The promise of intercultural understanding and the transformative power of intercultural awareness: a problematization of Intercultural Communication theory

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Ferri, G. (2015)
  • Publisher: UCL (University College London)
  • Subject: intercultural communication, ethics, applied linguistics, philosophy of education

The thesis is concerned with a problematization of the field of intercultural communication. Philosophical inquiry is employed in this thesis to examine intercultural communication from the perspective of existing critical intercultural frameworks, particularly in relation to conceptualisations of cultural difference and the acquisition of communicative competence. In proposing this philosophical approach, the thesis reconfigures the relationship between self and other in dialogic terms, and it repositions intercultural communication from the current emphasis on business and language learning to a reappraisal of the role of dialogue in dealing with intercultural conflicts in multicultural societies. Beginning with a critique of the philosophical presuppositions of communicative competence, the thesis proposes an ethical approach to communication based on the philosophy of Levinas. The thesis suggests a contrasting reading of Kantian autonomy of the individual and Levinasian heteronomy. The former is identified as the source of functionalist competence frameworks, while the latter underpins a notion of ethical engagement and dialogic commitment between individuals belonging to different cultural backgrounds. The thesis eschews essentialist attributions of cultural difference in interaction with the other, and reconfigures intercultural communication within a wider philosophical discourse defined by the ethics of alterity, or thinking about the other. This theoretical stance is achieved in the thesis through a productive confrontation between Levinas and other philosophers who have engaged critically with the notion of alterity, such as Žižek, Badiou and Ricoeur. These theoretical strands are woven together to produce an immanent critique of the field of intercultural communication. This approach offers a conceptualisation of intercultural communication that emphasises ethical engagement with others and the importance of open-ended dialogue, as opposed to a search for a closure of understanding in ideals of universal tolerance. Thus, this thesis acknowledges complexity, contingency and the power relations embedded in communication as constituent of interculturality.
  • References (8)

    1.1 Introduction................................................................................................... 8 1.1.1 The research questions........................................................................ 9 1.1.2 The aims of the thesis........................................................................ 11 1.2 Methodological considerations ................................................................... 13 1.2.1 Philosophical inquiry in intercultural communication ......................... 19 1.3 The structure of the thesis.......................................................................... 23 1.4 The role of Levinasian ethics in the thesis ................................................. 25 1.5 A summary of the chapters ........................................................................ 26 1.6 Conclusion.................................................................................................. 31 Chapter Two. The ethics of intercultural communication

    2.1 Introduction................................................................................................. 32 2.2 The ethos of the research .......................................................................... 34 2.3 Perspectivist intercultural communication .................................................. 38 2.4 Post-modernism and the politics of interculturality ..................................... 42 2.5 Critical intercultural awareness and emancipation ..................................... 48 2.5.1 Holliday and the critical cosmopolitan potential................................. 49 2.5.2 Guilherme: critical intercultural citizenship ........................................ 53 2.5.3 Discussion ......................................................................................... 57 2.6 Hegelian dialectics as a narrative of positive resolution............................. 63 2.7 Adorno and negative dialectics ................................................................. 66 2.8 Conclusion.................................................................................................. 69 Chapter Three. Intercultural competence

    3.1 Introduction................................................................................................. 71 3.2 Intercultural competence. An overview ...................................................... 73 3.3 The critical turn........................................................................................... 78 3.4 Critical approaches to intercultural competence in language learning ....... 81 3.4.1 Kramsch: symbolic competence........................................................ 84 3.4.2 Savoirs and critical intercultural awareness ...................................... 88 3.5 Competence and responsibility .................................................................. 93 3.6 Conclusion.................................................................................................. 98 Chapter Four. Levinas and ethical communication

    4.1 Introduction............................................................................................... 100 4.2 The promise as final reconciliation of difference ...................................... 105 4.3 The promise as deferred understanding .................................................. 108 4.4 Kantian ethics and autonomy ................................................................... 113 4.5 Levinasian ethics...................................................................................... 119 4.5.1 Accusativity vs Subjectivity.............................................................. 125 4.5.2 Asymmetry vs Symmetry................................................................. 133 4.5.3 Heteronomy vs Autonomy ............................................................... 135 4.5.4 Proximity vs Distance ...................................................................... 138 4.6 The saying and the said ........................................................................... 145 Chapter Five. The epistemic validity of Levinasian ethics

    5.1 Introduction............................................................................................... 154 5.2 Žižek on Levinas ...................................................................................... 156 5.3 Badiou on Levinas.................................................................................... 161 5.4 Ricoeur on Levinas................................................................................... 165 5.5 Dialogic intercultural communication........................................................ 169 5.5.1 Buber and Levinas .......................................................................... 171 5.5.2 Bakhtin and Levinas ........................................................................ 173 5.6 Conclusion................................................................................................ 175 Chapter Six. Dialogism and intercultural competence

    7.1 Introduction............................................................................................... 225 7.2 Critical vigilance ....................................................................................... 230 7.3 Gender and language............................................................................... 232 7.4 Gender in intercultural communication..................................................... 236 7.4.1 The processuality of othering .......................................................... 238 7.4.2 The contextual dimension of othering ............................................. 242 7.4.3 Multiperspectival ethical communication and othering .................... 244 7.5 Conclusion................................................................................................ 250 Chapter Eight. Self and Other: an example of othering

    8.1 Introduction............................................................................................... 252 8.1.1 The epistemological framework of Chapter Eight .......................... 253 8.2 The abject body........................................................................................ 255 8.2.1 The veiled body .............................................................................. 256 8.2.2 The naked body.............................................................................. 264 8.2.3 The barren body ............................................................................. 269 Chapter Nine. Conclusion: final thoughts

    9.1 Introduction. The research questions ....................................................... 275 9.2 Aims and outcomes.................................................................................. 278 9.3 Positioning the thesis ............................................................................... 281 9.3 Conclusion. Future directions................................................................... 284 Fig.1 The three interpretative strategies........................................................... 50 Fig.2 Critical intercultural citizenship ................................................................ 56 Fig.3 Hegelian dialectics and intercultural consciousness ............................... 65 Fig.4 Sequence of acquisition of competences.............................................. 188 Fig.5 Deardorff. The pyramid model............................................................... 214 Fig.6 ICOPROMO. A transformational model ................................................ 214 Fig.7 Phipps. Dwelling.................................................................................... 215 Fig.8 Dialogic interaction ................................................................................ 215 Fig.9 Epistemological framework ................................................................... 217 Fig.10 Legislation regulating the Islamic dress in Europe .............................. 256

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