Acculturation and Intercultural Identity in the Post-Modern World

Robert Wichert

The multicultural world is enhanced by the experiences of sojourners, merchants, immigrants, and others that successfully transition from one culture to another. The individual becomes more mature and knowledgeable. The world becomes more diverse and at the same time becomes more understanding. A variety of perspectives on acculturation and the concept of intercultural identity are discussed, with research support and related communication theories highlighted. This overview of acculturation and intercultural identity presents the most current research in the area with suggestions for future investigations.

Y. Y. Kim's Theory of Acculturation and Intercultural Identity.

The Place of Acculturation in the Modern World

A century ago, world travel was unusual and newsworthy. In 1890, Nellie Bly completed a trip around the world in eighty days. This feat was considered remarkable at the time and was widely publicized as astonishing news. Today the same trip might be accomplished in two days or less using standard airline schedules. As our world becomes more technologically connected and capable, it also shrinks. The capability to travel at high speeds safely has encouraged tourism, scholarship and commerce between nations, continents, and hemispheres. The global business person can travel to distant markets at supersonic speeds. If needs at home can be met by seeking out goods in foreign lands, those needs are met by the modern clipper ships of commerce, the airliners. Students routinely travel to foreign lands for international studies. These broadening experiences help to improve the knowledge base of the student, while providing the academic community in the host country with an infusion of new thoughts from outside their borders. With the capability to travel, the world seems smaller and more accessible. The tourist, the student, and the commercial vendor all have opportunities today that allow for international and intercultural communication as a commonplace activity.

The accessibility of world travel has not only benefited tourism, scholarship and commerce, but also allowed immigration when dire circumstances might have meant a worse fate in earlier times. Global unrest and warfare often results in persons being forced to flee their homes. In former times, these refuges might have been forced to live in refuge camps or hostile neighboring countries. The ability to travel the world in search of new homes has been a boon to emigrants. But many are forced to leave their culture and take up residence in a new land within a new culture. This results in more opportunity, but adds the challenge of adapting to a new culture with new rules, norms and expectations. "Perhaps one of the most significant and painful separations of all can be experienced by an immigrant who grew up in one culture and has moved to another culture" (Kim 1979).

Intercultural communication can have even larger implications. "Recent international developments have forced all thoughtful observers to reconsider the role of culture and intercultural communication in relation to interpersonal interactions" (Casmir, 1993). Casmir also points out the fact that international corporations commingle their actions within military contexts on a regular basis. This brings the question of international diplomacy into every international transaction. "If one combines the notion of 'illegitimate borders' (in the Middle East) with the deeply experienced cultural problems in the area as people seek for 'cultural authenticity among Arabs, Islamic, and Western themes and values' (Sterner, 1990, quoted by Casmir), the vital role of intercultural communication becomes clearer" (Casmir, 1993). The importance of intercultural communication on an international level was observed by Belay in 1993 when he wrote: "physical interconnectedness and interdependence among cultures and nations has reached a much higher level of development than the awareness and competency required from both individuals and institutions to handle this new reality positively."

Where can we go to become competent in this intercultural marketplace? Where can the international organization go to find guidance? Where can the exchange student find ways to deal with the culture shock of the new host country, and realignment with their home culture when their sojourn is completed? How can intercultural and international conflicts be mediated? How can immigrants become comfortable, productive, and successful in their new homes? One communication theory holds promise for all of these endeavors. Young Yun Kim's theory of intercultural identity development and acculturation explains and guides us towards successfully bridging the gap between cultures using communication.

Kim's Acculturation Theory

Kim's early work in 1977 was intended to investigate the communication patterns of foreign immigrants. She notes that "as foreign immigrants move from one culture to another, behavioral modes and values in the old setting may prove maladaptive in the new." She also characterizes acculturation as the phenomena whereby "sooner or later, immigrants come to understand better the norms and values, and to adopt salient reference groups of the host society." In later work (1992) she expands her view of acculturation to include the establishment of an "intercultural identity" for an immigrant, sojourner, or business person that successfully integrates into a new environment. Intercultural identity (Kim, 1992) is used to identify an individual's ability to grow beyond their original culture and encompass a new culture, gaining additional insight into both cultures in the process. These theories of acculturation and intercultural identity describe communication as the mediating process required to facilitate the transition from one culture to the next. "Communication is crucial to acculturation. It provides the fundamental means by which individuals develop insights into their new environment" (Kim, 1977). Her work focuses on mass media and interpersonal communication channels. "Among many forms of human communication, interpersonal communication and mass media consumption are the two most salient forms in the cultural learning process" (Kim, 1977). This provides a clear indication of her focus.

Kim's theory of acculturation maintains that increasing interpersonal communication within the new host environment will result in increased acculturation. Interpersonal communication with those residents of the new host culture is expected to facilitate acculturation. "Ethnic communications" with those from the home basis culture are not expected to enhance intercultural identity (Kim, 1992).

Her theory also maintains that increasing use of the host environment's mass media will increase acculturation. These mass media channels, expected to be reflective of the new host culture, would be expected to cultivate the predominate world view of the host culture in the viewer, consistent with Gerbner's cultivation analysis theories (Gerbner, 1986).

In order to accomplish interpersonal communication within the indigenous resident community of the new host culture, language competence is necessary. In a similar way, language competence is also required to fully utilize the host culture's mass media. For these reasons Kim proposes that increased language competence will increase both interpersonal communication and mass media usage.

Different people have different degrees of motivation. "Whatever the reason may be, different immigrants do show different levels of acculturation motivation" (Kim, 1977). These different levels of motivation directly influence mass media usage and interpersonal communication frequency. Since motivation could result in additional participation in interpersonal communication and media use, we should expect a positive correlation between the immigrant or sojourners expressed motivation and their number of communication episodes, their frequency, duration and intensity.

Kim also proposes that availability of interpersonal communication and media channels will influence the amount of communication that occurs. Additional opportunities made available through work, school, or social groups result in additional communication events. Local availability of mass media would also be expected to increase mass media usage.

Perhaps the most important proposition of Kim's theory of acculturation brings together all of the former discussion into a single rubric, intended to indicate the importance of communication to the acculturation process. Kim (1977) maintains that "the complexity with which an immigrant perceives the host society will be influenced by language competence, acculturation motivation, and channel accessibility, mediated by interpersonal and mass communication experiences." This causal model puts communication directly in the path of acculturation. The communication channels of interest are interpersonal communication and mass media. Complexity of perception is an integral part of acculturation and the development of an intercultural identity. The ability, including language and opportunity, to access interpersonal communication and mass media channels, combined with the motivation to do so, results in acculturation into the new culture and the development of an intercultural identity.

Her initial research supported the theory in its entirety. Mass media usage was more related to language competence, acculturation motivation and channel accessibility than interpersonal communication was, but interpersonal communication was directly correlated to increases in the three variables. This strong support for her original theory has resulted in broad use by others.

Theoretical Clarifications to Emphasize Cultural Diversity

The theory of acculturation has been adapted to include contemporary concepts of culture and cultural adaptation that maintain a level of individual ethnicity far beyond the temporal point of initial acculturation. "Communication and acculturation occur in and through the interlocking interaction process of 'push' and 'pull' in the relationship between an immigrant and his new sociocultural surroundings. Acculturation results not only in the immigrant but also in the host society" (Kim 1979). Studies prior to the 1960s viewed acculturation as a one way street, with a common endpoint for all immigrants. This "melting pot" (L.A. Times, 1990) model has been abandoned by most contemporary theorists. "The recent rise of ethnic movements has encouraged social scientists to focus on the 'ethnicity' of immigrants and their communities rather than acculturation" (Kim, 1979). Glazer and Moyihan (1963) go so far as to state that "The point about the melting pot is that it did not happen." This calls into question the view that acculturation is to be desired at all. Acculturation might be viewed as an unwanted, unacceptable abandonment of the old culture, in favor of the new.

On the contrary, Kim (1979) maintains that "acculturation is a natural process of adaptation of an individual who has been socialized in one culture and moves to another culture." This adaptation process does not forego ties to the original culture. This adaptation process not only makes the individual more effective in the new culture, but also brings aspects of the old culture into the new, changing it as well. The rich diversity of cultures that results from these new arrivals makes the host culture different as time goes on. The next individual that immigrates or sojourns into the host culture will move into a changed and changing environment. The society matures by taking on an intercultural identity of its own, compared to how it was before the interaction with the immigrant, sojourner, or international business agent. This "push and pull" constantly allows the individual and the host environment to evolve, without forsaking any heritage that went before.

Kim argues that instead of focusing on whether the immigrant should or should not adopt more or less of the new host culture, we should study what happens when immigrants and others make the transition from one culture to another. Kim's focus is on successful achievement of goals, not on judgments of whether or not those goals are proper.

Because she believes that acculturation is an interactive process, Kim argues that the perception of the sojourner or immigrant should be studied, along with perceptions of those that interact with the individual in the new culture. In this way, those that have seen the individual adapt can help to assess acculturation. When both sides of the equation agree on the status of acculturation, this verifies the status as accurate. Implicit in Kim's approach is the assumption that acculturation is an inevitable process. This assumes that any sojourner, immigrant, tourist or business agent will act somewhat differently in a new culture. Their degree of success, and the achievement of their goals, will relate somewhat to the changes made in order to function in the new culture. Some may require more changes to achieve their goals. Some may change very little. Some may not have the desire to become part of the new culture. If the motivation does not exist, Kim argues that the acculturation will be minimal. This is clearly the case in some instances, and if a viable ethnic culture exists within the host society, this can be a valuable coping strategy for some. If the motivation to become an intercultural identity does exist, the individual can grow in appreciation of both the new culture and their former roots (Kim, 1992).

The Relationship of Stress to the Acculturation Process

One somewhat controversial aspect of Kim's later work is her argument and discussion that indicates additional stress might result in faster and more effective acculturation. This concept, elaborated in her ethnographic studies done in 1992, would indicate that additional stress results in "human plasticity" being utilized to reform the person more fully into a more complete "intercultural identity." She gives examples suggesting that Canadians in Kenya "who would ultimately be the most effective in adapting to a new culture underwent the most intense culture shock during the transition period" (Kim, 1992). Other examples of the most upwardly mobile immigrants being those that reported the highest stress levels are somewhat consistent with the observations of Jin K. Kim in 1980 that the higher the occupational rank of the immigrant, the more quickly the acculturation process occurs. Although Jin K. Kim did not record stress levels, Y.Y. Kim's observation regarding high stress in upwardly mobile immigrants would indicate that high ranking occupations would have high stress levels, and Jin K. Kim's observation that high ranking occupations acculturated quickly would be consistent with Y.Y. Kim's observation that high stress levels achieve a more thorough acculturation.

While the experimental basis for Y. Y. Kim's assertion that additional stress results in more complete acculturation may be lacking in her work, we will find later examples of experimental work that do tend to support her contention. In addition, her many ethnographic examples of successful acculturation following high initial stress periods would verify that it is indeed possible to move beyond the high stress levels experienced by some individuals. These individuals have been able to achieve a calm intercultural identity even though their initial stress levels were high.

Supporting Research

Research studies have supported Kim's theory in many contexts. Wilson (1993) provided clear evidence that acculturation is required upon returning home following an exchange student experience. This would provide evidence of acculturation to the host culture while an exchange student was overseas, since realignment with the home culture would hardly be necessary for such a short stay as an exchange student experienced unless the individual had evolved into an intercultural identity as the result of acculturation into the host environment while away. Support for Kim's assertion that interpersonal communication facilitates and mediates acculturation was found in Wilson's (1993) finding that there was a clear "relationship between two specific communication activities (going on walks, outings, or evenings with host families and discussing significant issues with people of the host country) and reentry (dis-)satisfaction. The more frequently students had engaged in these activities overseas, the less likely they were to be satisfied with life back home." This provides evidence that the more interpersonal communication occurred overseas, the more acculturated the student became into the host environment, and the more re-acquaintance and transition was required upon reentry. Wilson also found more evidence of interpersonal communication in problem reentrys, indicating the use of interpersonal communication to "work through" the culture shock of reentry. Wilson also found that exchange students did not loose sight of either their home culture or the host culture in the process of becoming an intercultural identity. Some students reported that they wanted to come home "to make their country better" (Wilson, 1993) but they also agreed that they "didn't have to be close to just one culture." Intercultural identity does not abandon the home culture, but incorporates the host culture into a growing individual nature using the home culture as a basis. In this way intercultural communication results in "the creation of new constructs, that is, constructs that did not exist prior to the interaction. This is not to suggest that the old constructs will disappear, or that a gradual and partial acquisition of each other's initial cultural constructs will not take place." (Belay, 1993). Wilson's findings held for a wide variety of nationalities, suggesting that these propositions may be applied to many cross cultural and intercultural episodes successfully.

Rogers and Ward (1993) found that when expectations were not met, sojourner psychological anxiety was more likely. This suggests that Kim's additional observation regarding additional stress resulting in additional acculturation could have merit. Since psychological anxiety is related to stress, and unfavorably unmet expectations are related to increased acculturation required to effectively make the transition, the two may be related. If we assume that everyone made the transition successfully, it might be argued that the feelings of psychological anxiety were the individual's method of reaching the stress levels required to accomplish the additional acculturation that was necessary. Rogers and Ward suggest that counselors should "overprepare" the sojourner for problems during their experience. They believe that this overpreparation might result in less psychological stress. This advice seems to assume that the overpreparation would supply the necessary stress early, giving time to acculturate before the fact. No evidence is provided that this approach actually works.

Some additional thoughts on stress, adaptation and communication competence are presented by Redmond and Bunyi in their 1993 study of international college students. They found that stress is strongly linked to the student's social orientation. Those students that are more likely to identify with others, exhibiting a strong social decentering nature, were most likely to report the highest levels of stress from their intercultural experience. This might indicate a common cause, affect orientation perhaps, or a causal link. No significant contribution to adaptation was found for social decentering, so the concept of social decentering resulting in higher stress resulting in more complete acculturation is not supported by Redmond and Bunyi's work. Kim's anecdotal and ethnographic evidence shows that highly stressed sojourners and immigrants can become highly successful intercultural identities and can achieve high levels of acculturation, but she does not provide evidence that other combinations are precluded. She does not show evidence that lower levels of stress lead to lower levels of acculturation. She also does not provide evidence that higher levels of acculturation require higher levels of stress.

Evidence to support the proposal that increased stress results in more complete acculturation has been provided in some studies. Ward and Kennedy (1993a) found in studies of international students that "psychological stress is found in individuals who attempt to integrate in Singaporean (host) society." This supports the assertion of Kim that higher levels of stress will result in more thorough acculturation, since those students with the most host national contact also evidenced the most adaptation (Ward & Kennedy, 1993a). Ward and Kennedy also found evidence that longer stays resulted in more acculturation. Kim argues that in longer stays (immigrants for instance) initial high stress levels result in more complete acculturation, an earlier adoption of an intercultural identity, and lower stress levels eventually. In a separate study Ward & Kennedy (1993b) found support for language ability being correlated with feeling at ease and satisfied with an international student experience. This is further support for Kim's proposal that host language ability is related to acculturation.

De Verthelyi (1995) provides additional evidence that initial stress can lead to eventual acculturation. In studies of the spouses of international students, De Verthelyi found widespread stress. "Initial feelings of sadness, loneliness, self-doubt, confusion, and frustration were present in their descriptions of the first weeks and months of the sojourn" (De Verthelyi, 1995). Language difficulties made this initial stress worse, supporting Kim's theory that language competence is necessary for acculturation. De Verthelyi found that a "positive change of mood usually happened within the first 3-6 months from arrival, thus confirming Kim's (1988) more optimistic view that 'in time strangers become increasingly proficient in managing their life activities in the host society.'" These case studies of successful adaptation are important to include in our data. Even though early stress levels were high, these somewhat forgotten sojourners were able to become intercultural individuals given language competence, motivation, opportunity and time.

Martin, Bradford and Rohrlich (1995) provide some evidence that successful exchange student experiences are more related to expectation than acculturation. Their work indicates that "sojourners consistently reported that expectations were met or positively violated" (Martin et al, 1995). This led them to discount the value of stress to acculturation, as well as the value of acculturation to a successful experience. This study contradicts many of the studies discussed earlier, but the most important thing to consider is the emphasis on perceived fulfillment and overall evaluation of the experience. No real data exists on the degree of acculturation achieved or the amount of stress experienced. It does support the assertion by Kim that such successful sojourns are possible and frequent, adding the important data that expectations are related to recollections. This, when used in Kim's intercultural identity theory of acculturation, would argue that expectations provide acculturation motivation. This motivation is essential to acculturation (Kim, 1974) and these positive expectations being achieved tend to support this proposal. The authors maintain that "self fulfilling prophesy" is the most likely explanation for this finding. "The notion of self-fulfilling prophecy accounts for the similarity between expectations and fulfillment of these expectations" (Martin, et al, 1995). This self fulfilling prophesy explanation may have left out the motivational step that Kim would indicate is necessary, but this motivational step is not inconsistent with the notion of self-fulfilling prophesy, it merely fills in the implementing step of motivation for the individual.

In general, Kim's theories and models have been supported by a wide variety of research. Her ethnographic studies have focused on successful experiences, not unsuccessful ones. An area for additional research remains. Ethnographic studies of abortive acculturation attempts, or fail acculturation attempts, or unhappy immigrants might shed some light on how much stress is necessary, and how much is too much. Uncertainty reduction theory is explored next as one route to these answers.

Related Theoretical Models

Uncertainty Reduction Theory

Uncertainty reduction and anxiety reduction theory (Gudykunst & Hammer, 1988a) can be used to explain the necessity of stress in achieving acculturation. "In uncertainty/anxiety reduction theory, anxiety and attributional confidence are said to be the basic causes of intercultural adaptation" (Witte, 1993). Witte makes the point that "Gudykunst and Hammer (1988a) point out that 'sojourners, immigrants, tourists, and other travelers are strangers when they enter a host culture for the first time." Since they are strangers to the new host culture, they will react as strangers to a new communication partner. It is a new relationship, complete with the initial anxieties and drive for uncertainty reduction that accompanies all new communication relationships. This anxiety and the resulting stress is expected to drive the individual toward uncertainty reduction, and eventual acculturation and comfort in the new milieu. Witte (1992) argues that this results only when acculturation into the new milieu appears to be manageable. Similar to the duality of danger control and fear control (Witte, 1992), the stress of culture shock would result in acculturation only if acculturation appears to be a possible outcome of the experience. If the danger in a fear appeal appears to be manageable, the preferred adaptive response of the individual is to take action to reduce the danger. If the danger in a fear appeal seems to be too large to handle, or danger reduction strategies are absent, fear reduction takes over and the danger is ignored or rationalized out of salience. Similar responses to new cultures would result in maladaptive seclusion, and not result in acculturation of the individual or the society.

Witte (1992) argues that "when anxiety is greater than attributional confidence, then anxiety control processes will dominate." But when "there is too little anxiety and/or uncertainty, Gudykunst and Kim (1992) note that people are not motivated to adapt or communicate effectively because the interactions are boring, tedious, or unfulfilling" (Witte, 1992). This supports Kim's assertion that stress is required to plastically reform the individual into an intercultural identity. Witte (1992) argues that there is a critical point, beyond which adaptation cannot occur because perceived anxiety exceeds perceived attributional confidence. Up to that critical point additional anxiety coupled with sufficient perceived attributional confidence that the goal of successful adaptation can be achieved would be expected to allow uncertainty reduction responses to dominate, and adaptation to occur. Witte's work is clearly consistent with Kim's, adding the proviso that too much stress could result in maladaptive anxiety reduction strategies.

Third Culture Building

Fred Casmir (1993) takes a different approach to intercultural communication. "Casmir makes the profoundly valid observation that the modern state has proven itself ineffective in dealing with intercultural and interethnic problems" (Belay, 1993). His alternative to the existing model takes the form of a proposal that compares the conventional social scientific paradigm to the functional needs of people, organizations, and states. He argues that the conventional paradigm is focused on domination not cooperation, but the use of domination as the primary measure of success is inconsistent with the needs of people, organizations, and states. The domination paradigm is consistent with assimilation, not mutual acculturation of the host culture and the individual.

Casmir rejects the domination paradigm in favor of a cooperative intercultural approach that results in the formation of a mutually beneficial "third culture." While Kim did not specifically address third culture building, her theory of acculturation of both the host culture and the individual is consistent with Casmir's model. Casmir adds credibility to his argument in favor of third culture building by pointing out that even in many supposedly homogenous cultures, much diversity exists. For example "there is no single unified 'Anglo' group. Not even all those who speak English as their native language share a cultural heritage that is totally the same" (Casmir, 1993). This argues that as a matter of survival, we build "third cultures" all the time. Any successful cooperative state of any decent size is in fact a product of third culture building on many levels, with many inputs. Kim's theory would argue that successful third culture building would utilize mass media, interpersonal communication, and the desire and motivation to acculturate and form the cooperative third culture.

Casmir (1993) explains that the use of the domination model is based on the Western view of argument and rhetoric. Belay notes that "linear, one-sided models that are derived from Aristotelian logic constrain the analysis of intercultural communication" (Belay, 1993). This Western model of argument and dominance is even more absurd when one takes into account the fact that many of the intercultural communication episodes studied will certainly involve cultures where the Western view may not be held by either side of the conversation.

Casmir (1993) rejects the domination model and characterizes the third culture building process as the natural outgrowth of non-threatening cooperation. Dominance is not intended and should not result from the acculturation process. Consistent with Kim's characterization of acculturation, where the individual becomes comfortable with the new society as the new society becomes comfortable with the individual as acculturation is accomplished; the third culture is built only when "the participants engage in an active, coordinated, mutually beneficial process of building a relationship" (Casmir, 1993). This mirrors Kim's theory of acculturation, and her theory of development of an intercultural identity.

Commentary and Discussion

These concepts of intercultural, interethnic and international communication are essential to modern life. The ability to build cultures within cultures, and communicate effectively on an interethnic, an intercultural and an international level will most likely be necessary for almost everyone. On a personal, as well as on an international level, "interactional communication and third-culture building skills, as well as improved communication technologies, can be the decisive factors in building our new world--or in destroying it" (Casmir, 1993).

Third culture building can become "interactive-multiculture building" (Belay, 1993) when many cultures are considered without the requirement to restrict the model to a linear Hegelian thesis-antithesis-synthesis form. This new alternative approach by Belay posits a matrix of interactions on a multicultural and multiethnic level. Belay (1993) also suggests that the thesis-antithesis-synthesis model of Hegelian logic is inappropriate for intercultural communication models. His criticism of Casmir makes an excellent case supporting Kim's intercultural identity model, since such strict formulations are not included in her approach. Belay's 1993 model of "interactive-multiculture building" is fully consistent with Kim's 1992 definition of "intercultural identity" and expands the number of analyses from merely interpersonal to include intrapersonal, intraorganizational, interorganizational, intergroup/intercommunity, and cross national contexts. While Belay does not accomplish studies in his explanation of the model, his construct has clearly borrowed much from Kim's prior work.

In yet another viewpoint, Shuter argues in 1993 that "multiculturalism may be at odds with third-culture building" since "third culture is a product of synthesis and accommodation--an etic process because it values commonality over difference and seeks to create a new culture to accommodate differences. Multiculturalism is emic in nature because it requires the unaltered preservation of each culture and its values, worldviews, and communication patterns." Kim's theory dismisses this argument as impractical, pointing out in 1979 that acculturation and the adoption of an intercultural identity "is a natural phenomenon of humans when they find themselves in a cultural-social environment which is different from the one they were born and raised in." It is not possible to maintain any culture in an unaltered state, when the individual is forced to exist in a new cultural milieu. Kim's theory of acculturation and intercultural identity argues that the object of study should be the acculturation process, with the overarching proposition that intercultural identities are formed using interpersonal and mass media communication processes. Kim's examples of success provide hope that the multicultural ideal can be maintained, while allowing the intercultural identity to form, with increased appreciation of both cultures as the result.

Kim, in extending her theory to interethnic communication, points out that "many of the major conflicts today are being fought within states, engendered by issues of ethnicity--from the long-festering conflicts in places like Northern Ireland and South Africa to the new or renewed violence erupting in the Balkans and beyond" (Kim, 1994). In applying intercultural identity theory to interethnic communications, Kim contrasts intercultural identity with the prejudice and irrational biases that are sometimes found in interethnic encounters. Her assessment that intercultural identity, like the concepts of "multi-cultural man" (Adler, 1982), "double-swing" (Yoshikawa, 1986), "humanocentrism" (Gitler, 1974), and "moral inclusion" (Opotow, 1990), reflect "the vital component of a level of intellectual and emotional maturity that allows an outlook of interethnic accommodation and integration." The individual that has fully attained an intercultural identity has demonstrated the ability to handle interethnic communication. Since intercultural communication episodes can be interethnic also, the application of intercultural identity to interethnic episodes is quite easy. It can be argued that the term should be "interethnic/intercultural identity" in order to fully appreciate the concept of moving between ethnic cultures, perhaps while not changing physical locations at all.

Even though interethnic identity can be established, it is certainly true that interethnic relations can be problematic. Conflict can result, and many believe that conflict should be avoided. The classical approach to eliminating conflict has been by encouraging contact and understanding (Kim, 1994). This approach has not always been successful. "Research has shown that, at least in the short run, intergroup contact is just as likely to heighten conflict as it is to reduce it" (Kim, 1994). Kim references Worchel's work in 1979 that documents integrated apartment buildings that experienced a decrease in favorable racial attitudes following integration. Kim argues that such conflict may be necessary and desirable in the long view, since such stress is more likely to result in interethnic identity development by the individuals involved. Kim (1994) notes that "at least in the United States, interethnic conflict experiences have brought the society to new stages of self-awareness and a broadened integration and democracy in spite of the many temporary stresses and pains that many have had to endure (Himes, 1974)." This growth of the society is clearly consistent with Kim's view that acculturation happens on both ends of the transaction. The society becomes intercultural just as surely as the individual becomes intercultural in order to succeed in the new environment. "On the level of individuals, also, interethnic communication experiences need to be viewed no only as problematic but as growth facilitating" (Kim. 1994). This growth facilitation potential of interethnic and intercultural exposure is at the heart of Kim's belief in acculturation theory.

Those individuals able to become interethnic/intercultural identities are most apt to be able to bridge the gap between cultures and races for those that have not grown to that point. "It is mainly these and other like-minded persons of intercultural identity upon whose shoulders a culturally diverse society has to lean for its continued evolution as a single entity. In the end, they are the ones who can bridge divisions along ethnic lines, who can help make interethnic communication work, and whose work is vitally needed to create a community among divergent identities" (Kim, 1994). This vision of the intercultural identity acculturation process provides a vision of the future worthy of aspiration. Cultures are valued and maintained for their inherent value as well as their value of diversity to the world. Even as these cultures are maintained, the gaps between the cultures can be bridged for the good of both sides. Not bridged for the purpose of domination, but bridged for the common interests of both sides. Intercultural identities can help build those bridges so that others can also achieve these goals.


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