The September–October theme 2017: Intercultural communication
Me and some friends were discussing Canadian politics when someone brought up the science minister, Dr. K.E. Duncan. I automatically assumed that we were talking about a man.
My bad: I had fallen into the trap of stereotype expectation.
In my head, white men are most likely to be in a position of power. Therefore, my brain painted a picture where Dr. Kirsty Ellen Duncan is a man – even though I consider myself a feminist, and I don’t want to assume that only men are government ministers. However, I was taught a little lesson and I have to say it warms my heart that a woman scientist (in health geography) is the science minister of the country of which I currently am a resident.
Stereotypes arise very easily when we only know very little (“a single story”) about another culture. In a diverse society, and a diverse scientific community, cross-cultural communication is key. I recently learned more about it as part of a course at the University of Saskatchewan – this lesson is described in the current Crastina Column. Together with other students we were transformed into guests at the Moss Eisley Cantina from “Star Wars”- the bar where you can meet aliens from furthest corners of the galaxy. We played a card game Barnga, which was an eye-opening experience on how our culture shapes our point of view.
If everyone plays by slightly different rules, what happens when you’re the minority? Or when you’re the majority, do you even notice when you convince others to “play by your rules”? Or in real life, do I always regard other people’s opinion, perspective or lifestyle with due respect – especially if they come from a different culture (and have other “rules”)?
The difficulty with unconscious bias is the fact that it’s unconscious. Let’s move our cross-cultural communication into more conscious, respectful place, where we’re learning to recognize biases and admit being wrong.
Senior editor, Crastina
Post Doctoral Fellow, University of Saskatchewan