Insurgent Multiculturalism: Rethinking How and Why We Teach Culture in Medical Education

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The author proposes a theoretical orientation for cultural competency that reorganizes common curricular responses to the study of culture in medical education. What has come to be known in medical education as cultural competency is theoretically truncated and may actually work against what educators hope to achieve. Using Giroux's concept of insurgent multiculturalism, she suggests that the critical study of culture might be a bridge to certain aspects of professional development. Insurgent multiculturalism moves inquiry away from a focus on nondominant groups to a study of how unequal distributions of power allow some groups but not others to acquire and keep resources, including the rituals, policies, attitudes, and protocols of medical institutions. This approach includes not only the doctor–patient relationship but also the social causes of inequalities and dominance. Linked to professional development efforts, insurgent multiculturalism can provide students with more opportunities to look at their biases, challenge their assumptions, know people beyond labels, confront the effects of power and privilege, and develop a far greater capacity for compassion and respect.

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