This volume is addressed to scholars as well as a popular audience, aimed to bridge the gap between academia and the general public. It deals with "who we are," concerning our sense of self and identity; and "how we live," concerning our ways of life in diverse cultures. It affirms that we may transcend our cultural-ethnic roots and redefine our identities, individual or collective. Transcendence opens the door not only to personal transformation but also to confront ethnic stereotypes and prejudices. Readers will gain fresh cultural knowledge from both the East and the West and be attuned to the theme of letting no ethnic group be alien to us.
This book is at once about the immersion of life in culture and the remaking of culture by human action--reciprocal influence at work. The idea of immersion underscores the powerful cultural forces that shape our perceptions, thinking, and emotions. Unlike other cultural psychology texts, this volume dwells on the accelerating alterations of culture by human action, and hence the remaking of our own being, in the age of the Internet.
In the author's own words: "I write with the passion of a person who has lived life from being marginal, neither Eastern nor Western, to being a world citizen; turned to English like a duck to the water, thus circumventing my handicap of Chinese orthographic dyslexia. I have two cultural parents, one Chinese and one Western, who transformed me into a thoroughly bilingual-bicultural person, empowered to build intercultural bridges. The East is rising, and the West can ill-afford to remain ignorant of the East."
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About the Author
Table of Contents
1.1 What is culture? 3
Culture is defined, demystified, followed by a distinction made between high (elitist) culture
and mass (popular) culture. After a discussion of how culture explains behavior, biological,
psychological, and cultural determinism are all refuted. We are used to thinking of evolution as
a matter of biology alone. No longer, culture is now part of the process. Moreover, humans can
claim uniqueness, once we recognize that humankind is now not only participating in but also
directing its evolution by virtue of remaking culture.
1.2 An intelligible introduction to cross-cultural psychology 13
Cross-cultural psychology is defined, followed by an explanation of its strengths and promises:
to investigate relations between cultural factors and psychological functioning, and to test the
generality of psychological principles in diverse cultures. Major concepts used in cross-cultural
psychology are introduced. Three conceptual and methodological issues are discussed: How we
may distinguish between indigenous and transcultural theories, differentiate one cultural unit
from another, and develop multidimensional measurements of culture.
1.3 The rise of indigenous psychologies 21
In the last several decades, Asian psychologists have raised concerns about the wholesale
importation of Western psychology into Asia. They ask, “How unsettling would it be to have
foreign researchers describe how we think and behave? And eventually, define our identities
for us?” This leads to a rallying call for indigenous psychology, which I define as the study
of human action and mental processes within a cultural context that relies on values, concepts,
belief systems, methodologies, and other resources indigenous to the specific ethnic or cultural group
under investigation. The message, in short, is clear: Let indigenous peoples speak by and for
1.4 What does crossing cultures mean? 25
The notion of crossing cultures is deceptively simple. I was crossing cultures when I moved
from Asia to America. But that is not all. In this chapter, I explain that a person’s internalized
culture is not the same as his membership in a particular group. Thus, we may even be crossing
cultures each time we encounter individual differences in internalized culture between persons
belonging to the same group. Following this argument to its ultimate, we may ask further:
How does crossing cultures happen within the mind of the bicultural individual?