LINGUIST List 32.1452

Mon Apr 26 2021

Review: Anthropological Linguistics; Applied Linguistics; General Linguistics: Rings, Rasinger (2020)

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <>

Date: 01-Dec-2020
From: Zsuzsanna Zsubrinszky <>
Subject: The Cambridge Handbook of Intercultural Communication
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Guido Rings
EDITOR: Sebastian Rasinger
TITLE: The Cambridge Handbook of Intercultural Communication
SERIES TITLE: Cambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2020

REVIEWER: Zsuzsanna Zsubrinszky, Budapest University of Technology & Economics


“The Cambridge Handbook of Intercultural Communication” aims to provide a highly interdisciplinary overview of the wide spectrum of current international research and professional practice in intercultural communication. With over thirty chapters from leading experts in the field, it serves as a collection of current research which will be of interest to a wide-ranging audience, from professionals working in cultural studies to students, who will appreciate its clear yet in-depth approach. In the volume, examples of contrastive, interactive, imagological and interlingual approaches are discussed, as well as the impact of cultural, economic and socio-political power hierarchies in cultural encounters. It consists of five major thematic parts: Part I, ‘Introducing Intercultural Communication’, examines some key concepts used in intercultural communication, while Part II offers an in-depth exploration of ‘Theoretical Approaches’ in the field. Part III provides a survey of ‘Methods’ in intercultural communication, and Part IV shifts the focus towards the ‘Application’ of different theories. And finally, Part V is dedicated to the discussion of ways of different ‘Assessment’ of intercultural communication.

Part I, ‘Introducing Intercultural communication’ offers a thorough discussion of key concepts used in the field. In the first chapter, ‘What is culture’, Werner Delanoy clarifies different meanings of culture in their historical and linguistic contexts with the intention to invite its readers to compare their notions of culture with those expressed in this piece. The author argues in favour of non-essentialist and power-critical perspectives in line with a (post)-humanistic and cosmopolitan agenda.

In the second chapter, ‘What is intercultural Communication?’, Jan D. ten Thije discusses the spectrum of scientific and societal issues referred to as intercultural communication and identifies five theoretical and methodical approaches. First, he discusses interactive approaches, which clarify how the need for contextualization in intercultural communication can be countered by applying a third-party perspective. Then he focuses on contrastive approaches, which require ‘tertium comparationis’ in order to develop proper comparisons between languages and cultures. The third approach comprises cultural representation, which introduces the notion of intersectionality to understand how race, culture, social status, etc. are defined by their relationships with other categories. The fourth approach includes studies into multilingualism and linguistic diversities, and finally, the transfer approach synthesizes the contributions of the other approaches.

In Chapter 3 ‘Rethinking Intercultural Competence’, Jürgen Bolten explores intercultural competence as a form of general ‘action competence’, which is implemented in intercultural, i.e. uncertain contexts. He argues that the competence measurement tools when selecting staff for international assignments should be strongly contextual and thus culturally dependent. He distinguishes two research directions in developing intercultural competence, the structural thinking patterns and the process-oriented understanding, which are inseparable as they build upon each other. The author also raises the question whether intercultural competence can be measured objectively and proposes to use the term ‘competence assessment’ instead of ‘competence measurement’.

The first part concludes with Heinz Antor ‘Interculturality or Transculturality’ (Chapter 4), who presents the different notions of culture (e.g., ‘inter-‘, ‘multi-‘, ‘cross-‘ and ‘transcultural’) used to describe contact situations between two or more cultures. While these terms were used rather fuzzily and inconsistently in the 1980s and early 1990s, since the turn of the millennium, interculturality and transculturality have come to dominate the various discourses in the field. Because the various terms designate different cultural phenomena, the author looks at the conceptual distinctions of these concepts and discusses the anthropological and psychological dimensions, their relevance to issues of identity and alterity, borderlines and their transgression, hybridity and diversity, as well as their social, political, religious and psychological implications.

Part II, ‘Theoretical Approaches’ elaborates on selected theoretical approaches in intercultural communication. In Chapter 5, ‘Critical Intercultural Communication and the Digital Environment’ Thomas K. Nakayama explores the ways that social inequality is reinforced in the digital environment and the ways that people utilize social media to resist that inequality across cultures. The chapter looks at the Twitter account of President Obama, the use of Twitter in the Black Lives Matter movement, the development of the Microsoft artificial intelligence bot, Tay, (replaced later with Zo) and the tweets that shaped her early development.

In ‘From Shared Values to Cultural Dimensions: A Comparative Review’ (Chapter 6), Elizabeth A. Tuleja and Michael Schachner explore a substantial number of contrastive approaches, from Hofstede’s Globe study to the work by Schwartz, Inglehart and Minkov. The chapter discusses shared values as building blocks of societies, the social and psychological value orientations, the importance of mental programming and the examination of leadership perspective from both a conceptual and a methodological point of view. Rather than opting for an either/or solution, the authors suggest that researchers, educators and practitioners should choose the theory that best suit their needs.

In Chapter 7, ‘Towards Integrative Intercultural Communication’, Liisa Salo-Lee first revisits the development of the field and then presents integrative intercultural communication as a proposal for an interdisciplinary approach. This approach aims to provide researchers with supporting concepts and tools (i.e. the use of rhizome as a metaphor for culture, the use of nexus analysis and intercultural dialogue, in conjunction with negotiating reality) to tackle the complexities of intercultural communication.

The next three chapters explore the importance of literacy, psychoanalytic and sociological approaches to intercultural communication. Birgit Neumann’s chapter ‘The Power of Literature in Intercultural Communication’ (Chapter 8), focuses on characteristics of literature, i.e. the distinct aesthetic and affective potential of (narrative) fiction and provides close readings of two selected texts, namely Andrea Levy’s Small Island (2004) and Teju Cole’s Open City (2011), to illustrate how literary configurations of intercultural encounters may promote, trouble or problematize connectivity between different cultures.

In ‘Psychoanalytic Approaches to Memory and Intercultural Communication’ (Chapter 9), Jolanta A. Drzewiecka highlights the main theoretical issues in the study of memory and maps out some of the key concepts of Lacanian psychoanalytic criticism as a method for studying the relational dynamics of memories about others. Then, she illustrates these concepts with examples from her research on a passionate debate in a Polish newspaper about Jan T. Gross’s book Neighbours: The destruction of Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland (2001).

Uttaran Dutta and Judith N. Martin’s chapter on ‘Sociological Approaches to Intercultural Communication: Exploring the ‘Silent Zones’ (Chapter 10) identifies influential sociological concepts and methods across various paradigmatic approaches, including the concept of Simmel’s ‘stranger’ as well as the contributions of European critical sociologists (e.g., Habermas, Foucault). This chapter is a plea for more attention to the ‘silent zones’ in intercultural communication research. It identifies historically under-researched topics (e.g. hidden/forbidden cultural practices, posthumanism) and addresses issues of socioeconomic and structural disparities particularly in the silent zones of the Global South region.

In closing Part II, Richard Evanoff’s chapter, ‘Introducing Intercultural Ethics’ (Chapter 11) examines the process by which people from different cultures negotiate the norms that will govern relations between them at interpersonal, intergroups and international levels. The chapter then discusses descriptive, normative and meta-ethical directions as three main methodological approaches to intercultural ethics, and it concludes by considering how intercultural dialogue on ethics might be conducted. Evanoff suggests that it may be possible for people from different cultures to co-create ethical norms which aim to build not walls but bridges between those cultures.

Part III, ‘Methods’ provides a survey of methods and methodologies in intercultural communication. In line with Nakayama’s plea to focus more on the continuities and discontinuities in power relations (Part II, Chapter 5), Lara Lengel, Ahmet Atay and Yannick Kluch propose in their chapter, ‘Decolonizing Gender and Intercultural Communication in Transnational Contexts’ (Chapter 12), to theorize decolonization as a framework that emphasizes empowerment through the potential to reframe and re/envision history. The aim is to break away from dominant Western and US-centric ways of studying culture, communication and identity and the relationships among them, including especially the construction and performance of gender. This chapter also presents methodological strategies for critical intercultural communication research, particularly with focus on the intersectional nature of gender, identity, culture and power.

Peter Stockinger’s chapter on ‘Migration in the Digital Social Mediasphere’ (Chapter 13), provides a comprehensive theoretical and methodological framework for describing and interpreting audio-visual media as tools for producing and communicating cultural images in the form of “common” cultural topics. The chapter interprets the cultural interpretations through a corpus of 150 videos uploaded to YouTube, which are particularly popular with millennials and post-millennials. This can be regarded as a potentially very fruitful way to take research on cultural values further by reconstructing the ‘meaning landscape’ of cultural images of migration.

Claus Ehrhardt in his chapter on ‘Linguistic Politeness’ (Chapter 14) proposes an approach that considers politeness as an integrative part to intercultural communication. First, the author provides a rather intuitive definition of politeness, and then he describes the role of contrastive and intercultural approaches in politeness theory. The next section is dedicated to research in intercultural communication, leading to the formulation of an idea how the different scientific fields can benefit from each other. And, finally, the chapter gives a brief overview of the discussions in the theories of politeness.

The next three chapters link up to Neumann’s exploration of the power of literature (Part II, Chapter 8), but they take her ideas on the intercultural potential of narratives in three different directions: intercultural German studies, storytelling and cinema. Gesine Lenore Schiewer’s chapter, ‘Contemporary Literature and Intercultural Understanding’ (Chapter 15), explores approaches within intercultural German studies, which combine literary studies and communication research, to assess how dialogue competences and intercultural understanding can be trained by working with literary texts. This leads to suggestions for applied work in the context of secondary schools, university courses, teacher training and communication training.

In ‘Enhancing Intercultural Skills through Storytelling’ (Chapter 16) Stephan Wolting presents storytelling as an essential contribution to the development of intercultural skills, knowledge and competences. In the light of research, Stephen Wolting comes to the conclusion that storytelling is likely to increase in the long term, as both contemporary cultural and memory studies, as well as research in creative and autobiographical writing highlight it as an innovative and sustainable area for development of intercultural communication.

Joanne Leal’s chapter, ‘Cinema as Intercultural Communication’ (Chapter 17) investigates how far and how exactly cinema is able to offer a representational counterbalance to conservative notions of national belonging and exclusionary constructions of what social cohesion should mean. Within a Western European framework, the chapter deals with the question of what film can do to promote intercultural sensitivities within contemporary European contexts when the attitudes to the impact of globalization and transnational movement of people are often ambivalent. It also examines critical assessments of the positive intercultural impact of watching foreign films, which might encourage empathetic responses to transnational tales.

In ‘Intercultural Memory and Violence in Jewish Literature’ (Chapter 18), Verena Dolle examines memories written down in fictional and factual texts by Jewish Latin American writers, such as Alberto Gerschunoff, Margo Glantz and Bernardo Kucinski. Her chapter combines ideas of narrative power and intercultural memories to analyse texts that address Jewish migration and adaptation to new countries. By exploring the subjectivity and polyphony of memory reflected in literary texts, the chapter gives voice and visibility to competing narratives that stress crucial aspects in the interaction between different cultures.

Antonio López Peláez and Emilio José Gómez Ciriano’s chapter, ‘Intercultural Communication in Social Work Practice’ (Chapter 19), analyse the different frameworks within which intercultural communication is now placed in the field of social work, especially with regard to intercultural mediation. The authors suggest that social work is a field that has recently been largely neglected in intercultural communication research, although social work practice has been fundamentally shaped by international migration and globalization. Their chapter focuses on the extent to which intercultural communication is present in the different degrees is social work, and presents good practices and recommendations for social workers.

The next two chapters draw on the plea to negotiate cultural norms that govern relations between people at different levels, which correlates with the development of intracultural and intercultural competence. In ‘Intercultural Education in Study Abroad Contexts’ (Chapter 20), Jane Jackson rejects the assumption that tertiary students who participate in a study abroad programme will always become more interculturally competent, global-minded and proficient in a second language. Her chapter develops a rationale for intercultural interventions at all stages (pre-sojourn, sojourn and post-sojourn) of the study abroad cycle. Examples of innovative intercultural pedagogy in study abroad programmes are presented, including interventions that encourage students to acquire a more critical awareness of themselves and their positioning in the world.

Bertil Cottier’s chapter ‘Intercultural Communication in the Courtroom: The Doctrine of Public Policy’ (Chapter 21) explores the doctrine of ordre public, which allows judges to block the ‘import’ of unacceptable foreign customs and traditions. The ordre public doctrine is examined in respect of issues pertaining to family law and succession law, two domains where its impact is most significant since marriage, divorce, filiation and inheritance are deeply rooted in social and religious values. Special attention is paid to the clash generated by immigration from Muslim countries, between Islamic legal institutions such as polygamy and repudiation and Western principles of equality and non-discrimination.

The fourth part of The Handbook shifts focus towards the application of the different theories and approaches to intercultural communication in a range of different contexts.

Focusing on refugee students, Emmanuelle le Pichon-Vorstman, in her chapter ‘Intercultural Communication in the Context of the Hypermobility of the School Population in and out of Europe’ (Chapter 22), raises two key issues as regards the integration of refugee students: (1) students’ mobility and the organization of their educational trajectories; and (2) potential segregation and the danger of social exclusion of this vulnerable group of students. Schools are seeking new ways of teaching and alternative paths of language planning by strengthening anti-discrimination and fostering partnership with parents and community members.

Marie-Thérèse Claes’s chapter ‘Culture and Management’ (Chapter 23), examines the impact of positivist theories in intercultural management, and proposes three further positions that hold a scientific view of culture, making a distinction between emic and etic approaches. While etic approaches such as the positivist and critical views analyse and compare cultures based on predefined, comparable constructs and models, emic approaches are emergent, trying to understand members’ meanings. In particular, this chapter suggests a move from positivist to interpretive, postmodern and critical approaches, all of which are illustrated with examples.

Anne Ife’s ‘Language and Othering in Contemporary Europe’ (Chapter 24) provides evidence of linguistic othering, assesses its causes and motivations, and its impact on intercultural relations by using media and documented sources. It focuses specifically on the case of the United Kingdom, where language issues featured predominantly in political and media discourse relating to migrant communities during the campaign for the UK to leave the European Union.

Chapter 25 and 26 present applications to methodological suggestions regarding the power of narratives. In ‘Black British Writing: Benjamin Zephaniah’s Didactic Poetics’ (Chapter 25), Deirdre Osborne examines Black British poetry as an aesthetic vehicle for catalysing intercultural communication and explores the concept of ‘Didactic Poetics’ as a means of teaching the reader and listener new or unexpected ways of understanding the linguistic play, the verbal flexibilities and the resulting canonical counter-fashioning. It offers analyses of his ‘school poems’ and considers the factors affecting longevity and legitimation that indicate the degree to which permeation and traction within British culture is an outcome of intercultural communication through Black British poetics.

Sarah Barrow’s chapter, ‘Cultural Encounters in Contemporary Latin American Cinema: Intersections of Transnationality’ (Chapter 26) sets out to emphasize the importance of the concepts of cultural encounter and human connectivity within the broader arena of transnationalism with regard to the cinema of Latin America. The three chosen films exemplify many from the region that were made in the first decade of the twenty-first century. The analyses of the films highlight some of the ways that make us better understand how film culture explores, highlights, disrupts and interrogates notions of intercultural communication.

In ‘Religion and Intercultural Communication’ (Chapter 27), Margaret Littler adopts a critical approach to the understanding of religion as an object of intercultural knowledge in the context of German-language literature. Religion is approached by the author not as a set of codified and culturally specific practices about which one presumes to know, but through literary texts, in which religion is not so much content or theme, but a source of creative intensity that erupts into settled notions of established religious practices and cultural identities.

Bronwen Walter’s chapter, ‘Irish-English Cultural Encounters in the Diaspora’ (Chapter 28), draws on sociological concepts in its exploration of hidden nuances in relationships between Irish migrants and descendants on the one hand and people of English background on the other. The chapter draws on qualitative data from ten discussion groups with second-generation Irish ‘experts’ in four locations in England. The major themes identified are as follows: language, religiosity, family and sociability. The author claims that the widespread failure to recognize them has led to inequalities in many parts of society.

In ‘Intercultural Dimensions in Academic Mobility: South Korea and Spain’ (Chapter 29), F. Manuel Montalbán, Francisco M. Llorente and Evelina Zurita apply key ideas from critical assessments of study abroad contexts when they examine the effects of academic mobility. The chapter draws on comments from Spanish and South Korean students within joint internationalization programmes led by the University of Malaga and South Korean universities. The authors identified three different interpretative repertoires related to the intercultural experience of South Korean and Spanish students: ‘Language Open Doors’, ‘Imagined Otherness’ and ‘People and Culture’. These repertoires include the mastery and interest in the language, the measure in which students are favourably disposed towards counter-stereotypic otherness, and the possibility of ‘putting faces’ to the culture.

The final part of The Handbook, Part V, is dedicated to the discussion of different ways of assessing intercultural communication and intercultural communicative competence.

Darla K. Deardorff’s chapter, ‘Defining, Developing and Assessing Intercultural Competence’ (Chapter 30), highlights the terminology and definitional themes of intercultural competence, (i.e. principles and changing assessment paradigm), as well as provides a general overview of the development of this construct in individuals. It is argued that cross-disciplinary researchers need to engage with one another, to build on cumulative knowledge in this area.

In ‘Effects of Social Media Use on Cultural Adaptation’ (Chapter 31), Ming Li and Stephen M. Croucher provide an overview of the concepts of cultural adaptation and cultural fusion, highlighting how newcomers adapt to the new culture while also maintaining elements of their own culture. The chapter also explores the link between social media and adapting to a new culture and the directions for future research.

The volume concludes with Milton J. Bennett’s chapter on ‘A Constructivist Approach to Assessing Intercultural Communication Competence’ (Chapter 32). In order to clarify the idea of paradigmatic context, the chapter begins with a short exposition on the epistemology of assessment in general, continuing with a focus on the paradigmatic contexts of intercultural communication and their implications for assessment. Bennet offers the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) as an example of how constructivist theory and methodology can be applied to assessing ICC.


The aim of “The Cambridge Handbook of Intercultural Communication” to propose a comprehensive and interdisciplinary volume that explores contrastive, interactive, imagological and interlingual approaches, has been fully achieved as all the chapters in the book help the readers come to a better and deeper understanding of the phenomena of culture. Although the book makes a cohesive whole, its chapters can be read independently.

Through an examination of a range of questions, such as interculturality or transculturality, the impact of digital environment, gender, region and migration on intercultural communication, the role of intercultural competence, etc., readers will find both theoretical and practical approaches to understand the dynamic communication processes between one’s own cultural framework and the foreign environment. An excellent example for this is ‘The Integrated model of action competence’ (in Chapter 3), which clearly demonstrates how the three dimensions of intercultural competence (cognitive, behavioural and affective) can easily be integrated into four competence categories (self-, social, strategic, and specialist competence).

One of the strengths of the volume is that readers will find visual summaries of the major dimensional theories (e.g., Chapter 6, p. 99, 109 and 113) focussing on the commonalities and differences in cultural value research orientations, as well as the thematization of the cultural visions of the migration complex from the most varied points of view (see Chapter 13, p. 231), which can give researchers and students the opportunity to see the cultural values in their full complexity.

The inclusion of the literary approach to intercultural communication (Chapter 8, and 18) in the volume is significant because in our contemporary age of accelerated globalization, the potential of literature for our understanding of intercultural relations is considerable as it provides a rich site for creating and negotiating concepts of self and otherness. Of particular importance are a community’s lived and inherited history with its rhetorical and ideological framing of the past. Therefore, literature can create unstable knowledge, which provides room for different, partial truths and can prevent readers from falling prey to one-dimensional and totalizing world views.

Although all the contributions in the volume are excellent, still Jolanta A. Drzewiecka’s psychoanalytic approach to memory and intercultural communication (Chapter 9) presents a particularly fresh approach to the study of intercultural communication. The author herself admits that memory studies have received scant attention in intercultural communication, and scholars are only now turning their attention to the dynamics of remembering and forgetting as forms of communication with and about the other; I am very much convinced that this research direction will provide much more useful data for studying intercultural communication in the future.

When the opportunity to study abroad arises, the vast majority of people think that those who participate in one will automatically become interculturally competent. It was very useful and thought-provoking to learn about the myriad of other elements, external factors and pedagogical intervention that can bring about divergent learning curves in study abroad contexts (Chapter 20 and Chapter 29). In line with Jane Jackson’s research, Anne Ife (Chapter 24) confirmed the importance of considering the external factors, such as the attitude towards language tolerance in Western Europe.

Overall, this is a well-edited book, which deserves appreciation for its breadth and focus, and the way how it managed to transfer the debates of power relations to contemporary monocultural settings. Based on original contributions to the field, The Handbook takes a genuinely interdisciplinary approach and will certainly inspire future research in the field of intercultural communication.


Zsuzsanna Zsubrinszky, PhD is a full-time Senior Lecturer at Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences, Centre of Modern Languages. Her research interests involve Business English Language teaching, Intercultural Communication and Diplomatic Discourse.

Page Updated: 26-Apr-2021