Culture, Communication, Context and Power

Authored by: Adrian Holliday

The Routledge Handbook of Language and Intercultural Communication

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415572545
eBook ISBN: 9780203805640
Adobe ISBN: 9781136649530


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This chapter reviews two sociological paradigms that govern the way we think about intercultural communication. I use the term ‘neo-essentialism’ to refer to the dominant approach both within the academy and in everyday attitudes, which follows the essentialist and highly influential work of theorists such as Hofstede, while claiming a more liberal, non-essentialist vision. Much current work in intercultural communication studies rejects essentialism and cultural overgeneralization and acknowledges cultural diversity. However, this work remains neo-essentialism because important essentialist elements are still maintained. Although it does seek to go beyond national categories and deals with the smaller cultures or discourses of business or educational organizations, the same items of literature are invariably pulled back towards the traditional, essentialist use of national cultures as the basic unit, either employing Hofstedian categories of difference or others like them. Behaviour that goes against national stereotypes tends therefore to be framed as exceptions to the essentialist rule rather than as a reality in its own right.

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