Embracing Diversity: Explaining the Cultural Dimensions of Our Occupational Therapeutic Selves
Iwama, Michael K., New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy
In Te Reo Maori
Kai to mihi to mauka ko Fuji ki to mauka koTararua Kai to mihi hoki to awa e kia ko Takahashi ki to awa ko Heretaunga e rere ana Aka atu oku whakaaro ki ka mate o to wa moe mai oki oki mai Ratou ki a ratou, tatou ki a tatou tena tatou Kai to maioha ki a koutou to mana whenua o tenei rohe, tena koutou mihi mai, powhiri mai .
In Japanese language
Iwama Maikeru to moushimasu.Yoroshiku onegai itashimasu.
(translation of Te reo Maori text and Japanese phrase):
"The mountain called Fuji greets Tararua The river called Takahashi greets the flowing Heretaunga My thoughts face the dead of time, rest, sleep; Them to Them, Us to Us, Greetings ... I greet you. I regard you the local of this place Greet Me, (please) Welcome Me Lastly, My name is Michael Iwama; (I come in peace) Please regard me favourably."
First let me situate myself to you, that is, to do as the Maori and other groups around the world have done for centuries when encountering an unfamiliar other, to give you a sense of the 'lenses' through which I have constructed my perspective: to tell you of my origins and where I have come from. This is offered to ensure that you, as the home people, are afforded full opportunity to consider the contexts from where this message and its messenger have come from--to allow you to determine whether what I have to share with you today is safe and worthy of your consideration. And to do this I must start with the past ...
(Brief overview of M. Iwama's history)
* My father's ancestors resided in the area of Japan that is known today as Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures. My mother's ancestors are known to have originated in Fujian, China. These ancestors were part of a group of 36 families that had been sent by Emperor ZhuYuan Zhang to the island of Okinawa. They were scholars and artists sent to educate the Ryukyu regency in the late 1300s.
* I was born in Okinawa- the southern-most island of the Japanese archipelago. My parents sent me and my two older siblings to a Catholic school to learn English. The Vietnam War was raging at the time and Okinawa was an important staging ground for the American war effort in South East Asia. Not only did I learn English from the spouses of American military personnel; I was also impressed with American history and culture. At an early age, I learned all about George Washington cutting down the cherry tree and subsequent confession to his father. I also learned about the declaration of independence, Thomas Jefferson and other venerated champions of American liberty. Later, these early cultural exposures would prepare me for my family's move to Canada, which happened during my adolescence.
* I want to also emphasize what may seem obvious to many of you: I am a male and was acculturated in the contexts of American and Asian societies as a male. This affects my world view profoundly and contributes, like everything else, to my cultural lens, through which I make sense of my self and the world in which I reside.
* I completed high-school in Vancouver and developed a wish to work with athletes. I entered a program in Kinesiology at the University of Victoria and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Human Performance in the early 1980s. After working with elite athletes, I decided that rather than working for people who were at normal levels of performance trying to reach super normalcy, I wanted to work with people at sub-normal levels of performance who wanted to reach normalcy.
* I was accepted into Physiotherapy school but changed to Occupational Therapy when I found out what it was all about.
* I worked in return-to-work occupational therapy for 6 years. In my practice with people suffering from chronic illnesses, I became curious about what really got people better. I could treat10 people with same diagnosis and still end up with 10 different levels of function. These and other curiosities led me to graduate school. My Masters of Science in Rehabilitation Science was earned through a quantitative piece of research. I was fortunate, though, to have social scientists on my thesis committee and they positively influenced my interest in understanding human well-being from a social perspective.
* In the mid 1990s, I had an opportunity to go to Japan for the second time in my adult life, to help establish one of the first Baccalaureate programs in occupational therapy in the Land of the Rising Sun. This experience would have the most profound effect on my personal and professional life. On a daily basis, I found myself caught in dilemmas that pointed me to matters of culture and social structure.
* I would go on to the PhD in Sociology- in a sub-discipline called International Comparative Sociology. My thesis was titled: A Social Perspective on the Construction of Occupational Therapy in Japan (Iwama, 2003).
* I have had this peculiar life so far of having to acculturate back and forth into and out of one ethnic context into another. The stark contrasts in environments, features of the social and the generations and layers of historical and situational contexts that Japan and Canada have represented, have served as a backdrop of sorts, to illuminate the challenges of diversity and meaning. This situation has also illuminated some issues around what might occur when occupational therapy as a cultural set of ideas and methods situated on one particular set of contexts (the West) are carried into contexts that are regarded to be significantly different (Iwama, 2003).
All of these factors/experiences form a part of my own unique and complex cultural lens... the 'lens' through which I gaze at my self and the world in which I live. The lens that helps me discern good from bad, true from false, beautiful from unsightly, normal and abnormal, right from wrong, etc. It is the lens that gives me a sense of the meaning of occupations in my life as well as in others. This is the lens of 'culture'. As you listen to this address, many of you may gain a sense of what makes up your own cultural lenses- through which you will critically make sense of what you see and hear. It is perplexing; that the truths we make rational sense of are assumed to reside outside of ourselves, and not within each of us, varying from person to person (Iwama, 2006).
The title of my talk is: Embracing Diversity; Explaining the Cultural Dimensions of …
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Publication information: Article title: Embracing Diversity: Explaining the Cultural Dimensions of Our Occupational Therapeutic Selves. Contributors: Iwama, Michael K. - Author. Journal title: New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy. Volume: 54. Issue: 2 Publication date: September 2007. Page number: 18+. © 2008 New Zealand Association of Occupational Therapists. COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group.
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