Talk: Conceptualising cultures in transcultural communication: from essentialism to complexity
Dr Will Baker, the deputy director of the Centre for Global Englishes at the University of Southampton, will give a talk next Thursday, 20 October, from 14.00-15.20 in Crawford House, lecture theatre 2. You can read his abstract and bio below. If you are interested in, please you arrive early since this will be a popular lecture.
Conceptualising cultures in transcultural communication: from essentialism to complexity
The superdiversity of many contemporary environments in which social groupings and communicative practices are fluid and complex has led to critiques of the notion of culture as outdated and essentialist. In this talk I will explore the validity of those criticisms and consider how we can theorise culture in a manner that accounts for complexity and dynamism as well as how we might approach researching such an ephemeral phenomenon. I will draw on current research into the use of English as a lingua franca (ELF) since this provides examples of communication in which the relationships between languages and cultures exists at multiple scales and where simplistic correlations between national cultures and languages do not hold. This leads to a questioning of the traditional premise of intercultural communication as communication ‘between’ cultural groupings. Instead ELF research highlights the need to explore communication from a transcultural perspective in which the links between languages and cultures move through (rather than between) individual, local, national and global scales and, crucially, connections are seen as situated and emergent. To aid the discussion complexity theory will be introduced as a meta-theory which enables us to investigate cultures and languages as identifiable ‘wholes’ while at the same time recognising their dynamic, relational and emergent status. This transcultural perspective, I argue, offers researchers an approach to culture and language that avoids essentialism and places complexity at the centre of study.
Will Baker is Deputy Director of the Centre for Global Englishes at the University of Southampton. His main research interests are in Intercultural Communication, English as a Lingua Franca and English Medium Instruction in international universities. He is an editor for the book series ‘Developments in English as a Lingua Franca’ (De Gruyter Mouton) and the forthcoming Handbook of English as a Lingua Franca (Routledge). His recent publications include the monograph Culture and Identity through English as a Lingua Franca: Rethinking Concepts and Goals in Intercultural Communication (2015, De Gruyter Mouton).