Al sessions will take place on zoom and will last 2,5 hours (13.00-15.30 CET).
The sessions will contain lecture as well as interactive parts with exercises and discussion in
small groups. They build on academic theory and hence will involve discussion of social
scientific concepts, ideas and controversies. We aim to present this in an accessible way,
with recurrent reflection on practical implications and applications.
The course largely builds on the book ‘Diversity Competence-Cultures Don’t Meet, People
Do’ by Edwin Hoffman and Arjan Verdooren, and book chapters can be read before or after
the sessions to provide more depth (though this is not mandatory). Additional literature as
well as suggestions for reflection or practice between the sessions will also be provided.
The course consists of the following sessions and content:
Culture and intercultural interaction
In this first session, we explore the concept of culture, some of the main controversies
around it as well as different approaches to resolving those. Based on a revised
understanding of culture, we try to come to an understanding of the process and main
challenges of intercultural interaction.
A short history of culture as a concept
Controversies and problems around ‘culture’
Metaphors and revised approaches for culture in ICC
Intercultural interaction: from ‘cultural clashes’ to ‘partial unfamiliarity’
Intercultural challenges: ethnocentrism and essentialism
Values, worldviews and communication styles
In this session, we explore some of the main aspects of cultural difference and approaches
to understanding, comparing and categorizing these. In addition, we reflect on the problems,
and pitfalls of these approaches, as well as opportunities to avoid them.
Cultural dimension models: possibilities and problems
Values, worldviews and logics
Identity, power and language
In this session, we discuss how the membership of certain groups as such impact
interactions- beyond the cultural repertoires that these groups provide access to. How do
the positions of these groups as such, in relation to other groups and to global and societal
(power) structures impact the interactions of their members?
And how does language -often inadvertedly- express or activate different perceptions or
experiences of identity, (power) relations and group belonging?
Social identity theories
In- out group mechanisms and perceptions
Inter group relations and communication
A systemstheoretical approach to communication and language
Language positions and language command
(Non) Verbal language
Intercultural interactions can often be impacted as well by factors related to language, both verbally as well as non-verbally. This can become expecially complex when issues of power and status come ino play. In this session, we try to unpack all these aspects that are not particularly related to what is communicated, but how.
Language command, and language positions
Translation and language transfer
Communication styles across groups and individuals
Non verbal language (e.g. gestures, physical distance, eye contact)
Language and power
Ethics and dialogue
An undervalued aspect of intercultural interactions is that they can lead to ethical challenges
and dilemmas, when others’ behaviours or ideas seem in violation with one’s own ethical
position or commitment. Often, people feel conflicted between defending universal human
rights and needs, and the acknowledgment of differences in experiences, values, and morals.
In this session, we discuss different relevant frameworks, ideas and approaches to
(intercultural) ethics. This leads us to dialogue as an indispensable tool to inquire into both
differences and similarities.
Universalism, Relativism and Pluralism
Different approaches to identifying universal needs
Human Rights and cultural compatibility
Dialogue as a tool for intercultural communication
Communication and the TOPOI Model
In this last session, we synthesize many of the discussed insights in the approach of the
TOPOI model. This is a practice-theoretical heuristic tool, that focusses on communicative
areas in (intercultural) interaction, rather than culture perse. It translates cultural and other
factors into identifiable, operational fields of communication. The model then functions as a
lens to zoom in on interactions in order to analyze, reflect on and sensitize to differences as
they occur in interaction.
Backgrounds and main assumptions of the model
The different areas: Tongue, Order, Persons, Organization, Intentions
Application of the model on case situations
Integrating the model into course, programs, training, etc.
In this last session, we consider several approaches and theories regarding the process of intercultural learning: how do people learn and become more competent in interacting in culturally diverse environments? We draw both on academic theory and studies, as well as on the experiences with providing intercultural training at the Royal Tropical Institute over the course of several decades.
Cultural knowledge versus intercultural competence
The measurement of intercultural competences
Instrumental versus transformative learning
Process based approaches to intercultural learning
The KIT vision on intercultural learning