Synthesis Paper

Length: 2 pages
Choose two theories and/or articles from class from the second half of our semester and describe what you have
learned about yourself cross-culturally in terms of the ideas in these two theories/articles. Write one page, more if you
like, about each theory/article for a minimum of 2 pages. Please discuss specific, personal cross-cultural experiences you
have had with regard for each of the two theories/articles you choose from class. As your other papers, you should have a
combination of a discussion of the theories themselves interspersed with examples from your own experience. Celebrate
your learning from this semester!
In this essay, please answer the following questions. Be sure to repeat the prompt in the question without writing out the question itself in your essay. 1. What has your experience been of this theory and your experience here in the U.S.?
Repeat Prompt:
My experience of theory X here in the U.S. is . . . 2. Name one specific feeling, emotion, thought and/or sensation you have had from your use of this theory. Why? 3. What is/are the specific learning/s you have had from this theory? Why is this theory important for you in your experience here in the U.S. 4. How will you be applying your learnings from this theory to specific actions you take in the near and distant future?
Give reasons and examples of your specific actions.You can use such as family history and national history as the two theories and you can find all the info in the word doc.

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Americans ignore history, for to them everything has always seemed new under the sun. The national myth is that of
creativity and progress, of a steady climbing upward into power and prosperity, both for the individual and for the
country as a whole. Americans see history as a straight line
and themselves standing at the cutting edge of it as representatives for all mankind. They believe in the future as if it
were a religion; they believe that there is nothing they cannot accomplish, that solutions wait somewhere for all
In writing about the Vietnam War, Frances FitzGerald (1972), a journalist, con- trasted the U.S. orientation to
history with the Vietnamese cultural orientation. This difference in orientation to the past framed the Vietnam
conflict in a very narrow way for the United States. This contrasts greatly with the Vietnamese view of his- tory,
especially in the context of their struggles against outside aggression over thousands of years.
You may think it odd to find a chapter about history in a book on intercultural communication. After all, what does
the past have to do with intercultural interac- tion? In this chapter, we discuss how the past is a very important facet
of intercul- tural communication.
The history that we know and our views of that history are very much influ- enced by our culture. When people of
different cultural backgrounds encounter one another, the differences among them can become hidden barriers to
com- munication. However, people often overlook such dynamics in intercultural com- munication. We typically
think of “history” as something contained in history books. We may view history as those events and people, mostly
military and political, that played significant roles in shaping the world of today. This chapter examines some of the
ways in which history is important in understanding inter- cultural interaction. Many intercultural interactions
involve a dialectical interplay between past and present.
We have found, in the classes we teach, that European American students often want to deemphasize history. “Why
do we have to dwell on the past? Can’t we all move on?” they ask. In contrast, some other students argue that
without history it is impossible to understand who they are. How do these different viewpoints affect the
communication among such students? What is the possibility for meaningful com- munication interactions among
On a larger scale, we can see how history influences intercultural interaction in many different contexts. For
example, the ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians makes little sense without an understanding
of the historical relations among the different groups that reside in the area. Historical antagonisms help explain the
present-day animosity felt by many Pakistanis toward Indians. Disputes over the Kashmir region, Indian
participation in the struggle for inde- pendence of Bangladesh, and conflicts over the Himalayas underscore deeprooted bases for strife.
How we think about the past very much influences how we think about our- selves and others even here in the
United States. Judith went to college in south- ern Virginia after growing up in Delaware and Pennsylvania. She was
shocked to
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encounter the antipathy that her dormitory suitemates expressed toward northerners. The suitemates stated
emphatically that they had no desire to visit the North; they felt certain that “Yankees” were unfriendly and
unpleasant people.
For Judith, the Civil War was a paragraph in a history book; for her suitemates, that historical event held a more
important meaning. It took a while for friend- ships to develop between Judith and her suitemates. In this way, their
interactions demonstrated the present–past dialectic. Indeed, this exemplifies the central focus of this chapter: that
various histories contextualize intercultural communication. Taking a dialectical perspective enables us to
understand how history positions people in different places from which they can communicate and understand other
people’s messages.
Earlier in this book, we set forth six dialectical tensions that we believe drive much intercultural interaction. In this
chapter, we focus on the history/past–present/ future dialectic. As you will see, culture and cultural identities are
intimately tied to history because they have no meaning without history. Yet there is no single version of history; the
past has been written in many different ways. For example, your own family has its version of family history that
must be placed in dialectical tension with all of the other narratives about the past. Is it important to you to feel
positive about who your forebears were and where they came from? We often feel a strong need to identify in
positive ways with our past even if we are not inter- ested in history. The stories of the past, whether accurate or not,
help us under- stand why our families live where they do, why they own or lost land there, and so on. We experience
this dialectical tension between the past, the present, and the future every day. It helps us understand who we are and
why we live and commu- nicate in the ways we do.
In this chapter, we first discuss the various histories that provide the contexts in which we communicate: political,
intellectual, social, family, national, and cul- tural-group histories. We then describe how these histories are
intertwined with our various identities, based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, and so on. We introduce
two identities that have strong historical bases: diasporic and colonial. We pay particular attention to the role of
narrating our personal histories. As you read this chapter, think about the importance of history in constructing your
own identity and the ways in which the past–present dialectic helps us understand different identi- ties for others in
various cultural groups. Finally, we explore how history influences intercultural communication.
Many different kinds of history influence our understanding of who we are—as individuals, as family members, as
members of cultural groups, and as citizens of a nation. To understand the dialectics in everyday interaction, we
need to think about the many histories that help form our different identities. These his- tories necessarily overlap
and influence each other. For example, when Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba in the 1950s, some Cubans left
Cuba and came to the United States. Today, the families that departed and those that have stayed
Chapter 4 / History and Intercultural Communication 123
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124 Part I / Foundations of Intercultural Communication
political histories
Written histories that focus on political events.
intellectual histories
Written histories that focus on the develop- ment of ideas.
FIGURE 4-1 In the United States, the history of racially segregated facilities extends well beyond drinking
fountains. Drinking fountains were not segregated by sexual orientation, gender, or some other cultural difference but by race alone. What are some other facilities that were once racially segregated? How does that
history help us understand race rela- tions today? Do you know how your family experienced racial privilege
and discrimination in the United States? (© Bettmann/Getty Images)
have a complex relationship and a desire to reunite. “When Mr. Obama fulfilled that promise with a policy change in
2009, a rush to Cuba began. Now more than 400,000 Cuban-Americans go annually. When Mr. Castro later signaled
a shift of his own, no longer calling exiles gusanos, or worms, […] the divide between Cuban and Cuban-American,
between exile and loyalist, eased further away” (Cave, 2016). Political histories tell the story of that exodus but not
necessar- ily the story of every family, even though many families’ histories were very much influenced by that
event. Identifying the various forms of historical con- texts is the first step in understanding how history affects
communication. (See Figure 4-1.)
Political, Intellectual, and Social Histories
Some people restrict their notion of history to documented events. Although we can- not read every book written,
we do have greater access to written history. When these types of history focus on political events, we call them
political histories. Written histories that focus on the development of ideas are often called intellectual histories.
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Some writers seek to understand the everyday life experiences of various groups in the past; what they document are
called social histories.
Although these types of history seem more manageable than the broad notion of history as “everything that has
happened before now,” we must also remember that many historical events never make it into books. For example,
the strict laws that forbade teaching slaves in the United States to read kept many of their stories from being
documented. Absent history, of course, does not mean the people did not exist, their experiences do not matter, or
their history has no bearing on us today. To consider such absent histories requires that we think in more complex
ways about the past and the ways it influences the present and the future.
Absent history is also the result of concealing the past. One important way that this happens is when the past is
deliberately erased or hidden. Until July 2016, the U.S. government had kept 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission’s
report hidden or unavailable to the public. Under tremendous public pressure, the U.S. government finally released
the hidden 28 pages. In contrast, the report that looked into the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba has remained
classified and unavailable to the public. Our understanding of the history and the role of the Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) remains a part of hidden history. After so many decades, many people wonder why the role of the
U.S. government in this invasion should remain a part of absent history.
Altered history is another way that influences how we see ourselves and others. In altered history, the past is
changed to fit particular worldviews and interests. In this sense, history is not a series of facts to be memorized, but
a place where the past can be used for present interests and goals. Altered history is not the same as alternative
history. Alternative history is a fictional genre in which authors try to speculate on what the world would look like if
particular scenarios in the past had happened, for example, the South won the Civil War, Germany and Japan won
World War II. Altered history is often presented in textbooks where “There is a constant tension between those who
believe that textbooks exist to promote fervent patriotism and those who believe that they exist to promote
dispassionate analysis” (Gardner, 2014). Recent textbook controversies have erupted over the ways that the past is
portrayed not only in Japanese textbooks, but also Korean, Chinese, German, U.S. American, and Saudi Arabian,
among others. Another recent revelation is that the ancient Egyptian pharaoh, Hatshep- sut, was one of several early
female pharaohs. In 2016, the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities announced recent research that: “In the reign of
Thutmosis III, all mentions of her name were erased and all representations of her female figure were replaced by
images of a male king, her deceased husband Thutmosis II” (Izadi, 2016). In this case, the past is not erased, but
altered to construct a differ- ent, gendered view of the pharaohs.
Family Histories
Family histories occur at the same time as other histories but on a more personal level. They often are not written
down but are passed along orally from one genera- tion to the next. Some people do not know which countries or
cities their families
social histories Writ- ten histories that focus on everyday life experi- ences of various groups in the past.
absent history Any part of history that was not recorded or that
is missing. Not every- thing that happened in the past is accessible to us today because only some voices were
documented and only some perspectives were recorded.
altered history Some- times historical events are changed in order to serve particular ideological goals.
This communication practice results in a revised history.
Chapter 4 / History and Intercultural Communication 125
family histories Histo- ries of individual fami- lies that are typically passed down through oral stories.
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126 Part I / Foundations of Intercultural Communication
national history
A body of knowl- edge based on past events that influ- enced a country’s development.
emigrated from or what tribes they belonged to or where they lived in the United States. Other people place great
emphasis on knowing that their ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War, survived the Holocaust, or traveled the
Trail of Tears when the Cherokees were forcibly relocated from the Southeast to present-day Oklahoma. Many of
these family histories are deeply intertwined with ethnic-group histories, but the family histories identify each
family’s participation in these events.
Sometimes, family histories shed some light on well-known figures. In his autobiography, Dreams From My Father,
Barak Obama recounts his family’s history from his mother’s family in Kansas and their migration to Hawaii to his
father’s Kenyan family and his connection to them. Although he did not have much contact with his father’s family
until after his father passed away, his visit to Kenya thrust him back into that part of his family history. More
recently, on a visit to Ireland, Obama went to the town where his forebearer, Falmouth Kearney, a shoemaker, lived
before immigrating to the United States in 1850 (Mason & Halpin, 2011). His family history is one of immigration
and migration that is one part of U.S. history.
Michelle Obama’s family reflects a very different family history that is entwined in another part of the nation’s
story: slavery. The New York Times traced her fam- ily history and found: “the more complete map of Mrs. Obama’s
ancestors— including the slave mother, white father and their biracial son, Dolphus T. Shields—for the first time
fully connects the first African-American first lady to the history of slavery, tracing their five-generation journey
from bondage to a front-row seat to the presidency” (Swarns & Kantor, 2009). Think about how these family
histories inform us and the Obamas about their past, as well as their place in the United States and in the world.
You might talk to members of your own family to discover how they feel about your family’s history. Find out, for
example, how family history influences their perceptions of who they are. Do they wish they knew more about their
family? What things has your family continued to do that your forebears probably also did? Do you eat some of the
same foods? Practice the same religion? Celebrate birthdays or weddings in the same way? The continuity between
past and present often is taken for granted.
National Histories
The history of any nation is important to the people of that nation. We typically learn national history in school. In
the United States, we learn about the founding fathers—George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay,
Alexander Hamilton, and so on—and our national history typically begins with the arrival of Europeans in North
America in the 16th century.
U.S. citizens are expected to recognize the great events and the so-called great people (mostly men of European
ancestry) who were influential in the development of the nation. In history classes, students learn about the
Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine, the War of 1812, the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, the Great Depression,
Franklin D. Roosevelt, and so on. They are told stories, verging on myths, that give life to these events and figures.
For example, students learn about Patrick Henry’s
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“give me liberty or give me death” speech even though the text of the speech was collected by a biographer who
“pieced together twelve hundred words from scattered fragments that ear witnesses remembered from twenty years
before” (Thonssen, Baird, & Braden, 1970, p. 335). Students also learn about George Washington having chopped
down a cherry tree and confessing his guilt (“I cannot tell a lie”), although there’s no evidence of this story’s truth.
National history gives us a shared notion of who we are and solidifies our sense of nationhood. Although we may
not fit into the national narrative, we are expected to be familiar with this particular telling of U.S. history so we can
understand the many
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The history of slavery is an important part of U.S. history. Why is there no federally funded museum about slavery?
One man’s approach is to undertake the project himself.
“A nation builds museums to understand its own history and to have its history understood by others, to create a
common space and language to address collectively what is too difficult to process individually. Forty-eight years
after World War II, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opened in Washington. A museum dedicated to
the September 11 terrorist attacks opened its doors in Lower Manhattan less than 13 years after they occurred. One
hun- dred and fifty years after the end of the Civil War, however, no federally funded museum dedicated to slavery
exists, no monument honoring America’s slaves.” Thirty-five miles west of New Orleans, along Louisiana’s River
Road, John Cummings, a wealthy white man, purchased the Whitney Plantation with the goal of telling the story of
slavery. Among the plantations along River Road, the “most conspicuous are those that have been restored for
tourists, transport- ing them into a world of bygone Southern grandeur—one in which mint juleps, manicured
gardens, and hoop skirts are emphasized over the fact that such grandeur was made possible by the enslavement of
black human beings.” In contrast, the Whitney Plantation has been turned into a museum about slavery. “What
makes slavery so difficult to think about, from the vantage point of history, is that it was both at odds with America’s
founding values—freedom, liberty, democracy—and critical to how they flourished. The Declaration
of Independence proclaiming that “all men are created equal” was drafted by men who were afforded the time to
debate its language because the land that enriched many of them was tended to by slaves. The White House and the
Capitol were built, in part, by slaves.” Cummings feels that the history of slavery is too important to ignore and
notes, “But just in case you’re worried about people getting distracted by the pretty house over there, the last thing
you’ll see before leaving here will be 60 beheaded slaves.”
Source: From D. Amsden, “Building the first slavery museum in America.” New York Times, February 26, 2015. Retrieved April
15, 2016, from /building-the-first-slave-museum-in-america.html?_r=0.
128 Part I / Foundations of Intercultural Communication
cultural-group histories The history of each cultural group within a nation that includes, for example, the history of
where the group originated, why the people migrated, and how they came to develop and maintain their cultural traits.
references used in communication. It is one way of constructing cultural discourses. Yet U.S. students seldom learn
much about the histories of other nations and cultures unless they study the languages of those countries. A …
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