state help one make those major decisions and choices regarding how to live your life. These institutions tell you how we fit into the grand scheme of things, whether you should believe in fate or the power of free choice, why there is suffering, what to expect from life, where your loyalties should reside, and even how to prepare for death - these and other consequential issues fall under the domain of church, family, and state.

ii) Deep Structure Institutions and their messages endure

The enduring quality of the major institutions of culture, and the messages they carry, is one of the ways in which cultures are preserved. These...
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