Communication Between Cultures

(Sean Pound) #1
international legal agreements are often confronted with issues of cultural divergence.
As an example, international copyright law is largely based on the Western concept
of creativity being primarily an individual effort, but, as Rajan points out, this
conceptualization is not consistent across all cultures:
A strongly individualistic conception of creativity may not be relevant to cultures which
place a higher value on group or communal creation, or locate the work of individual
authors within a strong, community tradition of educated understanding and appreciation.
They may also be difficult to reconcile with traditions which do not accord primary impor-
tance to the identity of the author.^23
More succinctly, the Euro-American cultural value is on individual ownership and
creativity, but many non-European “traditions tend toward a more communal
conception.”^24 As a result, to reach successful agreements in instances where these
varied cultural perspectives collide, the involved individuals will need a strong appre-
ciation for the role of culture in communication.

Political Issues

As globalization has driven the international community into greater economic interde-
pendency, it has presented nations with issues that on occasion conflict with domestic
politics. For example, domestic political divisions have kept the United States from
becoming a participant in the International Criminal Court, established to prosecute
serious crimes against humanity, despite more than one hundred other nations taking
part. Due to its opposition to capital punishment, Mexico has been reluctant to extra-
dite criminals to the United States when there is a possibility of the death penalty
being imposed. It was only through international pressure that in 2013, the Japanese
government ratified an international agreement, first established in 1980, that is used
to adjudicate international child custody disputes.^25 Japan’s reluctance to sign was due
to the strong cultural belief that child custody is the mother’s prerogative.
Scientific advances are another area thatcan become politically divisive. During
a period in 2013–2014, the Chinese government halted imports of U.S. genetically
modified corn, citing health risks. The national value-related attitude toward
genetically modified food also varies between the United States and the European
Union, making imports and exports subject to international negotiations and trade
agreements. Studies have shown that opinion on research employing human
embryo stem cells can also vary internationally based on religion, ideology, and
personal values. China and the United States often trade barbs about human
rights, and much of their disagreement can be traced to divergent views about
human rights. For the United States, human rights are anchored in a legal tradition
of political and civil rights. China, on the other hand, grounds its approach to the
topic on a perspective that assigns the highest priority to social and economic
These few illustrations should provide ample evidence of the many contentious
political issues dividing states in the globalized society. Dissimilar cultural values and
attitudes are at the base of many of these controversial issues, and the only prudent
course of resolution is through dialogue and agreement—in other words, through
employing competent intercultural communication.

12 CHAPTER 1•Intercultural Communication: A Requirement for the Interdependent Global Society

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