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From CULTURGRAMS to RELIGRAMS


Schema

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Background

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; Transportation; Health
  • For Further Information: Useful addresses

The set of Culturgrams is available bound together in book form.

Proposal

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.

Criteria

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.

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 countries.

More challenging would be the headings that "profiled" people of that religion in contrast to those of others.


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