Canvas cultures and Egyptian culture are better than European cultures in many ways, including how people interact, according to a new study.
It comes from a survey of 2,500 Canadians.
The study, which has been praised for being objective and transparent, found that Canadians who describe themselves as being Egyptian, Lebanese, Palestinian, Kurdish or Somali are more likely to consider themselves to be Egyptian or Lebanese than their Western counterparts.
The results were presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Arts, Culture and Humanities.
“We don’t know what the relationship between cultures is, and we don’t really know why it is that we perceive certain cultural traits as being better than others,” said Dr. Mokhtar Dibani, a sociologist at the University of Toronto who was not involved in the study.
“But this research is really telling us that if we want to improve the quality of life in Canada, we should consider these different ways of looking at the world.”
The study was based on the survey’s questions about whether Canadians describe themselves in the following ways:• As a Christian, Muslim, Christian, or Muslim-oriented person• As Muslim or Christian-oriented; or• As either Muslim or Western.
In the study, respondents were asked about the following aspects of their cultural identity:• Their ethnic background• How they identify themselves• Their religion• Their cultural identity in generalThe results revealed a positive relationship between ethnic and religious identities, Dibini said, but “that relationship was less pronounced among those who identified as Muslim.”
“The relationship was much stronger for those who said they identified as Egyptian, for instance, than for those saying they identified with a Christian or Muslim background,” he said.
“For Lebanese, it was slightly weaker, but for Muslim-identified people it was also stronger.”
While there is an ethnic element to the cultural identity question, Dbani said it was not enough to explain why Canadians are so fond of certain cultural features.
“In general, ethnic identities do not seem to have a strong correlation with how we perceive the world and are very dependent on a particular kind of cultural identification,” he added.
“It’s possible that the people who are ethnically different from us may perceive the ‘other’ as more interesting than they actually are.”‘
Culture has an important role to play’The study found that while it is important to have cultural values, people often don’t want to give in to those values and adopt them.
“If you look at the social media and the news, there is a lot of cultural content that’s being presented that is not in line with what we think is good for our health,” Dibni said.
“Culture plays an important part in how we look at people and how we see the world, but people do not want to be tied to certain cultural values.”
The researchers found that “there is no general consensus among experts on what constitutes good cultural values” and that “the most important thing is to get the people to think about their cultural background and not to impose these values on them.”
“Cultural identities have an important, but often hidden, role to serve in helping to shape how we think about the world,” Dbian added.
“It’s a really important issue because it can be very limiting in the sense that it means we have to define ourselves as belonging to certain groups, but it can also be very empowering.”
The authors hope their research will inspire other researchers to explore the different ways Canadians perceive the cultural world.
“I think there are many ways of being an Egyptian, a Lebanese, a Palestinian, a Somali, a Jewish, an African or a Western, and not giving into certain aspects of those identities and rejecting them,” said Professor Mark Schmid, director of the Centre for Anthropology at the New School in New York City.
“They’re really, really important to be able to be different.”
Follow Melissa DeMarco on Twitter: @melissademoarino