Going beyond “national cultures” in intercultural communication teaching

  • Mélodine Sommier (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentationAcademic


Going beyond “national cultures” in intercultural communication teaching Much of intercultural communication research and teaching materials still use nation and culture as synonyms. Through that pervasive association, national culture is elevated as a key dimension to measure differences and similarities between groups of individuals without being problematized. On the contrary, new approaches within the field draw attention to tensions associated with the discursive construction of both nations and cultural realities, and the interplay with individuals’ interactions and practices. Teaching intercultural communication from this approach can be challenging as the lack of existing materials and students’ assumptions can make it difficult to escape national culture as a reading grid. In this presentation, I will discuss some of the strategies I have used in my own teaching to address those challenges. On a conceptual level, using notions such as “banal nationalism” (Billig, 1995) and “imagined community” (Anderson, 1982) are relevant tools to start from the premise that nations are constructions, and therefore focus on investigating processes through which constructed entities are maintained and represented as normal. This approach paves the way for class activities that encourage students to scrutinize and question representations surrounding them. In practice, exploring “linguistic landscapes” (Landry and Bourhis, 1997) with students can be very helpful to tackle issues related to language ideologies and language use. This activity enables to examine in a very concrete manner the interplay between students’ environment (e.g. media, billboards, homescapes, bodyscapes) and their practices when interacting within that milieu. Exploring linguistic landscapes can uncover numerous issues related to ways of performing identity and culture, negotiating global meanings in local settings, and assumptions about language use and correctness. This activity therefore matches the aims of critical intercultural communication by highlighting normalized meanings and associated tensions, and focusing on interactions between individuals rather than cultures.
Period7 Oct 2016
Event titleFinnish Speech Communication Association Conference
Event typeOther
LocationTampere, FinlandShow on map