April 16th, 2008

ozarque figure

Linguistics; crosscultural communication; Foreigner series; part five...

Let's try something, if you're willing, and see what happens...

Context

1. seajules commented:
"Along the lines of what's already been said about how the emotions are the same, but the targets are different, one of the things it interested me to speculate in the Foreigner novels was how much of the theory that atevi and humans didn't share the same emotional base might be attributed to miscommunication. While I'm willing to go with the idea that atevi experience different emotions, I also thought it would be interesting if the base emotions were the same, but the methods of communicating and expressing them were so different as to give the impression they weren't the same, and I thought that was a great illustration of exactly how thorny interspecies communication could be, the whole question of 'do they or don't they,' and how to ever definitively determine that."

2. meepa agreed, saying:
"I had that same moment of curiosity the day I read Pretender directly after reading The Warrior's Apprentice. I don't know if you've read both, but there's a scene in Pretender where Bren jumps on Tabini to pull him down when someone pulls a gun. He makes the claim that he didn't do it because he feels man'chi. Great. Okay. ..."

3. Probably all of you have read Laura Bohannon's classic essay, "Shakespeare in the Bush," where Bohannon tries to tell a group of elders of the Tiv [a West African people] the story of Shakespeare's "Hamlet," and the elders explain to her how and why she has totally misunderstood that story. If you haven't read it, however, it's at http://www.cc.gatech.edu/home/idris/Essays/Shakes_in_Bush.htm . And it's crucially relevant to our discussion.


Question

Now, suppose that you were trying to describe and explain -- to a group of atevi -- the story of the current communication-strategy mess in the Democratic presidential primary. Where Senator Clinton and Senator McCain are keeping up an unrelenting harangue about Senator Obama's "elitism," and his "elitist remarks" about why some voters vote against their own economic self-interest -- despite the fact that all three senators are well aware that what Obama said was an accurate description of a situation familiar to everyone involved in politics today -- simply because Clinton and McCain are convinced that voters are so stupid that they'll believe anything they hear said often enough.

How would you tell that story? What would you say? How would the atevi, filtering your words through the concept of man'chi, understand what you were saying? [In the glossary, on page 427 of Foreigner, Cherryh defines "man'chi" for us as "primary loyalty to association or leader."] Would the atevi agree with your interpretation of what's going on, or would they have an entirely different interpretation? Would they argue with you? Would you be able to convince them that you're right and they're wrong, without being offensive?

Over to you...
ozarque figure

Recommended link; more crosscultural communication...

In the context of our current discussion, I want to recommend an article that I've recommended once before -- "Ties That Bind: Hopi gift culture and its first encounter with the United States," by Peter M. Whiteley, from the November 2004 issue of Natural History. You'll find it at http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/1104/1104_feature.html . Sample:

"As so often happens when two cultures make contact, deep misunderstandings can arise: What does a gift mean? What, if anything, does the gift giver expect in return? Do the giver and the recipient both assign the same value to the gift? ... Given the differences between Hopi and Western traditions and culture, perhaps it is not surprising that the Hopi idea of 'gift' is only loosely equivalent to the Western one."