Journal of Intercultural Communication, Issue 24, October, 2010

Jonas Stier

The blindspots and biases of intercultural communication studies: A discussion on episteme and doxa in a field

Abstract

As with other evolving fields within the realms of science the ontological assumptions and epistemological aspirations of intercultural communication studies are matters of debate and disagreement. Differently put, the very point of take-off from which studies in this field are conducted is seldom scrutinized. This being said, this paper identifies and discusses a number of blindspots and biases of intercultural communication studies – e.g. the reluctance or inability to account for analytical ethnocentrism (‘home blindness’), heterocentrism (the unreflected and disproportionate focus on difference) or xenocentrism (the unreflected and disproportionate focus on ‘the other’). Additionally, normativism (the unreflected assumption that intercultural communication has desirable effects on people’s prejudices), cultural relativism versus absolutism, and particularism versus universalism are discussed. It is concluded that if the blindspots and biases of intercultural communication studies are overlooked, and thus the researcher is held as a cultural constant, the understanding of intercultural communication as interaction between two unavoidably and equally cultural interlocutors is deficient. Inspired by classical hermeneutics and discourse analysis it is therefore argued that intercultural communication studies researchers must declare their ontological assumptions and epistemological aspirations more actively and systematically.

Key words: epistemology, ontology, analytical ethnocentrism, heterocentrism


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