LSCS 3113: Introduction to World Cultural Studies
Did you know that it is insulting to sprinkle salt on your food in Egypt? Or that showing up on time in Venezuela can make you look overeager? When in a new, unfamiliar environment – on a business trip or vacation in a foreign locale, for example – it is important to keep the customs of the culture you are visiting in mind. Cross-cultural encounters in these situations may be rewarding and productive, or fraught with tension and misunderstanding, depending on the degree to which the cultural visitor is able to assess the cultural environment. The basic skills that allow us to communicate effectively with those of other cultures and nationalities form the foundation of what we call cultural fluency.
This class familiarizes students with cultural fluency – what it is, what it does and how it can help them progress toward their goals. Cultural fluency is the ability to understand and effectively participate in the hidden cultural currents of communication. It is an awareness of the ways culture operates in communication and in conflict, as well as the ability to respond effectively to these differences. Effective communicators can use language to connect with others, transcend cultural rules and gauge how they feel and flow in communication.
Students in this course are introduced to key cultural studies concepts and sociocultural processes to help them develop the practical skills of cultural fluency. This includes a wide array of cultural groups and current and emerging local, national, regional and global issues. Although required materials include several carefully chosen academic journal articles and texts, a greater emphasis is placed on novels, documentaries, full-length films, short video lectures and interviews, recent news items, selected artistic works, music and primary documents.
Students leave the class with a thorough understanding of cultural fluency and the ability to use the “cultural fluency toolkit” to thrive in any foreign environment. This is useful in any number of cultural affairs, from providing aid in a remote village in Afghanistan to exploring a Hong Kong night market. In any foreign travel scenario, basic knowledge of culture forms the foundation for effective interaction among people with unfamiliar beliefs, customs, traditions and values. This class gives students the tools they need to do just that.
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