What is a Cultural Broker?

"The term “culture broker” or “cultural broker” is not particularly defined in the literature but is defined through common usage as a person who facilitates the border crossing of another person or group of people from one culture to another culture[2]. Jezewski (in Jezewski & Sotnik, 2001) defined culture broking as “the act of bridging, linking or mediating between groups or persons of differing cultural backgrounds for the purpose of reducing conflict or producing change”. Usually the culture broker is from one or other of the cultures but could be from a third group. Often they are capable of acting in both directions. The role covers more than being an interpreter, although this is an important attribute in cross-cultural situations where language is part of the role.

A broker is usually defined as a middleman (sic) and emphasises the commercial aspect such as in stockbroker. In terms of cultural broker, the use of the term broker is most in accord with “middleman, intermediary, or agent generally; an interpreter, messenger, commissioner” from the Oxford English Dictionary and the idea of reward is not necessarily financial (e.g. Szasz, 2001). (The Oxford English Dictionary does not give a specific definition for cultural broker.)

The origin of the term is in the field of anthropology in the mid-1900s, when several anthropologists wrote about native people whose role in their society was as a cultural intermediary or cultural broker, usually with the western society. The term ‘cultural intermediary’ was used in some of the literature, with ‘culture broker’ and ‘cultural broker’ as alternatives. Other terms used include ‘innovator’ and ‘marginal man’ (sic). The genre was given an historical perspective and the field of ethnohistory came into existence. The background to this can be found in the introduction to Margaret Connell Szasz’s Between Indian and White Worlds: The Cultural Broker (Szasz, 2001)."

Above text taken from: "The role of culture brokers in intercultural science education: A research proposal" by Michael Michie, Centre for Research in Science and Technology Education, University of Waikato - Paper presented at the 34th annual conference of the Australasian Science Education Research Association held in Melbourne, 10-12 July 2003.

To read complete paper, click here.