Thursday, July 12, 2012

For Jody

Portions of my thesis to wet your appetite. Perhaps what we spoke of yesterday will make more sense. Everyone else can listen in. :)

Culturally, Shame in this paper is  defined within the context of Judeo Christian values but we can also see the values of the definition of shame within the Asian cultures to expand our understanding of shame, although it is obvious within the Spanish culture, there is a combination of both shame and guilt cultures. It would appear there is a combination of both due to Judeo Christian values as well as shame culture. This is why in the Med this looks differently than in the Middle East or the Asian world. It is a moral obligation and not a cultural obligation as in Asian cultures. It would appear from the literature that shame in the Med looks more like Shame in the Middle East as both major cultures have had a lot of cultural contact, linguistically, socially, culturally and even politically.
We can see from the literature review in psychology that we sense and experience anxiety and/or motivation as a result of our shame. Anxiety in second language acquisition has been studied in depth, and we are well aware of its causes and effects on the brain, emotions and learning abilities. However, anxiety is one of the result of shame, and a narrow aspect. Shame can also be a positive aspect in second language learning as we will see. If one is ashamed that he or she cannot communicate, one of two possible outcomes may occur. 1. A person will be afraid to make a mistake in language and will be overwhelmed and cease trying.2. A person will be afraid to not be able to communication and will be motivated by lack of ability to hone his or hers ability in language. However, what seems to be more likely than not is that shame is a barrier to second language acquisition and most students, when confronted by this barrier actually are impeded by it, and do not advance in their language studies, specifically in the area of speaking. Many will continue to study, but without self awareness in this area, they will not become advanced speakers in their second language.



Definition of Shame from an Eastern Viewpoint
Although shame is still shame in either a Western or Eastern context, the intensity is quite different. Everything that I have discussed and will continue to discuss is Shame from a Westernized context, but it is noteworthy to briefly discuss shame within an Eastern context.
In order to be thorough in research on shame, one cannot ignore that the the society in which shame is most powerful used and felt is Japan.  Ruth Benedict’s anthropological work on Japan is not new, but is still one of the foremorst ethnograpical sketchs still refered to by many. Even though some view her ideas on shame in Japanese culture biased, her thoughts are still quite thorough and for my purposes, adequate to help define shame in general.
In the forward in Benedict’s definitive work, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, Ian Buruma summarizes Benedict’s ideas on shame culture by stating, “Shame comes from not living up to social obligations…Shame depends on the observations of others.” (Buruma 2005 p. x) Previously he discusses the author’s personal struggle of trying to make sure that there was a definingly line between a guilt culture (like in the United States) and a shame culture (like in Japan). Benedict distinctly shows that these are stereotypes and that not every person in these cultures falls into one or the other categories, but that these categories aid one to  understand culture.[1]
                Benedict’s main ideas about shame state that shame cannot be absolved as guilt can by confession and forgiveness and so it’s feeling of chagrin is very powerful and unbearable. She believes that shame is caused by an exterior force, that produced by societies expectations placed upon the individual by stating that,  “true shame cultures rely on external for good behavior…Shame is a reaction to other people’s criticism.”(Benedict 2001 p. 222-223)  She believes guilt to be produced as a result of an internal action that “may be relieved by confessing …sin.” (Benedict p. 223). She further elaborates on shame stating that the Japanese equate shame to virtue and that a man without shame does not possess virtue and that a man with shame is a “man of honor”. (Benedict p. 224)


[1] Benedict was commissioned by the US government in order to write a defining work on the Japanese culture in 1944. She tried to do so as objectively as possible. Her previous counterparts, including ambassadors, had nothing positive to say about the Japanese culture, calling them “barbarians”  and “savages”. Her definitive work changed the way the West thought and still thinks about the Japanese culture. (Buruma 2005 p. vii-viii)



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