Achieving interculturality

This is the last section, page 179, from the new edition of my book, Understanding intercultural communication: negotiating a grammar of culture. It should be coming out in the New Year.

Safa is a character from one of my reconstructed ethnographic narratives; and I think that what she has been able to do in these narratives is what I would stand by as a definition of interculturality.

In many ways, Safa achieves all the suggestions of this book in how she carries out and manages cultural innovation. This does not mean that cultural innovation is the main aim; but being able to be innovative in the way that she does reflects important aspects of interculturality. She demonstrates the deeper nature of what can be achieved by individual people in dialogue with the larger particular social and political structures across cultural locations. She employs multiple cultural resources both from her home and new cultural environments. Each set of resources is enhanced by the other, especially in cases where she understands something about the inner workings of cultural practices as they adapt themselves to innovation.

Regarding global positioning and politics, she engages with her own opinions and the opinions of others that reflect the values associated with the cultural practices that concern her. Despite being positioned as non-Western or Westernised by others, she is able to negotiate and counter this positioning and find herself within it. She nevertheless faces prejudices, and how far she is able to overcome them remains to be seen as her personal cultural trajectory continues into the future.

In her personal cultural trajectory, Safa has travelled and come to terms with living in a new cultural environment. She has carried cultural preferences from her home environment and eventually learnt how to revive and develop aspects of them in her new environment. She has also acquired a critical liking for cultural practices encountered in the new environment and found ways to carry them back and integrate them into her original cultural environment. This has enabled to her develop a greater ethnographic awareness of her home environment. Her personal cultural identity therefore develops backwards and forwards across cultural locations.

Enacting small culture formation on the go, Safa does not simply adopt or reject new cultural practices or try to introduce cultural practices from her home environment. Finding a way to engage with new practices in both environments on her own terms leads her into analysis of how they operate and to become skilful in establishing her position. Artefacts play a significant role in the cultural innovation with which Safa engages – restaurant bills, credit cards, specialist language, the development of discourses, the media, fruit, mugs and iPods. Her statements about culture also become more expansive. There is therefore no culture loss, but instead a deeper understanding and appreciation of the value of the heritage that she brings with her.

And there is more …

The new edition is written in a very different way to the first one in that it is written to be read and contains lots of new thinking – especially where it deals with multiculturalism, hybridity and the third space.

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