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Intercultural Competencies: Glossary of Terms

 

Glossary of Terms

Acculturation:The changes that take place as a result of continuous firsthand contact between individuals of different cultures; usually refers to the experiences of adults

Assimilation: The process whereby an individual or group is absorbed into the social structures and cultural life of another person, group, or society

Communication style: A set of culturally learned characteristics associated with both language and learning style, involving such aspects of communication as formal versus informal, emotional versus subdued, direct versus indirect, objective versus subjective, and responses to guilt and accusations

Cross-cultural: The various forms of encounter and exchange between disparate cultural groups, often in a manner that reflects mutual respect

Cultural generalization:The tendency to assume that a majority of people in a particular cultural group hold certain values and beliefs and engage in certain patterns of behavior. (A generalization is most appropriately based on research, held lightly as a hypothesis, and tested carefully by non-judgmentally observing the individual from another culture.)

Cultural stereotype:The application of a generalization to every person in a cultural group or generalizing from only a few people in a group. (Stereotypes are frequently based on limited experience, unreliable sources, hearsay, or media reporting. It is the rigid adherence to simplified perceptions of others, which is sometimes called "hardening of the categories.")

Culture:The learned and shared values, beliefs, and behaviors of a group of interacting people

Culture-specific approaches: Cross-cultural training approaches designed to prepare individuals to live and work with people of a particular culture or group

Demographics:Vital statistics regarding age, gender, ethnicity, and so forth that characterize human populations. (Often generated from census data, demographics can be used to project future trends and to assist educators in meeting the needs of minority groups.)

Discrimination: A prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment (e.g., racial discrimination)

Diversity (including both domestic and global diversity): Cultural differences in values, beliefs, and behaviors, including nationality, ethnicity, gender, age, physical characteristics, sexual orientation, economic status, education, profession, religion, organizational affiliation, and any other cultural differences learned and shared by a group of interacting people

Enculturation: The sociological process of raising a child to be a member of a particular culture or cultural group (e.g., immigrant cultures adapting to the U.S. experience). (Enculturation is not to be confused with inculturation, which is a theological and religious process.)

Ethnic Group: Groups that share a common heritage and reflect identification with some collective or reference group, often in a common homeland. (Identification with an ethnic group is reflected in a sense of peoplehood, or the feeling that a person's own destiny is somehow linked with others who share this same ethnic background.)

Ethnic identity: A sense of belonging and identification with one's ancestral ethnic group

Ethnocentrism: The tendency that people have to evaluate others from their own cultural reference

Evangelization: Aimed at both the interior change of individuals and the external change of societies, the Church's evangelizing activity consists of several essential elements: proclaiming, preaching and bearing witness to Christ; teaching Christ; and celebrating Christ's sacraments. The four pillars or basic tasks of evangelization are (1) fostering a personal encounter with Christ; (2) inculturation or the transformation of cultures in light of Christian revelation; (3) liberation or the transformation of the social, economic, and political order by gospel values; and (4) ecumenical and interreligious dialogue in pursuit of unity among all peoples.

Generalization: An assumption that a majority of people in a particular cultural group tend to hold certain values and beliefs and engage in certain patterns of behavior. (This assumption can be supported by research and can be applied broadly to a large percentage of a given population or group.)

Globalization: The process by which nations of the world become connected and interdependent through ties created by electronic communication, rapid means of travel, and interlocking economies

Immigrants: People who voluntarily move to a country of which they are not natives with the purpose of taking up permanent residence

Incarnation: A central theological mystery and doctrine of Christianity that refers to the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son of God, becoming a human being in Jesus of Nazareth, a Galilean Jew, while also remaining God. St. John's Gospel refers to the Incarnation as the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us (see Jn 1:15). This doctrine underlies the Catholic Church's identity and mission, which is to preach the Word of God and thus transform individuals, societies, and cultures in the image of Christ himself. This mystery also provides an example of unity in diversity to the extreme.

Inclusion: The belief in and practice of creating heterogeneous groups and communities in classrooms, churches, and associations (e.g., the practice of teaching students with disabilities in regular classrooms); the opposite of exclusion. (Inclusion holds a certain affinity with the spirit of catholicity. At times, however, there may be quite legitimate reasons to exclude.)

Inculturation: A theological term for the engagement of Sacred Scripture and Church Tradition, especially the Gospel, in which culture is understood as a people's way of thinking, feeling, acting, and being; also called. "evangelization of cultures." This process consists mainly of the transformation of a people's identity and deepest motivations and desires, especially their sacred stories, symbols, and rituals, through dialogue and the power of grace that accompanies the Christian proclamation. This process may pertain to discrete cultures (e.g., Mexican, United States, or Filipino) as well as to the overarching global cultures of modernity or postmodernity.

Indigenous people: People living in an area generally since prehistoric (or pre-European contact) times; related terms include aboriginal people (particularly in Australia) and first-nation people (particularly in Canada)

Integration: The process by which different groups or individuals are brought into a relationship characterized by mutuality and inclusiveness in such a manner as to create real unity in diversity without destroying the particularity and distinctiveness of each member

Intercultural communication: The study of theories and practices related to face-to-face interaction between people whose cultures are significantly different from one another

Intercultural Competence: A set of cognitive (mindset), affective (heartset), and behavioral (skillset) skills and characteristics that support effective and appropriate interaction in various cultural contexts

Marginalization: The practice of excluding a social group from the mainstream of the society, placing that group legally or socially on the "margins" of the society

Melting pot: An image used to describe the process by which distinct cultures are totally assimilated into a new society and cease being what they were

Minority group: A social group that occupies a subordinate position in a society, often experiences discrimination, and may be separated by physical or cultural traits that are disapproved of by the dominant group

Multiculturalism: The re-elaboration of relationships within institutions or organizations as a result of the encounter of diverse cultures within them for the purpose of achieving integration rather than assimilation; a dynamic reality that occurs increasingly in the context of migration and the movement of people. (For the Catholic Church, multiculturalism has always been a fundamental feature of its catholicity and mission to preach the Gospel to all cultures and draw them into a communion in difference or diversity. Multiculturalism, however, has been critiqued for abetting a "one-size-fits-all mentality" in pastoral ministry by creating a situation in which all groups are put into the same basket. This can have a negative effect on diverse communities by depriving them of the exercise of subsidiarity and of opportunities to form their own leaders and develop appropriate pastoral and educational models, resources, and initiatives.)

Narrative: A story that provides a cogent meaning for grasping and transcending one's reality by using imagination and insight to engage one's vision of the world and motivation for living; considered an element constitutive of cultures

New Evangelization: Re-proposing an encounter with Jesus Christ to people and cultures who have already been exposed to Christ and his message but have distanced themselves from them and participation in the life of the Church under the influence of secular society, particularly in Europe and North America. It also involves prayerfully listening to the contemporary world and proclaiming the Good News with renewed ardor, expressions, and methods that are mindful of the opportunities afforded by mass and social media as well as new technology.

Pastoral de conjunto: Planned and collaborative pastoral activity that reflects a serious commitment to inclusivity, communion, and participation while paying attention to the ministerial and ecclesial reality and context. The concept for such activity originated in the thought of the episcopal conferences of Latin America, especially the documents of Medellín and Puebla. It was adopted in America through Encuentro processes and in documents such as the Catholic bishops of the United States' National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry.

People of color:A phrase that refers to non-white minority group members, such as African Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Native Americans, but that also reflects recent demographic realities of the United States; often preferred over the phrase "ethnic minority" because these groups are, in many schools and communities, the majority rather than the minority

Prejudice: Uninformed judgments about others that are often unconscious, harsh, or discriminatory and that involve rejection

Prevailing culture: The culture of the social or political group that holds the most power and influence in a society; sometimes called the dominant culture

Projection: The attribution of one's own ideas, feelings, or attitudes to other people or to objects, especially the externalization of blame, guilt, or responsibility as a defense against anxiety

Race: In a biological sense, the clustering of inherited physical characteristics that favor adaptation to a particular ecological area. (Race is culturally defined in that different societies emphasize different sets of physical characteristics when referring to the concept of race. Thus, race is an important constructed, social characteristic not because of its biology but because of its cultural meaning in any given group or society.)

Racial identity: One's sense of belonging and identification with a racial group; may also refer to the categorization of an individual in terms of a racial group by society or other social groups

Racial profiling: The practice of constructing a set of characteristics or behaviors based on race and then using that set of racially oriented characteristics to decide whether an individual might be guilty of some crime and therefore worthy of investigation or arrest

Racism: A social dysfunction characterized by an inability to see others as brothers and sisters, members of the same human family, because of the color of their skin or some other physical characteristic. (Significantly, racism is a social construct with no foundation in biology or any other science because the human family is so mixed genetically that there are no "pure" races.)

Ritual: A repeatable, often customary action with deep meaning and significance by which persons express and reinforce relationships among themselves or with God; considered a constitutive element of culture

Shared parish: A parish in which distinctive language or cultural groups share a common parish plant. (The term stands in contrast to "multicultural parish," which may raise ideological expectations or reflect a certain understanding as to how the diverse groups there interact or are supposed to interact. The term "shared parish" is neutral and raises fewer expectations.)

Social class: The categorization of individuals in a stratified social system based on characteristics that are often related to (but may not be limited to) child-rearing practices, beliefs, values, economic status, prestige and influence, and general life chances

Stereotypes:Unsubstantiated beliefs about the personal attributes of the members of a group based on inaccurate generalizations that are used to describe all members of the group and that thus ignore individual differences

Symbol: A constitutive element of culture that Gerald A. Arbuckle defines as "emotionally experienced meaning" (Culture, Inculturation, and Theologians, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2010)—that is, a sign expressing some reality in a graphic, emotionally moving, and motivating way (e.g., the U.S. flag, the Cross of Christ, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or the Statue of Liberty)

Theological anthropology: The relationship between human beings and God; the study of the meaning of human beings created in God's image and thus enjoying a special relationship with the divine as well as among themselves insofar as all mankind has but one common Creator, Redeemer, and Liberator: Jesus Christ

White privilege: The tendency of societies to conceptualize matters pertaining to race in terms of the perceptions and interests of the prevailing or dominant community (in the United States, of whites). White privilege is different from prejudice or racism in that it merely gives a special place, or privilege, to the concerns of one group. The features and causes of negative social, economic, or political circumstances faced by non-white people in U.S. society are largely ignored or denied. White privilege is a factor in creating what may be called society's tendency toward "benign neglect." However, this tendency is not exclusive to whites. Any group, if it attains a sustained level of hegemony, may fall prey to this tendency. For instance, in Mexico, which is a largely mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish heritage) nation, one might speak of a "mestizo privilege" that overlooks the realities faced by the indigenous or black people of Mexico.

 


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