From CULTURGRAMS to RELIGRAMS
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Culturgrams are 4-sided handouts designed as briefings to aid understanding
for, and communication with, people of other cultures. They are produced through
the David M Kennedy Center for International Studies of the Brigham Young University
(280 HRCB, Provo UT 84602, USA). Culturgrams are condensations of the best information
available. Individual handouts exist for most countries of the world.
Each Culturgram follows a standard format:
- -- Map: Indicating the continental location and principal cities
- -- Customs and courtesies: -- -- Greetings; Visiting; Eating; Public Meetings; Gestures.
- -- The People: -- -- General Attitudes; Population; Language; Religion.
- -- Lifestyle: -- -- The Family; Dating and Marriage; Social and Economic levels;
Diet; Work Schedules; Recreation; Holidays.
- -- The Nation: -- -- Land and Climate; History and Government; Economy; Education;
- -- For Further Information: -- -- Useful addresses
The set of Culturgrams is available bound together in book form.
There is a case for producing an equivalent set of "Religrams" to summarize
for each religion information useful to others wishing to gain some understanding
of that religion. This project could be a useful input to the forthcoming Parliament
of the World's Religions (Chicago, August 1993) -- if only to evoke responses
to the design of such a document.
Clearly it would be important to bear in mind other initiatives to summarize
the nature of each religion. The emphasis in this case is however to brief individuals
on attitudes and behaviours desirable when encountering someone of the described
religion -- especially as a guide to the challenges of fruitful dialogue.
This project would increase in value and interest to the extent that it moved
beyond externalities and endeavoured to note sensitivities and blindspots. The
challenge would be to move in this direction without arousing charges of inappropriateness
and misrepresentation. Unfortunately the easy way out is to avoid such information
and produce a document characterized by blandness.
Ideally cooperation from the religion in question would be sought -- especially
to the extent that there was some willingness to acknowledge sensitivities and
blindspots. Better still, each religion could describe itself on the basis of
a standard schema.
The key to the viability of the project would be the elaboration of a useful
schema analogous to that given above for the Culturgrams. This could be a project
in its own right.
Some headings could well be adapted from the Culturgram series. Indeed some
of the content might also be adapted in the case of essentially mono-religious
More challenging would be the headings that "profiled" people of that religion
in contrast to those of others.