Cross-Cultural Communication: International Communication

International Communication: A Process of Discovery

by S.A. Mousalimas
Oxford University

Proceedings of the Conference on Inter-Cultural Communication
Mirny Polytechnic Institute and Sakha (Yakutsk) State University
Mirny, Sakha Republic (Yakutia)
27-28 April 2002

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(3) Adaptation, re-orientation, the third phase

The emergence brings us to the third phase in the analysis, adjustment and re-orientation. One may emerge into this phase if one strives to reach it by becoming engaged with the local population, becoming involved.

This is easier said than done, particularly if the local population is inhospitable. I am not referring now to differing customs of hospitality, which I mentioned earlier. I am referring now to an actual lack of hospitability. The contrast should probably be emphasized.

Earlier in the summary analysis, some customs were mentioned that had been misinterpreted by a sojourner (myself in the example), so that he felt on subconscious levels as if he were disliked by the local population categorically although, in reality, the local population's general attitude toward him was probably no worse than neutral. Now, in contrast, an actual lack of hospitality and an actual distain will become the topic. I will attempt to describe this through another example.

In London during March 2002, I had the good fortune of enjoying lunch with a bright young woman from Yakutsk who was visiting for a spell. She had come from the USA where she was doing a year of graduate studies. She had not gone to a university in a cosmopolitan area of the USA. Instead, she had gone to a university in the Mid-West, a region which is referred to as "Middle America". She arrived there in the aftermath of the bombing of the World Trade Center. She told me that her fellow students avoided her and did not speak to her.

If the description was correct (and I have no reason to doubt the description), if those students really were reluctant or unable to enter into discourse with a lone, bright, young woman, then their reluctance would be all the more absurd in my opinion, I must say, because they were university students of political science and international affairs. Yet, I did understand, because I knew that "Middle Americans" had become overtly xenophobic after the bombing. I was aware that the students' mentality and behavior would have been affected by the "national mood", as it is referred to euphemistically. Mentality and behaviour can be affected to proproportions of sheer irrationality by mass influence and mass conditioning.

She and I talked about the detriment to her fellow students. How many opportunities will they ever have to meet a Sakha (Yakut) intellectual and to learn about the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), the largest autonomous republic in the Russian Federation? She and I agreed that they were forfeiting a valuable experience.

I spoke to her about an opportunity that she must not forfeit. I hope that she will find a way to cross those barriers, and to emerge, because it is vitally important that she should become involved to learn despite the difficulties. To do this, she must allow herself the experience of being a minority, and even a distained minority. That will be difficult.

Permit me to dwell on the difficulty for a moment further. It can be like a crucifixion. One offers oneself, but only to be rejected. One gives oneself, but only to be despised. Yet, deeper levels of truth may unfold, fuller dimensions of life may emerge, for one's self and for the benefit of one's fellows.

An image for this process also exists by analogy in pre-Christian Arctic cosmology. It is the image of the traditional shaman who is subjected to a process of "skeletonization". Entering another world, he or she experiences the dismembering of self, as if being reduced to bare bones, the skeleton. This is painful. Surviving, the person emerges with knowledge of the other world and is able to mediate between worlds.

Is this not the aim, is it not the goal: to emerge with knowledge of another world and to be able to mediate between worlds?

On a conscious level, one must deliberately learn about the other nation, its customs, history, worldview. One must learn about the other's differences from one's own. At subconscious levels, one must allow oneself to experience the differences, especially as one will be a minority among the local population.

Emerging, one finds, sometimes to one's own surprise, that one can mediate between worlds because one has become fluent in both worlds. Customs, attitudes, and ways of thought that were once shocking have become more-or-less normal now for this person in the other world.

Inversely, the everyday, mundane experiences at home no longer appear to be so normal. Even something as simple and mundane as shaking hands at home may no longer appear normal. One gains an ability to see one's home world, now, through a wider vision, or through new eyes.

Ultimately, this person will have gained an ability to cross boundaries and to see.

Continue to the Conclusion


Citation Guidelines for this Page

Mousalimas, S.A., "International Communication: a Process of Discovery", page 4, Cross-Cultural Communication: International Communication, Proceedings of the Mirny Regional Scientific-Practical Conference on Inter-Cultural Communication: Issues of Politics, History, Language and Literature (27-28 April 2002), Mirny Polytechnic Institute and Sakha (Yakutsk) State University, edited by S.A. Mousalimas, 2002, available at http://www.OxfordU.net/mirny/2002/mousalimas04.html.


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