People from other cultures can be distinctly different from us in their appearance, dressing styles, skin colour, language, verbal and non-verbal behaviour, communication strategies, ways of thinking, knowledge of world history, beliefs and values. This explains why the way they see us is not the same as the way our ingroup members see us. The images of ourselves that we get back from the pupil of the eye of cultural others – what we call “intercultural mirrors” – can be unexpected and new, both in a favourable and unfavourable light. They can enhance or contradict our self-perception the way it was formed through our interactions with our ingroup members. This chapter suggests that developing an understanding of how culturally different people view us adds intricate layers to a person’s perceptual organisation and identity. It enhances the complexity of experiences that we knit together into a narrative we call self.
Intercultural Mirrors: Dynamic Reconstruction of Identity contains (auto)ethnographic chapters and research-based explorations that uncover the ways our intercultural experiences influence our process of self-discovery and self-construction. The idea of intercultural mirrors is applied throughout all chapters as an instrument of analysis, an heuristic tool, drawn from philosophy, to provide a focus for the analysis of real life experiences. Plato noted that one could see one’s own reflection in the pupil of another’s eye, and suggested that the mirror image provided in the eye of the other person was an essential contributor to self-knowledge. Taking this as a cue, the contributors of this book have structured their writings around the idea that the view of us held by other people provides an essential key to one’s own self-understanding.
Contributors are: James Arvanitakis, Damian Cox, Mark Dinnen, James Ferguson, Tom Frengos, Dennis Harmon, Donna Henson, Alexandra Hoyt, William Kelly, Lucyann Kerry, Julia Kraven, Taryn Mathis, Tony McHugh, Raoul Mortley, Kristin Newton, Marie-Claire Patron, Darren Swanson, and Peter Mbago Wakholi.