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The Intercultural Mind: Connecting Culture, Cognition, and Global Living Paperback – January 20, 2015
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A fascinating and important book about understanding cross-culturalism. Lively, well-written, incisive, and fun to read.―Robert Whiting, Pulitzer Prize, nominee and bestselling author of Tokyo Underworld
The Intercultural Mind provides an accessible and intelligent introduction to the potential blend of cultural neuroscience and intercultural competence. This topic will surely be influential in the future of the field.―Janet Marie Bennett, Executive Director, Intercultural Communication Institute
Shaules seamlessly compares and intertwines recent neuroscientific research with traditional perspectives and theories. A very readable presentation on how what we currently label cognition and culture interact.―Human Technology: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Humans in ICT Environments
It was about time that someone put it all together in understandable language! Besides the best and latest insights from research around human cognition and culture, Shaules book contains very useful examples that can form a basis for creating and facilitating learning activities. A milestone which will contribute toward the achievement of human peace in our multicultural world.―SIETAR Europa Journal
A much-needed exploration drawing on neuroscience, cultural psychology, and exciting reports from the field. Joseph Shaules goes beyond the excellence of his previous books.―Stefan Meister, Managing Director, Intercultures
About the Author
Joseph Shaules, PhD, has worked in intercultural education in Japan, Mexico, and Europe for more than twenty-five years. He is the director of the Japan Intercultural Institute (JII) and teaches at the Rikkyo College of Business and the Keio University International Center. Shaules is a co-presenter on the NHK Television program "Nyuusu de Eikaiwa." He is also the Japan specialist for a consulting and training company based in Germany. He is the author of several books including A Beginner's Guide to the Deep Culture Experience also published by Intercultural Press. He lives in Tokyo.
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The book written in easily digestible chunks.
Each chapter has a summary of key concepts and a question to consider based on the reading in that chapter.
Shaules provides real life examples of the concepts he is describing.
The scholarly discussions of cognition capture the reader's attention, but, thankfully, he avoids the "daze 'em with data" route. In doing so, the reading is provocative rather than deadly.
He quotes a student who likened the changes she experienced by traveling to a foreign country with losing her virginity. I am sure she said it, but it made the book lose some of its gravitas for me.
This is not the author's fault, but the Kindle version has no page numbers. That makes it very difficult to cite in a student paper.
I think this would make a good text for an undergrad course in intercultural communication.
“Essentialism” has been the term of opprobrium for labeling those models that too easily lead to “stereotyping”, that bête noire of the politically correct. Yes, it was about time that someone made it convincingly clear that what we have been calling culture is a flow, a process that moves into and through the individual all way from inherited DNA to twitchy fingers, both unconsciously and consciously shaping who we are and what we do in order to survive and thrive in each context in which we find ourselves alone or together.
No razor is sharp enough to separate ideas from feelings, past from present, as we create worlds to believe in and then try to cope with the worlds in which we find ourselves. But even “believe” is perhaps too weak a word for the constraint of the constructed realities we thrash about in. Given our intercultural studies endowment, how easy is it to accept this new holistic paradigm? Fortunately The Intercultural Mind arrived on my desk shortly before I had to deliver a series of lectures to several groups of university students, whose classes contained as many as a dozen different nationalities. I started by asking them what their favorite metaphor for culture was, not surprisingly almost all of them were frozen into the iceberg and a rather objectivized view of culture.
While in my teaching I have long abandoned dimensional models for more integrated view of human nature and greater coherence with current findings of cognitive psych and neuroscience, I have struggled and continue to struggle to find and develop insights and tools that will unseat archaic ways of looking things, so embedded in our Western academic rationalism. We are forever “putting Descartes before the horse,” as I like to describe it. Adding insights from Shaules’ book enabled me to create several new forms of discussion in which students were both able to better grasp and in some degree experience how culture was at work in them at both the deep unconscious, intuitive level, and how the conscious, reflective and attentive mind attempts to organize what unconscious culture produces and then strategizes to operate on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis. One of the professors, who invited me to present to her students, remained in my course as an observer and remarked at the end that she could see "the lights going on" as flashes of recognition passed over the faces of various students. In short, besides the best and latest insights from research around human cognition and culture, Shaules’ book contains very useful examples that can both clarify presentations and form a basis for creating and facilitating learning activities.
While there remains much work to be done to create practical tools for learning and behavior based on these improved insights, the book provides encouragement to go forward, not just because of its content, but of because of its organization and clarity. Each chapter, for example, concludes with a short section of “key concepts”, up to five or six of the most critical ideas, which have been defined and discussed in the preceding pages. One could review the book simply by reading this last page of each chapter. The final chapter concludes with a set of tips for the intercultural mind, a sort of “what's next for me" for the reader who wishes to personally implement these ideas and take them further While there is a solid index and the obligatory bibliography, the author has also provided a simple page of "further reading" at the end of the book where key resources drawn on in the book are recommended.
Shaules uses a simple metaphor to connect theory with experience, pointing to that moment when we are dropped into in a new environment and are faced with yet uncomprehended difference. He calls it an "Oz moment”, drawing on the children's book The Wizard of Oz. Though only one or two of my Anglophone students were exposed to this book as children or its film version, the concept was still easy enough to explain. The fact that a number of students had their "Oz moment" in Oz (outsiders’ slang term for Australia) added a touch of humorous comprehension.
Particularly valuable are the insights found in chapters on "The Architecture of Bias" and, "The Language–Culture Connection." The material found here enables the reader and the student to connect the theory of unconscious bias and everyday speech with his or her own experience through simple observation and reflection.
So, thanks and kudos for this book. As the author himself admits we're only inching along a new path enlightened by improved research on how the integrated human being functions and the role of what we call culture in the whole process of living with ourselves and each other. So in sum, I see this book as a milestone along an endless winding road to further research and better self-understanding, which will contribute toward the achievement of global aspirations for an ecology of human peace in our multicultural world.
Each of Shaules’ chapters is headed by a quotation, not from famous authors or interculturalists, but drawn from moments of enlightenment experienced by his own students. The final PowerPoint of my lectures also suits this work. In the words of Miguel de Unamuno: Dediquémonos a ser padres del porvenir; que del pasado ya somos hijos. [“Let us commit ourselves to be the parents of the future; for we are already children of the past.”]
I especially appreciate the concepts of the intuitive and reflective mind. Most interculturalists work (only) with the reflective mind, forgetting about the importance of the intuitive mind. Combining the two is the challenge for anyone who needs to be interculturally competent, and in our globalizing world we need more and more intercultural effective professionals. Ã must read!