How to Write a Cultural Autobiography
A cultural autobiography is much more than merely narrating events from your life. It reveals your assumptions and digs deep into your psyche to bring out preconceived notions of culture in relation to the micro-cultures and subgroups that make up identity and your role within society. Writing a cultural autobiography may allow you to not only understand your deeper self but also the roles of others within the society. In such a multicultural world, understanding your own cultural identity as well as being more open to others is extremely important in the workplace and home.
Determine your placement in each micro-culture. According to Dr. Marybeth Peebles, associate professor of education at Marietta College, there are nine micro-cultures: socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, gender/sexual orientation, language, religion, exceptionality (mentally or physically disabled or gifted), age and geography.
Examine the subgroups and your roles within them, in relation to each micro-culture. The subgroups, which are listed in the resources section, are where you fall in the micro-culture. For example, in socioeconomic status it refers to underclass, middle class, upper class or somewhere in between. For race it refers to Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic and more. Ethnicity, on the other hand, refers to where a person is from like Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Central Europe or elsewhere. Geography refers to the region or environment a person is from like mountains or the ocean. For example, a Caucasian male would fall into the dominant subgroup in both race and gender but if that same man spoke only Gaelic in the United States, his experiences would be much different than someone who spoke only English or was multilingual.
Consider how your experiences within the cultural subgroups that you inhabit have shaped your personality and identity in relation to others in your life who may fall into different cultural subgroups. For example, the only girl in a family with six brothers will have a different societal and cultural outlook from another female, who falls into all the same subgroups but grew up an only child or with sisters.
Conclude with a summary of your cultural identity based on experiences that you have discussed. Wrap up the discussion neatly and succinctly.
- Marietta College: "Education 452; Cultural Autobiography" by Marybeth Peebles, Ph.D.
- Eastern University: "Cultural Autobiography for Christian Multicultural Educators: A Way of Understanding Self and Others" by Heewon Chang, Ph.D
- Counseling Outfitters: "The Use of the Cultural Life Story in Multicultural Education" by Sara Schwarzbaum, Ed.D., LCPC Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago Anita Jones Thomas, Ph.D. Loyola University Chicago
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