The Practice of Intercultural Communication reflections for professionals in cultural meetings Iben Jensen

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The Practice of Intercultural Communication

- reflections for professionals in cultural meetings
Iben Jensen,

associate professor, M.A. & Ph.D.,

Department of Communication,

University of Roskilde, Denmark


In this article I will argue that the globalisation process has carried two major implications for intercultural communication research: 1) It has provided a new target group; professional practitioners in multiethnic societies. 2) It has made ‘cultural identity’ one of the most important concepts in intercultural research. The challenge for intercultural research today is to provide analytical tools for the practitioners - tools which are developed in relation to the complexity in multiethnic societies.

Intercultural communication research has got a new target group due to the globalisation process: The professional practitioners in multiethnic societies; the nurses, the social workers, the lawyers, the teachers etc., who in respect of their professionalism are responsible for a successful intercultural communication. Traditionally the professional practitioners have been left with handbooks and readers mainly based upon functionalistic theories (Martin & Nakayama 2000, Samovar, Porter & Jain 1981, Asante & Gudykunst 1989, Hofstede 1980, Okabe 1983, Prosser 1978). Lots of answering has been given. However more and more professional practitioners have experienced that simple answers to cultural differences do not work in multiethnic societies.
The complexity in society demands more complex questions and answers. I will argue that a poststructural approach is able to handle the complexity of the concepts, which are necessary to describe the multiethnic societies. I will also argue that it’s both necessary and possible from a poststructuralistic, approach to develop analytical tools, which refer to the practitioner’s everyday experiences. The functionalistic approach has already proved that practitioners want practical tools, they can use in praxis in everyday life. In respect of this need I find one of the challenges in the field of intercultural communication to develop analytical tools on the basis of the complex concepts describing complex societies (Bauman 1999, Jensen 1998/2001).

The article is divided in three parts. In the first part I will discuss how the field of intercultural communication research can contribute to professional practitioners in multiethnic societies. In the second part I will present four analytical tools for intercultural communication as seen from a poststructuralistic perspective. These analytical tools sum up into a model for intercultural communication. The third part will discuss the concept of cultural identity in relation to intercultural communication.

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