GLL – The Intercultural dimension – Third Culture Building

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, development, South Africa, Adult Education, Intercultural Communication, Transformation, Third-Culture, Hybridity, Integration.

Step 2 – Part 3: Adult Education, Development and Transformation: South African case study

Link to blog

Link to forum

Link to General Discussion Forum (Cafe)

Hello everyone!

In this post I would like to take a critical stand towards Walters’ article.

It seems to me that – aside from a generic “lip service” reference to the importance of culture for civil society and adult learning approaches – she fails to address the cross-cultural and multilingual dimension of South African society. I have noticed such absence also in the other readings presented in this course.

That is of course a complex issue that would require, especially in the case of South Africa, attentive and systemic analysis. Nevertheless, I believe that a comprehensive discussion on adult learning in South Africa should not hide the fact that South Africa is a multilingual, multicultural and multiethnic society and that the dynamics of communication in such complex web of cultures greatly affect any kind of cooperative efforts and dialogue.

The composite intercultural make-up of South African society is by no mean a marginal factor in decisional policies on adult education and learning. In fact, I like to see it as the platform on which any workable project can be built on.

The Intercultural Communication dimension of education and development in South Africa is premised first of all on the actual cultural and language variations found in the population, but it is also stressed in the broader discourse on globalization, education, and development.

As Richard Evanoff writes in an interesting paper on Intercultural Dialogue and Education,” “From the point of view of intercultural education the alternative model of development advocates democratizing the decision-making process in a way that fully takes the interests and concerns of non-elites into consideration.”

Walters, like the other authors reviewed so far, very often use terms like transformation, dialogue, and communication without taking a closer look at these concepts. I realize that a discussion on this topic would be complex and long, thus I want to end this post with the following statement.

Elaborating, defining and enacting new workable and effective policies for Adult Learning in South Africa is a somewhat Herculean task. I believe that a process of transformation will need to take place, based on dialogue and respectful/effective intercultural communication. In that regard, we will need to first define what kind of transformation we are striving towards, which also means that we need to be up front about what kind of society we are envisioning, given the richness of cultures and languages co-existing in South Africa. Processes of society-building in such complex intercultural context will need to clarify what kind of transformation will develop in South Africa and towards what model the country is moving, e.g. integration, thirdculture building, or hybridity. (Each of these terms means a different future scenario).

The following is an example, extrapolated from Evanoff’s article (2001)

“When dialogue between people from different cultures begins, we can also speak of an integrated “third culture” perspective in sociological terms. When third-culture individuals from different cultures (i.e., individuals who have integrated aspects of the other culture into their own personal psychology) begin working together with each other, they may evolve entirely new ways of doing things.”

The road ahead is wide open.


Kathy wrote:

thank you for bringing to our attention the idea of a third culture – how would you compare this to ‘ a community of practice’ ?

Hi Kathy,

You are raising a very interesting question that would require time to be properly addressed.

Briefly, the “third-culture” model I was referring to was presented by Fred Casmir (1993) in Third-culture building: A paradigm shift for international and intercultural communication. Communication Yearbook. 16, 407-428.

There is by now a lot of literature available on Third-culture building, which would make it hard for me to even try to squeeze it into a post. An interesting summary is available at:

In general, I agree with Casmir, although I believe that local governments – as evidenced in Walters’ article and Marie’s post – may be in a position to promote a third-culture approach.

Casmir views are similar to those promoted in their scholarly work by Young Yun Kim, Brent Ruben, Peter Adler, Muneo Jay Yoshikawa, Richard Evanoff, David Bohm, Alexander Langer, and Getinet Belay (to cite just a few) in their extensive work on Intercultural transformation, identity, multicultural identity,  intercultural identity, transformation, building bridges, interplay of local and global dimensions, systems thinking. Theirs writings seem to be all informed by a General System perspective that allows for flexibility and recognizes that

“human beings are equipped with the capacity to maintain an overall integrity despite the continual instability, and that such systemic integrity is possible because of an open system’s capacity to evolve, that is, to develop new forms of relating to a given milieu.” (Young Yun Kim, Beyond Cultural Identity, Intercultural Communication Studies IV:1 1994)

It is indeed a fascinating work in progress!

This line of scholarly work is linked to the broader discourse on Intercultural dialogue (which would also require more time for a meaningful discussion), which I have addressed in other parts of this course.

As for the link between third-culture building and “communities of practice” (as in Wenger), here are my thoughts. From my reading of Wenger’s participation perspective and communities of practice, even considering the merits and the systems view of her perspective, it seems to me that it lacks the necessary recognition of intercultural factors that is central to the development of a third-culture approach. Wenger rarely consider intercultural dynamics, which seems to make her approach not easily adopted in a multicultural contested context like South Africa. Compared to Wenger’s overly codified model, I believe that dialogue applied to a third-culture perspective would offer a much more flexible and effective approach to issues of local/global education.

GLORIA wrote:

I think we have evolved a third culture of sorts.  What is not evident in our thinking and articulation yet, is the recognition and value afforded those attributes that have come from cultural traditions that are still marginalised in the realms of power – politics, formal education, economic/business


Thank you so much for your comments on Third Culture (TC) and how the concept seems to have found resonance within NZ. I believe the reason why I am interested in exploring it more is twofold: firstly, it seems it applies also to my home region, and secondly, it relates to the wider spectrum of inter and cross-cultural communication experiences. (international sojourners, immigrants, international students, international workers…). Basically, it embraces both a personal and a social dimension, which I find truly fascinating, as it links personal experience to the local/global contexts of our planetary society.

Today I did some reading up on third-culture building to better understand its applicability to the specific South African scenario. It seems that your comments on its coming short on the examination of power issues are right on target. And although TC presents itself as an opportunity for the emergence of a societal and cultural transformation, it isn’t clear how it deals with those who resist such evolutionary process. Some view TC as being in opposition to the more emic idea of multiculturalism.

I believe that the two perspectives need not be in opposition or even self exclusive. There is room for a combined productive co-existence. For me, the key to the success of TC building processes is summarized by the word synergy, which can be loosely defined as “the relational interdependence” that constitutes the building block of TC development. (Robert Shuter, On Third-Culture Building, 1993) I also believe that such synergistic approach should be based on a shared vision of a new emerging paradigm, a vision not enforced from the top down. Casmir called it an approach “from the bottom up,” which resonates with Walters’ “connect up” model.

Like the old SBS Australia spot once said: The world is an amazing place!

Best to all of you folks!

Anita wrote:

My children, and those of my peers, are far, far beyond multiculturalism. I truly think they are forging some sort of third culture in this social crucible they find themsleves it.  Unlike multiculturalism, this is not planned, encouraged, or government policy; it is simply people adapting to their environments, and creating new ways of being as a result.  This is a profound change and it is not being documented as well as it might be, I think because there is still a societal tendency to view it through the limiting lens of multiculturalism.


Your conclusion really points at the essence of the multicultural vs. TCB dichotomy. And, as I wrote in my previous post, the two phenomena apparently co-exist side by side, maybe symbolizing a generational transition to a paradigm shift in the way cultures will intersect and possibly evolve in the future. (a future that, like in your example, has already begun).

In his article cited in a previous post, Evanoff (2001) suggests an advanced stage of intercultural development, which results from a process of cultural transformation. He calls this stage a “generative” stage “in which entirely new forms of culture are creatively produced.”

Evanoff expands on Milton Bennett’s Development Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS), which I discussed in previous courses and presented in a group paper posted at It was also mentioned in a discussion thread in Itslearning.

By going beyond Bennett’s Model, Evanoff suggests that, in a globalized society of co-existing cultural perspectives and traditions,

“ The goal is not simply to say which of the existing cultural pies is best (ethnocentricism) nor to simply say that each of the pies is equally delicious on its own terms (ethnorelativism), but to make a better and different pie. The generative stage provides for the possibility of both personal and social transformation. Not all of the new options we are able to generate will be of equal value (some may be flops, others unworkable), but there is nonetheless a need for ongoing experimentation.”

Evanoff provides with a hopeful, holistic approach to intercultural understanding, one that will transcend the confinements of “tolerance” and emerge into a new stage of human co-operation.


what Robert Wickert wrote in his article Acculturation and Intercultural Identity in the Post-Modern World

“Casmir makes the profoundly valid observation that the modern state has proven itself ineffective in dealing with intercultural and interethnic problems” (Belay, 1993). His alternative to the existing model takes the form of a proposal that compares the conventional social scientific paradigm to the functional needs of people, organizations, and states. He argues that the conventional paradigm is focused on domination not cooperation, but the use of domination as the primary measure of success is inconsistent with the needs of people, organizations, and states. The domination paradigm is consistent with assimilation, not mutual acculturation of the host culture and the individual.

Casmir (1993) explains that the use of the domination model is based on the Western view of argument and rhetoric. Belay notes that “linear, one-sided models that are derived from Aristotelian logic constrain the analysis of intercultural communication” (Belay, 1993). This Western model of argument and dominance is even more absurd when one takes into account the fact that many of the intercultural communication episodes studied will certainly involve cultures where the Western view may not be held by either side of the conversation.

Casmir (1993) rejects the domination model and characterizes the third culture building process as the natural outgrowth of non-threatening cooperation. Dominance is not intended and should not result from the acculturation process. Consistent with Kim’s characterization of acculturation, where the individual becomes comfortable with the new society as the new society becomes comfortable with the individual as acculturation is accomplished; the third culture is built only when “the participants engage in an active, coordinated, mutually beneficial process of building a relationship” (Casmir, 1993). This mirrors Kim’s theory of acculturation, and her theory of development of an intercultural identity.


Ackoff, R., (1984) “On the Nature of Development and Planning”, in Korten, D. C., & Klauss, R., People-centered development: Contributions toward theory and planning frameworks. West Hartford, Conn: Kumarian Press

Bohm, D., & Nichol, L. (1996). On dialogue. London: Routledge

Casmir, F. (1993) in Third-culture building: A paradigm shift for international and intercultural communication. Communication Yearbook. 16, 407-428

Cologne Charter, Aims and Ambitions for Lifelong Learning (1999), adopted be the 25th G8 Summit in Cologne, Germany, 18-20 June Accessed on Sept. 5, 2009 at

Evanoff, R. (2001) Discussion Paper on intercultural dialogue and education. UNU – United Nations University Accessed on September 2, 2009 at

Fenwick, T. (2001) “Experiential Learning: A Theoretical Critique from Five Perspectives” Information Series No 385, ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational Education now located at the Centre for Education & Training for Employment at Ohio State University, accessed on June 2, 2009 at

Foucault, M. (1991) “Governmentality” In The Foucault Effect, edited by G. Burchell, C. Gordon, and P. Mills, pp. 87-104. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. [New York]: Herder and Herder

Knowles, M. (1984) The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species. Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Company

Korten, D. C., & Klauss, R. (1984). People-centered development: Contributions toward theory and planning frameworks. West Hartford, Conn: Kumarian Press.

Land, S. (2006). Barriers to education faced by educationally deprived adults in

Muthukrishna, N. (ed.) Mapping Barriers to Basic Education in the Context of HIV and AIDS: A Report on Research conducted in the Richmond District, KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg: School of Education and Development, University of Kwazulu Natal.

Rostow, W. W. (1960). The stages of economic growth, A non-Communist manifesto. Cambridge [Eng.]: University Press.

Shuter, R. (1993). On third culture building. Communication Yearbook. 16, 429-436.

The Learning Cape, web page, accessed on Sept. 3, 2009

Toffler, A. (1984) “Third Wave Development: Gandhi with Satellites,” in Korten, D. C., & Klauss, R., People-centered development: Contributions toward theory and planning frameworks. West Hartford, Conn: Kumarian Press

Toland, J. and Yoong, P. (ND) A Framework to Evaluate Learning Regions:

The ‘7-I’ Approach, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Accessed on Sept. 10, 2009 at

Trainer, F. E. (1989). Developed to death: Rethinking Third World development. London: Green Print

UIE, UNESCO Institute for Education, (1998) The Mumbai Statement on Lifelong learning, Active Citizenship and the Reform of Higher Education. Hamburg

United Nations Development Programme- UNDP (2003). South Africa Human Development Report. New York: Oxford University Press. Accessed on August 19, 2009 at

Walters, S. (2006). Adult learning within lifelong learning: a different lens, a different light, Journal of Education, No. 39 Adult Education Special Focus Edition, Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal

Walters, S. (2005) Optimism of the will, pessimism of the intellect: Building communities of trust in South Africa. The annual Q-Africa Conference at Gallagher Estate, 16-17 November 2005. Accessed on Sept 9, 2009 at

Woolcock, M. (1998). Social capital and economic development: Toward a theoretical synthesis and policy framework. THEORY AND SOCIETY. 27 (2), 151-208.

Young Yun Kim, Beyond Cultural Identity, Intercultural Communication Studies IV:1 1994

Youngman, F. (2000). Adult Education and Development Theory in The Political Economy of Adult Education & Development, (Chapter 4). London: Zed Press.


On John Dewey

Cologne Charter on Lifelong Learning

A Memorandum on Lifelong Learning, EU Commission

The Learning Cape

David Bohm: On Dialogue, On-line version:

Journal of Intercultural Communication, Goteborg universitet

Pamala Morris’ Training Module on Building Cultural Competencies:

Milton Bennett’s Development Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS):

On Global Education:

Coyote #13, Intercultural Dialogue

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: