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

Ferri, G; (2015) The promise of intercultural understanding and the transformative power of intercultural awareness: a problematization of Intercultural Communication theory. Doctoral thesis (PhD), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

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.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: PhD
Title: The promise of intercultural understanding and the transformative power of intercultural awareness: a problematization of Intercultural Communication theory
Event: UCL Institute of Education
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: intercultural communication, ethics, applied linguistics, philosophy of education
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1473633
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