RN: Becoming Interculturally Competent / by Siobhán Cronin

"Becoming Interculturally Competent" by Milton J. Bennett. 

From Towards multiculturalism: A reader in multicultural education. Wurzel, J (Ed.). (2004). Newton, MA: Intercultural Resource Corporation.


This article is a mess. 

That lack of address of the individual is troubling throughout, both from the perspective of the observed (the agent exhibiting the "other" culture in question) and the observer (one's capacity to think abstractly, relationship to power, etc.). 

I question the instrument's validity with multicultural segments of the population. The failure to address the complexities of cultural intersectionalities, and how, at the level of the individual, such intersectionalities may compromise one's identification with any defined cultural context, is one of the model's shortcomings. For instance, let's take the case of LGBTQ* people, in whom we encounter a scattered array of cultural experiences (since gender and sexual identity develop throughout all cultural systems, which highlight, suppress, and harm differences in a variety of ways). One's experience of integrating the culture of "Norwegian-born gay-identified male from India" will almost undoubtedly fail to provide one with an understanding of relating to a "Thailand-born gay-identified male from Cleveland". 

Put simply, human beings develop in more culturally complex contexts than this model accounts for. 

I am also curious about how this instrument addresses systemic power differentials. For instance, there is a danger in countering one's denial of differences between white privilege and black oppression with an integration of cultural practices born of such oppression. That would simply perpetuate the oppression. I believe an instrument more tuned to the individual could be more relevant in parsing out implied vs. chosen acts of oppression, and how these intersect with one's practice of advancing through any stages of cultural competency.

Perhaps the instrument holds up more robustly when taken across broader cultural categories (like national identity, which is referenced a few times), but its failures in addressing common American cultural experiences, as touched upon above, makes me skeptical about the validity of the research referenced to devise this model in the first place. 

I also find myself wanting an address of how this models grafts onto models of cultural theory of mind, namely one's capacity to conceive of other cultural context in the first place. We are asked to assume such capacity is universal, yet, like all cognitive functioning, it must certainly draw upon more basic processing that is worthy of definition. 

And we can do away with some of the author's abuses of authorial privilege, including one tangent where they conflate the terms "anglo", "European-American", and "white", while also throwing around the phrase "dominant-culture". Let's find alternatives the author can used instead of dominant vs. non-dominant culture. 

In short, I find myself wanting a more robust model that takes into account the specific capacity, agency, and relationship to privilege and cultural ivtersectionalities that exist at the individual level and how these individual levels come to know, respect, trust, and honor one another.