Business / Self-Awareness In Cultural Competence
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Autor: anton 24 November 2010
Words: 470 | Pages: 2
The cultural competence approach has grown significantly in the North American human service professions. The reliance of social workers on cultural awareness to block the influence of their own culture in the helping process entails three problematic and conflicting assumptions, namely, the notion of human being as cultural artifact, the use of self as a technique for transcending cultural bias, and the subject-object dichotomy as a defining structure of the worker-client relationship. The authors contend that there are conceptual incoherencies within the cultural competence model's standard notion of self-awareness. The conceptualization of a dialogic self may unsettle the hierarchical worker-client relationship and de-essentialize the concept of culture. Cross-cultural social work thus becomes a site where client and worker negotiate and communicate to cocreate new meanings and relationships.
With cultural diversity increasing in North America, cross-cultural practice has grown significantly in the social work profession. Discussion among social work educators, researchers, and practitioners about training, practice, and theory building in cross-cultural social work abounds in the present literature (Goldberg, 2000). Cross-cultural social work can be generally defined as any working relationship "in which two or more of the participants differ with respect to cultural background, values and lifestyle" (D. W. Sue et al., 1982, p.47). In this article, we examine the major approach in cross-cultural social work, namely, the cultural competence model, which has also received tremendous attention in other human service professions such as counseling, health, and mental health. Although this article purports to provide an alternative insight for the social work profession, the discussion may be useful to other human service professions, members of which often engage cross-culturally with clients.
We contend that the cultural competence model's taken-for-granted notion of cultural awareness, which is a form of self-awareness that focuses particularly on one's cultural background, is conceptually incoherent. Its faith in a social worker's capacity to activate a set of techniques in order to suspend their own cultural influences contradicts its postulation of the individual as a cultural being. This conception of social workers' self-awareness also produces a hierarchical subject-object dichotomy in the worker-client relationship, as it assumes that social workers are subjects capable of becoming neutral and impartial culture-free agents, while clients are objects who stay within the limits of their culture, to be regarded as such by social workers. Borrowing insights from the social constructivist perspective and Mikhail Bakhtin's (1895-1975) theorization of dialogue, this article proposes a conceptualization of a dialogic self in cross-cultural practice. The dialogic self is an ongoing and fluid cocreation through intersubjective dialogue with others. We contend that understanding the self as dialogic unsettles the hierarchical worker-client relationship, saturating much of the existing discussion about cultural competence. The concept of the dialogic self in cross-cultural social work also eschews essentializing culture, both the worker's and the client's, and rather sees culture as fluid and changing.
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