Final paper for
part I / MW2110 Intercultural Communication 2008 Autumn, Kristianstad University, Sweden
: Lee, Hunjae
Diversity: A 4. “Personality and Person Perception in Africa.” pp 135-141
(Questions in page 141.) in Samovar,
Larry A., Porter, Richard E. & Mc Daniel, Edwin R. (2006) Intercultural
Communication. A Reader. London: Thomson Learning.
paper reviews personality and social behavior in Africa. Three distinctive
components of the people inhabiting present-day sub-Saharan Africa are
identified: (1) traditional persons who are yet little affected by
modernization, (2) transitional persons, and (3) modern individuals. The
socialization of traditional and transitional persons can be illustrated in the
form of a model in three dimensions: the authority dimension (vertical,
diachronic, historic); the group dimension (horizontal, synchronic, social);
the body – mind – environment dimension. Various personhood attributes are
identified along the three dimension such as that the traditional person is socialized
primarily by people, while the modern person is socialized primarily by
objects. By being exposed to people, the traditional person will develop more
social intelligence than technological intelligence.
containing blueprint of this article
1. Describe how
the six “essential socialization experiences common in African societies” listed by Peltzer can be used to
understand the socialization of African children.
these six experiences summarized by Okeke et al.(1999) to analyze the socialization
of African children into three dimensions. (a) Close bodily contact with the
mother and prompt relief of hunger and physical discomfort : This is a
basement for their body-oriented personality. It also bring about the early
stage which will make children more obedient. (b) mothering by several
adults : It contributes to make them more socially integrated and results
from weaning that help children transfer the power of mother to satisfy all
needs onto other authorities. (c) systemic inculcation of respect and
obedience toward parents, elders. : Children learn, through education and
through imitation of respected persons, how to behave toward other people in
the framework of hierarchy. (d) rather relaxed and unpressured training
toward bodily self-control. : It is applied to the reason that cause more
physical activity to learn empirical group works. (e) providing a rather
wide scope for exploration of the physical and social environment. , (f)
peer groups of children of the same age and gender assuming importance as
agents of socializations : These are sources for Africans collective
virtues of the family and the group.
Describe the differences between traditional, transitional, and modern
individual as outlined by Peltzer.
traditional : Not yet affected by modernization. Still functioning within the
established framework of their culture. (b) transitional : Shuttling between
two cultures such as work and home or urban house and ancestral traditional
village. (c) modern individual : totally living in the contemporary, industrial
or postindustrial world like many western cultures. In this simple trichotomy
Peltzer is explaining about former two things to indicate cultural changeness
3. Explain how
these three categories might be used to understand social psychological
development in other parts of the world. Would they apply to indigenous people
in Central or South America? If yes, why; if no, why not?
categories are valid only in the range of admitting predominated modern western
cultures. For example, in the case of United States we can’t find as much
dramatic change as in that of Africa or Asian countries with these categories.
Even in US there are surely some variations between traditional and
transitional. But it is just minor things like changes of dwelling style after
urbanization, not fundamental things like changes of personality and person perception.
In contrast with this, categories are quite fit to explain Central or South
America. Most differences have been developed historically from ancient
different background like thoughts, mode of life and so on. Blacks,
Latin-American and Catholic believers have background similar to Asians’
background originated from ancient agricultural society, opposed to western
background originated from ancient Greek philosophy that emphasizes unique
personhood, freedom, rationality.
4. How do
children raised in the traditional mode differ from children in the
transitional mode with regard to their value and attitudes toward authority?
mode children acquire knowledge and behavior patterns which focus mainly on its
conduct in the presence of elders. They are expected to show respect to the
senior in the every social contexts like greetings, rituals of thanks giving,
even control of aggression. Naturally they develop obedience to authority. Seniors
serve protection and advises to them in return. It is acceptable for them,
getting old every day.
children raised in transitional mode now start to bear new hope and value
without many elder family members. They are living in nuclear family and
imposed other masters, an authority other than that of the ancestor.
5. How might the
upbringing of children with an integrated sense of dance and rhythm affect
their ability to communicate interculturally with Westerners?
Traditional African children who share all
the mother’s movement including dance and frequently involved in rhythm, music
are likely to show better rhythmic performance abilities than did Westerners. They
are used to communicate with body contact and socialized primarily by people,
finally will develop more social intelligence than technological intelligence. In
other words it means that they are more communication themselves to others than
is the Westerners, who are more dependent on purely verbal means of
communication. Therefore when they meet Westerners there will be a chance to encounter
difficulties in their warmth that can be regarded as violating privacy by
6. How does the
group orientation manifest itself in the persona of African children?
children are socialized into the group that replace their parents by siblings
and age mates. They are able to identify themselves with relations. Group
orientation appears in the individual who has no intrinsic value outside the
network of kinship and community, but remains dependent upon the group and its
collective virtues, norms, ideals.
7. Why might the
group orientation of traditional and transitional African be a problem in
Simply It is quite contrary to the Individual
orientation of Westerners. In case of the business situation group oriented
person can be easily fallen in unnecessary bureaucracy or irrational attitude,
whereas Westerners can be seen as an self-interest person. Though transitional
African has undergone some individuation process, they have somewhat guilt
feelings for their tradition. That is why they are still not enough to be middleman
between traditional African and Westerners. It is highly probable to make
miscommunication when they meet each other.
8. What does
Peltzer mean by the body-mind/environment dimension?
Peltzer tried to let his analysis make sense
by finding the origin of difference between traditional African and modern Westerners.
So he draw the body-mind/environment dimension which is used for explaining
different socializations. African’s body-mind unity originated from incessant
bodily contact mother-infant relates to their authority and group orientations.
And in Western culture nonhuman objects in the environment affects people to
develop more technological intelligence and individualism than social
9. Peltzer uses
the term personhood. What does he mean by this term?
a noun that refers “the state or condition of being a person, or individual
human being” in general. And Peltzer uses “personhood” concept of Africa to consider
the meaning, “relational and contextual aspects of Africans’ personality” as opposed
to the Westerns’ more emphasized on pronounced self concept.
10. How does the
developed personhood of traditional children and transitional children differ?
They reveal totally different personhood in
three dimension as mentioned above. The transitional person is no longer ruled
by the authority and “group person” as the traditional person. Transitional
children are living in nuclear family which overcome the authority of many
elders and undergoing individuation. Now their mind is more highly valued than
the body contrary to that of traditional children. They started to make more
internal locus of control.
It is sure that Peltzer can serve useful
glimpse of African culture for public by this paper. But if we consider this
paper as a serious and academic articles, more criticism can be made. As he
admit the weakness of this articles in preface, it is too naive to make complex
cultural phenomenon into simple categories and dimensions. At first categorization
like traditional, transitional and modern is quite comfortable but meaning
nothing special. It just describes the ongoing phenomenon. Good scientific
sociological research provides factors of phenomenon and predictions. When it
comes to dimensions, there is no empirical data like some statistics to set
three dimensions like those. This is not the meaning that his analysis is
wrong. Still this paper has an importance to introduce not well-known culture
to us in basic intercultural textbooks. However the fact that this article is
cited only four times including three times of citations by himself from 2002 demonstrates
the status of this paper in academic world well. Rather than this, it is highly
recommended to read the book titled “The Geography of Thought : How Asians and
Westerners Think Differently…and Why” written by Richard Nisbett that lay out
historical, empirical truths from the traditional differences between Aristotle
of Western and Confucius of Eastern.
 Abstract from
original copy of this article, Social
Behavior and Personality, 2002, 30(1), pp. 83-94