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SPCM 4331: Intercultural Communication
Cultural Identity Narrative Analysis Paper
This paper gives you an opportunity to look at one way in which your own culture is
shared and passed along. In every culture one finds stories and narratives. The who, why, what,
when, where and how of these stories may vary from culture to culture, but one basic function of
these stories remains constant. As these stories get retold, they help people to make sense of the
world around them by teaching them what is important in life and how to respond appropriately
to common problems. I want you to analyze a story or narrative from your own community.
The community you choose may be as big as the nation or as small as your family or
group of friends. It may be the student community or some organization to which you belong.
The key is that you belong to the community and that this is a story that is told and retold in your
community. In general, stories have certain types of people facing some kind of problem, the
actions those people take and the consequences of those actions. However, this does NOT have
to be a “formal story.” Your story may just be an incident or experience that people tend to bring
up and retell in various situations (e. g., if you were to choose your family as your “community,”
communication situations where such stories may have been told might include: at family
gatherings; during dates, dinners, parties; at weddings, funerals, farewells; within parent/child
relations, within friendships, within business negotiations or sales, and so forth).
It does not matter whether the story is true, only that people tell it. Determining truth is
not the point of this assignment.
Once you have your story (and it may seem like just an everyday, common sort of story
to you), analyze it for cultural particulars. For example, one might start to ask and identify who
tells the story to whom, in what settings, when and why? What types of persons and problems
are described in the story? What do they do and what are the consequences? Include such factors
as your own cultural identity and the histories that have shaped it, including such factors as your
ancestral background, racial/ethnic history, where you grew up, your economic class, your
upbringing by parents/guardians, religion, personal experiences that revealed or shaped your
You must integrate identity concepts from any presented in Chapters 2-5, applying them
to your experience to explain the formation of your own cultural identity. Most importantly, you
will apply an interpretive perspective on identity development to yourself in which you compare
the insights that your selected narrative gives you and come to a conclusion about their relative
importance. What communication patterns are manifest in the study? What cultural surface
characteristics stand out? What cultural deep structures are revealed in the story (e.g., what
religious views undergird the story? what world views underlie the way the story is told or the
content of the story)? Your analysis is mainly the identification of the cultural system that makes
your story sensible and the illumination of the deep structure(s) that underlie(s) the cultural
surface. You will have to step back from aspects of the story that you just take for granted and
treat them as strange, as viewed from a distance.
In this 6-8 page TYPED, theory-oriented and rhetorical-critical paper, you will
describe your own current cultural identity and the histories that have shaped it,
Due: March 25 – 29 in class. You will also be asked to summarize your analysis in a
brief oral report (~ 5 minutes).
Evaluation: Your grade will reflect the vividness of your narrative account and how
effectively you: (1) integrate theories and concepts with information about your own background
and (2) identify and assess the norms and values/religious views/worldviews underlying your
current understanding of your identity. Organization and writing style/mechanics also matter.
Careless writing will negatively impact on your grade.
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