Chapter 7: Dominant US Cultural PatternsThe depiction of a general national culture through the various value orientations identified in chapter 7, is quite spot on especially since those orientations are observable in individual and group behavior (Jandt, 1995). This is in spite of highly distinct individual cultures and subcultures developed through immigration and modern progress but which have conformed into a national culture as explained through the value orientation theory. For instance, people from cultures like Mexicans and Asians who have strong family connections emphasizing collectivism gradually turn towards individualism as the dominant US cultural patterns take root. Indeed, I knew of an Asian family who initially had a strong collectivistic orientation especially in daily activities like contributing to family dinners but which, with time, changed as they came to acclimatize to the dominant and prevailing socio-economic conditions. Nonetheless, it is difficult not to question the strong bonds observed in minority groups such as Chinese Americans as well as African Americans which creates a form of collectivism on the community level (albeit not a the family level). Perhaps a better way of understanding the dominant US cultural patterns would be to assess and compare how various social and economic elements define and influence individual cultures and subcultures in order to identify dominant characteristics.

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Chapter 8: Comparative Cultural Patterns
The influence of the Islamic religion on Arab culture is shown to be quite potent given that religious rules traverse the socio-economic and political arenas. This is in great contrast to the influence of Christianity on western culture, which seems to have a lesser influence largely tempered by science and reason. Fundamentally, behavior in general including in economic and political matters is defined by interpretations of religious prescriptions even though break from traditions in light of other cultural influences may signal an evolution of culture. For instance, despite strict restrictions in how Muslim girls should behave and even dress, the changes that can be observed in western style dress codes by Muslim women may spawn a cultural revolution that mixes Islam and western cultural traditions. This is in light of a narrative from a friend who told me of a Muslim girl who, due to strict parents, dressed accordingly at home but changed when she went out to meet friends; highly influenced by who she identified as liberated Muslim women. Taking a different point of view involving how social media engendered change through the Arab Spring can provide insights into how a cultural evolution may be developing especially since stereotypes and other cultural orientations are demystified and new cultural lessons learnt.

Chapter 9: Culture and Women
The social construction of gender and the explanations provided of how women are treated in different cultures are quite illuminating; depicting varied similarities but also distinct differences in relation to elements like marriage, family roles, education and political participation, among others. For instance, African and Japanese women are identified as being relegated to the home but the latter have high literacy levels and they handle the family’s finances; even though all this has changed (and continues to change). This is with the exception of Nordic countries where gender equality developed more prominently throughout history and which have continued to promote gender equality (Jandt, 1995). Like evolution in religious-defined culture, gender dynamics are also changing besides potential cultural changes prompted by policies like China’s one-child campaign as well as realization of greater and/or positive contributions by women in society. For instance, I have heard stories from friends of African and Hispanic Americans who share in household chores despite strong cultural orientations which stress separation of distinct family roles (specifically, gender roles). Critical analysis of progress achieved through the efforts of women in various social, economic and political arenas should provide a unique viewpoint through which to understand the significant contributions of women in society especially when they can juggle home and careers.

    References
  • Jandt, F. E. (1995). Intercultural communication: An introduction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.