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This core of empirical investigation addresses the issues of cultural understanding of the others from the perspective of temporary immigrants to foreign societies whose goals involve some form of intervention into the society of the others. Human history is that of persisting contact between cultures that is accomplished by goals-directed agents—who encounter “culture shocks” and misunderstandings in their efforts to carry out their missions. In our era of globalization such inter-cultural frictions between persons who encounter one another in the everyday life goals-oriented settings are likely to increase. Mass communication media can escalate such local mutual non-understandings to global proportions and trigger chain reactions in other social contexts and societies. Knowledge of the processes of meaning-making about “the others” in the context of divergent goals-orientation is needed both for general knowledge base in cultural psychology, and for preparation of practitioners who are expected to “go onto the field” to accomplish their missions under potentially complicated social circumstances.
Negotiating Social Role Distance: this sub-project focuses on how Danish international help workers relate with their own (and others’) domestic staff in India. This includes cultural contrasts of a visitor with high social status with helping staff who in the local context come from the lower social status groups in the local context. Social representations of the visitors and their staff of one another will be investigated, together with the ethnographic study of everyday tasks in which discrepancies of worldviews are demonstrable. This generates new insights into how people manage to live meaningfully “between societies”, which could prove invaluable to future integration policies. A parallel investigation will be planned to be carried out in Brazil on the role of the domestico (the family servant) in the world views of social class relations.
Dynamic Models of Interventions: this sub-project will be devoted to analyzing the dynamics of social power relations within the field of education and health care of the Amerindian communities in Brazil. The reception of medical and educational services by Amerindian communities in Brazil has been deeply ambivalent—appreciating the technological and organizational benefits on the one hand, while resisting the interventions into the traditional cultural ways of being, by the very same acts of intervention. The goal is to arrive at a generalized model of the processes of intervention in social settings with varied and dynamically changing goal orientations of all participants.
Experiencing Intervening Institutions: this sub-project will analyse the experiences of Danish (and other European) workers of NGOs and governmental international aid organizations both during their work in the field, as well as after their return to the home country. The ambivalences between the cultural backgrounds of the workers and those of the recipient communities are the focus of analysis. The project will also look at how workers creatively adapt to their institutional role within the foreign setting and the difficulties they encounter there. The study will be done in collaboration with African and Middle East Refugee Assistance (AMERA), a Cairo based NGO that employs a balance of foreigners and Egyptians.
Personal Memories of Cultural Intervention: this sub-project brings the narrative history interdisciplinary focus to the fore. Recorded experience is necessarily narrative in form and as such is shaped to the cultural conventions. When the experience is of unfamiliar material, as when a person enters a new culture, these tendencies take center stage. The sub-project will collect historical recordings of the ordinary lives of families of aid workers of various kinds and from various historical periods. The analytic focus will be on how the unfamiliar is made familiar as well as on the cultural conflicts reported and attempted efforts to overcome them.