Emerging Generation Embraces Culture Care Role
Around the world, today’s economically emerging generation is in a strong position that none would have envisioned. In electronic books, via online networks, and on their phones, access to information and knowledge on nearly any culture and any cultural preference or cultural expression is easy, natural, and free. The meaning of Shakkei? Check. The birthplace of Alexander Hamilton? Check. The latest reviews of Nigerian Afropunk? Check.
It may be a huge blessing to have those riches available at any time. Only two decades ago, business men and women from the USA or France travelling to Korea or China to make new deals, were flying blind. They knew little or nothing about the people and culture they were about to do business with. But between tradition and a vast repertoire of possibility, the knowledge wealth of today’s emerging generation is certainly a blessing in disguise.
Culture Care Training
Last week I gave a training to a group of highly culturally diverse emerging South African adults on issues related to culture care. Taking inspiration from the 2014 book Culture Care by Makoto Fujimura, I let my trainees explore the idea of a border-stalker, someone at the outer rims of a culture or community. According to Fujimura, border-stalkers would be in a perfect position to “become leaders who make possible the reunification of divided kingdoms” (page 60) and be “messengers of hope and reconciliation to a divided culture” (page 58). Essentially, taking initiative in the modern world of work while protecting valued cultural traditions, brings lessons home from “out there” about themselves.
During the training there was visible delight. My trainees were directly receptive to the idea of becoming culture carers in their future work and engaged highly with each other in discussing the requirements for culturally safe places and ways to create fit for cultural mixers and movers (to borrow a phrase of Hubert Hermans & Harry Kempen, 1998). The embrace of culture care may be indicative of this emerging generation, battling with questions of belonging and inclusion, rather than selecting the right cultural option at the right time from a larger repertoire.
One trainee’s reminder of the child rearing practices in black communities stood out in illustrating a division in cultural intelligence. While the accepted idea of cultural intelligence speaks of an outsider’s mindfulness about isolated differences to help one choose the correct behavioral alternative in a given cultural setting (Soon Ang & Linn Van Dyne, 2008), the trainee’s story of rural villages tells of women together looking after all children, of participating in practices that make one truly fit in culturally. As members of a community taking initiative, showing responsibility, and assuming a generous role in the generation and spreading of their culture.
Not surprising giving the religious nature of South African society as a whole, Church is a universal safe place in the home context, including set time for prayer and the observation of important dates in the Church calendar. Here is strong association with fun and ease. Work, on the other hand, is associated with seriousness. Mindfulness of diversity is seen as requiring overt effort, including a need to learn to observe and the exhibition of cultures represented in the organization through Heritage days. But the inherent connection between cultures should be fertile ground.
What I saw is that the emerging adults I trained exhibited a strong distraction from cultural differences and instead great enthusiasm and a positive drive for culture care. And this is exciting. Moving from early adulthood to the next generation of economic and cultural providers, they are keen to find and utilize deeper, more connecting cross-cultural psychology knowledge about relations and similarities between cultures, about ecological validity and contextualization, giving them the scaffolds on which to build and shape the future of their work and their communities.