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Applied Linguistics Review

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Intercultural Communication Systems and Discourses of Cultural Identity

Claudio Baraldi
Published Online: 2015-02-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2015-0003


The analysis of intercultural communication, which is adopted in mainstream applied linguistics and communication studies, aims to explain the meaning of cultural differences and identities in the present global world. The present analysis of intercultural communication is based on theories of cultural variability, which highlight the basic distinctions between values determining cultural differences and identities. Some studies in applied linguistics observe cultural variability as a discursive construction based on a form of epistemological essentialism, produced in the Western part of the world to give meaning to its hegemony. However, these studies share some epistemological foundations with theories of cultural variability. This paper proposes a theorization of intercultural communication, which explains cultural differences and identities as constructed in communication systems and based on their particular structural presuppositions. In this perspective, the hegemonic structure of intercultural communication is ethnocentrism, including the presuppositions of Us/Them basic distinction, positioning of individuals as members of cultural groups and normative expectations about displays of We-identities. This theorisation also provides an explanation of the discursive construction of new hybrid forms of identity, which are observed as a result of globalisation, and of the interdependence between local and global communication systems. Finally, this theorization leads to explain the meaning of intercultural dialogue, which is presented as an alternative to ethnocentrism. The open question regards the explanation of dialogue as either a new discursive construction of hegemonic Western culture or a new structure, introducing equality in participation, sensitivity for participants’ personal expressions and expectations of participants’ empowerment in local and global communication systems.

Keywords: communication systems; essentialism; ethnocentrism; dialogue; intercultural communication


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About the article

Claudio Baraldi

Claudio Baraldi is professor of Sociology of cultural and communicative processes at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Italy). His research includes works on cultural presuppositions and interaction in educational systems, intercultural communication, interlinguistic and intercultural mediation, conflict management, and the development of techniques of dialogue.

Published Online: 2015-02-27

Published in Print: 2015-03-01

Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, Volume 6, Issue 1, Pages 49–71, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2015-0003.

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