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Regional News

Embracing Micronesia’s cultural diversity

PEOPLE first settled Micronesia about 2,000 to 3,500 years ago, and today, the region has become the hub of travelers from Asia, America, and other countries.

Because of the region’s great cultural diversity, there is a need to understand and embrace the different cultures within the islands’ various communities.

We must understand and appreciate differences while being respectful of them.

A paper titled “Polycultural Psychology” discussed interconnections among cultures. Its co-authors are Chi-yue Chiu of the Nanyang Business School in Singapore, Michael Morris, Chavkin-Chang professor of leadership at Columbia Business School, and Zhi Liu, a PhD student at Columbia Business School.

“Traditional research categorizes individuals by their culture of origin and identifies cultural influences with differences between cultures, which often lapses into stereotyping. Polyculturalism rejects this view, and contends that individuals’ inheritance from cultural traditions is both partial and plural. For example, an individual from the United States internalizes and enacts only some aspects of American culture and takes some influences from other cultural traditions.

“Polyculturalism views cultures as networks not categories.  Whereas the traditional research paradigm of culturalism, and its entailed policies of ‘multiculturalism,’ emphasize differences among cultures, the research paradigm of polyculturalism, and its entailed policies of ‘interculturalism,’ emphasize interconnections among cultures.”

“It’s time for a paradigm shift in our understanding of culture,” said Michael Morris, lead author of the study. “At a time when so many…live and work in multiple cultures, categorizing people based on their passport or birthplace just doesn’t ring true. Polyculturalism offers a better lens for understanding cultural complexity and how it affects collaboration, negotiation and leadership.”