July 25, 2006

Pretenders to the field

Ever noticed that when people talk about the intercultural, the word itself is often used as a noun, in spite of its appearance to be an adjective? Sure, there's intercultural training, intercultural education, and lest we not forget intercultural communication. But, generally speaking, most folks I know refer to all of these as simply intercultural, as a field of its own. Well, apparently that is not the case....

Last week, a very prominent interculturalist gave a speech at an important meeting of interculturalists here in Oregon. It was to be a state of the art in the field of intercultural. And he said, much to my surprise--indeed, my horror--that intercultural as a field is, and should be seen as, rooted solidly in communication. He called cultural studies, anthropology, and psychology (note that education is notably absent from the discussion at all) pretenders to the field.

Pretenders to the Field

Did I hear that right? Did I type that right? I pause to reflect again on my disbelief....

What happened to the interdisciplinary nature of the intercultural? As an educator, as a person who sees and acknowledges the power relations present in all cultures, across cultures, and between cultures, I take offense. I take offense to the notable absence of education in the discussion. I take offense to calling psychology a pretender because psychology has offered me, as an interculturalist, much to work with in terms of human development, cognitive function, understanding identity formation as a multicultural human being. I take offense to calling anthropology pretenders. Perhaps not all anthropologists embarked on cultural forays with the best ethical intentions, but the same could certainly be argued about some interculturalists. I take offense to calling cultural studies pretenders because once again, the inherent power relations so present among people have gone unacknowledged to say that they don't matter enough to be considered part of "the field." I take offense to the suggestion that communication is the only true home of the intercultural. Why create this artificial disciplinary boundary? What does it offer, when it has the potential to limit so much?

Posted by chri1010 at July 25, 2006 12:48 AM