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April 2008 - Understanding Friendship - A Cross-Cultural Analysis

You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway…? – E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web

Friendships…

…they just happen. In the process they help define you, often give meaning to your life, and sometimes even change it.
Yet it is often hard to define or describe that strange bond between individuals. In this culture obsessed with self-analysis, very few popular frameworks exist to analyze/understand friendships. It remains a largely unexamined part of our lives. For example, consider these questions:

  • -Do you have a large and loose group of friends? Or is it just an intimate group, with everyone else you know being “acquaintances”?
  • -How do you describe your close friends? Always in glowing terms, or as more complex people, with their good and not-so-good sides?
  • -Do you always forgive/justify the actions of your friends, or expect him/her to make amends first?
  • -Do you believe in giving your friends a lot of space, or do you feel the need to be intimately involved in their lives?

These are some of the questions we would be pondering at this month’s point8 session, led by Dr. Roger Baumgarte. Based on his research on cultural aspects of close friendships, he has developed a four-dimensional framework to better understand it.
To quote Roger: “The classic view holds that individuals in collectivist societies have fewer close friends and these friendships are closer and more stable compared to those in individualist societies. This presentation attempts to correct some aspects of this view and refine others to form four cultural dimensions of close friendship. Each dimension is described in terms of polar opposites describing how friendship is experienced differently in various cultures.”

Yes, this will be different from all the topics we have had so far at point8 . There won’t be any direct connection to art/design. However we found Roger’s topic so universally relevant, and simply fascinating – we just had to do it!
So, be there…!

What: Understanding Friendship: A Cross-Cultural Analysis
Presentation-Discussion led by Dr. Roger Baumgarte
When: Tuesday, 15th April ‘08 @ 6:00pm
Where: Main Auditorium, Mint Museum of Art

Dr. Roger Baumgarte, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Winthrop University, is a cross-cultural psychologist who has spent the last 15 years researching the cultural aspects of close friendships. Even though he has given several seminars on this topic internationally, this would be his first public talk about it in/around Charlotte.