Discussions about miscommunications that take place when people from different language and cultural backgrounds interact with each other often focus on the linguistic and cultural differences between the participants and how these differences can lead to breakdowns in communication. In doing so, such discussions fail to account for the following:
(1) That communication across languages and cultures can be problematic even when participants “understand” each other and language differences do not give rise to mis- comprehension;
(2) That miscommunication and problem communication often happens, not because of linguistic differences, but rather because of the participants’ conceptualizations of the nature of their relationship, and how participants position and essentialize each other in terms of identity, power and solidarity;
(3) That given the factors that play a role in why/how problematic communication can arise in intercultural interactions, and how these factors can privilege some over others and can also damage intercultural relationships, we need to consider how to be aware and ethical intercultural participants.
This talk will briefly focus on and illustrate through video clips how linguistic/ cultural differences may lead to communication difficulties in intercultural interactions. She will then address why we need to move from this simplistic a-contextual/a-social/a- political view of intercultural interactions to a more complex understanding. To do so she will focus on the relationships between problems that arise in intercultural interactions and participants’ definitions of their relationships, purposes and goals for the interaction, and processes of essentialization and their positioning of each other in relation to identity, power, and solidarity. The talk will be interactive, involving the audience in reflecting on their own experiences of problem intercultural communication, and involving the audience in viewing and analyzing video clips that illustrate problematic communication and the factors that led to these intercultural communication difficulties. The talk will culminate in considering ways of avoiding essentializing others, frame shifting, and of entering into successful, ethical intercultural interactions.
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