Multiple Discourses in Developing Intercultural Awareness: Talking about Blocks and Threads

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 5A G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Adrian HOLLIDAY, School of Language Studies & Applied Linguistics, Canterbury Christ Church University, United Kingdom
Sara AMADASI, FISPPA Department - University of Padova, Italy
This paper will consider how all of us employ multiple and often competing discourses when we talk about our relationship with the cultural Other. The primary example will be interviews with Algerian postgraduate students, who have just arrived at a university in the UK, about their intercultural experiences (Amadasi & Holliday in process). We found that these competing ways of talking about culture appeared alongside each other within conversations between the researchers and their interviewees as blocks and threads. Blocks are where we ask questions and get answers that encourage us to think about cultural barriers. They represent an ‘essentialist culture and language’ discourse. Threads are where we search for ways to share experiences – threads of cultural experience that we carry with us and draw from our prior experience but that can resonate with those of others. They represent a ‘critical cosmopolitan’ discourse that encourages travel across cultural boundaries and the contribution of prior cultural experience to this travel. (Holliday 2013)

We maintain the block mode of talking is easily converted into cultural prejudice because it stops the possibility for understanding and sharing at the point of tolerating an Other who can never be like ‘us’ – a putting-up with in times of low conflict that can feed aggression at time of high conflict. This is the default mode because of the way in which are wired within a global positioning and politics. The thread mode needs to be nurtured as an alternative form of engagement.

Holliday, A. R. (2013). Understanding intercultural communication: negotiating a grammar of culture. London: Routledge.

Amadasi, S. & Holliday, A. R. (in process). Perceptions of intercultural travel among Algeria postgraduate students. Unpublished paper, School of Language Studies & Applied Linguistics, Canterbury Christ Church University, FISPPA Department, Section of Sociology, University of Padua