Defining Cultural Awareness

“Trauma always happens within a particular context, and so does healing. Understanding the impact of the trauma means being acutely sensitive to the environment, to the conditions under which people grew up, and to the journeys they have taken along the way” (Culture and Trauma). This context is culture and the understanding is cultural intelligence and awareness. 

There are a couple of different meanings and connotations when it comes to culture. Cambridge Dictionary first defines culture as: “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time” (Cambridge Dictionary).

An example of this would be nationalistic or tribal characteristics. Under this definition, people will usually describe themselves with identity language (e.g., “I am Japanese”).

It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of cultural awareness for the caregiver. Traditions, religious rites, rituals, and coping strategies will certainly define what resilience looks like for a particular community. 

Cambridge Dictionary’s second definition directly applies to the context of this course. It is “the attitudes, behavior, opinions, etc., of a particular group of people within society” (Cambridge Dictionary). 

This definition refers to the shared values and worldviews of a particular group. Organizational culture, religious identifiers, or small social groupings that share ideology (e.g., scouting clubs, knitting circles, etc.) would fall under this definition. Therefore even though many of the examples within this course deal with international context, cultural differences are only sometimes defined by international borders. For example, the culture in the Southeast United States is very different from that of the Pacific Northwest. Generally, the larger the geographical region, the more diverse the range of cultures will be.

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