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Deconstructing Cultural Shock Experiences In Diasporic Poetry

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To provide context, culture is an integrated system of learned behaviour patterns, wherein meaning is transmitted from generation to generation. According to Fisher, it represents specific attitudes and feelings of any given groups of people, which put simply is a system of shared meaning (qtd. in Kocak 64). As structuralists would understand, the nature of language is akin to culture; in the sense that, conventional meanings are often imposed and categorically defined to regulate discourse. And, the role of discourse arises from our need to provide structure, or order rather; of which, is only possible from a consensus, or a mutual agreement on certain public values. Tomasello’s research on this systematic relationship, stems from our nascent desire for interdependence, in other words, to be able to empathize—to understand and identify these feelings we recognize within ourselves, and find them in alternative representations (191-192). Meaning builds these kinds of relationships between us and the world, bridging the gaps between known and unknown, that way we aren’t lost in translation. As delineated by Winograd and Flores, “theories about the nature of biological existence, about language, and about the nature of human action have a profound influence on the shape of what we build and how we see it” (qtd. in Van de Walle, et al. 465). Meaning, or alternatively language, plays a crucial role in managing the psychological comforts attached to our experiences of the world. But, what’s important to highlight is not how meaning is necessarily inherited across generations or even inherent to us as humans, but again learned and familiarized through gradual exposure. This would then suggest how mutable, the nature of meaning actually is, in particular, its instability as a result of changing or shifting contexts.

The term “culture shock” was initially developed by Oberg, who as follows described it being: “...precipitated by the anxiety that results from losing all our familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse” (qtd. in Irwin). These signs again orient us in our everyday lives, and are often not carried out on the level of conscious awareness Due to our ethnocentric nature, we often don’t realize how these habits operate as presuppositions in addressing cultural codes (Kocak 65). And so by default, we often unwittingly judge unfamiliar cultures through the lenses of a known or familiar culture.loCultural shock therefore results from imperfect knowledge of the behavioural expectations or feedback from a novel culture, and likewise an obliviousness to the existence of cultural programming (66). Cultural shock is usually accompanied by physical symptoms of compulsive behaviours; or in some cases as Bock and Marx would describe, is more so a psychological disorientation and helplessness produced by the experience of foreignness (qtd. in Manz). In a philosophical research by Heidegger, Being and Time, it extrapolates how familiarity becomes our mode of expression, and/or the basis of our understanding of the world (qtd. in Van de Walle, et al. 464). This makes negations on how relations are not between subject and an object, but are otherwise dominated by consciousness to create representations (3). And, such nuances we find in representations assist us in abolishing exclusionary experiences, or what deem to be an ostracism.yio ho hou

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Winkelmann determines then these varying degrees of psychological comfort or lack thereof in these cultural shock experiences, which he divides into four distinguishable stages: (i) the honeymoon phase; (ii) the crisis phase; (iii) the reorientation phase; and (iv) adaptation (122). According to Xia, the progression between these phases are actually not linear, but more so a chronic process (qtd. in Abbassian & Sharifi 154). Likened to how meaning performs, these phases are discontinuous; they can leap, regress, and even revert between these different stages. The first stage, the honeymoon phase, approximately lasts from a few days up to six months; in short, these periods are often relatively short-lived, or more accurately superficial experiences (Kocak 66). As aforementioned, culture shock tends to be more of a chronic process; so as a result, the honeymoon phase can’t manifest these negative symptoms, or feelings of disorientation usually experienced in the latter stages. Instead, it is marked by a contrived fascination displaced by an undesirable or inferior present reality (Winkelman 122).

Once the euphoria of change declines into a mere fleeting desire, the immigrant transitions unto the crises phase. This is when the immigrant starts to cope with the real conditions of the foreign environment, often showing signs of hostility and aggression. Often at this stage, the immigrant can either successfully, or fail to overcome these symptoms (Kocak 66). According to Wagner-Moore’s research on Gestalt theory, the adaptation cycle is further subdivided into these sections: awareness, excitement, action, and most importantly, contact (181). Gestalt theory uses ‘contact’ as an abstract, to represent a relationship between an individual and their surrounding environment, in this case, an alien country, which is necessary for the cycle to reach fruition. To further elaborate, it explains how contact and awareness becomes disrupted, specifically when the self loses this sense of recognition or otherwise is obscured by the environment. And in order for the cycle to function aptly, there has to be an internal and also external recognition of the self. Or in other words, the self must be given meaning, proper meaning, to bring about excitement, similar to that of the honeymoon phase (182). Losing this personal intimacy with this former self becomes a bereavement of those unconscious and automated aspects in our personal lives (Winkelman 122).

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Deconstructing Cultural Shock Experiences In Diasporic Poetry. (2021, August 13). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 4, 2024, from
“Deconstructing Cultural Shock Experiences In Diasporic Poetry.” Edubirdie, 13 Aug. 2021,
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