The ethics of intercultural communication

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MacDonald, Malcolm ; O'Regan, John P. (2013)

For some time, the role of culture in language education within schools, universities and professional communication has received increasing attention. This article identifies two aporias in the discourse of intercultural communication (IC): first, that it contains an unstated movement towards a universal consciousness; second, that its claims to truth are grounded in an implicit appeal to a transcendental moral signified.These features constitute IC discourse as ‘totality’, or as ‘metaphysics of presence’.The article draws on the work of Levinas (1969/2007, 1998/2009); and Derrida (1976, 1978, 1981, 1993) to propose more considered ethical grounds for intercultural praxis. Contra a Hegelian impetus towards universal consciousness,we posit an irreducible distance and separation between the self and other. In so doing, not only are we able to supersede the field’s implicit appeal to the transcendental as a source of truth but also to counter perceptibly ‘exorbitant’ claims and actions of the intercultural other. In this vein, the article proposes a discourse ethics of responsibility by which it still becomes possible for a critical intercultural praxis to make value judgements and to take potentially transformative action vis-à-vis cultural acts that challenge the limits of intercultural tolerance and hospitality.
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