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Materials for the Acculturation and Intercultural Relations Stream (David Sam)

Topics for Group Discussion during the IACCP PhD Summer school

The Acculturation stream




 The Background

Psychology of acculturation is a young area within the broad field of cross-cultural and social psychology. Nevertheless, it is the fastest growing area as evidenced by changes in the published articles in journals. The interest and growth of acculturation psychology undoubtedly is in response to unprecedented increase in worldwide migration and globalization, and this interest will continue unabated for years to come. As a growing field, the issues being addressed and emphasized are still in flux, and the field is at the crossroads in terms of future direction.  Particularly, the field has received major criticism regarding methodological approaches, such as how constructs should be operationalised; criticized on the conceptualization of central issues such as the management of acculturation and the outcomes, and how to apply research findings to improve the welfare of people involved in acculturation.

 Orientation to the assignments

You should organize yourself into groups of four or five individuals and develop ideas or a research project based on one problem area with the goal of contributing towards pushing acculturation research.  You should bring your insights from your own research and study to bear on your selected problem. Creative solutions require multiple perspectives. In the process, you may also gain some insights that will be beneficial for your own research topic.

 You are the future research leaders in this field. I would encourage you to pursue these important issues in social sciences by interdisciplinary panels of research leaders. Comparative research on acculturation is very much needed, in order to understand what may be common to acculturation processes globally. So, one of the key outcomes of this workshop is helping you to develop international comparative networks with fellow students. You may want to engage with your fellow workshop participants in future projects on these issues.

 The aim of the workshop is to develop a research proposal that is feasible, useful and promising. These problems are framed at a larger social scale. You need to think of ways how acculturation psychology can contribute to these issues with an empirical and research driven voice. You should have a more specific problem definition (in psychological terms), relevant literature or theories, hypotheses and an outline of the methods. Some of these problems may have side-effects or sub-problems that may need investigation first or may need to be put aside for later investigation. It is alright to focus on one specific issue or detail and develop a specific research proposal consisting of a single or a few studies that contribute a psychological perspective in our understanding. A couple of the problems listed believe may not readily translate into research.  Nevertheless, make every effort to see how best the issues can be verified empirically, and comparatively.

 At the end of the group work, one or two people in each group will present for the rest of the class how you have dealt with the “problem”, and this will be followed up with a discussion.

 I will provide some basic readings related to these problems. I encourage you to conduct a literature search on existing studies addressing these problems and theoretical frameworks that may help in developing a good research proposal. Brainstorm ideas with your team mates. I expect you to have done some initial reading and reflection prior to the workshop in Turkey. You may want to pick about two of the problems listed below and think about before coming to Istanbul.

 We will start off the workshop with some lectures and seminar style sessions. Then you will break into your groups and develop your proposal to be presented on June 30. I would suggest that you keep the whole afternoon and evening of June 29 free for working on your proposals in your groups.


The problems

 1.The classical definition of acculturation is the one from 1936 by Redfield and his colleagues.  This definition identifies “continuous first‑hand contact, with subsequent changes in the original culture patterns of...”(p. 149) as a kind of pre-requisite for acculturation.  This definition was proposed at the time when anthropologists were beginning to do research ‘at home’ with cultural groups (indigenous, immigrant) that were increasingly in contact with other groups.  

 In view of currently increasing globalization and information technological development, should acculturation be re-defined?  Is “first-hand contact” a necessary prerequisite in order for acculturation to take place?   How can this be demonstrated from a research point of view?


2. One goal of cross-cultural psychology is to delineate psychological universals.  To what extent can we identify possible universality of acculturation processes and outcomes? Is it possible to assert that there are some general principles to be found in the literature?  For instance is integration associated with better adaptation in all situations, or only under certain conditions and with certain kinds of groupsIs contact always associated with the development of more positive mutual attitudes, or do these occur under certain conditions?  

 You are free to develop “studies” that may explore some other possible principles. If you can generate some universal principles in acculturation, can these general principles be used to promote specific policies and programmes?


3. Change is a central element in both psychological acculturation and ontogenetic development. When studying immigrants and their adaptation, the “causes” of change regarding their behaviours and adaptation are often unclear.  For the most part, this has been assumed to result from “culture change”.  However, in recent years, questions are being raised about the role of developmental changes during acculturation.  Specifically, it is now accepted that acculturation and development occur simultaneously, and the two confound each other. 

 To what extent can acculturation and development be disentangled from each?  Develop a research that may disentangle acculturation and development from each other. Is it important to disentangle the two phenomena from each other?


4, Mutual acculturation and mutual accommodation. This is the notion that everyone experiences acculturative change, whether they are members of the dominant or non-dominant groups. Immigration and acculturation can only succeed when everyone gives a little.

 Is acculturation a zero sum game, where as one group wins, the other loses?  To what extent can this be demonstrated empirically, whether or not this a zero sum game.


5. Many Western countries, particularly European countries, are under pressure to find innovative ways to utilize the potential of immigrants to offset the burden on its welfare system brought about by its aging population, low fertility rate, and immigrants who have failed to integrate. At the same time, global economic problems are putting more pressure on young people in low income countries to migrate to Western industrialized countries.  These two pressures may result in large scale immigration to Europe, and a continued need to accommodate the integration of immigrants. Recent economic recession has also made immigrants and nationals alike afraid of losing their job, and may make immigrants and nationals antagonistic to each other, and among themselves. This state of affairs calls for close monitoring of interethnic and intercultural conflicts.  Most studies concerning inter-group relations use a majority-minority perspective. However, as Europe is becoming increasingly ethnically diverse, it is becoming clear that intergroup processes also take part between immigrant groups and between individuals of different ethnic backgrounds such as fear and animosity

 Develop a research project aimed at understanding how cooperation, fears, conflict and contact take shape between nationals and immigrants (at the individual level), but also between individual members of immigrant groups.


6. The European Union (2005) adopted a set of “Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration”. “Integration is a dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents of Member States. Integration is a dynamic, long-term, and continuous two-way process of mutual accommodation, not a static outcome. It demands the participation not only of immigrants and their descendants but of every resident. The integration process involves adaptation by immigrants, both men and women, who all have rights and responsibilities in relation to their new country of residence. It also involves the receiving society, which should create the opportunities for the immigrants’ full economic, social, cultural, and political participation”.

 Develop an intervention program for a community where about 20 percent of its inhabitants have immigrant background.  In addition design a study to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention, and whether it can wholly be transferred to other regions and other countries.   


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