IALIC 2015: “Intercultural Communication in Social Practice

Dear all,

Greetings from Edinburgh!

I reckon my name might sound unfamiliar to some of you, slightly because I completed my PhD at Manchester a few years ago, and largely because I have been quiet on this forum for a long time as I was drawn to the various adventures in the early stage of my academic career in a different institution.

Nevertheless, I’m never away from LANTERN, still participating in joint conference presentations and publications etc. when there is an opportunity. Here I’m posting an update about the most recent collaboration, an abstract (see below) that Richard and myself submitted to the 15th IALIC conference on “Intercultural Communication in Social Practice”, to be hosted by Peking University, China on Nov 27-29, 2015.

‘Home’, an overlooked space for intercultural competence development?

Xiaowei (Vivien) Zhou and Richard Fay

Research about intercultural competence development has been traditionally contextualised in the experiences of individuals who have the privilege to travel across cultural borders. This research is often underpinned by a belief that exposure to foreignness defined in national terms is a pre-requisite for the development of intercultural competence and such exposure tends to occur only when one makes a physical move away from one’s cultural home. However, we find that these beliefs are both insufficient and problematic to help us understand the complexities characterising the intercultural arena. The growing scholarly interest in a non-essentialist perspective on intercultural communication has inspired us to re-examine the space where cultural otherness becomes manifest, comfort zones are confronted and intercultural learning takes place.

In this presentation, we provide a few case studies from our diverse professional contexts as an attempt to illuminate what seems to be happening in an often overlooked space for intercultural competence development. We start with Vivien’s UK-based experience of teaching postgraduate students originally from the UK (typically labelled as “home” students) and Germany on an intercultural communication module. The latter comprise the majority of the student group enrolled in this module. A collective disappointment is often noted from these cultural travellers about studying in the vicinity of “home” rather than in a “truly international” environment. We then move onto Richard’s work, with Leah Davcheva, theorising intercultural competence from the narratively-voiced identity performances of Bulgaria’s small Sephardic Jewish community as understood through their linguistic resources, including the heritage language Ladino.

Through these examples, and our sharing of them with each other and with our audience, we seek to also foreground, extend, and conceptualise our dialogue about intercultural communication, a dialogue which is itself intercultural and merits problematising scrutiny as part of a critical orientation to intercultural thinking.

culture, intercultural communication, intercultural competence, non-essentialism, dialogue


  • Richard Fay

    As an outcome of the paper (see above) that Min led (with myself and Ross White as co-presenters), I am delighted to report that we (the same team) have now submitted the following article for a Special Issue of Language and Intercultural Communication journal focusing on the same themes as the overall IALIC 2015 conference:

    The Knowledge Landscape of 念 (niàn) / Mindfulness: Transcreation as an Intercultural Endeavour
    Zhuo Min Huang , Richard Fay and Ross White

    Fingers crossed that the editors like it !

  • Siti Fitriyah

    Wow congratulations 🙂 😉 What a team! Will be an exciting journey to the east 🙂 🙂

  • Zhuomin Huang

    As encouraged by Richard, I have also submitted an abstract by myself:

    ”Through the Eye of Visual/Creative-arts: Understanding Students Intercultural Experiences at an Internationalised UK University”

    Zhuomin Huang

    In this paper, I discuss how visual/creative-arts can be used to explore students’ intercultural experiences at an internationalised UK university such as The University of Manchester (UoM) as located in a multicultural urban setting (i.e. Manchester). By ‘visual/creative-arts’, I mean the visible media, created or found by students, which provide a meaning-making lens for visualising and understanding their mind-worlds – a reflection of what they see from their backgrounds and experiences, and what they want the audience to see. My discussion in this paper is informed by my on-going doctoral study about the roles of mindfulness/念(niàn) (Ting-Toomey & Kurogi, 1998) in the accounts from postgraduates about their UoM-based intercultural experiences. The students in question are not drawn from any particular group(s) or nationality/ies (e.g. Chinese, international or domestic students) as has been the case in many previous studies of internationalised university-life (e.g. Holmes, 2004; Schweisfurth & Gu, 2009; Grayson, 2008). Instead, I could have included each and every student at Manchester because, following Singer (1988) I view them as culturally -unique and -complex individuals navigating and making meanings of the complexities of small cultures (Holliday, 1999) in which they participate in the internationalised environment at UoM. Through the eye of visual/creative arts (e.g. free-style painting, digital-edited photovoice, self-portrait, collage, art-gallery-stimulated reflection), I am investigating students’ invisible and fluid mind-worlds of their intercultural experiences with a visible and tangible channel that can be directly seen, understood and related to by the audience. By exploring how students make sense of, and take meaningful ownership of their intercultural experiences through the reflective and communicative space provided by visuals, I offer a methodological contribution regarding the use of visual/creative-arts in, for, and as research.

  • Zhuomin Huang

    Richard, Ross and me have submitted this joint-abstract:

    “Intercultural knowledge-work and the transcultural development of ideas:
    念(niàn)/mindfulness, intercultural communication, and psychotherapy”

    Zhuomin Huang , Richard Fay, and Ross White

    In our increasingly interconnected world, the movement of ideas (and people, goods, practices, etc) is increasingly transnational. However, as widely noted (e.g. Connell, 2007; White & Sashidharan, 2014a) the direction of flow tends to be shaped by larger geo-political, ideological, linguistic, disciplinary, and other forces, thereby privileging some sources and generating knowledge flows from, for example, the Global North to the Global South, and from the High Income Countries of the Centre to the Low- and Middle-Income Countries of the Periphery.

    Despite the varied calls for context-sensitivity and cultural-appropriacy – e.g. in language education (Holliday, 1994), distance education (Fay & Hill, 2003), intercultural communication (Asante et al., 2013), and global mental health (White et al, 2014; White & Sashidharan, 2014) – such dominant flows can frustrate the counterflows (White et al., 2014) of ideas from other sources and the development of ‘common flows’ which privilege no particular sources but result from mutually respectful collaborative thinking.

    Against this backdrop, 念(niàn) – or ‘mindfulness’ in English – provides a currently dynamic and fascinating case. With its origins in ancient Oriental wisdom, this concept (in an example of counterflow from East to West) is currently being utilised in modern Western disciplines (e.g. psychotherapy, intercultural communication). Our team is well-placed to explore this case with representatives of both Eastern and Western perspectives, and practitioners of both intercultural communication and psychotherapy.

    In this paper, we outline some of our separately-undertaken work with 念(niàn) /mindfulness in order to collaboratively explore the migratory characteristics of this concept, term and related practices. We do so to better understanding the flows – dominant, counter and common – of ideas in the transnational knowledge landscape and thereby contribute to the development of an intercultural understanding of knowledge-building and knowledge-work processes in our shared world.

  • Zhuomin Huang

    Very interesting abstracts from our ‘intercultural team’!

  • Richard Fay

    And Min?

  • Richard Fay

    And for ‘my sins’, I have also submitted this one:

    “Ethnomusicological bridges and social engagement through klezmer: interdisciplinary dialogues and intercultural performances” — Richard Fay, Ros Hawley and Elinor Sherwood
    (Music Department, The University of Manchester)

    Whilst the concept of ‘culture’ has been and remains under critical scrutiny within the field of intercultural communication, the concept features prominently, and often uncritically, used in many popular and academic discourses including Ethnomusicology and heritage processes such as folk museums. The focus of this paper is on the musical worlds of klezmer, a genre of music which was originally the wedding music of the eastern European, often Yiddish-speaking, Ashkenazi Jewish communities, a musical ‘culture’ which survived the traumas of the c20th in large part through its diasporic existence in the USA, and which, not without controversy, has become transglobal world music genre since its revival began in the 1980s. In particular, we reflect on our five-year experience of teaching klezmer within a Music Department oriented mostly towards western classical music. Each year, a group of students learn to perform klezmer, a musical ‘Other’ for them, often for audiences significantly Jewish in make-up (another cultural ‘Other’ for our students). This music education process generates not only a dialogue between differing musical cultures (and their associated forms, and learning and performance styles, of which we will say more in the paper), but also a dialogue between the disciplines of Ethnomusicology and Intercultural Communication (especially concerning the criticality with which ‘culture’ is used). Further, most of those teaching and learning klezmer in this context are not from a Jewish background and, whilst for some this might be seen as a form of ‘cultural necrophilia’, we believe that it has enabled purposeful intercultural dialogue through music. It also represents a process of social engagement which, we believe, is playing an important role in the developing cultural weave of our city, as well as helping to shape our students’ musically-framed understandings of the cultural and intercultural.

    • Richard Fay

      This musical one has been accepted too as has the one led by Xiaowei ‘Vivien’ Zhou in which I am a co-presenter (see above).