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Culture and beyond : the role of critical intercultural training in the mining industry Speiran, Rachel Olivia

Abstract

This thesis focuses on the social dimensions of one industry in a globalized economy: mining. The purpose of this paper is to present a rationale for critical intercultural training within the mining industry vis-a-vis individual cross cultural sensitivity and adaptation, as well as the promotion of cultural sustainability within the context of corporate social responsibility. I argue that intercultural training programs have the potential to be an educational avenue for corporate global citizenship. Moreover, I argue that 'critical intercultural training' is necessary in developing sustainable and just global partnerships, that is, an educational model that would provide a more in-depth analytical framework through which to explore the development of culture and context-specific relationships that were based in social equality. Critical theory and pedagogy is used as a conceptual framework to examine the role of intercultural training programs within the Canadian mining industry. It is argued that such programs could offer a means for critical reflection, collaborative action or praxis (Freire, 1980) to occur, especially within industries that have major social and environmental impact on the communities in which they operate. I aim to present a rationale for critical intercultural training as a means for unearthing the complex nature of cross-cultural issues within the global corporate economy of mining and implementing reflective, transformatory action based on the findings of this study. Unstructured interviews and questionnaires were used to get an understanding of mining management and employees' conceptions of cross-cultural challenges during international work assignments. Participants' views on 'intercultural training' were also explored. The purpose of the questions was to seek out how important and/or effective employees and managers felt these programs are/would be, as well as how they feel these programs may be improved and made to be more relevant and useful within the mining industry. The findings resulted in a few dominant themes that arose from the participants stories, perspectives and opinions. All participants experienced difficulties in adapting either personally or professionally to the culture they relocated to. All participants experienced what Taylor (1994) terms cross-cultural based transformative learning through critical incidents while working internationally. It was these incidents that often formed the basis of the participants' negative or positive perceptions of the particular culture they were working in. Stemming from either specific situations or observations made over time, there was a common interest for the majority of the participants in promoting or contributing to positive social change through dialogue, education and /or the development of community relations with people surrounding the mine site. There was support yet a simultaneous skepticism of intercultural training programs based on prior experience and/or limiting views of the purpose of intercultural training. The connection between the participants' responses, whether explicit or implicit, was an exposed need to develop deeper understandings of the intersecting socio-political and economic influences underlying 'culture' that are involved in mining developments in South American communities. The implications of the findings endorse a need for further examination into the possibility of critical intercultural training as an avenue for generating more culturally sensitive and sustainable policy and practice with the Canadian mining industry.

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