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Cultural Markers

Many people have a culturally identifiable name and, perhaps, a physical appearance that conveys, or at least suggests, their cultural identity. For example, imagine a brown-skinned, dark-haired person named Augusto Torres. He identifies himself as Latino. But many individuals are not so easily identified culturally. Two million people in the United States are culturally mixed and may identify with one or two or with multiple cultures. A person named Susan Lopez might be expected to be Latina, judging only from her last name. “Lopez” actually comes from her adoptive parents, who raised her in the Latino tradition in the Southwest. But Susan’s biological father was a European American, and her mother is a Native American. Her physical appearance reflects her biological parentage. However, Susan is culturally Latina, preferring to speak Spanish, enjoying traditional food and music, and displaying other aspects of Latino culture. Here we see that blood ancestry does not dictate an individual’s cultural identification.

Many individuals have names that do not fit exactly with their self-perceived cultural identity. For example, consider three communication scholars named Fernando Moret, Miguel Gandert, and Jorge Reina Schement. Can you guess the culture with which each individual identifies? Do you think that their first name or their surname best predicts their cultural identification? In intercultural marriages, if the wife takes her husband’s surname, her cultural identity may no longer be conveyed by her married name.

When individuals change their religious or ethnic identity, they often change their name to reflect their new identification. For instance, when the world heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay became a Black Muslim, he changed his name to Mohammed Ali. Likewise, basketball player Kareem Abul-Jabbar was Lew Alcindor before he joined the Muslim faith. Some European immigrants had their names changed by U.S. immigration officials when they were processed through Ellis Island in New York. For example, “Stein” became “Stone”, “Schwarz” was often changed to “Black”. In many cases, the name change was to an Anglo-Saxon name that was easier to understand in the United States.


Date: 2015-01-02; view: 1018

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The Concepts of Culture and Communication | Beliefs, Attitudes, and Values
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