Reflection on September 24 (done on October 2 while jetlagging, so probably some nonsense =)

This was the second session on interculturality by Malgorzata, specifically on interculturality. Now the task was to reconstruct rather than deconstruct interculturality, the latter we did in the first session.

To remind (myself above all), in the first session, we questioned the traditional understanding of culture as something that one belongs to, for example when talking about such traditional understandings as nation, as this leads to compartmentalising, stereotyping, and profiling individuals, when in reality this may as well have little-to-nothing to do with who they are and emphasising differences whereas concentrating on similarities is just as useful, if not much more so.

So, while during the first session, we deconstructed the concept of interculturality, in the second session we reconstructed in into interculturality. The concept is useful as it moves away from the the emphasis on culture to that on interaction. It also seems to move the emphasis, foremost in research, but also generally in thinking about the concept, from larger groups, such as nation, profession, gender, or generation, which Piller calls imagined communities (but which, I argued have the most power politically), to the smaller groups, such as friends, family and workplace. This movement allows for critically considering instances of othering and inequalities, deconstructing interculturality emphasising inclusivity and equity.

One point which I made in the meeting and would like to repeat, is that, even though I’ve noticed a trend for presenting stereotyping in critical and often negative light in recent research on intercultural communication, it should not really be to the extent that it should be banned or disregarded altogether. To me, these are useful starting points in co-constructing meaning. In fact, telling sb, ‘you should not stereotype’ means giving this somebody an impossible task, as we all stereotype–this is how we make the first impression. Rather the task should be not sticking to those stereotypes, but being aware of one’s stereotypes and being ready to deconstruct these in interaction. Pedagogically, as¬†Malgorzata noted, this means, letting your students make cultures relevant and seeing how we can build on the culture(s) that emerge in the classroom, which I, actually, attempted to do in the following day when I gave a lecture on assessment in a course for international students that Kirsi observed.

Another term which I found really useful was transculturality used by Baker. I suggest it is even a better term than interculturality with the emphasis on inter-, as it implies that cultures (whatever they are) are transcended in interaction. So it is not about being between cultures (inter-) but transcending them, reconstructing them in and for every interaction.

We were also asked to look for instances of banal nationalism, or banationalism, a new coinage that emerged during the last week’s session and which I think is brilliant. To be fair, I’ve completely forgotten about this part, but we nevertheless had a good discussion of the instances of banationalism, and how it is used by businesses, in shops, for example, where the word ‘kotimainen’¬†is used as a brand in itself.