The focus of this case study is on examining identity from a cultural studies perspective. The lives of three subjects, all University of Michigan-Flint (UM-Flint) graduate students, are examined in the case study, which will examine our individual identity formation and how it has affected our behavior. We also will investigate our separate identities in an attempt to understand why we are the way we are and to gain insight into each other’s behaviors. We will look at the events, messages and relationships we have experienced in our lifetime and the contexts in which the complexities of how ‘who we are’ has been and is manifest. The research of Herbert Blumer, “Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method,” offers insights on social interaction and meaning. Author David A. Snow strengthens the analysis with is investigation, “Extending and Broadening Blumer’s Conceptualization of Symbolic Interactionism.” Authors Cary Nelson, Paula A. Treichler, and Lawrence Grossberg offer an approach for defining and conceptualizing culture in their essay, “Cultural Studies: An Introduction,” which is vital to this examination.
Culture and Identity:
The subject of this case study are graduate students, Keshanda Jones, Anita Richardson and Christina Wixson. All three, are enrolled in the UM-Flint MA Applied Communication Program and have worked in cohort for nearly two years in this effort. The following culture and identity examination offers a three-point synopsis of the individual characteristics of each case study participant.
Anita: My parents, who just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, met in Arkansas and moved there in the 1950’s. My Dad worked as a machinist/welder and eventually an office administrator. My mother worked at the local Holiday Inn cleaning rooms but moved on to become a components worker at General Electric. Both finished high school. Dad did some college. They owned houses and eventually opened their own income tax business, which they still operate today. I had six brothers and I was the only girl. Both of my parents were responsible for discipline. They believed in explaining to a child why they were being disciplined. We grew up interacting with a lot of extended family but we were not disciplined by extended family, nor did my parents discipline our cousins, beyond scolding. We’d travel to Michigan and down south, to Arkansas and Alabama, in the summer months to visit relatives. We still to this day have large family reunions but we also have intimate smaller more immediate family gatherings. We went to good neighborhood schools and had great teachers. Other than my parents, my teachers influenced me most. We grew up in the church, but we also attended community organizing meetings and watched a lot of politics. So, I knew the power of religion for good and evil. The effect I had on the situation was, as the only girl, I was initially very sensitive and easy to cry as a child, because my unique female perspective, was often overlooked. However, I grew into a self-assured young lady. I played kick ball, baseball, soccer, basketball, loved spinning records, reading the Sunday comics, crocheting with my mother. I liked school and watching The Waltons on TV and I always said I would be a writer like John Boy. We watched the nightly news every day and David Brinkley was my favorite media announcer. So, it’s no wonder my UM-Flint B.A. was in Mass Media Communication.
Christina: I was raised by a working mother who employed a babysitter. I was lucky in that my babysitter was one of my mom’s best friends growing up. When it came to discipline, my ‘Aunt’ Sandy took care of that. She taught me table manners (chew with your mouth closed, no elbows on the table, etc.) as well as respect for my elders. My mother taught me social intelligence with a mixture of facial expressions (pursed lips, widened eyes). I knew I had stepped in it if my mother leveled either of those expressions my way. My Aunt Sandy taught me that if you wanted to be taken seriously, you had to know when to be serious. Learn when to fight and when to stand down. I learned to read both their cues and from that became a pretty good kid. The contact I had with my extended family is discussed in the chapter from our reading. We interacted on special occasions mostly. I affected my socialization process by questioning authority and rules, constantly. As I matured, I learned when to question and when to listen. I had friends along a wide socioeconomic path. Participating in the different cultures associated with the disparity in socioeconomics taught me empathy for those without. Participating in cheerleading throughout school taught me a simple life rule that affects every interaction. Smile. Just smile.
Keshanda: My mother was the primary person responsible for my discipline.I had extensive my extended family was in many ways a part of my immediate family.The outside influences that affected my socialization were, peers, church, extended family, coaches and educators. I was affected by over thinking what I “needed” to do for others all if the time. I can best identify this with the “collective societies” (p.114). I would say that at the time not only was the community a part of my socialization, but even still my extended family. I would say that until most recently I did not realize that not everyone socialized with their family on a regular basis. For my family, it is not uncommon to have 5 generations over for a random Sunday dinner, or all attending a family wedding. The exposure to other environments, racial and cultural differences. Even though I lived on the North side of Flint. My high school was quite mixed in regards to race and ethnicity. I also have a mother that never allowed her income to become a barrier for the extracurricular activities. I was involved in: Tennis, Violin, Track, and playing the clarinet in both the All City Orchestra and Band. These opportunities including traveling to Canada to play others in many of the sports listed above predominately tennis exposed me to not only other races, but cultures as well.These opportunities opened my eyes to many things I had not experience living in the City of Flint.The other activities I believe shaped my identity was my Church and faith community.
B. Social Identity:
Anita: I identify first and foremost as a mother. I have a 23-year-old son, Adam, who is a wonderful young man! I also am the caregiver for my parents, who are now in their mid-eighties. I am the one who plans the family reunions, who plans the spring clean-ups, and keeps the house running and in order. I’m not a task master or micro manager, but my mother kept an orderly house, so I guess I have taken after her. In addition, I identify socially as a ‘meaning maker’ because I play this role in community and family settings. I’m a consensus builder. Overall, I believe I have achieved a sense of ethnic identity and am confident in who I am a woman, who is a mother and caretaker and in my goal to build bridges of understanding between people in my community..
Christina: Most importantly, I associate myself with the culture of motherhood in that I am fiercely protective and a constant motivator. I also associate myself with the fighter culture. For example, I’m the one you call if you need to take care of business – but not so much of you need diplomacy. Finally, I am an advocate for women, specifically in the area of constitutionality and social equality. These all share the commonality of being ready to protect what’s important – day or night. The differences include motherhood requiring unconditional love, fighters requiring anger and staying involved in politics, specifically right now, requires tempered patience.
Keshanda: I identify myself first as a nurturer in every way. Whether this encompasses my role as a mother, wife, or advisor to others in achieving their personal success. I can remember wanting to spearhead the then vacant Durant Hotel as a homeless shelter. I had never experienced homelessness. However, I thought why wouldn’t we as a community provide the people I passed along the streets with food and shelter. I am a nurturer in every way. Whether this encompasses my role as a mother, wife, or advising others in achieving their personal success. I can remember wanting to spearhead the then vacant Durant Hotel as a homeless shelter as a child. I had never experienced homelessness. However, I thought why wouldn’t we as a community provide the people I passed along the streets with food and shelter. I feel that I was aware of this calling to help others and I continue to serve in this capacity to this day.
C. Cultural Identity:
Anita: My three top cultural identifiers are American, African descent, and New Yorker. I am first and foremost an American. Born and raised in the United States of America. . I have listened to my mother and father, grandparents and even my great-grandfather who died decades ago at age 107 tell stories about working in the fields down south and the factories up north that go all the way back to slavery. Stories of history, war, sacrifice, religion, struggle and triumph that are tied to race and heritage as an African-American. I was born in Upstate New York in the Mohawk Valley. From the baseball hall of fame in Cooperstown to rooting for the Mets and eating original pizza to the “fo’ get about it” unique language and all that goes with it — I’m a New Yorker. All these cultures converge because while I’m a New Yorker, I have a southern lean due to my parents and their upbringing. I’m African but American, as well. So, while I love soul and R & B and catfish, I also love the old folk Cat Stevens, New York Hippie music, and pizza pie, as well. It’s all intertwined.
Christina: It took me quite some time to come to a decision regarding which cultures I associate with. The most important culture I associate with is motherhood, though I struggle to find confidence in my ability. I am a fierce protector and a constant motivator. Another culture I associate with is the fighter. As fighters, we are used to being very resourceful in combat – not much for delicate diplomacy (Note: not literally, figuratively 😉 I would say the other culture that I associate with is the feminine POV in politics. I am hugely aware of the possible changes involved in the current transition of power in this country and I am gearing up for battle.
Keshanda: I would say that my faith was the primary foundation shaped early on that has sustained and developed me in every area. I was raised in the Christian faith and can remember attending Church with my great-grand mother, grand-mother and mother. I was always encouraged to stretch myself and decide what activities I wanted to participate in as it relates to extra-curricular activities. I played musical instruments, tennis, track and visited another country to participate in many of these activities. For me, that was a cultural change and a time that I realized the social and economic differences.
Content and Structure:
The following questionnaire was self-administered and recorded by the case study participants and collaborative responses and theory inflected research was determined through shared readings and an Online (Skype) meeting to discuss similarities and differences in our cultural identities.
Q: How/why you came to this particular group?
Anita: I listed both Keshanda and Christina in my original assessment of who I wanted to work with, but they were already taken by other groups. We were eventually assigned to work together and it seems a good match.
Christina: Our group was created by Dr. Seipke. I believe this to be because of our shared motherhood salience. I listed both Anita and Keshanda as on my ‘short list’ as well.
Keshanda: Our group was created by our professor. I will be interested to see what she will tell us about her reasoning to designate us a group and how our social identities played a part in this decision.
Discuss the characteristics of the group that led you to it.
Anita: Christina’s fighter spirit and joyousness and Keshanda’s strategic managerial skill set, and the fact that we are all dedicated mothers, appealed to me. Turns out we’re all advocates of sorts.
Christina: I listed both Anita and Keshanda as possible group mates because I am drawn to their strong character and determination. I strongly admire both. I believe our shared roles as mothers and women support this.
Keshanda: The “I Am” of both individuals in my group. I did not feel a filter of “what does my classmate have to say, or think”. They are both extremely strong in their opinion and understand who they are and what they want. I initially was not a part of this group, because I assumed that one obvious factor. Because Anita and I are both African-American Female that I wanted to explore other commonalities in the cohort. However, once we decided to all move forward I saw that the most salient identity for each of us was motherhood. As we discussed motherhood I realized that we all embraced this role with passion and love.
Q: What do you have in common with other members of the group?
Anita: Like Keshanda, I go to church and was raised in the Baptist church and have been a Christian all my life. However, I so believe I’m a healthy skeptic when it comes to religion. I am keenly aware of the evil that has been perpetrated in the name of religion and the lies that have been told. Also like Keshanda, as an African-American I believe the standard that I was raised in means that I am not inferior to any other person or race based on historical marginalization and oppression, but that I have to still learn from these experiences and allow them to build and propel me to be better for the younger generation and my own legacy. I agree. Like Christina, I am a Fighter – Mother and Advocate, however I may be a bit more of a strategist. I seek to inform community forums regarding critical issues to improve outcomes through discussion. I see Christina as more of an on the grounds organizer in her role as advocate.
Christina: Like both Anita and Keshanda, I am a mother and advocate. I would add we are also women. I believe we all take our role in society as women very seriously. We share a goal of working toward the betterment of our society.
Keshanda: Motherhood, Female, Nurturer
Discuss Childhood experiences.
Q: How did the activities of your childhood teach you cultural lessons (cultural values, behaviors, or skills? (List your activities as you discuss them)
Anita: I spent many hours sitting at my mother and father’s side listening to them talk and handle business and socialize. This shaped what I viewed as important in life. It shaped my values to watch them maneuver through their own existences. I knew what was right and wrong based on their actions and speech. We watched the news each night together, so I was aware of political and social issues and what was at stake in the personal and public arenas. I learned to communicate well at home, first. We had good schools, so this also helped shape who I am as a communicator and to shape the meaning I assign to things.
Christina: I learned early in life to rely on yourself first. I shaped my own views on what was appropriate. I was my own motivation, leader and protector. Not until I started to mature did I realize the importance of community. Community to me was the cheerleading squad I grew up with. I was a cheerleader throughout junior high and high school. I learned the importance of being on a team, handling defeat as well as victory. I learned that it’s okay to depend and consult with others and that sometimes, it was better than what I had come up with. Later in high school, I was voted the class treasurer. The cultural lessons I learned from this included inclusion requires compromise, understanding leads to acceptance and to be kind, whenever possible. It also stoked my passion for justice in the form of government.
Keshanda: I would say that my faith was the primary foundation shaped early on that has sustained and developed me in every area. I was raised in the Christian faith and can remember attending Church with my great-grand mother, grand-mother and mother. I was always encouraged to stretch myself and decide what activities I wanted to participate in as it relates to extra-curricular activities. I played musical instruments, tennis, track and visited another country to participate in many of these activities. For me, that was a cultural change and a time that I realized the social and economic differences that I would participate in during the day and have a complete polar experience at home. As it relates to cultural values I was also raised in a home they did not tolerate children disrespecting any adults and one that was free from any alcohol or drugs. My mother did not attempt to be my “best-friend” but I always knew she was a strong advocate and nurturer. As I describe this experience for me I can see that all of my cultural and social identities were not only grounded at an early age, but when asked to identify myself. I completed the same cycle in the description of my mother as a nurturer and advocate.
Q: Explain why you believe these lessons to be “cultural?”
Anita: These lessons were cultural because whether I was watching my mother or extended family cook, listening to them talk, or watching them fix a car or lawn mower, the activity was embedded in relationships with humans. The objects within this sphere were assigned meaning within the context of these relationships. For instance, my mother cooked us all a birthday cake on our birthdays. To this day, the meaning of that act, celebrating the uniqueness and presence of each individual child, is with me.
Christina: The lessons I learned were cultural in that being on a team is a culture itself. Members of this group or team share goals, beliefs and values. Governing is also a culture. Through civil service, individuals ideally would share the same goals, beliefs and values. The fighter part of me leans in when discussing disenfranchisement on any level.
Keshanda: I believe these lessons to be cultural for me based on the fact of where and how they were grounded. They not only shape how I viewed the world, but continue to shape how I navigate the world around me. I feel that my family and community both played into this a great deal.
Q: What childhood experiences do you may have in common? Some of the common threads that I see from our group is the appreciation for family and our childhood. I feel that as we discussed our lives there was a shared appreciation for the extra-curricular activities and support.
Anita: We all participated in extra-curricular activities. I did cheer in junior high and I was in a dance group in high school, like Christina. Primarily, I participated in sports, like Keshanda. I wanted to play the violin like Keshanda, but my mother did not want to hear the constant squeak of me trying to learn it, so that was not happening.
Christina: We share the childhood experience of playing extra-curricular sports during our K-12 years. I believe we all share an ability to be introspective, though we may have come to that differently.
Keshanda: The childhood experience I would say that I have with Anita is growing as an African-American Female, with an African-American family. With Christina, I would say the hyper-active personality and both being extremely talkative and fast.
Discuss the common salient identity the group shares and how personal meanings to each group member overlap or differ.
All: The salient identity of motherhood and advocates is the common thread that I continue to see amongst the 3 of us.
Q: What do you have in common with each group members?
Anita: We are all in Christina’s words “fighters.” We plan, organize, coordinate, and advocate for our children, families, and communities. We are all communicators, as well.
Christina: Anita, Keshanda and I are all mothers and recognize this as the most salient part of our identity. Additionally, we are all advocates. Many of the personal meanings we each have for these areas overlap in our need to protect, guide and speak for our children. We all spend time working toward goals outside our own.
Keshanda: Anita and I both identify as African-American, Christian women that love our families. Christina and I are both female, mothers and are employed by the same organization and at one point of our careers worked under the same leadership within the School of Health Professions and Studies.
Q: How do you feel you share personal meanings with each group member?
Anita: We all value motherhood and our job to interpret meaning and values for our kids. Community is important to us all and we’ve all served as advocates in one way or another.
Christina: I believe that Anita and I share a good understanding of each other’s strengths. I believe that Keshanda and I use a number of the same skills in our professional lives.
Keshanda: I admire both Anita and Christina personally and professionally.
Q: How does your identity differ from each group members?
Anita: Single-mother of one son, Adam, who is 23 years old. I was raised by two parents, both working, who recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. My mother often worked part-time or sometimes not at all, according to our families need. She was the primary homemaker and my father was the primary bread-winner. Decision making and discipline decisions were shared.
Christina: I am a married mother of one child, raised by single (de facto) working mother, as my father was in the home but not actively involved in parenting. My mother was the primary decision maker and disciplinarian. I differ from both Anita and Keshanda in that they had a strong extended family presence in their lives growing up. I saw my extended family similarly to what was outlined in our readings; we gathered during the holidays and at the family reunion only. In addition, both Anita and Keshanda had relationships with both of their parents. Growing up, I did not feel that I had a relationship with either. My mother was home but indifferent and my father resided at the home, but was indifferent.
Keshanda: Married for 13 years, and a mother of one 10- year old daughter Sheridan. My parents divorced when I was very young I have always had a relationship with my father, but my primary role model and raised me and my two siblings.
Talk with each other about moments in life that you can recall that grounded this salience.
Q: How is the salience of your social identity grounded?
Anita: My salience is grounded in motherhood. It is still my primary identification. My son graduates in May 2017 from college. So perhaps this will balance out with other parts of me. For now, it remains my strongest inclination and point of identity
Christina: Motherhood grounds my salience. Becoming a mother was terrifying and extraordinary for me. I felt I lacked any kind of maternal instinct and was pretty confident that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Upon his birth, I understood what being grounded meant. When it all came down to it, I need to mother first. Everything can be flying around tornado-like, but when I look at him – everything become crystal clear.
Keshanda: I believe motherhood is an extremely powerful gift and I do not take the stewardship over another person lightly. I never considered myself as a nurturer. However, the moment I found out that I was pregnant my husband and I were extremely overjoyed.
Q: What happened?
Anita: I was in my thirties when my only son was born. I met his father while attending college. We were both studying computer science and French. I was his Dad’s French tutor. My son was born in August 1993.
Christina: After a decade of being on the road with my husband and his band, we literally looked at each other one day over the July 4th holiday in 2007 and said ‘Well, if we are gonna do it, we better get to it’. I was 35 at the time. I had my son on May 20, 2008. It was a whirlwind. I am thankful for that because thinking about it would have led to it not happening. We started trying in mid-July 2007 and I became pregnant almost immediately.
Keshanda: My daughter was born on August 9, 2006. I was 29 years old and my husband was 35 years of age. This was my first child and his second. We were married for approximately 2 years and had discussed starting a family.
Q: Who was there?
Anita: When Adam was born I was surrounded by family. Adam’s dad and his family were there, too. Like Keshanda, there were a lot of people there waiting and it was hard to relax totally. I was glad when the baby was born and they gave me a coke! I remain close to Adam’s Dad’s family and they were just at my home for dinner. Adam’s Dad married years after his birth and his wife and step-children stayed at my home a few years ago. We all love Adam and that’s a blessing.
Christina: When our son, Wyatt, was born, my husband, brother and best friend were present. My mother lived in Arizona at the time and didn’t have the ability to return for the birth. My husband for obvious reasons, my brother to show support and my best friend to assist me with the delivery.
Keshanda: I initially told my family that they would not be allowed in the room. However this soon turned into a party for everyone except for me at times. My mother and father, who, as I mentioned, divorced before I can remember, were there. My grand-mother, sister, aunt, former friend and mother-in-law were also present. This sounds like a lot of people and it felt like a lot of people all relaxing and having a great time as my husband and i focused on the “Big Picture” the birth of our first child.
Q: What events led up to and followed this particular moment?
Anita: Adam’s Dad was career Marines guy, (retired, 30 years service now) who had taken a break to return to college. Soon after Adam’s birth, he left for Italy, then did several tours in Afghanistan during the war, and we never married but remain on good terms and have coparented Adam, well. My son’s father, remained in his life since birth. I must say, because too often the single Mom’s story is expected to end badly, that Adam’s Dad eventually married and now has a family. I never married (and never regretted it), but we both have Adam and I’m very close to my own extended family. Adam’s Dad will finish his master’s degree this year. He is a computer coder and business major, who works for a major aeronautics company in Texas. I will finish my master’s degree this year in Applied Communication and pursue a career as a researcher/theorist. Adam is the only child for both of us and he will finish his undergrad degree in Advertising Management and Media at MSU this year, in May. So education is important in our culture, but I tell my son being kind and respectful is just as important as being educated. Just representing for all the single mom’s who are too often stereotyped.
Christina: My water broke at 5:37am on 5/20/08. We arrived at the hospital around 9am. I was terrified. I started telling anyone who would listen to me that I was going to need an epidural. The sign in desk, the aide rolling me to the next room, the nurses at the nursing station I passed. I explained to my OBGYN that I was not a hero and would need drugs. They rolled that machine in right after me when I got to my room. Complications started at about 10:45am. I lost all of my amniotic fluid. Wyatt’s heartbeat dropped. They attempted to ‘refill’ me, it didn’t work and all of a sudden – a team of doctors swooped in. Two minutes later, I was watching the doctor pull our son from my abdomen and he was screaming. Loud and strong! After the delivery, day three, I fell into a deep postpartum depression. It felt like a ton of bricks fell on me and I couldn’t tell up from down. It was a rough 11 days. I returned to medication and started motherhood. At Day 30, I felt confident that we would be able to keep him alive. Each day I grow more confident in my ability as a mother.
Keshanda: Marriage and pregnancy. The desire to start a family and the decision to move forward in our decision.
Q: What was similar and what was different among group members?
Similarities: Keshanda and Christina, whose parents were separated and/or de facto separated, were both married and planned their children. Anita (although she did not mention it) and Christina had very difficult births. We all had family and friends present for the birth of our children. We all have one child. We all were nearly 30 or in our thirties when we gave birth. Anita and Christina had anxiety about what to do with a baby. We’re all great mothers. All of the fathers of these children were present at their births and remain active in their lives. We all value motherhood highly.
Differences: Anita, whose parents just celebrated 60 years of marriage, was not married when her child was born. Keshanda seems to have had less stress/anxiety associated with the birth of her child and the presence of family. Christina and I gave birth to boys. Keshanda had a girl.
Discuss “my cultural experience”
Q: Do any of the 3 cultures you associate yourself with in the “my cultural experience” overlap?
Anita: I overlap only with Keshanda as African-American, however, I do identify with Keshanda’s reference to being a woman, and to Christina’s reference to being a mother and a fighter. I am also a Christian, Keshanda’s third reference and I’m concerned with women’s issues, Christina’s third reference.
Christina: I overlap with both Anita and Keshanda as women, mothers and advocates.
Keshanda: Motherhood, female nurturer all overlap and I feel they all are integrated into my personality and lifestyle.
Q: What from the discussion you have had thus far could explain this?
We worked together as a group to select a cultural competency scale. Once administered, the scale was scored according to its procedural expectations. The scale was self-administered, may be other administered. The criteria for selection of the scale is included, below:
Anita’s Score: 100/120
Christina’s Score: 99/120
Keshanda’s Score: 107/120
Q: What criteria did you use for selection?
We discussed using a Cultural Competency scale for inclusion in this case study. We found several options, mostly related to health care. Further investigation identified the scale we used and incorporated. This scale was created by the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society (CVIMS). CVIMS is a non-profit, apolitical organization dedicated to the advancement of immigrant settlement and fostering of awareness and pride in cultural identity and diversity. It was funded by the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia. We chose this scale because it directly addressed cultural competency in society.
The usability of the scale was increased due to the purpose of its creation. It was created to help native Canadians adapt to the influx of refugees. It was designed to explore individual cultural competence, as opposed to overarching groups such as nursing. The purpose of the scale is to “help you to consider your skills, knowledge, and awareness of yourself in your interactions with others. Its goal is to assist you to recognize what you can do to become more effective in working and living in a diverse environment. We did change any mention of ‘Canada’ or ‘Canadian’ to ‘US’ or ‘American’ to create a familiar theme for the readers.
Scope of the Scale:
The scope of the scale extends to all those who communicate. In discussing the scale within the group, we selected the questions below for comparison.
A Likert scale was used for measurement; possible options were:
Never (1 point)
Sometimes/Occasionally (2 pts.)
Fairly Often/Pretty Well (3 pts.)
Always/Very Well (4 pts.)
The following questions were used, from the to compare our cultural similarities and differences:
From the Awareness section of the scale:
Reflect on how my culture informs my judgement; (Goal: I am aware of how my cultural perspective influences my judgment about what are ‘appropriate’, ‘normal’, or ‘superior’ behaviors, values, and communication styles.)
From the Knowledge section of the scale:
Assess the limits of my knowledge; (Goal: I will recognize that my knowledge of certain cultural groups is limited and commit to creating opportunities to learn more.)
From the Skills section of the scale:
Reflect on my ability to be adaptive; (Goal: I know and use a variety of relationship building skills to create connections with people who are different from me.)
In these three questions, the scores were:
We all scored a 3 on the Assess the limits of my knowledge question. The implication here goes to our understanding that there is always more to learn.
While Keshanda and Christina scored a 4 on the Be adaptive question, their reasoning differed. Christina looked at her ability to build relationships an ongoing effort to adapt to all situations and people. Keshanda focused on the growth she experienced during position changes in here professional life.
Anita differed from both Keshanda and Christina on both the Reflect on how my culture informs my judgement question, as well as the being adaptive question. Where Keshanda and Christina selected Always/Very Well (4), Anita selected Fairly Often/Pretty Well (3) for both. Anita explained her challenges with differing perspectives and irresponsibility. Keshanda and Christina did not mention challenges.
Our Individual Responses:
- Reflect on how my culture informs my judgement….I selected Fairly Often/Pretty Well. I am aware that people have different perspectives but I struggle some in understanding the basis for some of the differences in perspective. If people don’t interact and talk about it it’s hard to know how people reason and reach their conclusions sometimes.
- Assess the limits of my knowledge….I answered, again, Fairly Often/Pretty Well. We all are limited in our knowledge of other cultures and the differences in meaning that may be inherent so I think we all have something to learn.
- Be Adaptive….I answered Fairly Often/Pretty Well. I am actually very good at building relationships and as a consensus builder, but I could not mark “Always” because I have a hard time building a bridge with people who have a free riding, irresponsible lean. I am working within myself to be more patient with those who sit and wait for the “responsible ones” to take action, instead of jumping in and helping.
- Reflect on how my culture informs my judgement – I am aware of how my cultural perspective influences my judgment about what are ‘appropriate’, ‘normal’, or ‘superior’ behaviors, values, and communication styles. I selected Always/Very Well – Very Well would be the best way to put it. With maturity I have grown to understand that not everyone sees things as I do. It’s okay to be different and understanding comes from acceptance.
- Assess the limits of my knowledge – I will recognize that my knowledge of certain cultural groups is limited and commit to creating opportunities to learn more. I answered Fairly Often/Pretty Well. I am aware of the limitations I have in regards to knowledge about other cultural groups. As I grow older, I realize the importance of understanding.
- Be Adaptive – I know and use a variety of relationship building skills to create connections with people who are different from me. I answered Always/Very Well. I believe that one of my strongest skills is to build relationships. I tend to make friends easily and approaching new people is not difficult for me. I thoroughly enjoy interacting with people.
- Reflect on how my culture informs my judgement. I answered Always/very well. I consider myself to be self-aware and understand that many of my decisions are based on personal experience, thoughts and beliefs.
- Assess the limits of my knowledge I answered Fairly Often/Pretty well. I feel that because I am a reflective person I do realize and acknowledge areas where I am strong as well as areas that I can improve.
- Be adaptive. I answered Always/very well. I have learned more about myself and my adaptability over the past 6 months. During that time I have experienced and end of one position and transitioned into 2 offices where my assignments were constantly changing day-to-day. I can honestly say that if I had taken this a year ago. The outcome would have been very different.
Research Inflected Analysis:
Q: What from the lessons learned in part 1 may help to explain this?
We are all American women, mothers, fighter, advocates, nurturers, communicators, and thinkers. To this end we have a shared mission of empowering our communities through advocacy. Our involvement is listed below:
Anita: I sit on a local high school governance board right now and have served on the board of the American Red Cross and local neighborhood associations. I also work with a local climate change initiative.
Christina: Advocate for women in the areas of constitutionality and social equality via group participation/organization around the country and the world. I work on several task forces that address women’s access to education in the field of healthcare. I work toward the betterment of healthcare in underprivileged and war-torn countries.
Keshanda: Advocate for individuals with disabilities, mental illness, children from at risk populations in the areas of abuse and protective services, educationally and economically undeserved populations.
The similarities in our socialization, social identities and cultural identities, while manifest in different ways, led us to similar fields of education and to similar work as advocates. Research on Symbolic Interaction offers some clues for why this may have occurred.
Based on analysis by Herbert Blumer, three premises were offered to define the characteristics of symbolic interactionism (SI): 1.) Human beings act on things based on their meaning, which Blumer says arises out of social interaction; 2.) Meaning and interaction are taken for by those studying and analyzing SI; and, 3.) It is a mistake to fail to see meaning as discerned by individuals in action as involving an interpretive process (Blumer, p.2).
David A. Snow in his analysis also identifies meaning and interaction as SI’s central tenants. For instance, Snow uses the study of social movements to offer examples and support his elaboration on the concept of SI. As an example, he refers to the Buddhist Movement in the U.S. during the 1960’s (Snow p. 270) In order for the movement to be successful in its move from the east to the west, the meaning behind the movements symbolism had to be changed to reflect the values or spiritual journey and beliefs that the western culture held dear.
Research by Nelson, et. al., informs us that cultural studies “draws from multiple roots” (Nelson, et. al., p.3). It is not, the researcher’s assert, one thing. It is said to be shaped within different institutions and localities. Nevertheless, it is the fact that these “different trajectories” are occurring with the same context that binds us as a culture due to shared meaning.
To this end, the three of us; Anita, Christina, and Keshanda, were shaped within a similar context of values and culture. There are differences. We do not all regard religion in the same way. Keshanda regards herself as a Kingdom Citizen, Anita is both deeply spiritual and a religious skeptic, while Christina was not raised in the church. Yet, we all were provided important insight and knowledge that led us down similar paths, despite or differences. The interpretation of symbolism in the church certainly was not consistent through our lives, or was it, within the context of our Christian society.
The only way to explain our similarities is that the context of the interactions were shared, despite our differences, affected us in similar ways through an “interpretive process” and embedded human relationships (Blumer p.4). The implication is a contextual or situational construction of meaning informed us and we interpreted the meaning of things in similar way.
For example, we all had working mothers, said the pledge to the flag, were loved in extended families, we all attended college. Eventually we became mothers and it is motherhood that binds us most. And, yet, we are also fighters, nurturers, and advocates for varied causes and in different locations and venues. Yet, we are all working to earn a M.A. in Applied Communication at the same university.
We could easily argue that SI is grounded in communication due to its focus on meaning making. As mothers, fighters, nurturers, advocates and thinkers, and communicators, meaning is central to what we do and who we are socially and culturally.
Q: Did the readings help to guide you in building this case study, or to better understand these lessons?
Yes, the readings assisted us in organizing thoughts and principles, which assisted in organizing and writing this case study.
What Did You Learn?
Anita: Concerning my own cultural identity, I learned that I am changing. I am a bit older than Keshanda and Christina and am at the age where my parents need help at home. So, my son is older, 23, and needs less of the supervision of a mother, although I’m still guiding him. I think I spend more time as a caretaker to my elderly parents, which leaves me less time to work as a community advocate. I’m attending children’s programs less, as well. But children’s issues still concern me, which is likely why I now serve on a high school governance board. I’ve had some health issues to deal with and I am learning the importance of self-reflection and having some time that is unorganized and unplanned to just soak up the sun. Going to the beach was a cultural experience in my youth that I am recommitted to as I age. I will be thinking about the similarities and differences in culture as I watch the waves roll in – and watch ’em roll away again.
Christina: I have learned that people with diverse backgrounds can find common ground through shared cultural identities. Creating an open dialog about culture allows for people to gain understanding. As we interact with those around us, we can strive to identify commonalities that could lead to breakthroughs in social progress.
Keshanda: I learned that as I continue to grow and develop both personally and professionally that I will meet a wide variety of individuals from different backgrounds. I understand that we will all share some commonalities and differences. I was always raised in Church and before I truly matured I could not understand how others ever lived without that experience. I have since become more understanding of different perspectives and viewpoints, but the activities I could participate in helped shape me as a young person and gave me a foundation of faith that I continue to build upon.
Q: What you have learned about yourself or your classmates?
Anita: I’ve learned that we all act on the very similar values in different ways and the engagement patterns and values imparted by those who cared for us has a lot to do with the choices we are making. Everyone has different temperaments, too. Even within families, adjustments and allowances had to be made for who we were not just that we had arrived and were born into those settings. Some people are more sensitive, others more talkative, others more inquisitive and this impacts the culture around us.
Christina: In regards to what I have learned about myself and my classmates, I have learned that we are more alike than not. While our backgrounds are different in some aspects, we share the most salient parts of our social identity along with parts of our cultural identity and aspects of our socialization.
Keshanda: I have learned that no matter how we appear on the outside physically we all have the same desire to be well-rounded, supportive parents and contributors to our society.
Blumer, Herbert. Symbolic Interactionism. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969. Print book.
Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society. “Cultural Competency Self-assessment Checklist.” October 2015. coloradoedinitiative.org. Document. 28 January 2017.
Grossberg, Lawrence, Cary Nelson and Paula Treichler. Cultural Studies. New York: Routledge, 1991. Print book.
Snow, David A. “Extending and Broadening Blumer’s Conceptualization of Symbolic Interactionism.” Symbolic Interactionism (2001): 367-377. Article.