Aims of the course
The main aim of the course is to provide the students with theoretical and experiential tools to read and manage cultural differences and challenges in everyday settings.
The course will be divided into three parts. The first two parts, although enriched with participative activities, will be mainly theoretical, while the third one will be experiential. This structure is thought in order to allow all students, regardless to their background, to acquire or deepen the theoretical basis in order to active participate to class activities.
Regular attendance to lectures is highly recommended. The intercultural composition of the class will be one of the strengths for the development of the course and it will provide the basis to reflect on intercultural communication. Starting from their own experiences and from interactions among them, students will root their learning not only within theory but also in their experience, acquiring skills and tools to read and manage cultural differences in their everyday settings (e.g. at the University, at workplace, among peers, in their everyday experience in their country of origin and in Italy as international students). The first part (1st to 15th hour) will be dedicated in deconstructing a reified notion of culture. Doing a step behind, I will propose to students a definition of culture as a social construction, focusing on the processes that lead to its construction. The reflection will continue by introducing the notion of “superdiversity” that characterises our contemporary societies and their different ways to read and face the cultural pluralism. These considerations will be enriched with notes on the international migration phenomena and on the controversial role of the stranger in our societies. The first part will conclude with the presentation of some skills to read culture(s) developed within the intersectional approach. In particular, I will focus on how the stratified representation of the “Other” offered by this approach can be useful to explore not only cultural differences, but also social inequalities.
The second part (16th to 30th hour) will be dedicated on the reciprocal representations of Otherness embedded in communication and on the consequent ways to communicate with the Other, thus, developing peculiar skills in intercultural communication. In frontal lectures I will focus on verbal and non-verbal communication and on how they can be shaped by cultural references. I will reflect with the class also on narratives referred to cultures and cultural identities and on how they can be represented and communicated in stereotypical ways. To develop this point I will refer to examples taken from TV and newspapers. Once recognised some of the ways used to communicate cultural aspects of individual and collective identities, I will give to the students specific tools to communicate with the “diversified Other”. In particular, I will focus on the explanation of two practices: self-reflexivity and active listening. Both practices will be applied during the third part, that will be based on workshops.
Both these two theoretical parts will be enriched with class discussion activities on scientific articles provided by Professor. Starting from the 2nd week, I will assign to groups of maximum 4 students a scientific article referred to the topics treated during frontal lectures. They will present their considerations and reflections on it both at the individual level (by writing, at home, a short essay they will submit to Professor) and at the collective one (by presenting in group, during lectures, the analysed article and answering to Professor and classmates’ questions).
The third part (31st - 42th hour) will be dedicated to workshops, introduced by some theoretical notes on the starting points chosen to elicit and experiment intercultural communication among participants. Each workshop will be organised around a specific theme, thick in cultural meanings. Students will be divided in small groups (of maximum 5 people) and, following a recursive path, they will apply the instruments previously learnt, reflecting on their own experience and training active listening. The discussion in the small group will be facilitated by Professor and at the end of the group activities a slot of time will be dedicated to the presentations of the group works to the whole class, to the co-construction of the knowledge, by linking experiences with theories. Students will start from their personal biography, talking and confronting about artefacts that are meaningful to them (1st week). Then, the reflection will be enlarged to food, a kind of cultural artefact that links the individual experience with the collective one in a more visible way (2nd week). Students will discuss together the cultural meanings associated with traditional dishes of their countries, moving forward with the experimentation of intercultural communication and discovering different and similar ways to build their tastes and eating habits. The last workshop (3rd – 4th week) will be organised around themes that are proposing monolithic constructions of culture, posing some challenges to constructive intercultural communication. In particular, to each group will be assigned a topic (e.g. representations and practices of the body, ways to dress) that are nowadays creating potential conflicts among different cultures and students will discuss them together by using the tools acquired during the whole course path and by elaborating strategies to overcome them. The last workshop will be supported by audio-visual materials that will help the students to frame the themes discussed in the pre-existing debate.
Expected learning outcomes
- Capability to recognise cultural differences in our complex and globalised societies;
- Capability to overcome stereotypical representations of cultural differences;
- Capability to develop a self-reflexive approach to cultural differences;
- Capability to communicate in intercultural settings;
- Capability to develop creative strategies of conflict resolution.
- Introduction to a constructivist approach to study culture
- Studying cultures in a globalised world and in the era of international migrations
- The intersectional approach
- Problematising the transformation of cultural differences in social inequalities
- Introduction to intercultural communication
- Cultural elements of verbal and non-verbal communication
- Communicating (with) the “Other”: representations, stereotypes and potential conflicts
- Self-reflexive positionings in intercultural settings
- Postures and strategies for active listening
- Creative strategies to conflict resolution
- Experiences of intercultural communication and ways to recognise, explore and communicate cultural differences
20% Individual essay
30% Class participation and mastery of the practices and tools proposed
50% Final exam on texts that will be assigned during lectures
Selected readings used during lectures:
- Anthias, F., 2008, “Thinking through the lens of translocational positionality: an intersectionality frame for understanding identity and belonging”, in Translocations: Migration and Social Change, 4(1), pp. 5-20
- Bourdieu, P., 2003, “Participant Objectivation”, in The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 9(2), pp. 281-294
- Crenshaw, K., 1991, “Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color”, in Stanford Law Review, 43(6), pp. 1241-1299
- Simmel G., “The stranger”, in Wolff K.H. (ed.), 1950, The Sociology of George Simmel, The Free Press, Glencoe, Illinois, p. 402-408
- Vertovec S., 2007, “Super-diversity and its implications”, in Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30(6), p. 1024 -1054
Additional readings will be added during lectures and they will be uploaded on moodle platform.
Texts used during lectures in addition to readings:
- Bakić-Mirić N., 2012, An integrated approach to intercultural communication, Cambridge Scholars Pub., Newcastle upon Tyne, UK (selected chapters)
- Holliday A., Hyde M., Kullman J., 2010, Intercultural communication: an advanced resource book for students, 2. ed, Routledge, London, New York (selected chapters)