Dear readers,

I am happy to say that I have presented and discussed my thesis in June 2010.

The report is now available on-line at Linköping University Press:

It has been a wonderful adventure!

Os(c) kar

Literature Review – reflections

Here are some thoughts on what I think/feel I gained from writing the lit review.

I think the writing process has helped me in several ways:

1) to gain insight into available scholarly work;

2) to explore available terminology and theories;

3) to articulate how we (the researcher) and our research interface with 1 & 2;

4) to thin out not-so-relevant literature and bring to the fore the one that will inform our research;

5) to use the literature to re-formulate (clarify?) our research question and extrapolate some specific questions that – in the case of a qualitative design – would then be put to the respondents.

Literature review

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There is a large body of literature in my research area, stemming from as diverse fields as linguistics, anthropology, education, communication, psychology and cultural studies. It has extensively explored transcultural sojourners’ experience, levels of participation in their new cultural environment, and relevant stages of personal change, e.g. intercultural contact, reflection, adaptation stress, self-shock, disintegration, acculturation, learning, increased cultural and intercultural awareness, development of intercultural communication competence, and personal growth.

The focus of my research will be on people’s subjective experiences and interpretations of them, and its goal is to explore the factors that contribute to the nurturing and maintenance of multicultural identity in the respondents’ experience as long-term transcultural sojourners. Reviewing the literature will be done iteratively at several stages of the research as a way to link the interviewees’ experience with existing scholarly work.


Bryman suggests that a narrative review is better suited for this kind of interpretative qualitative research (p. 94). In consideration of the design of my research, a narrative review will serve much better than a systematic review. Using a narrative review format will facilitate a critical approach to the very large body of literature available on the topic and at the same time it will allow me to approach my research without imposing existing categories on my findings. I will be able to use the literature narrative review to inform my research without it clouding the phenomenological nature of the interviews.


I have decided to do a narrative literature review, as I believe that the role of my literature review is to inform my inquiry by providing me with valuable information on relevant issues, and help me generate understanding through a process of discovery. In adherence to the phenomenological, hermeneutic research design adopted for my thesis, I won’t superimpose the literature review on the data/findings. This means that an effective literature review can only be outlined at a later stage, so that it will assist at the stage of data analysis and interpretation. To begin with an already structured literature review could unduly burden my approach to both data collection (the interviews questions) and analysis.


George Simons of is working on a project initiated by SIETAR EUROPE to “initiate the conversation on ‘What is intercultural competence.’  The intention is to direct this discussion and the resources we are able to develop into a certification program for interculturalists.

More info at:

Here are some reflections on the topic. After re-reading paper after paper, it’s clear to me that a lot of what has been written on intercultural competence reads like reinventing the wheel. And so more and more definitions and labels are now available, but they still do not seem to make a dent into the role of intercultural communication in addressing urgent and practical issues in today’s world.

I believe that the level of IC competence we are trying to envision is one that goes beyond by-now known available taxonomies, to which increasingly wider audiences may respond with a sense of boredom.

One aspect of such competence that I am interested in is the level of supracultural synthesis that it could imply. Would the IC competence emerging from an increasingly intertwined world benefit from an approach rooted in Chaos Theory, as suggested by Casmir? In other words, is IC competence more about understanding and flowing with the dynamics developing in IC situations, rather than being about mechanistic knowledge of fixed cultural traits? One thing for sure: one cannot possibly develop a well-rounded and dynamic competence as long as this is made to depend on factual and rather essentialist descriptions of others’ reality. Real and dynamic IC competence, in my view, emerges from reflective, experiential learning stemming from dealing with the nuances, traps, and dynamics inherent in IC situations. We do not need a directory of “cultural differences to learn about” (although that has its merit, too); we might instead benefit from a new paradigmal approach to IC communication, which – like you say – would be outspokenly interdisciplinary, hardly scientific (in the way the hard sciences are), and widely chaotic with regards to predictability, ambiguity and definitions.


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