Film Review: Emperor

MV5BMjI4OTcwMTY3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTI1MzcxOQ@@._V1_SX214_AL_Our family watched a movie the other night that we all thoroughly enjoyed, and it as such an excellent cross-cultural film!

Emperor tells the supposedly true story of the USA’s decisions about whether or not to try (and hang) Emperor Hirohito after Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. Since I have always referenced the post-war reconstruction of Japan as “best practice” in ending a war, restoring a nation, and building an alliance (a lay person’s opinion, as politics and the military are in no way my specialties), I found this film particularly enlightening. It is a joint US-Japan production.

Emperor was released in the USA in 2012 and in Japan in 2013, but somehow just made it to my attention here in Mexico. Thank goodness it did! It stars Matthew Fox as Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, a Japan expert, and Tommy Lee Jones as General Douglas MacArthur (Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers), along with a host of Japanese actors.

The film captures the emotional torment
of a person attempting to bridge two cultures:
how could he be truthful, gain and maintain credibility with
both Japanese and US Americans, remain true to himself,
and yet do the right thing?

Though there are quite a few Hollywood clichés, I absolutely loved the insight into Japanese culture that Fellers demonstrates in the movie—it’s a great example of practical application of culture-specific knowledge. The film captures very well the emotional torment of a person attempting to bridge two cultures, particularly in such a sensitive situation: how could he be truthful, gain and maintain credibility with both Japanese and US Americans, remain true to himself, and yet do the right thing? The movie shows some  of the post-war devastation of Japan, the dignity of its people, and the wisdom that, fortunately, prevailed.

I believe there is much to learn here, and I hope our US military will use this film as required viewing as part of its officer training. I so often talk about the need for expats to “manage up” rather than just “manage down,” and Emperor is a terrific case study of how one general did just that.

The movie also includes a bit of love story, as Fellers tries to rekindle his relationship with Aya, a foreign exchange student he originally met at Earlham College in Indiana. Emperor is based on Shiro Okamoto’s book, His Majesty’s Salvation.

It is interesting that the movie never points out that Fellers was a Quaker, something about his background that I imagine was key to his decision making and his style, or that he was the official liaison with the Imperial Household. It is also encouraging that even with so little knowledge of the culture, he was able to do so much good. That is assuming, of course, that the movie is in any way accurate.

 

SPOILER ALERT
My one complaint about the movie is that the closing credits note that Fellers was “demoted” from being a general. This, to me, is a classic misuse of a true statement. The filmmakers should either have added an explanation or omitted this statement entirely. Sharing it in its brevity misleads and implies negativity.

The fact is that after World War II the military reduced the ranks, cutting the titles of 212 generals, because it was no longer wartime and the military no longer had a need for so many generals. Fellers reverted to colonel, but retired with the brigadier general title.

 

Using Army Recruitment Ads to Develop Cross-Cultural Skills

Terracotta ArmyLooking for exercises and activities for practicing cross-cultural skills? We at Cultural Detective emphasize that intercultural competence takes practice, is a practice, and cross-training with alternative approaches can help develop strong skills. Here is an approach that I personally never would have thought of, but it is really powerful!

Marion Burgheimer, a very active contributor to our Cultural Detective community, recently shared with us a selection of army recruitment ads from around the world. “Army recruitment ads?!” was my initial thought. I’ve used advertising clips, movie clips, but I for one never would have thought of this approach. Yet, Marion is based in Israel, and for me it makes perfect sense that this approach would be born from that experience. Take a look at the ads and you’ll see what I mean. The differences are astounding.

Marion tells us these ads are terrific tools for learning the skills for discerning what is important to the people with whom we live, work, and in other ways collaborate. The videos are embedded below.

Thank you for your generosity, Marion! Together we can enable equitable, sustainable cross-cultural collaboration!

Activity Instructions:

  1. Have students or participants view the films, then complete one side of a Cultural Detective Worksheet, in order to practice discerning the values at play in the ads, and link them with the messages and wording those values stimulate. Both are important skills that require practice.
  2. As a second step, encourage users to reference the corresponding CD Values Lenses, to see if they provide further clues about and depth of insight into the national values at play in the ads. You can find those Values Lenses in the Cultural Detective Online system.

Australia: (embedding is disabled for this one; just click through)

India

Japan

Lebanon

Russia

USA

Please share with us some of the values you see inherent in these various recruitment ads!

Tango! Kabuki! Bollywood! Jazz! What Do They Have in Common?

TangoKabukiJazzBollywood(English followed by Español, 日本語版 and हिंदी संस्करण, below)

Tango! Kabuki! Bollywood! Jazz! You have to admit they all sound exciting—full of life, excitement, drama and…culture. Each is currently the basis of a hugely lucrative industry, and many of us greatly enjoy at least one of these art forms.

But what do the histories of these four forms of entertainment—from such divergent places on our planet—have in common?

Each has its origins among the poor, underprivileged and marginalized of society. And each was, at some point, much maligned and considered improper and lacking decorum. Several of these now-popular forms of entertainment were banned, some more than once, before they grew in popularity and finally gained respectability.

  • Tango, born in the latter part of the 1800s amidst the docks of Buenos Aires, was originally played and danced by poor immigrants. The middle and upper classes were first exposed to tango in bars and brothels. While we can easily imagine they secretly enjoyed it, tango wasn’t something one openly listened to or danced in “polite company.” Given such humble roots, I was shocked at the price of a “tango show” ticket when in Buenos Aires recently!
  • Kabuki, perhaps the most famous form of traditional Japanese entertainment, began in the 1600s among the common people, and was originally performed outdoors on a riverbed. Kabuki was invented and performed by women, often prostitutes, and later by adolescent boys, many times prostitutes as well. Prior to that point, theater in Japan had been for aristocrats only, and primarily involved the very slow-moving noh. Kabuki has come a long way, baby.
  • Bollywood, the Hindi film industry based in Mumbai, rose to prominence during the 1900s, and is only a part of the huge Indian film industry. It has long been seen as a caricature, as melodramatic and unrealistic—not to be respected like classical Indian dance and theater. Yet, these days, you can travel anywhere in the world and enjoy a Bollywood film. The industry has introduced Indian culture to the world, while it speaks to universals such as love and loss.
  • Jazz began in the southern USA from African American roots. Its beginnings can be traced to traditional African music turned into work songs and “field hollers.” The music evolved amidst the injustice of slavery, spirituality that provided the hope of redemption, and courage to face adversity on the quest for freedom. What was to become jazz moved from the fields to the brothels and bars, and eventually was “discovered” and is now respected, admired and played worldwide.

Why are these seemingly very different topics on my mind? If you read this blog regularly, you know that I recently had the pleasure of visiting Argentina, and there I learned about the history of the tango—the first thread. I know about the history of kabuki from the years I lived in Japan, and the similarity of histories intrigued me. Pondering the history of jazz, I noted three similar threads. Then, just yesterday, Lord Meghnad Desai’s article about Bollywood crossed my desk, and it occurred to me that perhaps these threads weren’t just coincidence; I’d better pay attention!

In my academic discipline, intercultural communication, some refer to the concepts of “big C” and “little c” culture (Bennett, 1998). Culture with a capital “C” usually means the objective aspects of a culture, that which is visible and overt. This includes the art, music, dance, etc.—the artifacts of culture, if you will. It also includes what it is that people say and do, the observable ways culture is expressed through its members’ behavior in daily life. This idea correlates with the “Words and Actions” section of a Cultural Detective Worksheet.

In contrast, “little c” culture refers to shared customs, norms, communication styles, values,  assumptions, etc. This subjective part of culture is generally hidden, expressing itself in the verbal and nonverbal behavior of its members. Subjective culture is what lies beneath the behaviors, that is, why people do what they do, and correlates with the “Values, Beliefs and Cultural Common Sense” portion of a Cultural Detective Worksheet.

In some way, I reflected, each of these four art forms derived from an expression of “little c” culture that morphed into “big C” Culture, usually over some decades. Could this be the way of the world?

I first moved to Mexico in the 1970s as a foreign student, and was thrilled to live in Coyoacán, home to both Frida Kahlo and “La Malinche”! I was saddened to learn, however, that both these facts seemed disturbing or embarrassing to my host family; to me it appeared that there was little pride in national traditions or “things Mexican.” People with money purchased European designer brands and housewares; handmade and “artesenal” were looked down upon as signs you couldn’t afford “better.”

How happy I am to be living in Mexico again, and to find that now traditional arts and crafts, and local heritage and traditions, are much more celebrated. This perceived change would seem to echo the question I’d begun asking myself about if and how “culture” evolves into “Culture.”

What, if any, are the characteristics shared by these initially despised but now-celebrated art forms? Each involves overacting, melodrama, emotion, and exaggeration. Usually their themes revolve around the pain of injustice, and, frequently, love spurned, often due to class differences.

While researching these four forms of entertainment for this blog post, I realized the best part: each is a product of the creativity that comes about when cultures begin mixing and changing! Perhaps those often viewed as marginal and on the outskirts of a culture can have a powerful influence on the evolution of the culture. And, just maybe, this intermingling of different peoples in similar difficult circumstances can spark enormous creativity.

As The Jillbrary tells us, Bollywood is an intentional hybrid. It does “not speak to just one religious group, language, geographical area, or caste (as unrealistic as that may be)… The music incorporates styles from various traditions—North Indian and Carnatic classical, light classical, religious, and folk music, Hollywood, Latin, Chinese, and reggae. In Bollywood films, Muslims marry Hindus, Hindus marry Christians, and people from different societal classes can succeed and collaborate.”

Likewise, jazz is a hybrid, born out of African Americans living a marginalized experience, straddling two or more cultures, and dealing with powerlessness. What creativity and power that combination brought forth!

Tango and kabuki both rose to prominence alongside (or inside) brothels, and involved bending and blending of gender identities—in tango men teach men the dance steps, and in modern kabuki male actors play all the roles regardless of gender. Needless to say, these innovations emerged from the margins or edges of the culture; they were not initially activities of “mainstream” society (and thus, were not regarded as “art”)!

I find this tapestry intriguing. There are so many art forms, “Culture,” that originated with those living on the “fringes” of society. Often poor, underprivileged, and lacking resources, it may take time for mainstream culture to recognize such artistic contributions. When I grew up in the US Southwest, “Indian jewelry,” pottery, and weavings were not generally perceived to be worth much more than the materials involved in their creation; they were certainly not popularly considered the prized possessions many are today.

How does this view of “culture” morphing into “Culture” fit with your experience? Let’s continue the conversation! Please share with us some of your favorites, with links, if you would. Many thanks!

TangoKabukiJazzBollywood¡Tango! ¡Kabuki! ¡Bollywood! ¡Jazz! ¿Qué tienen en común?
Traducido por Maryori Vivas

¡Tango! ¡Kabuki! ¡Bollywood! ¡Jazz! Usted tiene que admitir que todos suenan emocionantes  — llenos de vida, emoción, drama y… cultura. Cada uno es actualmente la base de una gran y lucrativa industria, y muchos de nosotros gratamente disfrutamos al menos una de estas formas de arte.

¿Pero que tienen las historias de estas cuatro formas de entretenimiento — desde lugares tan divergentes de nuestro planeta — en común?

Cada una se origina entre los pobres, desfavorecidos y marginados de una sociedad. Y cada una fue, en cierto punto, muy difamada y considerada impropia y con falta de decoro. Muchas de estas ahora populares formas de entretenimiento fueron prohibidas, algunas más de una vez, antes de que ganaran popularidad y finalmente se ganaran el respeto.

  • Tango, nacido a finales de 1800 en medio de los muelles de Buenos Aires, fue originalmente interpretada y bailada por inmigrantes pobres. La clase media y alta fueron expuestas al tango inicialmente en bares y burdeles. Mientras podemos imaginar fácilmente que ellos lo disfrutaran en secreto, el tango no era algo que alguien bailara o escuchara abiertamente “en compañía cortés.” Considerando estas raíces humildes, quedé en shock al conocer el precio de una entrada a un “tango show” cuando estuve en Buenos Aires recientemente.
  • Kabuki, quizás la forma más famosa de entretenimiento tradicional japonés, comenzó a finales de 1600 entre la gente común y era originalmente interpretada en las afueras en el lecho de un río. El kabuki fue inventado e interpretado por mujeres, frecuentemente prostitutas, y más tarde por chicos adolescentes, muchas veces en la prostitución también. Antes de esto, el teatro en Japón había sido únicamente para los aristócratas y principalmente involucraba el muy lento movimiento noh.
  • Bollywood, la industria fílmica Hindú con sede en Mumbai alcanzó posiciones de prominencia durante los años de 1900, y es solo una parte de la enorme industria fílmica India. Durante mucho tiempo se ha visto como una caricatura, melodramática y no realista — no para respetarse como la danza clásica india y el teatro. A pesar de todo, usted puede viajar a cualquier lugar en el mundo y disfrutar un film de Bollywood. La industria ha presentado la cultura india al mundo, mientras envía mensajes universales como el amor y el duelo.
  • Jazz comenzó en el sur de Estados Unidos con raíces afroamericanas. Sus comienzos se remontan a la música tradicional Africana transformada en canciones de trabajo y “gritos en el campo”. La música evolucionó en medio de la injusticia de la esclavitud, la espiritualidad que brindaba la esperanza de la redención, y el coraje para enfrentar la adversidad en la travesía hacia la libertad. Lo que se convertiría en Jazz se trasladó de los campos a los burdeles y bares, y eventualmente fue “descubierto” y ahora es respetado, admirado e interpretado alrededor del mundo.

¿Por qué estos temas, aparentemente muy diferentes, en mi mente? Si usted lee este blog regularmente, usted sabe que recientemente tuve el placer de visitar Argentina y allí aprendí de la historia del tango — el primer sorbo. Conozco de la historia del kabuki de los años que viví en Japón, y la similitud de historias me intrigó. Ponderando la historia del jazz, me dí cuenta de tres historias similares. Luego, sólo ayer el artículo de Lord Meghnad Desai sobre Bollywood llegó a mi escritorio y pensé que quizás esas historias no eran simple coincidencia, ¡debería mejor prestar atención!

En mi disciplina académica, comunicación intercultural, algunos se refieren a los conceptos de la cultura de “C mayúscula” o de “c minúscula”. Cultura con “C” mayúscula usualmente se refiere a los aspectos objetivos de una cultura que son visibles y evidentes. Esto incluye el arte, música, danza etc. – los artifacts  si prefiere. También incluye lo que la gente dice y hace, las maneras observables de la cultura expresadas a través del comportamiento de sus miembros en su vida diaria. Esta idea se relaciona con la sección “Palabras y Acciones” de la hoja de trabajo de Cultural Detective.

En contraste, la cultura con “c minúscula” se refiere a las costumbres, normas, estilos de comunicación, valores, supuestos, etc que son compartidos. Esta parte subjetiva de la cultura está generalmente escondida, expresándose a sí misma en el comportamiento verbal y no verbal de sus miembros. La cultura subjetiva es la que se esconde tras los comportamientos, esto quiere decir por qué la gente hace lo que hace, y se relaciona con la sección “Valores, Creencias y Sentido común cultural” de Cultural Detective.

De alguna manera, reflexioné, cada una de estas cuatro formas de arte se derivan de una expresión de la “c minúscula” que se transforma en “C mayúscula”, usualmente luego de varias décadas. ¿Podría ser esta la manera de ser del mundo?

Me mudé por primera vez a México en los años 70 como estudiante extranjera, y estaba emocionada de vivir en Coyoacán, la tierra de Frida Kahlo y “La Malinche”. Yo estaba muy triste de saber, sin embargo, que estos dos hechos parecían molestar o avergonzar a mi familia anfitriona; a mí me parecía que había poco del orgullo por las tradiciones nacionales o “cosas mexicanas”. La gente adinerada compraba marcas de diseñadores europeos y artículos para el hogar; las artesanías y lo hecho a mano se veía con menosprecio por ser una muestra que usted no podía comprar algo “mejor”.

Qué feliz me siento de estar viviendo en México nuevamente, y de encontrar ahora artes tradicionales y artesanías, y herencias locales y tradiciones, ahora son mucho más celebradas. Este cambio perceptible parecería hacer eco de la pregunta que me había hecho acerca de cómo la “cultura” evoluciona en “Cultura”.

¿Cuáles, si algunas, son las características compartidas por estas formas de arte inicialmente despreciadas y ahora valoradas? Cada una involucra sobreactuación, melodrama, emoción y exageración. Usualmente sus temas se desenvuelven alrededor del dolor de la injusticia, y, frecuentemente el amor desdeñado, usualmente debido a la diferencia de clases.

Mientras investigaba estas cuatro formas de entretenimiento para esta nota del blog, me di cuenta de la mejor parte: ¡cada una es producto de la creatividad que llega cuando las culturas comienzan mezclándose y cambiando! Quizás aquellas que son percibidas como marginales y en la periferia de una cultura pueden tener una poderosa influencia en la evolución de la cultura. Y, tal vez esta interrelación de diferentes personas en similares circunstancias difíciles puede detonar una gran creatividad.

Como nos dice The Jillbrary, Bollywood es un híbrido intencional. “No haba únicamente a un grupo religioso, idioma, área geográfica, o casta (tan irrealista como esto puede ser)… La música incorpora estilos de varias tradiciones — del norte de India y Carnática clásica, clásica ligera, religiosa, y música folclórica, Hollywood, Latina, China, y reggae. En los films de Bollywood, musulmanes se casan con hindúes, hindúes se casan con cristianos, y la gente de diferentes clases sociales puede triunfar y colaborar.

Del mismo modo, el jazz es un híbrido nacido de afroamericanos viviendo una experiencia marginadora, horcajadas de dos o más culturas, y lidiando con la impotencia. ¡Qué creatividad y poder originaron de esa combinación!

El tango y el kabuki los dos llegaron a ocupar un lugar de prominencia junto a (o dentro de) burdeles, e involucraban la participación y mezcla de identidades de género — en el tango los hombres enseñan a los hombres pasos de baile, y en el kabuki moderno los actores (puros hombres) pueden representar cualquier papel sin importar el género. No hace falta decir, estas inovaciones emergieron en el margen o bordes de la cultura; no eran actividades de la corriente principal de la sociedad.

Encuentro todo esto fascinante. Hay muchas formas de arte, “Cultura” que se originaron con aquellos viviendo en al “borde” de la sociedad. Frecuentemente pobres, desfavorecidos y con falta de recursos; puede tomar tiempo para la cultura principal reconocer sus contribuciones artísticas. Cuando crecí en el suroeste de los Estados Unidos la “joyería india’’, cerámica y tejidos no eran generalmente percibidos con un costo mucho mayor que aquel de los materiales usados en su creación; ciertamente no eran popularmente considerados las preciadas posesiones que muchos de ellos son hoy.

¿Cómo esta visión de “cultura” transformándose en “Cultura” se ajusta a su experiencia?  Sigamos con esta conversación. Comparta con nosotros alguna de sus experiencias favoritas con enlaces, si le es posible. Muchas gracias.

TangoKabukiJazzBollywoodタンゴ ! 歌舞伎 ! ボリウッド ! ジャズ ! すべてにつながっていることは?
翻訳:幸田隆

タンゴ ! 歌舞伎 ! ボリウッド ! ジャズ ! これらのすべては人をワクワクさせます。活気、興奮、ドラマ、そして、文化。それぞれのアートは今や、私たちに大きな富をもたらしてくれるものです。これらの中で、少なくとも1つは大いに楽しんでいる人も多いのではないでしょうか。

地球上の様々な場所で広がった、これら 4 つのエンターテイメントの歴史に、共通していることとしては、どのようなことがあるでしょうか。

それぞれのエンターテイメントの原点は、貧しい、恵まれない、疎外された社会にあります。これらすべてのエンターテイメントには、社会で、多くの非難を浴び、不適切で、品性に欠けていると考えられていた時期があります。今や日常的な娯楽となった、これらのエンターテイメントは、社会で、人気を博し、よいものとして認められるまでに、少なくとも一度は禁止されたことがあります。

  • タンゴ: 1800 年代の後半、ブエノスアイレスで生まれ、貧しい移民が演じ、踊ったもの。タンゴは当初、バーや売春宿で、中流、上流階級によって楽しまれたものでした。タンゴを聞いたり、踊ったりすることはマナーのある人が公然とすることではありませんでした。秘かに楽しまれていたタンゴの様子は想像できると思います。このようなひかえめなタンゴの歴史を考えると、最近ブエノスアイレスへ行ったときに見た、「タンゴショー」チケットのあまりにも高い値段にショックを受けました!
  • 歌舞伎: おそらく、日本の伝統芸能で最も有名なもの。1600年代に大衆の間で広がり、もともと、野外の河川敷で行われました。そもそも歌舞伎を始め、演じたのは女性で、その多くは売春婦であったと言われています。しばらくすると、男性によっても演じられましたが、その多くは水商売にかかわる男性でした。歌舞伎以前の演劇は、貴族だけが楽しめるもので、ゆっくりとした動きの能が主なものでした。歌舞伎はこんなにも長い道のりを歩んできたのです。
  •  ボリウッド: 1900 年代に広がり、ムンバイに拠点を置く、インドの映画業界のこと。ボリウッドは、巨大なインドの映画産業の一部です。ボリウッドの映画は、風刺、メロドラマ、非現実的なものとして長い間考えられていて、インドの古典舞踊や演劇のように尊敬を集めるものではありませんでした。でも、今や世界中のどこへ旅をしても、ボリウッドの映画を楽しむことができます。ボリウッドは愛や悲しみという普遍的な価値を伝えながらも、世界中にインド文化も紹介しています。
  • ジャズ: アメリカ合衆国南部、アフリカ系アメリカ人により始められたもの。そのルーツは、仕事をしながら歌う歌、「畑の叫び」に関係した伝統的なアフリカの音楽につながっています。ジャズは、奴隷制度は不当であるという思いから広がりました。自由を勝ち取るために逆境に立ち向かう勇気、いつかは救われるという希望を魂で訴える力から広がりました。ジャズとして確立される前のものは売春宿やバーで表現されていました。それがやがて注目され、今や、よさが認められ、たたえられ、世界中で奏でられるようになりました。

どうして、一見してあまりつながらないようなこれらのエンターテイメントが、私の頭に同時に浮かんだのでしょうか? 定期的にこのブログを読んでいただいている方は、私が最近、アルゼンチンを訪ね、タンゴの歴史(最初の投稿)にふれたことをご存知でしょう。歌舞伎の歴史は、私が日本に数年間住んでいたときに学び、とても興味をもったものです。ジャズの歴史に関しては、ブログで3つの投稿をしています。そして、昨日、メグナッド・デサイ卿のボリウッドに関する記事を、自分の書斎で偶然読みました。これらのことは偶然ではない。深く考えた方がいい。このように思った次第です。

私の専門である、異文化間コミュニケーションの領域では、“大きなC”の文化と“小さな c”の文化という考え方があります。大文字のCで始まるCulture、つまり“大きなC”の文化は、文化のはっきりと、目に見える客観的な側面になります。芸術、音楽、ダンスなど、人間が生み出した工芸品が“大きなC”の文化になります。“大きなC”の文化は日常生活で表現される人々の言葉や行動でもあります。この説明は、異文化間コミュニケーション教材「Cultural Detective Worksheet(異文化の探偵ワークシート)」の「言葉と行動」の章に書かれています。

それに対して、“小さな c”の文化は、習慣、行動規範、コミュニケーション・スタイル、価値観、当たり前と思っている常識などを意味しています。“小さな c”の文化は、文化の主観的な側面で、通常、言葉や非言語の表現の中に潜んでいます。主観的な文化は、行動の背後にあること、つまり、どうして、人はそれをするのかという理由と関係しています。このことは、教材「Cultural Detective Worksheet」の「価値観、信念、文化的な常識」の章に書かれています。

ある意味で、これら4種類のアートであるエンターテイメントは、それぞれ、長い間、“大きなC”の文化に形を変えてきた“小さな c”の文化の表現なのかもしれません。世の中には、このようなことが、よくあることなのでしょうか?

1970 年代、私は留学生として、初めてメキシコに行ったことがあります。私は、メキシコシティのコヨアカンで暮らしました。ここは画家のフリーダ ・ カーロと「ラ マリンチェ」の故郷で、毎日ワクワクした気持ちで過ごしていました。でも、私のホストファミリーにとって、これらの話題は何となくはずかしくて、避けられているものだということを学びました。当時の私には、メキシコ人が「メキシコらしいもの」や自分の国の伝統に、あまり誇りというものをもっていないようにも思われました。メキシコのお金持ちはヨーロッパのデザイナー ブランドや食器類を好んで買い求め、手作りの伝統工芸品は、お金に余裕のない人が買うものとして、避けられているような気がしました。

私は幸運にも今また、メキシコに住んでいます。そして、今は、メキシコの伝統工芸品や地元の遺産や伝統が、人々によって大切にされるように変わったことが感じられます。メキシコで、自国の文化に対する見方がこのように変わったという、この体験が、自分の中で、エンターテイメントの話とつながりました。“小さな c”の文化は、どのように、“大きなC”の文化へと形を変えていくのでしょうか?

初めは人々に軽べつされていても、今になると芸術的なものとして評価を受けているもの。そういうものには、どのような特徴があるのでしょうか? それには、大げさな演技、メロドラマ、感情、誇張表現が関係しています。格差社会によって生み出されることが多い、不公正な現実へのつらい気持ち、拒絶された愛がテーマとなっています。

このブログの投稿のために、これら 4 種類のエンターテイメントについて調べていて気づいたことがあります。それぞれのエンターテイメントは、いくつかの文化が混ざり、変化し始めたときに生まれる創造性の表れであるということ。文化の発展に大きな影響力をもっているのは、そのときの主流の文化からはずれていて、社会の境界線上に住んでいると考えられる人々なのかもしれません。同じ困難な境遇におかれた、様々な人たちがかかわり合うことで、創造性の大きな花が開花していくのではないかと思いました。

ジルブラリィの記事によれば、ボリウッドは、意図的なハイブリッド文化です。ボリウッドは、1つの宗教、1つの言語、1つの地域、1つのカースト (非現実的ではありますね) という枠を超えたものです。ボリウッドの音楽は、北インドの音楽、南インドのカルナティック音楽、ライトクラシック音楽、宗教音楽、フォーク、ハリウッド、ラテン、中国、レゲエなど様々な伝統やジャンルを統合したものです。ボリウッドの映画では、イスラム教徒がヒンズー教徒と結婚したり、ヒンズー教徒がキリスト教徒と結婚したり、様々な社会階層の人が成功したり、力を合わせて働いたりもします。

同様に、ジャズもハイブリッド文化です。社会の本流からはずれる体験、2つ以上の文化にまたがる体験、無力感を味わった体験をしてきたアフリカ系アメリカ人から生まれました。こうした体験が混ざり合って、創造性とパワーが生み出されたのです。

タンゴと歌舞伎は両方とも、売春宿に関係したところ(あるいは、その中)で発展していき、男女の性別が変わったり、混じったりしながら演じられてきました。タンゴでは、男性が男性にダンスのステップを教えていたし、現代の歌舞伎では、すべての役を男性が演じることになっています。これらの革新的なスタイルは、境界線上にある文化に表れたものです。当初は、社会の主流ではありませんでした。

私は、このようなタペストリー (つづれ織り)に心を惹かれます。社会の片隅に暮らしている人々によって創り出されるアート、つまり“大きなC”の文化は、世の中に実にたくさんあります。貧しくて、差別を受け、恵まれない人たちの芸術的な貢献に、そのときの主流の文化の人たちが気づいていくには時間がかかるのかもしれません。アメリカ南西部で育った私は当時、アメリカインディアンの宝物、焼き物、織物が素材以上の価値あるものとしては社会に認められてはいないと感じました。でも、今は、たくさんの人が、それを好んで求め、価値あるものとして認めるようになりました。

いかがでしょうか? “小さな c”の文化が“大きなC”の文化へと形を変えていくという、この考えは、みなさんの経験に当てはまるでしょうか? 話を続けていきましょう。このブログを、みなさんのお気に入りに登録していただいたり、リンクを張っていただければうれしいです。ありがとうございます。

TangoKabukiJazzBollywoodटैंगो! काबुकी! बॉलीवुड! जैज्ज़  ! क्या इनमें कोई समानता है?
मृदुला दास द्वारा अनुवादित

मानना पडेगा कि ये चारों नाम सुनने में काफ़ी मज़ेदार और रोमांचक लगते हैं I  ज़िन्दगी से भरपूर, रोमांचक संकृति के प्रतीक, ये  कला के रूप अपने आप में भिन्न भिन्न  देश और भाषा के लोगों द्वारा तैयार किये गए हैंl  प्रत्येक  रूप अपने  आप में  वर्तमान  में एक बेहद आकर्षक उद्योग का आधार है, और हम में से कई इनमें से कम से कम एक  कला रूप  का आनंद तो लेते ही हैं ।

पर क्या ये चारों  मनोरंजन के अवतार- जो कि  इस धरती के भिन्न भिन्न देशों के उपज हैं- के जन्म और  इतिहास  में कोई समानता है?

प्रत्येक मनोरंजन – टैंगो, काबुकी, बॉलीवुडया जैज्ज़ – का जन्म किसी गरीब,अल्पाधिकारप्राप्त, और  मार्जिनलाइज़ड देश में हुआ हैl प्रत्येक  रूप को किसी न किसी समय में निन्दित और अनुचित एवं असंगत माना गया हैl आज के ये चर्चित मनोरंजन के रूप कभी न कभी, इनके लोकप्रियता में वृद्धि से पहले, समाज और समाज के ठेकेदारों द्वारा  एक बार नहीं, बल्कि अनेकों बार  प्रतिबंधित और वर्जित किये गए हैंl ये और बात है की इन रूपों को अंततः  प्रतिष्ठा  और लोकप्रियता प्राप्त हुई  हैl

  • टैंगो की पैदाइश   ब्यूनस आयर्स (Buenos Aires) के नाव घाट के बीच १८००  के उत्तरार्द्ध में हुई हैl  टैंगो, मूल रूप से  गरीब आप्रवासियों द्वारा नृत्य किया गया और खेला जाता था.मध्यम और उच्च वर्गों के रसिक  टैंगो से  पहल पहल मदिरालय और वेश्यालयों में  परिचित हुएl  हम आसानी से कल्पना कर सकते हैं कि  ये वर्ग के लोग इस मनोरंजन का चुपके से मज़ा तो ले रहे थे लेकिन उसे सभ्य समाज में अभी तक कोई मान्यता प्राप्त नहीं थी और लोग उसे खुलकर सबके सामने नाचने और मज़ा लेने की जुर्रत नहीं करते थेl इस अत्यंत ही गरीब  कला का हाल ही में जब ब्यूनस आयर्स में एक ” टैंगो शो” के  टिकट खरीदने गयी तो टिकेट की कीमत  देख कर  मैं  अचंभित हो गयीl
  • काबुकी, शायद सबसे प्रसिद्ध  परंपरागत जापानी मनोरंजन का रूप हैl यह  आम लोगों के बीच १६०० सदी  में शुरू हुआ था , और मूल रूप से सड़क पर या नदी के  सूखे  ताल पर प्रदर्शन किया  गया था। काबुकी का आविष्कार और प्रदर्शन मूल रूप से महिलाओं और कभी कभार वेश्याओं द्वारा की जाती थीl  आगे चलके इसका प्रदर्शन सिर्फ किशोर बालक और वेश्याएं ही करने लगेl  इसके पहले  जापान में रंगमंच  केवल  संभ्रांत श्रेणी के लिए था और इस पर अत्यंत ही धीमे गति वाला नोह का प्रदर्शन होता थाl  काबुकी अपने आदि रूप से काफी आगे पहुँच चूका है और आज हम सब को रोमांचित करने में कोई कसार नहीं छोड़ी हैl
  • बॉलीवुड ने, जो की  मुंबई स्थित  हिन्दी फिल्म उद्योग का हिस्सा है , १९००  के दौरान प्रमुखता प्राप्त  की l  इसे  लंबे समय तक एक कार्टून, नाटकीय और अवास्तविक  कला के रूप में देखा गया और इसको शास्त्रीय भारतीय नृत्य और थियेटर की तरह सम्मान नहीं  दिया गया l फिर भी, इन दिनों, आप दुनिया के  किसी भी कोने में बॉलीवुड फिल्म का आनंद लें कर सकते हैंl  इस उद्योग  ने दुनिया को  भारतीय संस्कृति से परिचित  कराया है जबकि इसमें अन्तर्हित सार्वभौमिक प्रेम और वियोग कथा सभी दर्शकों के लिए सामान हैl
  • जैज्ज़ अमेरिकी अफ्रीकी जड़ों से दक्षिणी संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिका ( साउथ अमेरिका) में शुरू हुआ। इसकी शुरुआत पारंपरिक अफ्रीकी संगीत को कर्म क्षेत्र गीतों,यानी काम के साथ साथ गाये गए गीतों) के रूप में  हुई l यह संगीत गुलामी से मुक्ति  और आजादी की  खोज करने वाले बंधुआ मजदूर को विपरीत परिस्थितियों का सामना करने के लिए  साहस  और आध्यात्मिक शक्ति प्रदान करता रहा l धीरे धीरे जैज्ज़  खेतों से निकल कर मदिरालय और वेश्याघरों में पाया जाने लगा l अंततः इसकी प्रतिष्ठा  स्थापित हो गयी और अब जैज्ज़ को सम्मान और प्रशंसा के साथ दुनिया भर  में बजाया  और गाया जाता है l

अब प्रश्न यह है कि  इन अत्यंत अलग दिखने वाले विषयों को क्यों मैं एक कड़ी में बाँधने की कोशिश कर रही हूँ?

अगर आप मेरा ब्लॉग नियमित्ग रूप से पढ़ते हैं तो आपको पता होगा की हाल ही में मैं अर्जेंटीना गयी  थी  और वहां मुझे जैज्ज़ के इतिहास का ज्ञान हुआ— इस प्रसंग की पहली कड़ीl  जापान में रहते हुए काबुकी के इतिहास के बारे में मैं पहले ही जानती थी l इन दोनों कलाओं के  इतिहास की समानता मुझे काफी कुतूहल कर रहा हैl अब जैज्ज़ के इतिहास के बारे में सोचते हुए मुझे तीन सामान कड़ियाँ मिल रही हैंl कल ही मैं लार्ड मेघनाद देसाई ( Lord Meghnad Desai) की  लेख पढ़ रही थी जिसमें बॉलीवुड के इतिहास का ज़िक्र हैl  अब मुझे इन सभी कड़ियों को जुड़ने और इनके समानता का आभास हो गया हैl

मेरे अकादमिक डिसिप्लिन, “इण्टर्कल्चुरल कम्युनिकेशन”  (Intercultural Communication)में बिग C ( Big C) और स्माल c (Small c) कल्चर ( संस्कृति) का ज़िक्र उठता हैl  बिग C  कल्चर का मतलब है  किसी भी संस्कृति का वस्तुनिष्ठ  पहलू  जो की  दिखाई देता है और लोगों  को उपरी सतह पर नज़र आता है, जैसे की  नृत्य, संगीत इत्यादि– जो की कला के प्रतिकृतियाँ हैंl  इस केटेगरी में लागों के बोलचाल और व्यवहार भी सम्मिलित है जो प्रत्यक्ष रूप में किसी भी दर्शक के लिए उपलब्ध है यह विचार  कल्चरल डिटेक्टिव कार्यपत्रक ( Cultural Detective Worksheet) के “शब्दों और कार्यों”  (“Words and Actions” ) अनुभाग के साथ सम्बंधित है l

इसके विपरीत, “छोटी सी” संस्कृति  लोगों के रीती, रिवाज़, बोलचाल के ढंग,  मूल्यों, मान्यताओं, आदि को दर्शाता है l संस्कृति का  इस व्यक्तिपरक भाग  आम तौर पर अपने ही सदस्यों की बोलचाल और हाव भाव में अव्यक्त रूप से  छिपा हुआ  रहता है l व्यक्तिपरक संकृति ( सब्जेक्टिव कल्चर ) लोगों के व्यवहार के पीछे छिपे अर्थ को उजागर करता है l  यह ये बताता है की लोग जो करते हैं या कहते हैं उसके पीछे क्या कारन हो सकता है और वो ऐसा क्यों करते हैं l  कल्चरल डिटेक्टिव  कार्यपत्रक (Cultural Detective Worksheet )के  “मूल्यों, विश्वासों और सांस्कृतिक सामान्य ज्ञान”  (“Beliefs, Values, and Cultural Common Sense” ) अनुभाग  में इस बात का ज़िक्र है l

काफी चिंतन के बाद मुझे ऐसा लगता है कि ये चारों कला के रूप का अविर्भाव  कहीं न कहीं स्माल सी कल्चर के बिग सी कल्चर में  सम्मिलित और परिवर्तित होना दर्शाता है l किसी भी संस्कृति का उभर के आना कोई एक या दो दिन का काम नहीं, इसके लिए सदियाँ लग जाते हैं. शायद यही दुनिया कि रीत है l

मैं पहली बार मेक्सिको में  एक विदेशी छात्र के रूप में 1970 के दशक में  गयी , और कोयुआक्न (Coyoacán ) में ठहरी, जो कि  फ्राइडा  काहलो (Frida Kahlo) और “ला  मालिंचे” (La Malinche) का जन्म स्थान था l मैं तो बहुत खुश थी , लेकिन मुझे ये बात सता रही थी कि मेरे मेजबान, जिनके घर मैं ठहरी थी, इस बात से काफी शर्म महसूस करते थेl  मुझे ऐसा लगा कि अपने राष्ट्रीय परंपरा और हस्त कला पर  यह लोग कुछ ज्यादा गर्व महसूस नहीं करते हैं l पैसे वाले लोग यूरोपीय डिसाइनर ब्रांड्स और घर का सामान खरीदते हैं  स्थानीय हस्तकला या मेक्सकन चीज़ों को इस्तेमाल करने से कतराते हैं क्योंकि यह गरीबी का सूचक है l

अभी मैं फिर से मेक्सिको में रहती हूँ और यह देख कर खुश हूँ कि आजकल यहाँ स्थानीय  हस्त कला  और और पारंपारिक वस्तुओं को बहुत मान्यता दे रहें हैं l यह जो सोच में बदलाव आया है,यह मुझे मेरे मूल प्रश्न को दुबारा दोहराने पे मजबूर करता है कि अगर  स्माल सी  कल्चर बिग सी कल्चर में बदलता है तो कैसे बदलता है ?

ये चारों कला  के रूप आपस में कई समानताओं के कारन जुड़े हुए हैं l चारों के चारों शुरू में निन्दित और तिरस्कृत थे, लेकिन अभी अपने अपने संस्कृति के अभिन्न रूप बन गए हैं l चारों  में ओवरएक्टिंग, भावनाओं कि अतिशयोक्ति और मेलोड्रामा शामिल है l आम तौर पर उनके विषयों में  दर्द, अन्याय, ठुकराइ हुई प्रेमकथा, वर्ग भेद के कारण  किया हुआ अन्याय का प्रदर्शन है l

इस ब्लॉग पोस्ट ( Blog post) के लिए मनोरंजन के इन चार रूपों पर शोध करते हुए, मुझे यह एहसास हुआ कि हर एक रूप अपने आप में भिन्न भिन्न  संस्कृतियों  के मिश्रण और वृद्धि के समय उमड़े हुए रचनात्मक उबाल का परिणाम है l शायद  लोग जो  मार्जिनलाइज्ड, और  समाज के उपांत में है उनका संस्कृति के विकास पर एक शक्तिशाली प्रभाव है. और शायद इसी तरह कठिन परिस्थितियों में  रहने वाले अलग अलग लोगों के मिलने जुले और एक दुसरे के संस्पर्श में आने  से एक भारी रचनात्मकता चिंगारी  उत्पन्न हो सकता है ।

जैसे कि ” द जिल्ल्बैरी” (The Jillbrary) में कहा गया है, बॉलीवुड एक सुविचारित  मिश्रण है– यह किसी जाती या धर्म विशेष, भाषा या भौगोलिक क्षेत्र को  संबोधित नहीं करता है l  बॉलीवुड संगीत  विभिन्न परंपराओं का सम्मिश्रण है- इसमें  हिंदुस्तानी और शास्त्रीय संगीत, धार्मिक और लोक गीत, हॉलीवुड, चीनी, रेगे इत्यादि सभी का इस्तेमाल होता है l बॉलीवुड सिनेमा  में हिन्दू, मुस्लिम, ईसाई सभी एक दुसरे से शादी कर सकते हैं और समाज के उच्च और निम्न वर्ग मिल जुल कर एक दुसरे के सहायता से सफल हो सकते हैं l

ठीक इसी तरह जैज्ज़  भी एक सम्मिश्रण है. अफ्रीकी अमेरिकियों के मार्जिनलाइज्ड होने का अनुभव से  उत्पन्न यह कला उनके दो संस्कृतियों के बीच बंधे रहने कि बेबसी से निपटने कि अनुभूति कि पैदाइश है l  इस रचनात्मक  शक्ति  का प्रदर्शन अतुलनीय और  अत्यंत ही प्रभावशाली है l

टैंगो  और काबुकी दोनों कि प्रसिद्धी  वेश्यालयों के प्रसिद्धी के साथ (और वेश्यालयों के अन्दर) ही बढ़े l दोनों कला रूपों में पुरुष ही नृत्य प्रदर्शन करते हैं और एक दुसरे को सिखाते भी हैं, भले ही पात्र नारी या पुरुष का हो l आधुनिक काबुकी में पुरुष अभिनेता ही  पुरुष एवं नारी दोनों भूमिकाएँ निभाते हैं l  ज़ाहिर है कि इनका आविर्भाव समाज के  मुख्यधारा के बाहर हुआ है;  वे शुरू में “मुख्यधारा” समाज की गतिविधियों नहीं थे!

मुझे यह चित्रपट लुभावना लगता है। यहाँ  कई कला रूपों, “संस्कृति” ( Culture)( बिग सी) का उत्पन्न समाज के “किनारे” पर रहने वाले लोगों के साथ हुआ है l  अक्सर गरीब, वंचितों और कम संसाधनो द्वारा  सृजन किये गए इन कलात्मक योगदान को पहचान देने में मुख्य धारा संस्कृति काफी समय लगाता है l US Southwest में, जहाँ मैं पली बढ़ी, इंडियन ( Native American) गहने, मिटटी के कलात्मक वस्तुएं, बुनावट, आदि का मुल्यांकन अपने सृजन में शामिल सामग्री से अधिक  नहीं किया जाता था; आज के जैसे उन वस्तुओं को  निश्चित रूप से लोकप्रिय, बेशकीमती संपत्ति नहीं माना जाता था l

आपके  हिसाब से यह स्माल सी और बिग सी का सम्मिश्रण क्या आपके अनुभव के  साथ ताल मेल खाता है? इसे पढ़ने के बाद, अगर आपको सही लगे तो, कृपया आपके अनुभव हमारे साथ बांटिये. अगर आपने इसे  किसी किताब या नेट आर्टिकल से लिया है, तो उसका रेफेरेंस और  लिंक भी भेजना मत भूलियेगा. धन्यवाद!

Two Years After 3/11

Infographic ©Nakanishi, http://visual.ly/great-east-japan-earthquake-two-years-later

Infographic ©NHK, designed by Nakanishi
http://visual.ly/great-east-japan-earthquake-two-years-later

Earthquake in Haiti. Tsunami in Indonesia. Cyclone in Burma. Extreme weather worldwide, from drought and fire to blizzard and flood. Natural disasters are horrific, with perhaps their only redeeming aspect being the way in which human beings come together to aid one another in their wake.

3/11, the “Great East Japan Earthquake,” was a triple disaster: earthquake followed by tsunami followed by nuclear meltdowns. And today is its second anniversary. At 2:46 pm Japan time people will observe a moment of silence in honor of those lost.

I mention it here in commemoration not only of all the lives lost in Japan, but also for those multitude of lives lost worldwide in disasters in recent memory. It has opened a huge and much-needed debate around climate change, the interconnectedness of our planet, sustainable development, nuclear power and alternative energies, and citizen involvement.

On this second anniversary of 3/11, the clearing of debris has mostly been completed. You can take a look in this powerful series of photos from The Atlantic. Though rebuilding is only just beginning, plans are now mostly completed. My college-hood friend Dan Kahl has been very faithful in keeping those of us outside Japan up-to-date on post-3/11 developments. You can find his Twitter feed here.

The major English-language daily, The Japan Time, has a series of second anniversary articles, if you are interested. 

And, if you’d like a more research-oriented, academic look at 3/11, you might be interested in this International Policy Digest article.

I find it meaningful that as we commemorate 3/11, many people in Japan are wearing haz-masks and staying indoors, away from the cloud of yellow sand and chemical pollutants that have blown their way from China. Our planet, indeed, is so inextricably connected; what any one of us does, impacts others, in ways we so often do not anticipate.

My heart is with all my friends, family and colleagues in Japan. I am so sorry for all these trials. And I am so very proud of all of you. May we all do our best to protect this planet we cohabit, and to share our unique gifts fully with one another.

Success? It’s All in How We Gauge It…

711079_3691916951303_1580871364_nThis is a story, or perhaps, more correctly, a cautionary tale, about a very successful expatriate and the highly respected, much-envied western company for which he worked. It is a story that made me think again about how we define success in our lives, and, in particular, how we define success in the global marketplace and success on an expatriate assignment.

The Company: The company is one of the very first to enter the Japanese market after World War II. It holds key patents on several important technologies, and invests decades establishing partnerships with Japan’s leading firms. It prides itself on hiring and promoting Japan’s best and brightest.

By the 1990s, it is the envy of other foreign-capitalized companies in Japan: it has a dominant market presence in its niche industries; long-established, trustworthy partnerships with major local players; and a stellar reputation for consistency, reliability and innovation. The president of the company is Japanese, and its management team is a strong and diverse mix of local and international executives who respect one another and leverage their expertise.

The Japan operation is a huge profit center, as well as the home of research and development breakthroughs leveraged by the company globally. They have strong cross-cultural programs in place for their staff worldwide, as well as for transferees and their receiving organizations.

The Expat: Our expat is intelligent, ambitious, and very capable. He has worked for the company for over 30 years, and is known as an excellent turn-around manager who had saved several manufacturing plants and regional operations, turning their losses into profits. Originally educated as an engineer, he is logical and methodical, and very good with numbers, graphs, and trends. Our expat is married with grown children and grandchildren, speaks a bit of French in addition to his native English, is well-travelled, but has never before lived overseas. This will be his last assignment prior to retirement.

The Situation: The global company, and most particularly home office, is experiencing economic hardship. A few expensive ventures have failed, and it is time to tighten belts, cut back, and save money across the board. Though the Japan operation is one of the most profitable worldwide, it is part of the overall organization and must join in company-wide budget cuts.

The expat is sent to Japan as the new CEO, and is told to cut millions from the annual budget. It is the first time in over a decade that the CEO of the Japan operation is a foreigner. The expat and his wife relocate to Tokyo, and quickly integrate into the local expat social scene. They love their new life in this amazing metropolis.

The Backlash: Local and existing expatriate management “cry foul.” They say it is a short-sighted decision to slash budgets in Japan when the operation is functioning smoothly and keeping others afloat. They say they are being punished for errors they did not cause, in which they were not involved. They warn that budget cuts will have long-lasting negative effects in the Japanese marketplace.

The new CEO explains that change always has its naysayers; people need to “get onboard or get off the ship.” “Tough times call for tough decisions.” “It’s a new day, a new world, a new economy.”

The cross-cultural consultant and existing management explain that the culture is different here, that the new CEO doesn’t yet understand Japan. Drastic changes have long-lasting effects that can’t be undone, can’t be apologized for. They urge him to send this message strongly to the home office, to push the decision back up. They say it’s his duty to make the home office aware of the repercussions of their top-down decision. They tell him that following instructions will mean the death of the Japan operation.

But the CEO has been down this road before. No one likes belt-tightening. No one likes budget cuts. He knows how to turn an operation around. He’s done it before. He doesn’t need people to “like” him. He knows they will respect him once they see the results he achieves. This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, an incredible capstone to his career.

The Outcome: The expat succeeds, in stellar fashion. He fires people. He closes divisions of the company. He retires long-standing partnerships with important local players. He does exactly what he has been charged to do. And he furthers his career: after his two-year assignment he receives a huge bonus. He departs Japan to begin his retirement, riding the accolades of his success.

Home office is proud of their decision to send him; only an expat could have made these kinds of difficult decisions, taken these drastic measures. A local executive wouldn’t have been able to cut such long-standing local partnerships, couldn’t have bit the bullet to fire staff who had worked their whole careers building the company. It was a perfect decision. Money saved. Bottom line improved.

The Longer Term Outcome: Fast forward to four years after the expat’s departure. The highly successful, highly profitable business in Japan, with the enviable stellar reputation, closes down. Plants close. R&D facilities close. Offices throughout the country close.

Leading companies in the industry are no longer interested in partnering; once burned twice shy. After decades of trust building, smart business and shared success, how can they rely on a company that unilaterally decides to throw it all away to improve bottom-line at some far away home office? Why should they do business with a company that so clearly prioritizes home office needs over international success?

The company’s best and brightest have been hired by the competition. They are sour about their previous employer’s lack of loyalty and its short-sightedness. The company is no longer able to attract talented new hires. Who wants to work for a company that focuses on home office success, punishing those who succeed worldwide?

And today? The Japan operation, such an envied and respected company for over sixty years, is no longer. It was “over-milked,” bled dry. Not financially, but culturally, emotionally, trust-depleted.

So, how would you gauge success in this situation? Knowing what you know now, was the CEO successful? At the time everyone thought so. He achieved the immediate goal. What do you think would have happened had he done things differently? Is there a way the expat could have been successful in his goal and maintained trust? Does this mean that every leader needs special tools when completing an overseas assignment? What can we learn from this?

Please ponder those questions while you read the key takeaways from my point of view.

The Lessons:

  1. As expats, we must learn to distinguish between what we know and what we have to learn. We must ask for help. We must be willing to listen. We need to pause and make sure we understand the cultural context in which we are working.
  2. We must ensure that while we use our strengths, we also use “fresh eyes” to see what’s new and different this time. Not every problem can be approached in the same way it was successfully resolved the last time around, in a different country, with different people.
  3. We must be able to discern when to jump at an opportunity, and when to push a decision back up the chain of command. No person is an island. Even a CEO is part of the interconnected web of relationships, responsibilities, and decisions that make up an organization.
  4. As home office executives, we must be able to weigh our priorities, consciously and purposefully. We must think long-term, even when the short-term is jumping up and down in front of us. It is our job to anticipate the multiple impacts of a decision, and shape the process to benefit the organization.
  5. We must be able to hear the truth, from all perspectives, and separate the facts from the complaining. We need to set aside what we want to hear, what we are used to hearing, and be open not only to what is said, but the context and manner in which it is expressed. A cultural informant may help in “translating” the meaning of the message.
  6. As local management, we must learn to discern when we are accurately predicting the future and when we are just resisting change. These are usually questions to explore through dialogue and open-minded discovery. This can be a challenging process, depending on the cultural norms of local management.
  7. As a global team, we must have the tools to enable us to share, hear, and weigh information in order to make the best decisions, for both the short- and long-term. And it is important to remember that the choice and presentation of information is, to some extent culturally influenced. Without a process to truly understand shared information, team members essentially operate in the dark.
  8. A multinational company, it is wise to employ tools like Cultural Detective to help prepare and guide executives on international assignments. Culturally Effective companies recognize the need, and have found Cultural Detective and a trained facilitator can help prevent stories like this from becoming commonplace Cultural Defectives.

Linked to the My Global Life Link-Up at SmallPlanetStudio.com

Get in Intercultural Shape for the New Year!

New Year Collage

Welcome to the New Year — at least for those of you following the Gregorian calendar! Are you ready? Is your organization poised and equipped to make significant positive contributions to this planet of ours? Do you have organizational traditions to kick-off the new year and encourage employees to strive towards new goals?

Most cultures of the world have very special traditions for sending out the old year and bringing in the new one. In Mexico where I live women wear special undergarments on New Year’s Eve — either red for love or yellow for gold or money — symbolizing what they most want to receive in the year ahead. Those who would like to travel carry a suitcase out into the street and around the block.

In Japan where I lived previously, the end of the year is a time to clean the house, purging it of things from the past that are no longer needed. We cook osechi foods, the beautiful make-ahead kinds of delicacies that will feed family and visitors through the first few days of the new year, and allow everyone — including the cook — to enjoy a respite.

What are your traditions for saying goodbye to the past year and greeting the future? Do you make resolutions, set goals, or make plans to learn something new?

My absolute favorite New Year’s was spent with good friends nearly two decades ago. On New Year’s Eve, we wrote down the hurts we’d experienced, the negative habits or memories we continued to carry and wanted to get rid of, the qualities about ourselves that no longer served us, the visions of ourselves, others or our businesses that were not constructive. We made a big bonfire, and we had a field day burning these no-longer-wanted items. Oh how liberating it was! We all felt so light, so energized!

On New Year’s morning we woke before sunrise. We had written, on paper we’d folded into origami boats, the qualities we wanted to receive and nurture in the new year. The positive habits and qualities we wanted to cultivate, relationships and moments we wanted to consciously treasure, and healthy visions of ourselves, others and our businesses that we wanted to hold close. We launched these items into the ocean, setting them into motion.

The beginning of a year is a good time to reflect on our cross-cultural successes (Cultural Effectives) as well as to learn from our mistakes and misunderstandings (Cultural Defectives) and decide what kind of year we want in 2013. Back in October we published a post about intercultural fitness. In November we reiterated why such fitness is so important, why organizations need intercultural fitness.

Maybe reading these posts has helped you to decide what to throw in the fire and what to set out into the water? If your fire is full of cultural missteps and your boat contains a desire to expand your intercultural competence, maybe it’s time you took action!

Cultural Detective wants to encourage you to get fit, too — interculturally fit! Much like committing to an exercise plan or a sensible nutrition plan, committing to prioritizing intercultural competence in the coming year will serve us well personally, in our families, as well as in our work lives. Also, just like a gym, it can be fun. We can spend as much time as we like and we might meet some really interesting people.

The new year is full of special offers for gym memberships, exercise classes, and diet programs — ways to encourage you to get fit in 2013. Just as gyms and diet programs offer incentives this time of year, the Cultural Detective Online intercultural competence gym is offering complimentary three-day subscriptions to help get you focused and motivated!

Here is how to get yours:

  1. Log on to http://www.culturaldetective.com/cdonline/orders/trial before January 31, 2013.
  2. Enter your name, email address and the promotional code: NewYearFitness
  3. You will receive a verification email from cdonline@culturaldetective.com. Be sure to clear it in your spam filter! Click the link in the email, follow the instructions, and explore a new way to improve your intercultural fitness 24/7!

We hope you will take advantage of this special offer to learn how Cultural Detective Online can assist you at home and abroad, with colleagues and friends, in your community and in your organization! Feel free to share this offer with those you care about — we think the world could benefit from a little more intercultural competence on everyone’s part!

Best wishes for a peaceful year ahead from the Cultural Detective team!

Want to Feel Ukiuki, Pichipichi and Pinpin? Japanese Food Onomatopoeia

I have been quite ujiuji (melancholy) in recent weeks, feeling uzu-uzu (a burning desire) to hear and speak Japanese. Living in a small city in Mexico, zenzen (almost never) can(‘t) I hear Japanese, and my heart gets shoboshobo (sad).

Joe’s recent blog post on the French food fixation only fueled more tsukuzuku (heartfelt thinking) on my part. As you may have already figured out from my wazawaza (purposeful) language, I’ve been thinking about Japanese sound symbolism, particularly in the context of food.

Whether you eat gatsugatsu (gobble or devour) or potsupotsu (little by little), if you want to talk about food in Japanese you will be using words that mimetically represent feelings and senses. As the originators of the concept of umami (pleasant savory taste — one of the five basic tastes), Japanese tend to mokumoku (munch) the way they listen: with all their senses. Taste, texture, and temperature, sound, smell and sensation… all are important elements that combine to keep people ukiuki (cheerful), pichipichi (young and vigorous) and pinpin (in good health).

While many people think of Japanese food as the 
tastes and textures of sashimi or sushi, a typical meal may also contain irorirona (a variety of) food including boiled, broiled, fried or pickled dishes, a soup and hokahoka (warm) steamed white rice. Is your stomach starting to guuguu (growl hungrily)?

For the fresh or raw component of your meal, would you like something shakishaki — crisp as in veggies or fruits, e.g., lettuce washed in cold water? Or would you prefer something more korikori — crunchy and crisp, as in fresh raw abalone? Be sure to rinse the abalone well, so it doesn’t taste jarijari (gritty) or zarazara (coarse). Maybe you want something sharishari — tangy and juicy, like an Asian nashi pear or sherbet? Or is your tongue like mine, and craves the piripiri (sting) of wasabi or fugu (blowfish)? Any of these dishes will require chokichoki (cutting with a knife) preparation.

A boiled dish in our meal might include pumpkin nimono, stewed hokuhoku (steamy and dense but not soggy), or something more furufuru (soft and jiggly) like boiled eggs. Maybe we should make some chikuwa (fish paste roll) for oden till it’s buyobuyo (swollen and soft) and fuwafuwa (fluffy)? Oh that sounds good! There are just so many possibilities! So many tastes and textures!

There are madamada (still) ippai-ippai (lots) more onomatopoeia to consider. What about a main dish? Shall we eat something sakusaku (freshly cooked crisp and light) like tempura shrimp? I could fry it till the shrimp inside are puripuri (plump with a nice resistance) and the breading is poripori (quietly crunchy). Perhaps you are really craving the shikoshiko (chewy, elastic firmness) of some udon noodles? Never over-boil the pasta so it becomes betobeto (sticky and gummy); rather, you’ll probably be wakuwaku (trembling with excitement) to eat your tsurutsuru (shiny and slurpy) noodles and gabugabu (drink heartily) a beer!

Instead of your normal bowl of rice you might enjoy something a bit more mochimochi (soft, sticky and chewy) or netoneto (glutinous and gummy) like sticky rice. Maybe rice that’s a bit more pasapasa (dry), like jasmine rice, sounds appetizing? The kunkun (smell) is so nice! Tabitabi (once in a while), though, I like the parapara (moist but loose) of fried rice.

Even though by now you are panpan (full), pukupuku (swollen), and maybe even kokkurikokkuri (nodding off), a karikari (hard and crispy) biscotti, a fukafuka (soft and fluffy) cream puff, or even some purupuru (wiggly, jiggly) kanten (gelatin) for dessert might refresh your soul. Maybe just a handful of something punyupunyu, like some gummis?

After such a big meal your throat may feel karakara (thirsty). I’d definitely recommend a chibichibi (sip) of a kachikachi (ice cold) shuwashuwa (sparkling) beverage over a betabeta (sticky) dessert wine. It can help settle any mukamuka (queasiness) you might have.

What if you’re not really that hungry, and you just want to mushamusha (munch)? You might want the paripari (thin and crispy) of nori (toasted seaweed) or chips. Sometimes, though, we crave a louder pachipachi (crispy snapping sound), like the baribari (loud crunchiness) of sembei (rice crackers) or the kachikachi (crisp firmness) of arare (another kind of rice cracker).

For those of you interested in this subject, I found a really cool study conducted by a cross-disciplinary group of students (information science, engineering, medicine) from the University of Tokyo. They “harvested” online food reviews in Japanese to find the most common food-related onomatopoeia. How cool is that — a terrific application of science to language and culture studies! Below is one of the tables from their report, detailing the most commonly occurring onomatopoeia for food.

There are several categories of onomatopoeia in Japanese. They are:

  1. Giongo (擬音語): These are the words that mimic the sounds of life around us, such as the sound of sprinkling vs. heavy rain, a door creaking or glasses clinking. Most of the food onomatapoeia above are giongo.
  2. Giseigo (擬声語): Sounds made by people or animals, such as a cat’s meow or a dog’s woof.
  3. Gitaigo (擬態語): Words that describe actions, such as smiling or grumbling, or psychological states, such as cheerful or irritated. Sometimes these latter are also called gijogo. Technically these are not onomatopoeia, since they don’t mimic sounds; they are mimetic words that mimic actions or emotions. However, since we don’t use these types of words often in English, and they are very important to speaking and understanding Japanese, I include them here.

I also found several online dictionaries of Japanese onomatopoeia. The first is Giongo Dictionary, where you can sign up for a daily email to keep learning. A second, if you read Japanese, is Onomatopedia. The third is a cool little resource with sounds you can listen to. Finally, though it only works sporadically, is Nihongo Resources, where you can search in English or Japanese. I hope you’ll enjoy them.

Japanese speakers: Please share some more of your favorite 擬音語 (giongo) and insights with us! There are of course regional (and personal!) variations of many of these!

Speakers of other languages: We’ll be happy to publish it if you send us your post about unique features in your language. Thanks!

Why is Intercultural Competence Helpful? The Case of the Ion Exchange Resins

Is there a bottom-line business benefit to intercultural competence? As someone who has lived and breathed cross-cultural and intercultural business competency for well over thirty years, that question tends to elicit a chuckle in me. And today, the person on the phone who asked me that question reminded me of a story.

You see, just yesterday I received an invitation to an “OB-OL-kai” in Japan, a “get together of Old Boys and Old Ladies,” a reunion of a group of colleagues that I miss terribly and would love to party with, again, face to face. We went through a lot together. They are some of the most talented professionals I’ve had the pleasure of working with in my career. And a few members of that group were involved in the story I’m about to tell you:

Cultural Detective and the Case of the Ion Exchange Resins

We worked for a multinational business that globally sourced ion exchange resins. IERs are small beads used to separate, purify or decontaminate; they are used to make ultra-pure water, for example. Don’t worry about the technicalities; this story focuses on how the people worked together.

In this case, the IERs were produced in southern France, at a facility that was one of the absolute best in the world. My client imported the IERs to Japan, selling them primarily to the semiconductor manufacturing industry.

The Japanese customers had extremely high quality standards, and the French-produced IERs consistently met all the customer’s requirements. The product was well within spec. But, the Japanese customers were worried: occasionally the IERs they received from France would vary slightly in color. One shipment might arrive quite clear, the next shipment more yellow or orange. Always the specifications were met. The IERs functioned to their purpose. But the color varied.

“The color doesn’t matter,” the French vendor explained. “The color has absolutely no impact on the performance of the IER.”

“Yes, that is true. We understand that color does not affect performance,” came the reply from the Japanese customer. “But we are concerned about why there is a color variation? We feel it must indicate a variance in the production process itself. There must be some variable in production that is not consistent and could be improved.”

A classic cultural gap: a focus on result vs. a focus on process. Does the product perform as required? Or do we look at continuous improvement of the production process itself?

In this case, the argument could quickly produce a stalemate, with both supplier and customer insisting their view is “correct.” The French could insist that their IERs are the best the customer will find. As long as the customer doesn’t find an equivalent product, that could be ok. But, it’s not a very good answer on a global stage, where there always seems to be another supplier waiting in the wings, with cheaper cost, easier shipping, or more commitment to listening to the customer.

Possible results of the vendor insisting that color doesn’t matter?
  • Lost customer (and this was a lengthy and very lucrative relationship),
  • Lost business/profit/cash flow,
  • Lost investment in developing this customer,
  • Huge reinvestment to develop a new customer of the same caliber,
  • Loss of opportunity to improve their product and their production process,
  • Not to mention the human aggravation.

The Japanese, in turn, could blame the supplier. “They are not committed to being the best they can be. They are resting on their laurels, on their prior success. We need suppliers who strive to maintain their leading edge. We need a supplier who listens to us and respects us.”

Possible results of the customer insisting color variation matters?
  • Diminishing trust of, communication and collaboration with the vendor, leading to
  • Loss of a strategic vendor,
  • Loss of the investment in selecting and developing the vendor,
  • Huge reinvestment to source and develop a new vendor,
  • Major time and financial commitment to establishing a relationship and educating a new vendor regarding customer needs, in hopes that the new relationship might become a strategic partnership.

I have seen this push-pull occur so often in my career. It frustrates those involved, it causes aggravation, it wastes time, and it wastes money. Take a moment to put some money to the points above, to calculate the “bottom-line impact” of such a simple cross-communication. In this industry, it is easily in the millions of dollars. And why? Due to pride, to arrogance, but mostly due to ignorance: not really understanding cultural differences and how to navigate them effectively.

And what might an interculturally competent solution look like? We know it involves multi-directional bridging, and systemic as well as interpersonal solutions. And, usually, such interculturally competent solutions are win-wins for both customer and supplier.

How so? Well, the vendor could listen to the customer, learn from the customer, even though the customer’s points don’t pertain directly to the product performance. In this way, the vendor would:
  • Strengthen trust and teamwork with the Japanese customer,
  • Could very well improve the quality of its manufacturing process, which in turn
  • Could help ensure it remains best-in class.
  • The customer will refer more customers to the vendor, due to the strong relationship with and excellent quality of the vendor, and the vendor’s global markets will grow.
In turn, the customer could voice its praise for the vendor’s quality, and explain that it’s intentions are collaborative and collegial; to help both vendor and customer be the best they can be. The customer could apologize for the hassle, and offer its process expertise to the vendor. In this way, the customer would:
  • Strengthen a very lengthy and very strategic vendor relationship,
  • Improve the cross-cultural skills of its staff, enabling them to partner more effectively with other vendors,
  • Improve the customer’s reputation in the global marketplace, as one of collaboration and loyalty.

Thus, the French and Japanese could work together to manufacture more color-consistent IERs, grow their global markets, strengthen their partnership, improve their employees’  skills, and polish their reputations in the marketplace. Win-win-win.

In real life, what actually happened was somewhere in between. These people were smart enough to hire a full-time intercultural consultant, after all, which I believe is one demonstration of their commitment to success. They got advice, and they did their best to put it to good use. They realized that intercultural competence is a lifelong process, contextually based, and strived to always do a bit better. It’s one of the reasons I want to travel halfway around the world to go to that OB-OL-kai!

What do you think? I would love you to share with us why you believe intercultural competence is helpful? Do you have a Cultural Defective or Cultural Effective case to share?

The Connection between Creativity and Intercultural Competence

If I were to ask you what it takes to be effective across cultures, what comes to mind? If you are anything like me, then you have probably started to rattle off some of the classics: self-awareness, open-mindedness, curiosity, flexibility—maybe communication skills. All important.

But where is creativity in this picture? And why isn’t it closer to the top of the list when it comes to what it takes to be effective when working across cultures?

You could argue that creativity is an output of some of the above: if you are open-minded, curious, and flexible, you are likely to be able to be more creative, which will help you to be more effective. But I think it’s worth highlighting the importance of creativity as a stand-alone competency for working across cultures—especially when it comes not just to being aware of cultural differences, but being able to develop effective bridging solutions to differences you may experience.

Take Morfie, our newly named CD animal mascot, as an example. Sure, he may be curious as he scuttles across the ocean floor, but what makes him effective is his creative problem-solving in the face of challenging situations: his ability to morph himself into another sea-creature to ward off danger.

The importance of creativity is something I learned the hard way. When I first moved to Japan, I moved into an apartment subsidized by the company I was working for. There were all kinds of problems with the apartment when I arrived (for example, the heating was broken and it was the middle of winter in Sapporo—yes, the same location as the Winter Olympics in 1972). What would you do in this situation?

My initial instinct was to take a more ‘American’ approach—to take my contract in to my employer, highlight the conditions outlined in the contract that had not been met, and ask for these to be amended. But I wasn’t in the US. I was in Japan, a more relationship-focused and indirect culture. Surely going in and making these kinds of demands and pointing to a contract would not exactly start me off on the right foot with my employer, I thought.

So instead, I tried a more indirect approach. When they asked me how things were in the apartment, I remember trying to be subtle about naming some of the problems. I think at one juncture I might have even said something like, “This is the first time I’ve lived in an apartment where frost and ice forms on the insides of windows.” I kid you not. This raises a whole other topic of the ineffectiveness that can often happen when more direct speakers try to be more indirect.

The point of that story, beyond revealing how much I had to learn about Japanese culture when I arrived, was that I was far from creative in my solving of that situation. In my mind, I had two options: take the American approach, or take the Japanese approach (at least my limited understanding of it at that juncture). Be direct or indirect. It was bifurcated, dichotomized, overly simplified, and therefore ineffective.
  • What if I had invited some of my colleagues over to my apartment for a meal, during which they could have experienced the issues first-hand?
  • What if I had asked a colleague for a recommendation for a repair service? Or even asked them to call a repair company for me, since I had yet to learn the Japanese word for moldy?
  • What if I had written to the American colleague whose role I was taking over and asked him what he would do in this situation?

The point being, I could have and should have considered a lot more creative solutions here, but simply didn’t. And that’s really the point. Often when we are working across cultures, we stop at the first, most obvious answer, and that’s a limitation.

The good news is that my little housing adventure in Japan likely has helped me to become more creative—and it certainly proved the need for me to do so. Interestingly, recent research at Northwestern University in the US and INSEAD in France has highlighted that individuals who have lived abroad often demonstrate higher levels of creativity on classic ‘creative problem solving’ tasks.

That said, waiting until you are stuck in challenging intercultural dilemmas to flex your creativity muscles—or relying solely on living abroad to develop the muscle, doesn’t seem the right answer. It’s the kind of thing that you want to have so ingrained in you, that when you are faced with a tough situation, you naturally think through a number of different possibilities. In essence, it’s about learning to be Morfie-like, to be able to quickly run through a rolodex of possible options as to how to transform yourself effectively in those situations—and to continually be expanding your repertoire of possible options.

Developing your creative problem-solving skills is one of four main competencies we focus on in the newly released Cultural Detective Bridging Cultures for that reason. In the package, we go through a series of exercises that help people to expand their solution space—to really get beyond solutions of the generic, ‘he should get cross-cultural training, she should take the other person out to dinner’ nature. In an earlier post I shared with you an exercise to get started.

One really useful technique that we practice in the package comes from the work of Michael Michalko, a pioneer in creativity. It’s called challenging assumptions. The process is simple. When you are faced with a challenging situation, you name all the assumptions you are making about those situations and challenge those assumptions. The premise is that often the way we frame a problem limits the potential solutions to it.

If we go back to my Japan example, I made a lot of assumptions:
  • that I couldn’t take a typically American approach (yet my colleagues were very accustomed to working with US Americans)
  • that my colleagues were typically Japanese (they may have been attracted to the company I was working with very specifically because it wasn’t typically Japanese)
  • that the solution lied in me adjusting the way I communicated, from a more direct to indirect style (versus, for example, emphasizing another shared value we had), etc.

Challenging even just one of the assumptions would have opened up a lot of other options for me to effectively address this situation.

The experience I had in Japan was ten years ago now, but the lesson it taught me about the importance of creativity is invaluable. I now adopt a number of different creativity techniques regularly in my work. Beyond challenging assumptions, I also regularly change my physical location to prompt me to think about things differently, and I use techniques like thinking through analogies and wearing the hat of the other individual to help me identify more creative and effective solutions.

I would love to hear your experiences with creativity as they relate to intercultural problem solving: whether you’ve experienced situations similar to mine in Japan where it would have served you to be more creative; whether you’ve found other techniques that have helped you to continue to develop truly innovative intercultural solutions; even whether I should challenge the assumption I now have that creativity is a powerful, often overlooked skill in intercultural problem solving.

Miscommunication: Too Much Cultural Sensitivity!

This cross-cultural dating mishap (in response to this post) is a true story from UC Berkeley’s International House, submitted by Joe Lurie:

A German male student and a Guatemalan female student have agreed to go out on an evening date beginning at 8pm. Both wishing to make a good impression, decide to leverage their cross-cultural skills and sensitivity when dealing with approaches to time. The German fellow, normally stereotypically monochronic — 8 means perhaps five to eight — arrives at 8:45 only to find the anxious, somewhat distressed Guatemalan woman saying, “Where have you been? I have been ready since 7:50  as I wanted to be sensitive to your cultural clock.”

Adopting each other’s styles provoked an amusing disconnect — but in this case, not serious. They are married today!

Thank you, Joe! Reminds me how often I used to bow in Japan when my colleagues would simultaneously stick out their arms in anticipation of a handshake.