Unit 3 - Indigenous Approach
This unit focuses on the ways cultural and ethnic membership shape human beliefs by emphasizing an emic perspective. The idea is to understand the knowledge, skills, and beliefs of native people in their cultural setting without imposing Western theories of psychology that are culturally bound themselves and to analyze the means by which life gains meaning and purpose for members of various cultural and ethnic groups.
While culture is usually an unconscious and pervasive influence in human experience, some groups become more aware of the meaning of their culture when others try to force changes. This was for example the case when Asian, African, Hispanic, and Native American children in the U.S. were forbidden to speak their languages in schools. Similarly, for many indigenous people around the world, their social and economic resources have been and continue to be confiscated by colonizing or dominating groups. This has necessitated conscious efforts to protect and retain the cultures of those who are so besieged. Some articles in subunit 3.1 (Perspectives from Various Ethnic and Cultural Groups) refer to the four prominent ethnic groups in the U.S., namely African Americans (James Jones), Native Americans (Beatrice Medicine), Hispanic Americans (Amado Padilla), and Asian Americans (Joyce Chu and Stanley Sue). This subunit will allow readers to consider such struggles and gain a new perspective on the significance of cultural values in daily life.
As part of such indigenous approaches, folk beliefs form part of a people's value system and culture. They reflect the customs, traditions, and mores of a group. All cultures maintain beliefs that can be labeled as folk beliefs, or common beliefs that are not necessarily grounded in scientific fact but are widely accepted as truth by most members of the group. The analysis of folk beliefs represents an interesting approach to study commonalities and cultural differences of values and their implications for the social life of group members in an emic perspective. One topic of folk belief that is highlighted in the subunit 3.2 (Death, Dying, and Bereavement) refers to the question how cultures interpret the meaning of death. The articles demonstrate the broad range of human abilities to cope with the universal fact of dying.