Lewis Luttrell, a first-year Masters student, has been preparing to defend his thesis on poly-culturalism as a method of increasing intergroup relations. Intergroup relations are the interactions between members of different ethnic or cultural identities. When groups interact in hostile ways this can be described as an intergroup threat. America is experiencing increased intergroup threats currently with many issues regarding racial discrimination, injustice, and civil unrest. That is why researching ways to decrease intergroup threats is more important than ever. Polyculturalism may have practical use in decreasing intergroup threats.
Polyculturalism is an approach to interethnic relations where culture focuses on the shared aspects between different ethnic groups that are all a part of one whole. This method differs from other interethnic ideologies such as colorblindness, where differences between groups are de-emphasized or ignored completely, and multiculturalism, in which each race or ethnicity is individually given attention. What these interethnic theories lack, however, is the influence each group can have on one another. Appreciating these influences that build each culture may better alleviate tension that contributes to intergroup threats. One source of intergroup threat is social dominance orientation. This idea posits that one’s own ethnicity or race is superior to others. This construct has associated with discrimination, prejudice, and intergroup threat. Lewis hopes that by teaching poly-culturalism feelings of threat can be reduced as well as feelings of social dominance. Lewis’s experiment will be conducted online and further investigate the potential benefits of teaching poly-culturalism. The study will also be collecting data over time to pinpoint the direct effects that learning poly-culturalism can have on perceptions of threats.
As some may be aware intergroup relations in the United States is especially tense. Research on topics of intergroup relations will have a significant impact on our society. As Lewis points out, previous programs have been ineffective with some even contributing to bias. Lewis states that if poly-culturalism is successful in reducing threat it could potentially change the ways in which we teach our youth about other cultures. It can also impact our society and how we recognize individuals of different cultures and contribute to reducing future intergroup conflicts.
We are proud of the progress Lewis has made and we wish him luck when it comes to defending his thesis!