My husband Brad has been studying a social science approach regarding culturally-marginalized people. I thought I’d pass along a very well-written blog post to those of you who are interested. The name of the blog is “The Irrational Season“, and I suggest that everybody click the link to visit it.
Lecturing About “Songs of My Families” and Adoption Issues
The post is about the concepts of “encapsulated” and “constructive” marginals. Dr. Janet Bennett, a communications specialist, provides perspectives to help adoptees, minorities, and others who are required to stratal two or more cultures. I hope to study Dr. Bennett’s work when I’m not so busy with my Adlerian studies.
Thanks to C’HAV at “The Irrational Season” for providing a great synopsis. Notice that Dr. Bennett offers a point of view designed to help refugees, immigrants, and others besides international adoptees:
While at the Families in Global Transition Conference last year I was able to hear intercultural communication specialist, Dr. Janet Bennett, discussing ‘cultural marginality’. She defines this term as ” a cultural lifestyle at the edges where two or more cultures meet”. Cultural marginals would include (among others) refugees and immigrants, global nomads/TCKs and long-term adult sojourners in other cultures. Marginals living in this liminal space can be either encapsulated or constructive.
Encapsulated marginals, at core, have difficulty constructing a cohesive cultural identity. These individuals struggle to switch between the different frames of reference required by each culture they encounter; usually due to conflicting cultural cues and loyalties that remain unresolved. Encapsulated marginals may experience:
- Difficulty in making decisions and sticking to them
- Alienation from both/all cultures experienced
- A feeling of constant and isolating uniqueness
- Difficulty establishing boundaries
- Difficulty in identifying personal truths that plays out in an extreme ‘live and let live’ stance
- Never, ever feeling at home
Constructive marginals, on the other hand, live in a state of what Muneo Yoshikawa calls, “dynamic in-betweenness”. Rather than the either/or identity of encapsulation these individuals are able to live in a both/and state of integration of their various cultures. As Bennett says, ” By maintaining control of choice and the construction of boundaries, a person may become a constructive marginal. This individual is able to construct context intentionally and consciously for the purpose of creating his or her own identity.” Constructive marginals may experience:
- Knowledge of which cultural framework to use in making
- A feeling of authenticity in all of his/her cultures
- Cultural curiosity and a happy acknowledgement of
- A clear sense and understanding of personal truth
- A recognition of their reference group: other cultural
- A sincere understanding that one is never not at home in the world
As the incomparable Pico Iyer says,
“…the fact remains that humans have never lived with quite this kind of mobility and uprootedness before….A lack of affiliation may mean a lack of accountability, and forming a sense of commitment can be hard without a sense of community. Displacement can encourage the wrong kinds of distance, and if the nationalism we see sparking up around the globe arises from too narrow and fixed a sense of loyalty, the internationalism that’s coming to birth may reflect too roaming and undefined a sense of belonging. The Global Soul may see so many sides of every question that he never settles on a firm conviction; he may grow so used to giving back a different self according to his environment that he loses sight of who he is when nobody’s around. Even the most basic questions have to be answered by him alone, and when, on the planes where he may make his home, the cabin attendant passes down the aisle with disembarkation forms, it may be dificult for him to fill in any of the boxes: “Home Address,” ” Citizenship,” “Purpose of Visit,” even “Marital Status.”
I can answer almost any of these questions from a variety of perspectives…. But though this can be a natural- and useful- enough impulse in response to the question, “Where do you come from?” it becomes more treacherous in answer to the question “Where do you stand?”