Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

The Silence of an Adopted Culture

HSBurke's picture

I was honestly fascinated by the Kim & Markus piece, Speech and Silence: An Analysis of the Cultural Practice of Talking. It intrigued me from the very beginning with the description of Asian American students in the classroom and how teachers have found these students "do not participate in class as much as [they] want them too". This point really hit home for me. While I am in no way Asian or East Asian, I did grow up in a predominantly Asian community. I went to a school that was 90% Asian and had all Asian friends. For this reason, Asian culture is a huge part of who I am, and my early exposure to cultures other than my own was very influential in shaping the person I am now. Part of me would really like to use this influence to explain why I find it so difficult and uncomfortable to speak up in class. And maybe it plays a part. I know that my mind is a busy place -- overflowing with thoughts most of the time. Just because I don't speak them doesn't mean they aren't there. It would make sense that I am a product of the culturally-infused academic environment that I grew up in. But of course, not all my time was spent in school. My house was never a particularly loud or expressive place. How much of who I am in the classroom comes from home and how much comes from primary school? 

After finishing the article, the thoughts it generated for me ended up being more removed from the subject of silence. I'd always thought of culture being somewhat rigid. I am a white, middle class Californian and boring as it may be, this is my culture. While I've always seen myself as being very influenced by cultures outside my own, I never thought to consider them as a part of me or making up my unique cauc(asian) self. So, what is culture? Can you adopt a culture outside the one you were born into? And can this connection be so strong that my argument above about my in-class silence being a product of my adoptive culture really be valid? As always, I am left with more questions than answers.