Using subject readings and examples to explain race, orientalising, culturalism and relate to intercultural/international communication

| August 21, 2015

Using subject readings and examples to explain race, orientalising, culturalism and relate to intercultural/international communication

Order Description

Using subject readings, write an essay which explains race, orientalising, culturalismand illustrates them with an example from popular culture. Identify three ways in which these relate to intercultural/international communication. The focus for the assessment is evidencing understanding of the core concepts, the readings, intercultural communication rather than a detailed account of the example from popular culture.

The purpose of the assessment is to demonstrate understanding of at least three concepts from the subject using subject readings and the issues these raise for intercultural/international communication. Examples can include books (fiction or non-fiction); current, cult, or classic movies; documentaries; television shows; episodes of a soap opera; lyrics of songs, artworks or exhibitions; plays or performances; tourism guidebooks or inflight airline magazines etc.

Quality of understanding of at least three core concepts from the subject
Quality of application of core concepts to examples used to illustrate concepts
Quality of analysis of concepts in relation to wider context of intercultural/international communication
Use of at least five readings off the subject

‘‘Critical’’ Junctures in Intercultural
Communication Studies: A Review
Rona Tamiko Halualani, S. Lily Mendoza, &
Jolanta A. Drzewiecka
This literature review foregrounds the critiques, moves, and junctures that have
specifically retheorized culture and communication from a critical intercultural
communication perspective, and set the stage for a fifth ‘‘moment’’ in the field of
intercultural communication. Likewise, the historically specific moments when various
scholars dared to question, confront, and wrestle with definitions and theoretical
formations of culture and intercultural communication are delineated. Such a review
will elucidate the role a critical perspective has played in the field of intercultural
communication, and the crucial research questions, stances, and directions that arise
from such a perspective for future intercultural communication studies.
Keywords: Critical Intercultural Communication; Power; Historical Context; Culture as
a Struggle
juncture: (junc-ture) a point in time, especially a critical time . . . (Hall, 1996)
The 20022005 volumes of International and Intercultural Communication Annual
highlight a recurring significant issue within the field of intercultural communication:
the reconceptualization of culture and intercultural communication relations
through an emerging critical perspective. The volume titles*Transforming Communication
About Culture: Critical New Directions, Intercultural Alliances: Critical
Transformation, Ferment in the Intercultural Field: Axiology/Value/Praxis, and Taking
Stock in Intercultural Communication: Where To Now?*reflect an unsettled and
vibrant turn toward a perspective different from the long-held social scientific/
functionalist and interpretive research traditions: that is, the critical perspective, or
Rona Tamiko Halualani is Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at San Jose State University.
S. Lily Mendoza is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism at Oakland
University, Rochester, Michigan. Jolanta A. Drzewiecka is Associate Professor in the E. R. Murrow School of
Communication at Washington State University. Correspondence to: Rona Tamiko Halualani, 1 Washington
Square, San Jose, CA 95192-0112S, USA. Email:
ISSN 1535-8593 (online) # 2009 National Communication Association
DOI: 10.1080/15358590802169504
The Review of Communication
Vol. 9, No. 1, January 2009, pp. 1735
one focused on issues of power, context, and historical/structural forces in engaging
culture and intercultural communication relations.
According to Mary Jane Collier (2002), a critical turn requires that scholars
‘‘understand how relationships emerge in historical contexts, within institutional and
political forces and social norms that are often invisible to some groups’’ and how
intercultural communication relations are ‘‘constrained and enabled by institutions,
ideologies, and histories’’ (pp. 12). Such a turn has created what William Starosta
(2003) refers to as a ‘‘ferment’’ in the intercultural field and has been an enduring
issue for intercultural communication scholars since the early 1980s. Indeed, a critical
turn is definitely not new; neither has it been fully traced in terms of its historical
formation in the field. This has led to many calls by scholars for alternative powerbased
theorizings, reconceptualizations, and analyses of culture, identity, and
intercultural communication (see Collier, Hegde, Lee, Nakayama, & Yep, 2001;
Gonzalez & Peterson, 1993; Lee, Chung, Wang, & Hertel, 1995; Martin & Nakayama,
1999; Moon, 1996; Starosta & Chen, 2005).
Interrogating the field and its shifts in theorizing and conducting research is
necessary, according to Stuart Hall (1996), in order to trace and make sense of the
‘‘breaks,’’ ‘‘ruptures,’’ and ‘‘interruptions’’ in de-centering a paradigm or a normative
way of seeing and understanding the social world. According to Stuart Hall (1996), a
theoretical ‘‘juncture’’ or ‘‘detour’’ enables scholars to re-imagine new possibilities for
scholarly engagement and struggle with theory as a set of contested, localized, and
conjunctural knowledges that can live in productive tension and dialogue with other
perspectives. Thus, by interrogating the unstable formations in a field, scholars are
able to pinpoint and engage the different junctures and moments in a field that signal
reflection, change, growth, and transformation. In the spirit of looking simultaneously
back and ahead for intercultural communication studies, we employ Hall’s
notion of ‘‘juncture’’ to trace developments in the field of intercultural communication
that have led to the formation of a critical turn as an alternative perspective for
exploring intercultural communication concepts, relations, and contexts.
In the past 25 years, numerous historical overviews and critiques of the concepts of
culture and communication have emerged in intercultural communication studies
(e.g., Collier, 1998; Collier et al., 2001; Gonzalez & Peterson, 1993; Hall, 1992; Lee
et al., 1995; Leeds-Hurwitz, 1990; Martin & Nakayama, 1997, 1999; Moon, 1996;
Ono, 1998; Shuter, 1990; Smith, 1981; Starosta & Chen, 2001, 2003a,b, 2005). More
specifically, several of these overviews and critiques have contested prevailing
framings of intercultural communication and argued for a conceptualization of
culture from a critical perspective. According to Martin and Nakayama (2000), a
critical perspective is defined as one that addresses issues of macro contexts
(historical, social, and political levels), power, relevance, and the hidden and
destabilizing aspects of culture. Martin and Nakayama (2000) explain that the
critical perspective seeks to ‘‘understand the role of power and contextual constraints
on communication in order ultimately to achieve a more equitable society’’ (p. 8).
Thus, these overviews and critiques call for the framing of culture as politically and
historically shaped and the theorizing of culture through power relations.
18 R.T. Halualani et al.
In this literature review, we revisit only the critiques, moves, and junctures that
have specifically retheorized culture and communication from a critical intercultural
communication perspective, and set the stage for the fifth ‘‘moment’’ in the field of
intercultural communication (Starosta & Chen, 2001). The ‘‘fifth moment’’ refers to
the historical moment in the 1980s when scholars began to engage issues of power,
context, and ideology in studying intercultural communication. Likewise, the
historically specific moments when various scholars dared to question, confront,
and wrestle with definitions and theoretical formations of culture and intercultural
communication are delineated. While culture is our focal point, we review works that
have addressed the concept either directly by providing a specific reformulation, or
indirectly via related concepts such as identity or historicization. We do so in order to
reflect on the role that a critical perspective plays in the field of intercultural
communication and the crucial research questions, stances, and directions that arise
from such a perspective for future intercultural communication studies. Moreover,
we write this review with the hope of opening a dialogue about how to advance and
deepen the study of intercultural communication through the critical perspective,
and seriously consider how such a view may enhance and productively wrestle with
other paradigmatic approaches so as to stretch the purview of the field.
It is important to note that the junctures delineated below are numbered for the
sake of clarity. However, a linear chronological development may not be presumed,
given that they overlap and have emerged in roughly the same moments; many are
still ‘‘brewing’’ and being fully shaped. We include in our review works that may not
have been explicitly labeled as ‘‘intercultural’’ but nonetheless speak to the central
concerns of the field in its critical turn from a rhetorical, critical discourse, or critical
media perspective.
Juncture #1: Critical Impulses: Where are Context and History in Theorizing
One of the marks of a maturing discipline is a capacity to historicize and
problematize its own disciplinary formation. This serves as a de-naturalizing move
that opens up the possibility of self-criticism and necessary revision. We find evidence
of this beginning turn towards self-reflexivity in the interest of mapping and
historically accounting for the modes of theorizing (e.g., in the theorizing of culture)
that predominated at particular moments in the field’s history for the purpose of
outing the politics driving their hegemonization (cf. Moon, 1996). It manifests also in
the willingness to acknowledge consciously the discipline’s genealogy in the U.S.
Foreign Service Institute with its service of Cold War exigencies, and what that entails
in terms of defining its object(s) of study and the driving goals of research (Leeds-
Hurwitz, 1990). This first-time historicization brought to the fore the relevance of
context and history in the formation of intercultural communication as a field of
study. At the same time, it raised suspicion about the reifying effects of ahistorical
functionalist analyses and the penchant for ‘‘discovering’’ universal covering laws
in the social scientific mode of research. Critiques of the embedded assumptions of
Intercultural Communication Studies 19
race-less, gender-less, and class-absent individualism and liberal notions of agency
thus began to interrupt the positivist discourse in the discipline.
In response to the reifying and static positionalities embedded within social
scientific intercultural communication research, the first ‘‘critical’’ works that
emerged in the field argued for the historical and political contextualization of
culture as opposed to the presumption that culture could be abstracted, separated
from surrounding sociopolitical conditions, and treated as a fixed variable (e.g.,
Asante, 1980; Gonzalez & Peterson, 1993). As Moon (1996) observed, the 1980s
marked a turn to functional approaches, with a significant narrowing of the
conceptualization of culture and an almost exclusive focus on interpersonal contexts
with concomitant emphasis on uncertainty reduction. In this mode, according to
Gonzalez and Peterson (1993), the ‘‘cultural description branch’’ of intercultural
communication research failed to demystify the power implications embedded within
intercultural interaction and ‘‘nonevaluative thick description’’ (p. 256).
In the 1980s, intercultural scholars such as Molefi Kete Asante (1980) argued that
cultural groups needed to be historically contextualized in order to understand fully
their cultural systems, identities, and communication practices. Such a contextualization
includes the historicized set of power relations between and within specific
cultural groups. In response to the rapidly growing ‘‘individual competency’’
approach in intercultural communication studies, Asante questioned the type of
intercultural communication encouraged in the field when context is not given
serious consideration and, consequently, historically-produced relations and conditions
are unwittingly naturalized as ‘‘cultural givens’’: that is, as ‘‘inherent’’ cultural
characteristics defining a particular group. In view of such a concern, he underscored
the need for intercultural communication scholars to incorporate self-reflexivity,
historical context, and sociopolitical relations in their analyses of culture. He also
decried the way intercultural communication scholars and instructors tended to
focus exclusively on the individual and personal level of culture and communication
(in terms of interpersonal adjustment and competencies), without any connections
made to contemporary issues, global relations, historical context, and sociopolitical
urgencies. Overall, Asante’s critique urges intercultural scholars to be more reflexive
about the unforeseen consequences of their intercultural theorizing and to take
historicization more seriously in their study of intercultural interactions.
Interestingly, Molefi Kete Asante (then Arthur Smith) was part of an earlier push
by U.S. rhetorical scholars in the 1970s and 1980s who examined rhetorical speakers,
discourses, and contexts primarily through the lens of cultural and historical context.
This movement in rhetorical studies overlapped with and informed the arguments
made by Asante (1980) and other intercultural scholars (Gonzalez & Peterson, 1993)
to engage the historical contextualization and formation of culture and intercultural
communication. For instance, Starosta and Chen (2003b) point to the work by
Michael Prosser (1969) on intercultural rhetoric and by Smith (now Asante) (1979)
on black rhetoric. These analyses illustrated that communication acts, practices, and
processes are grounded in and constituted by historical and cultural factors and
dynamics*an illustration that intercultural communication studies did not fully
20 R.T. Halualani et al.
utilize until the 1990s with historicized accounts and case studies of intercultural
communication encounters and contexts.
Taking Asante’s (1980) lead, several scholars argue for a historical and contextual
approach to the study of intercultural communication. Specifically, Lee et al. (1995)
do just that in their development of the method of double description, through which
the multivocalities, incompleteness, contextualities, and critical aspects of intercultural
interactions can be uncovered. They ground their understanding of
interpersonal remarks and rituals in an historical understanding of power relations,
social categorizing, and the public and private spheres of Chinese and North
American cultures. Lee et al. (1995) stress that knowledge claims in intercultural
communication are situated in historical and cultural contexts and, as a result,
epistemological claims are always shaped by cultural and historical lenses. These
scholars push for the field of intercultural communication to engage the larger macro
contexts of historical, social, and economic and political forces that have always
permeated and continue to permeate intercultural encounters and contexts.
Other intercultural communication scholars grapple with the historical and
ideological effects of how ‘‘culture’’ and ‘‘communication’’ are constructed. In her
pivotal piece ‘‘Concepts of ‘Culture’: Implications for Intercultural Communication
Research,’’ Moon (1996) provides us with a much needed historical contextualization
of the field that outlines the discursive formation created by past research which
proscribed the boundaries, parameters, and rules for intercultural communication
inquiry and scholarship. She aims to link how the configuration of intercultural
communication designed the directions for theoretical development and dialogic
engagement among scholars in terms of intercultural theorizing and methodology. In
her analysis, Moon concludes that in the 1970s (up until 1977) culture was
conceptualized in many ways (e.g., race, social class, gender, and nation), diverse
methods were used, and there seemed to be ‘‘a deep interest in how intersections
between various nodes of cultural identity both play out in and are constructed by
communication’’ (p. 73). However, by about 1978 culture was conceived almost
entirely in terms of nation-state, and by 1980 culture became a variable in positivist
research. This view of culture became deeply entrenched for the entire decade of the
1980s. In this period, Moon notes, heterogeneous cultural groups were treated as
homogenous and static collectives via the hegemonic construction of culture as a
variable. Here intercultural communication was framed based on ‘‘dyads wherein two
disembodied, ahistorical beings communicate across cultures’’ (p. 76). Moon compels
intercultural scholars to return to the 1970s’ diverse constructions of culture, paying
particular attention to its articulations to race, class, and gender and its focus on
examining culture through the concepts of historical context and power relations.
Mendoza (2001, 2002) places history, power, and context center stage in advocating
for a more dynamic reading of various assertions of cultural identity. She argues, for
example, that the self-centering discourse of historically marginalized groups (e.g.,
Filipinos in the Philippines and Filipino Americans in the U.S. diaspora) may not be
read in the same vein as discourses calling for the de-centering of already centered,
dominant identities of the West. Reading both with the same static theoretical lens
Intercultural Communication Studies 21
may result in unwittingly privileging one form of identity expression over another
(e.g., fluid, de-centered identities versus allegedly ‘‘essentialist,’’ fixed identities)
without regard for the way such forms of cultural assertion may be invoked
differently to serve differing political ends and historical imperatives. From this work,
then, history as context plays a major role in constituting intercultural interactions
and reproducing power relations that are embedded in historical and contested
struggles over issues of belonging and ethnic rights. Power inflects and becomes
determinative of cultural meaning: Mendoza argues for seeing culture not merely as a
benign system of signification but as an ongoing struggle for hegemony*ultimately,
as a process of negotiation around meaning that can never not be about politics.
In her most recent work, ‘‘Tears in the Archive: Creating Memory to Survive and To
Contest Empire,’’ Mendoza (2005a) narrates the hard-hitting and brutal impact U.S.
historical discourses have had on her identity development as a Filipina, and,
subsequently, as an immigrant in the United States. She reveals the shock, sadness, and
anger she felt when she read for the first time the records of the U.S. Congressional
hearings at the turn of the 20th century debating the question of ‘‘what to do with the
Philippines.’’ In surfacing this buried historical narrative that documented the forcible
annexation of the Philippines under the guise of ‘‘benevolent assimilation’’ and other
such thinly-veiled justifications for U.S. imperialist ambitions, Mendoza illustrates
first-hand how colonialist history and unjust power relations invariably leave in their
wake a legacy of violence and exploitation that require honest confronting and
acknowledging if there is to be the possibility of a just encounter between the two
nations and peoples. History therefore can never be deemed a pure innocent space;
neither, for that matter, can intercultural communication.
Likewise, Steyn (1999) highlights the importance of understanding context and
history in her examination of the intricate links between whiteness and culture in
South Africa. Contrary to the U.S. situation, where whiteness maintains its power
through a naturalization of its claims to entitlement and universality, thereby
rendering it invisible, whiteness in South Africa, owing to its colonial and apartheid
history and to differing demographics, was visibly marked culturally from the
beginning in its enactment by a minority of English-speaking whites and Afrikaners.
Steyn argues that the European colonial ideology, working off a narrative of white
supremacy and armed with a mission to civilize the continent’s predominantly black
inhabitants deemed to be inherently inferior, fomented a complex native response of
cultural alienation, on the one hand, and forced identification with Europe, on the
other. The fraught condition resulting from such ambivalence contributed to the
salience and ownership of whiteness within the context of apartheid South Africa.
Steyn’s (1999, 2004) work calls attention to the particularized forms and enactments
of whiteness within such postcolonial contexts as part of a larger theoretical strategy
of dislodging it from its globally dominant position.
In his critical analysis of the rhetorical discourses of identity circulated in the
Arab-Israeli conflict, Hasian (1998) highlights how intercultural interactions between
the Arabs and Israelis are shaped by enduring historical conflicts and differences and
the situated positionalities of each group in relation to land and sovereignty
22 R.T. Halualani et al.
struggles. He underscores how a cultural group’s belonging and entitlement to land
are historically understood and interpreted, often differentially across groups with
vying claims to the same nation or land. Hasian’s essay foregrounds the central role
history and power play in the constitution and framing of intercultural relations
between and among groups. History stands as a powerfully persistent and seemingly
impenetrable force in positioning cultural groups in relation to and against one
another. To not acknowledge the role of history and context in creating cultural
subjectivities, claims, and external identity discourses would be to miss most of the
intercultural reality among groups.
The deeply historical and contextual connection between culture and competing
claims to identity is taken up by Drzewiecka (2002) in her exploration of cultural and
national identity claims in the diasporic context. Her work calls for a consideration of
the textured and complicated ways in which historical discourses and narratives of
collective memory are strategically deployed by Poles dispersed in the United States to
negotiate their identities through relations to and exclusions of religious, political,
and cultural others, most notably ‘‘the Jew.’’ She argues that it is impossible to
understand the deployment and effects of identity narratives in diasporic locations
without understanding the ongoing contestation of national history both within
‘‘homeland’’ and the localized relations of dwelling.
These works reconceptualize culture as a politicized system of signification, the
semiotic terrain of an ideological struggle of vested interests where cultural terms for
negotiation of identities are deployed, appropriated, and contested. Within this
conception, culture needs to be understood both in its enduring sedimentations (the
deposits and traces left by historical contestations) and in its radical transformations
and itineraries as it travels and enters into translations within specific localized
contexts and toward differing goals.
These works at this critical juncture underscore how historical context constitutes
and shapes the very foundation and formation of culture, cultural identity, and the
communication practices and expressions situated within cultures. The central and
powerful role of history is foregrounded through specific examples set in specific
historical and political moments. As such, the very writing of these works reveals both
the historically anchored and contingent ways in which culture is understood,
experienced, expressed, and communicated. Intercultural communication studies,
therefore, gains an important wake-up call through this prolonged critical juncture
(from the 1980s to the present): there is a need to theorize, frame, and analyze culture
and intercultural communication within historical and contextual frames, not as a
secondary (add-on) level but as a primary constitutive dimension that is
simultaneously rooted and dynamic.
Juncture #2: Critiques of the Unitary Conceptualization of Culture as a Nation-
Based Variable
Within the last 12 years, several scholars have critiqued the field’s naturalized
homology between culture and nation, and challenged the theoretical constructions
Intercultural Communication Studies 23
of communication as the resulting behavioral channel of national identity (e.g.,
Altman & Nakayama, 1992; Asante, 1980; Gonzalez & Peterson, 1993; Moon, 1996;
Ono, 1998; Smith, 1981). According to these critiques, intercultural communication
scholarship research from the 1970s and 1980s portrays a monolithic culture through
reductionist cultural measurement and nation-based approaches (see Gonzalez &
Peterson, 1993; Moon, 1996). Throughout this period, culture was predominantly
conceptualized as an entity contained within and synonymous with nation or, more
precisely, with nation-state, although neither side of the hyphen was theoretically
addressed. This led to an erasure of the difference between ‘‘culture,’’ ‘‘nation,’’ and
‘‘state’’ that precluded any examination of the relationship between and among these
complex entities.
For example, Moon (1996) demonstrates in her significant critical genealogy of the
concept of culture in intercultural communication that although culture was deemed
more allied with nationalism in the 1950s and 1960s, in the 1970s it was progressively
conceptualized as race, social class, gender, and nation. Moon explains that by ‘‘about
1978, ‘culture’ comes to be conceived almost entirely in terms of ‘nation-state’ and by
1980, ‘culture’ is predominantly configured as a variable in positivist research
projects’’ (1996, p. 73). Indeed, this exclusive linking of culture with nation/nationstate
is possibly what allowed for the reduction of the culture concept into an
isolatable variable*a tradition that became hegemonic throughout the field, and for
a long time dominated the way intercultural communication was understood.
Certainly, the exclusive conceptualization of culture as nation has limited the field’s
purview of the multifaceted and complex relationship between culture and
communication, and how even the concept of nation is entangled with historical,
political, and structural forces and effects to begin with.
According to critical scholar Ono (1998), ‘‘nation’’ became a dominant operational
mechanism for ‘‘making broad generalizations about massive numbers of diverse
peoples with complex cultural organizations, performances, identities, and experiences’’
(p. 201). Such generalizations homogenize culture as a predictable entity
located in moments of putatively identifiable behavior and reduce intercultural
communication to a uniform outcome. To the extent that cultural members come to
share common histories in the process of either nation-building or resisting
incorporation, the study of national groups and cultures remains crucial. Ono
warns, however, that the legitimacy of such work must be premised on a complex
understanding of the contested and often contradictory histories that make possible
the coming into being of nationalism and national identities. He also urges scholars
to rethink a nation-based model of theorizing and the implications of such a model
for the cultural groups themselves and the long-lasting knowledge claims and
representations of nation that circulate around such groups. To accept cultures as
nations as inherently and naturally truthful and accurate at a surface level would be to
risk reproducing external framings of cultural groups advanced by colonialist
governments, dominant nationalist parties, and ruling power interests that benefit
from such ‘‘status quo’’ thinking.
24 R.T. Halualani et al.
In this way of thinking about nation and nationhood, history and historical
narrations become themselves constitutive of our understanding of (national)
cultures, and as far as the politics of historical representation go, Mendoza (2005a)
underscores the warning from Kenyan nationalist writer Ngugi, who inveighs:
‘‘Any study of cultures which ignores structures of domination and control and
resistance within nations and between nations and races over the last four hundred
years is in danger of giving a distorted picture’’ (p. 244).
While past traditional intercultural research has contributed to outlining the
possible boundary markers around specific national identities, Mendoza, Halualani,
and Drzewiecka (2003) argue that there is still an underlying theoretical presumption
that culture and subjectivity reside in nation-based identities, and that communication
stands as a neutral medium through which national differences are expressed.
‘‘Culture’’ has been therefore conceptualized as a national group whose ‘‘identity’’
unquestionably refers to both a salient form of national membership and the
expressive (or communicative) means through which such a putatively inherent
subjectivity is enacted (Mendoza et al., 2003). They argue that the field has presumed
the existence of an immutable link, or guaranteed homology, between national culture
and communication behavior. As a result, meanings and identities are thought to
reside within separate cultural groups and to be communicated intact, thereby leading
to an immediate, guaranteed, communicated subjectivity. Another logical extension
of this default theoretical framing is that communication is immediately and directly
derivative of (and revealing of) culture, which obscures the hidden and complex
relationship between culture and communication (Chang, 2003; Mendoza et al.,
2003). Hence, communication is individuated if it is conceptualized to function in the
service of individuals’ effectiveness or uncertainty reduction through a neutral and
unconstrained channel. Thus, if approaching culture through a nation-based lens, we
are limited to only the surface aspects (or external, behavioral, or public practices) of
a cultural group’s subjectivity. This ultimately carries the effect of framing
intercultural communication as mostly individual-based skills and practices that
need to be merely improved upon based on standards of competency for ‘‘effective’’
and ‘‘smooth’’ intercultural outcomes. Further, the role of state and other structural
forces (such as the government, legal, media, educational, and institutional spheres)
in constituting, constraining, and enabling particular forms of cultural practices and
communication is completely unrecognized. According to Halualani (2000): ‘‘[A]
necessary contribution to intercultural research . . . would be an analysis of operations
within a specific group context that draws attention to the interplay between social
structures and concrete interaction (with examples of talk and verbal expressions)’’
(p. 598). This, Halualani argues, would frame intercultural studies as structuralcultural
projects, each with its own sociopolitical interests and histories.
Halualani (1998) also outlines the need to surface the role that power plays in the
construction of any given ‘‘culture.’’ She poses such questions as: ‘‘Who ultimately has
the power/privilege/right to define and reproduce ‘culture’? Who benefits from the
creation of ‘culture’?’’ (p. 267). Such deconstructive work refuses to take at face value
the seamless appearance or naturalness of ‘‘culture’’ and insists rather on making
Intercultural Communication Studies 25
visible the ideological work that may play into representations of any given ‘‘culture.’’
Folb (1997) made an earlier argument that the degree of appearance of homogeneity
in any given ‘‘culture’’ may not be so much a signifier of inherent cultural similarity as
evidence of ‘‘domination and hierarchy in the differential relations between members
of the dominant group versus those of the subcultures subsisting within the same
cultural community’’ (pp. 138146). Indeed, the naturalization of a cultural view (via
a nation concept) appears neat, uniform, and shared around a nation-based identity
which can obscure the political, historical, and economic interests at work to make
it so.
These scholars, at this juncture, illustrate that conceptualizing culture predominantly
and necessarily as nation may preclude insights, analyses, and perspectives
about culture and intercultural communication that beg more interrogation to help
reveal the full complexity of culture and unveil and bring to light the intermingling
dominant power interests and structures that shape culture, position specific kinds of
intercultural relations, and privilege some cultural voices over (and on the backs of)
others. While nationalistic contexts do stand as major influences on cultures, nationbased
models have rarely been discussed and theorized in past intercultural
communication scholarship as power-laden, structural, and ideological apparatuses
that form and mold culture, and represent culture as ‘‘how it naturally is’’ at an
individual and group level. For example, Hofstede’s (2001) important and oft-cited
work on cultural patterns, which informs a majority of intercultural communication
research, is rarely read as revealing the overwhelmingly powerful and naturalized
nationalistic-political-ideological layers that shape culture, cultural attitudes, and
The works discussed in this juncture push the boundaries of extant intercultural
communication scholarship beyond what it has always presumed to be so apparent
and useful: culture as nation. Instead, the critical view reveals an intellectually riskier
and methodologically/analytically unwieldy notion: culture as power struggle, the
unstable formation of culture based on prevailing nationalistic, economic, and
structural power interests.
Juncture #3: Culture as a ‘‘Site of Struggle’’: Critiques that Highlight Power
Relations and Ideology in Intercultural Communication
Scholars argue that it is important to turn to conceptualizing culture through power
and to ‘‘contest the notion of ‘culture’ as unproblematically shared’’ (Moon, 1996,
p. 75). The point is to engage culture and intercultural communication as
ideologically constituted and framed notions and spaces to uncover the ideological
slants and imprints within cultures and their identity and communication practices.
Most notably, Martin and Nakayama (1999) propose a dialectical approach to
intercultural communication and explain that culture ‘‘is not just a variable, nor
benignly socially constructed but a site of struggle where various communication
meanings are constructed’’ (p. 8). This differing conception of culture challenges the
notion of intercultural communication as an ideologically uncontaminated space
26 R.T. Halualani et al.
allowing for the free play and exchange of ideas between self-governing, rational
agents willfully expressing themselves in a wide-open arena of neutral dialogue and
communication. In the words of Spivak (quoted in Mendoza, 2005a): ‘‘The idea of
neutral dialogue is an idea which denies history, denies structure [and] denies the
positioning of subjects’’ (p. 244).
In specifying critical humanist and critical structuralist paradigms (as framed by
Burrell & Morgan, 1979), Martin and Nakayama (1999) argue that a critical turn in
intercultural communication highlights how histories of domination, takeover, and
control of certain groups by others effectively position cultures differentially in
relationship to each other. Such historically-determined differential power positioning
underscores the importance of accounting for the contested formation of societal
structures, material conditions, and cultures rather than acquiescing to their
representation as the natural and inevitable outcome of inherent superiority/
inferiority based on given notions of civilizational hierarchies. Mendoza (2005b)
notes in this regard that, particularly within the more contemporary context of
globalization and the logic of commodification, culture needs to be understood as ‘‘at
once the site of: governance, consumption, production, contestation, and assertions
of new, old, and emergent/ing identities’’ (p. 84). In a revision of the formerly
objectivist ideal of social scientific research, Martin and Nakayama (1999) redefine
the goal of critical scholarship as uncovering, evaluating, and changing the conditions
and power relations that frame intercultural relations. In this sense, Martin and
Nakayama’s article stands as one of the first theoretical discussions that brings the
critical turn to the forefront. However, questions still remain as to how culture as a
struggle can be studied and how communication might be differently conceptualized
from a critical perspective.
In response, Cooks (2001) proposed recentering the field on questions of ethics
from a perspective of deconstructive pedagogy which addresses the construction of
boundaries, the positionalities of those involved in specific contextualized communication
processes, and the possibility of multiple readings of discursive positions.
She returned to Gloria Anzaldua’s concept of ‘‘borderlands’’ as a perspective
alternative to the one dominant in the field and able to capture the significance of
the notions of both the stranger and distance. She proposed that intercultural
communication focuses on borderlands ‘‘asks how people are organized socially
according to local conceptions of cultural identities, and thus how resources, both
material and social, are distributed across people who engage such identities or are
made sense of according to such categories’’ (p. 347). From this perspective, the focus
on culture shifts from ‘‘(un)acceptable differences’’ to a range of variation in
similarities and differences and how they are constructed and towards what ends (p.
349). Moreover, Cooks argues that Georg Simmel’s concept of the stranger has been
misread in intercultural communication to mean that ‘‘both parties have an equal
stake in reducing uncertainty and in adapting to the other,’’ a notion that has led to ‘‘a
noticeable narrowing of the field’’ (Cooks, 2001, p. 341). Such a misreading has
ignored the idea that ‘‘mobility and constraint, deviation and conformity’’ are part of
the dynamics of power.
Intercultural Communication Studies 27
Similarly, in their important essay ‘‘Dialogue on the Edges: Ferment in
Communication and Culture,’’ Collier et al. (2001) continue this line of argument
by stating: ‘‘[A]ny act of defining culture should not forget political questions such as
the following: Whose interest is served by this definition? What definitions are left
out or unimagined?’’ (p. 229). These authors highlight the definition of culture as
‘‘shifting tensions between the shared and the unshared’’ and as a shifting and
unstable discourse where ‘‘the links remain not only situated but also unstable,
shifting, and contested’’ (p. 230). They stress that culture is a contested terrain where
meaning is contextually, historically, and politically produced. These scholars point
out that past intercultural communication scholarship has predominantly served the
interests of and maintained an obsessive focus on white U.S. Americans. They argue
that the time has come for more contextualized, historically situated, and politicized
scholarship with a commitment to pushing for social justice, challenging status quo
power relations, and breaking the dominant cycles of imperialism, colonialism,
sexism, heteronormativity, and racism. One of the authors of the ‘‘Dialogue on the
Edges’’ article, Radha Hegde, po points to the absolute necessity and ethical
obligation for intercultural scholars to engage intercultural communication through
power and ideology:
We do need to think about culture and power in interrelated ways because culture
cannot be abstracted from structures of power. With changes in the world political
scene and postcolonial global development, we cannot afford to perpetuate an
apolitical reading of intercultural communication. The notion of neutrality that is
so prized in our approaches, denies structure and denies the subject positions of
those involved. (p. 226)
Kraidy’s (2004) work on hybridity has also been influential; it highlights the
hegemonic articulation of cultural, economic, and political forces at the interconnected
levels of everyday life and structural global transformations. His work
demonstrates that the dynamic, multiple, and chaotic cultural flows that cut across
borders are permeated by power relations which may enable, restrain, or highjack
their progressive potential to unmask or undermine hegemonic assertions of cultural
purity. Kraidy’s work repeats the warnings of others against unwitting applications of
hybridity to any sort of cultural mixing which evacuate the pervasive workings of
power, and instead calls for a deeply contextualized examination of local conditions
under which hybrid articulations take their pervasive and yet indeterminate shape.
Recently,William Starosta and Guo-Ming Chen (2003b) highlighted the urgency of
examining the ideological underpinnings of our intercultural communication
behaviors and practices. They argue:
Exploring the why element requires critical, historical, or even ideological analyses
of cultural behaviors that unfortunately are de-emphasized or left out . . . . Dare we
ask the question of whether it is a good or bad practice to engage in future
orientation, in materialism, the subjugation of women, in a belief in cultural purity
and superiority . . . in individualism so strong that it attacks outsiders in the name
of that collective. (pp. 1415)
28 R.T. Halualani et al.
These scholars underscore an important question for the field: Who benefits from
these constructions and framings of culture and intercultural communication?
Starosta and Chen remind us that the conceptualizations that we create, identify, and
promote often render and represent our social world and communication encounters
in fixed, de-contextualized, and undifferentiated ways*an ideological effect that may
hinder our pursuit of engaging the complexity of intercultural communication
relations and contexts.
In so doing, Starosta and Chen (2003b) stress the emergence of a fifth moment in
the field, or rather the formation of a critical perspective among the dominant
research paradigms (positivist/postpositivist, interpretive). They historicize the
critical turn to the 1980s and argue that intercultural communication scholars
have explored the ‘‘how’’ and ‘‘what’’ of intercultural communication but not the
‘‘why.’’ Thus, these scholars problematize the detached and often ethnocentric stance
intercultural communication scholars have employed in their studies, which
positively valorizes certain cultural values, worldviews, and identities over others.
They argue that the larger goals, functions, and implications of such research need to
be fully considered and addressed, with special attention paid to how certain
structures of power and groups gain from the kinds of conclusions that we draw
about intercultural communication. Starosta and Chen (2003b) envision such a focus
as creating much needed change in the field:
Departing from the traditional descriptive positivist and postpositivist way of doing
things to ask ‘‘Who is benefiting from doing things in this way?’’ and ‘‘Does this
way of doing things render the world static and undifferentiated’’ moves us to new
moments and subjects the field to ferment. (p. 16)
They crystallize the importance of critical perspectives in unpacking the value-laden
stances unspokenly embedded in intercultural communication research and problematizing
notions of ‘‘history, hegemony, privilege, generalizability, validity,
objectivity and control, and reliability and representation’’ (p. 19).
In an excellent postmodern critique of past intercultural communication research,
Chang (2003) destabilizes the reified positivist framings of culture (in terms of
cultural patterns such as high context-low context and individualism-collectivism).
This scholar argues that such framings of culture speak from an ideological
foundation of Cartesian linear logic which ultimately deems the Western/European
American (white) culture (and in U.S. research, white middle class values) as the
normal reference point for all cultures. This, she posits, creates a crisis of
representation that suffocates and silences cultural groups.
Miike (2003) elaborates on the ideological slanting of intercultural communication
towards the Western center. He argues that the field of intercultural communication
‘‘suffers from Eurocentric otherization’’ in its obsessive focus on U.S. European
American culture and values (p. 247). Miike also problematizes the ways in which
intercultural scholars draw from mostly European and American theories and
perspectives to analyze all cultures. In fact, there is a habitual routine among
intercultural scholars to employ Western (and mostly U.S.-based) paradigms,
Intercultural Communication Studies 29
theories, and methods, read only literature published in English, and invoke a
comparison reference point of a European American culture. Miike raises the
important question: Why don’t we study cultures from within their own native
paradigms (e.g., in analyzing Asian cultures, one can employ an Asiacentric
perspective)? He specifically addresses critical intercultural communication scholars
and urges them to consider the kind of Eurocentric perspectives on ‘‘individual
freedom, social justice, material change, and power’’ they bring to bear on
intercultural contexts and foci. Miike warns:
If critical intercultural communication scholars, most of whom are trained in
highly privileged scholarly environments at European or U.S. universities, confine
themselves to what might be termed Eurocentric approaches to anti-Eurocentrism
by failing to examine their ideal version of humanity and to treat other Eurocentric
intellectual traditions as resources of knowledge for theory-building, they will end
up imposing pale imitations of Euro-American critical scholarship on other parts
of the world and they will further perpetuate Eurocentric elitism. (p. 267)
Thus, the overarching theme shared by scholars reviewed in this essay is that
culture is always embedded in a ‘‘a politics of location’’, or a contested space of power
relations (Lee, 1998, p. 290) that articulates culture and communication in other than
through a group focus. The challenge is therefore to develop a sustained framework
that fully theorizes culture as the locus of power, hegemony, variations, and
distinctions in cultural formation and communication practices.
Two central questions emerge from the critiques above: What are other ways*
apart from the presumed homology between culture and nation*in which culture,
communication, and intercultural communication can be theorized? How might
culture, communication, and intercultural communication be theorized differently
through a lens that adequately accounts for historical context, ideology, and power
relations? As pioneers of the critical intercultural communication perspective, several
scholars have called for a ‘‘fifth moment’’ and a critical turn in intercultural
communication in which scholars theoretically reconceptualize culture, communication,
and intercultural communication (e.g., Collier et al., 2001; Gonzalez & Peterson,
1993; Martin & Nakayama, 1997, 1999; Moon, 1996; Starosta & Chen, 2001). Thus,
the next challenge is fully to theorize and articulate the revisioned concepts of culture,
communication, and intercultural communication from a critical perspective*a task
we anticipate will be both exciting and promising, but beyond the scope of this review
meant merely to track the junctures that brought us to this crucial threshold.
As a starting point, it is important to rethink more closely and explicitly the way in
which the theoretical discourse on communication is inevitably implicated in the
operation of power and ideology (Hall, 1980, 1985). In particular, we need to
challenge the notion of communication as an ideologically uncontaminated space
allowing for the free play and exchange of ideas between self-governing, rational
agents willfully expressing themselves in a wide-open arena of neutral dialogue and
communication (Hall, 1980, 1985). As Spivak (in Mendoza, 2005) in ‘‘Tears in the
Archive’’ categorically notes in this regard:
30 R.T. Halualani et al.
(A) neutral communication situation of free dialogue . . . is not a situation that ever
comes into being*there is no such thing. The desire for neutrality and dialogue,
even as it should not be repressed, must always mark its own failure. The idea of
neutral dialogue is an idea which denies history, denies structure, denies the
positioning of subjects. (p. 72)
Relatedly, Hall, Whyte, Keesing, Keesing and Bennett (1966) challenges the
construction of communicative participants as unencumbered rational subjects
when he proposes that in any communicative event, participants ‘‘are not free agents
in the interaction process: they enter the engagement with culturally conditioned
conceptions and expectations which influence communication and learning’’ (p.
597). We can take Bennett’s point further here by asking: How might communication
be approached differently as the politically and historically situated structuring of
meaning, identity, and social relations and how might this reconceptualization
change the normative outcomes of research in the intercultural field? Finally, how is
communication a larger complex of meaning and subjectivity, unguaranteed yet
historically implicated, structurally formed yet creatively practiced by social actors
moment to moment?
Specific to communication as the articulation of meaning through communication
expressions by speakers, we can incorporate deep structural (e.g., historical, political,
economic) analysis into our projects and the expressions and patterns of identity can
be examined more thoroughly. Regularities and patterns in communicative expressions
can be interrogated in terms of historical moments and power interests so as to
prevent the overlooking of shifts in group belonging, sense-making, and identity
formation. From a larger perspective, each intercultural communication project can
be theoretically compared in terms of similar sociopolitical interests and histories
and/or differences and distinctions constructed over time between groups.
Likewise, a critical intercultural perspective can help reconceptualize intercultural
communication and broaden how ‘‘inter’’ and ‘‘intra’’ might be better deployed to
analyze more fully the relationship between culture, identity, and power. The ‘‘inter’’
label in intercultural communication studies stands as a remnant of its historical
roots in two-group, interaction-focused research. A broadening may push the notion
of ‘‘inter’’ from connoting actual interaction between culturally different ‘‘dialogue
partners’’ to the intersecting layers of cultural, discursive, and signifying practices that
constitute power relations. Instead, ‘‘inter’’ and ‘‘intra’’ could symbolize temporarily
useful spatial metaphors for rethinking how culture involves contested sites of
identification as opposed to others and the resulting political consequences. In this
way, we can also interrogate ‘‘individualculture,’’ ‘‘personalsocial,’’ ‘‘difference
similarity,’’ and ‘‘staticdynamic’’ as proposed by Martin, Nakayama, and Flores
(1998), not as given, but rather as themselves historical productions articulated from
a specific place. For example, how might such historically and ideologically produced
categories work in line with particular state administrative mandates and classifications
toward pursuit of unquestioned political aims and interests? How might
scholars in intercultural communication be unwittingly affirming the historically
Intercultural Communication Studies 31
established reifications of group identities proffered by the national-popular economy
without critiquing the normative assumptions behind their very construction?
Critical perspectives on culture can focus on differences within national
boundaries, nodes of cultural identity, positionality and subjectivity, constructions
of femininity and masculinity and gendered experiences, representation of differences,
and examination of particular locations (Collier et al., 2001; Cooks, 2001;
Gonzalez & Peterson, 1993; Moon, 1996).
Juncture #4: Beyond Disciplinary Narcissism to Renewed Field of Study
juncture: (junc-ture) a transition; the act of joining. (Hall, 1996)
One may wonder at this point when preoccupation with collective self-critique,
redefinitions, and reconceptualizations might actually give way to new problematics,
new objects of study, and new terrain for the conduct of research in this new critical
tradition. It is our view that it absolutely should. As we engage the limits of long-held
paradigmatic and research approaches to the study of intercultural communication,
the next step will be ferreting out the specific role and contribution critical
intercultural communication studies can make to push and further interrogate
intercultural communication contexts, phenomena, and problematics. At the current
juncture, we are at the crossroads of exciting growth and tremendous re-imaginings
and possibilities for intercultural communication studies.
Growth requires critique, deconstruction, and the clashing of perspectives. It is
important to highlight that junctures are not mere deconstructive breaks; junctures
signal growth, change, transformation, and new ways of joining, meeting, and
relating in intercultural communication studies. We find that the insights and
struggles raised by critical perspectives need not be ‘‘sores’’ in the side of postpositivist
or interpretive traditions. Instead, these insights and struggles from critical
perspectives may help to create productive*albeit passionate*dialogues across
paradigmatic perspectives and research methods, not to engage culture and
intercultural communication in the same way but to lend ‘‘eyes’’ and ‘‘hands’’ in
obscured areas, tight spots, and difficult-to-traverse realities (colonized cultures and
identities, structured inequalities, rampant marginalization). Just as critical scholars
can learn from social scientific and interpretive perspectives, they can uniquely
contribute different ways of engaging how history, power, and ideology work at the
individual and interactional levels and through public communicative acts and
processes*a major omission that stunts intercultural communication inquiry in its
present stage. We can provide a larger landscape of insights, raising questions and
knowledge claims that will help to stretch each perspective and, ultimately, the
collective, multiparadigmatic, and contested engagement of intercultural communication
communities, contexts, issues, and realities from all possible (and often
conflicting) angles. Junctures signal urgencies, needs, crises, and yearnings for
connection, growth, and new joinings; these critical intercultural junctures are no
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Intercultural Communication Studies 35

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