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

Link to forum (log-in required)


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.


Published at

UR – Designing Intercultural Research

COURSE: Understanding Research—UR

FORUM: Designing the Research Proposal

TOPICS: explore your research interest

Step 3 – Part 2

Keywords: intercultural communication, Intercultural research, interviewing by e-mail, culture, reflexivity

Link to forum

Link to blog


Article review

Aneas, María Assumpta & Sandín, María Paz (2009). Intercultural and Cross-Cultural Communication Research: Some Reflections about Culture and Qualitative Methods [57 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 10(1), Art. 51, Accessed on Dec.10, 2009 at

During the break I found this interesting article that addresses specific issues emerging in research with an intercultural slant. Considering that in the ALGC we are all one way or another going to deal with the intercultural dimension of our experience and of our relevant research project, I thought of sharing some reflections on this very issue.

What follows are my considerations. I posted them here not as a topic for discussion, but merely to share them.

Quotes are shown indented.

Content of the information being gathered (INTERVIEWING)

BHAWUK and TRIANDIS (1996, p.29) offer an interesting collection of insights and recommendations when it comes to the content of interviews. Interviewing is one of the fundamental techniques used in qualitative research on cross-cultural and intercultural communication. One of the principal concerns when conducting an interview is whether an emic or an etic approach is more appropriate—that is, whether to ask different, tailor-made and culture-specific questions or ask the same questions in all the cultural contexts being studied.

my comments:

My research won’t be about discussing, exploring, analyzing the participants’ host or original cultures; in that sense it does not take an emic approach. My research will explore the experience of the participants and the extent to which they may share similar views and experiences of processes of adaptation and intercultural competence building. In a sense, my research has an emic nature, in that it attempts an in-depth exploration of one specific culture, the culture that informs a transnational personhood/identity.

Doing semi-structured interviews through e-mail prevents the interviewer’s culturally-affected reactions to influence the respondents. See BHAWUK and TRIANDIS (1996, p.28) I believe this method has advantages that will be beneficial to my research. (see this article for more on this method).

It will also diminish opportunities for the emergence of intercultural anxiety provoked by the uncertainty typical of intercultural contexts, as defined by Gudykunst (1993) in his theory of Anxiety Uncertainty Management (AUM).

Language in the research process

In order to understand and interpret utterances or gestures in a given language, a minimum degree of language equivalence between the language of those being studied and that of the researcher is needed (LUSTIG & KOESTER, 1996; SAMOVAR, PORTER & STEFANI, 1998).

my comments:

Utterances or gestures in my e-mail interviews  will be automatically disregarded.

Language issues will be partly sidestepped by using English as the language of the research, and selecting participants who have a certain degree of fluency in English. Though this choice may introduce a level of bias, it will facilitate both the collection and the analysis of the narratives, based on the assumption that – to a large extent – the respondents share an equivalency in the meaning of the vocabulary they use.

Nevertheless, I will need to be mindful of this assumption.

Culture, analysis and interpretation in qualitative research

Mental schemas

In this same sense, according ERICKSON (1989), the base for theoretical constructions is the immediate and local meanings of action as defined from the point of view of the social actors involved. In other words, we interpret a reality, a given piece of information according to the parameters of our experience in which our culture occupies a fundamental position. Culture is the reason why a given phenomenon, a specific form of behavior can be given a very different meaning according to the origin culture of the person analyzing and interpreting the process. [47]

Mental schemas constitute a cognitive system which enables us to interpret the gestures, utterances and actions of others. Culture influences the organization of the schemas developed by individuals with the justification that different visions and interpretations of reality are culturally variable. In the same sense constructionism stresses the importance of socio-cultural background in the higher order psychological processes (VYGOTSKY, 1979) as an argument with which to demonstrate the union of culture with cognitive processes and the relation between learning, development and the contexts of personal relations.

Summing up, theories of categorization and social attribution facilitate the development of explanations concerning the perception and interpretation of the behavior of others in intercultural contexts.

Language and mental maps are cultural elements with which the researcher operates in the analysis and the construction of results.


The fallacy of the monolithic view of identity alerts us to the need for prudence and the importance of avoiding categorizing cultural studies of communication in stereotypical terms, as built on folklore beliefs and essentialist in terms of culture.

On the other hand, it is already widely accepted in qualitative research that the researcher becomes the “principal information gathering instrument,” and thus some of the objectives which have been identified for studies of cross-cultural and intercultural communication are associated with the reflexivity of the researcher (my note: see Bryman, p. 682) over her or his own cultural biases together with the associated theoretical, and even social and political standpoints.

For the outlook of researching cross-cultural and intercultural communication we would stress that

  • Culture is a “system” and not the sum of a collection of fortuitous traits
  • It is an integrated whole which cannot be understood by examining its components individually and in isolation.
  • It is a dynamic whole which is in flux, and constantly changing, and which reveals itself as being in interaction with the world in a multiplicity of complex and diverse situations and contexts.


Bampton, R. & Cowton, C.J. (2002). The E-Interview [27 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 3(2), Art. 9, Retrieve on Dec. 19, 2009 at

Bhawuk,D. & Triandis, H. (1996). The role of culture theory in the study of culture and intercultural training. In Dan Landis & Richard W. Brislin (Eds.), Handbook of intercultural training (pp.17-34). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Erickson, Frederick (1989). Métodos cualitativos de investigación sobre la enseñanza. In Merlin Wittrock (Ed.), La investigación de la enseñanza, II. Métodos cualitativos y de observación (pp.195-301). Barcelona: Paidós/M.E.C.

Gudykunst, W. (1993). Toward a theory of effective interpersonal and intergroup communication. In Richard L. Wiseman & Jolene Koester (Eds.), Intercultural communication competence (pp.33-71). London: Sage.

Lustig, M. & Koester, J. (1996). Intercultural competence: Interpersonal communication across cultures. New York: Harper Collins.

Vygotsky, L. (1979). El desarrollo de los procesos psicológicos superiores. Barcelona: Crítica.

UR – Research proposal (1)

COURSE: Understanding Research—UR

FORUM: Explore your research interests

TOPICS: Research, proposal,

Step 3 – Part 1

Keywords: research, methods, enactivism, ontology, epistemology, methodology, intercultural communication, sampling,

Link to process document

Link to forum

Link to blog

Thank you to all those who have helped me reach more clarity on this assignment and the research tasks that lie ahead! (-:

The following is a condensed version of my reflections on the several stages of my research proposal. I welcome your feedback and comments.


The research will explore issues of globalizations related to the personal learning experience of long-time international sojourners. This qualitative study will examine the dynamics of personal transformation affecting international sojourners and the relevant development of global-mindedness as processes of learning ensuing from intercultural contacts, reflection, acculturation, increased cultural and intercultural awareness, development of intercultural communication competence, and personal growth.  To contain the scope of my research, I could (still undecided) consider the theoretical framework and taxonomy in Milton Bennett’s developmental model of intercultural sensitivity (see below) against which to analyze my findings.

Possible Themes: global learning, identity building, intercultural competency, identity negotiation, avowed and ascribed identity, intercultural learning, cross-cultural/multicultural identity, intercultural communication, tolerance for ambiguity, adaptedness, experiential learning, long-life learning, reflective learning,

These themes seem to suggest a link between one’s intercultural experience and learning. Intercultural competence emerges as the outcome of such interplay. One’s continuous contact with a different culture sets in motion certain learning mechanisms that preside over his or her ability to develop intercultural competence.

How does this study relate to my participation in the ALGC?

This tentative proposal relates to the relevance of learning in the experience of people who live and work outside of their original culture. The themes also relate to one of the core aspects of the ALGC, i.e. Global Learning, which has been broadly defined in a previous course as “that aspect of learning that includes an understanding of human interactions and knowledge across cultural boundaries in light of the cultural differences affecting the participants’ diversity of communication styles, values and beliefs. Global Learning occurs within a collaborative and transformational context of world-wide networks. Global Learning may eventually promote a paradigm shift that would ultimately redefine people’s identities on a personal and potentially global scale.”


This study is directed to all those who are interested in learning more about the experience of international sojourners and the development of intercultural competence as a process of learning, identity negotiation and ultimately personal transformation. It may be of interests to scholars, interculturalists, cross-cultural trainers, people working internationally, educators, and to the many people who are living the life of international sojourners at the start of the third millennium.

This study will contribute to increasing acceptance and understanding of a new way of contracting one’s own cultural identity beyond the limitations and allegiances imposed by monoculturalism. Recognizing and promoting transnational attitudes will hopefully play a significant part in defusing current nationalistic/ethnic strives.


Having grown up in a bi-lingual area close to an international border has certainly contributed to my interest in the learning opportunities presented by cross-cultural experiences. After living abroad for many years and through my experience in the ALGC I have realized the importance of learning for our human experience. This realization prompts me to start this research on the link between intercultural learning, personal transformation, and the shaping of identity in a globalized society.


As I believe that culture plays a fundamental role in our learning processes, I am approaching this research from a contextual constructivist approach as suggested by Cobern (1993). In his view, “construction takes place in a context – a cultural context created by, for example, social and economic class, religion, geographical location, ethnicity, and language.” (Cobern, p.1)

In the course of the research, an enactivist perspective will allow for additional meanings to emerge from the narratives.

This research will be both descriptive and explanatory. The research will follow a phenomenological approach within a qualitative research strategy. Accordingly, the focus of the research will be on people’s subjective experiences and interpretations of the world. It will therefore develop from a hermeneutic perspective.

AREAS OF INQUIRY (more can be added)


  • Degree of adaptation experienced by the participants (adaptation is used here broadly to cover different levels of intercultural engagement)
  • Shaping of identities
  • Learning about the new cultures (ABC, i.e. Affective, Behavioral, Cognitive)


  • Importance of fluency in the local language


I will use snowball/purposive sampling to select a small group of people (max 15) who have an experience relevant to this research.

The main selection criteria will include the following:

  • Participants will be individuals that have lived in more than one culture different from their original ones for a certain number of years.
  • Participants will be independent movers who left their original country following a personal call.
  • Participants will be based in different countries across the globe.
  • Participants will be somewhat fluent in the language of their relevant host country.


This research will be a world-wide scale descriptive case study emerging from in-depth interviews of a selected population.

Data collection will occur in two phases, which will ensure that the research questions will be adequately addressed. This dual collection process will allow each participant to reflect upon her or his intercultural experience. In accordance with the scope of this research and its hermeneutic nature, I will encourage participants to explore their multicultural experiences from whatever angle they may wish to do it. This will ensure credibility.

This study will follow Guba & Lincoln’s (1985) taxonomy on credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability.


Respondents’ thick narratives will be collected through semi-structured interviews in the form of qualitative “write in” questionnaires.


This will allow respondents to reflect on their experience and formulate written descriptions that will be analyzed without the need to transcribe them. Respondents, particularly non-native English speakers, will have the opportunity to find the words that more accurately describe their experience. This method is also inexpensive when done though through the e-mail, and doesn’t have a time limit.


No opportunity to observe para-language patterns such as non-verbal communication cues. No immediate opportunity to ask follow-up questions.


This may be done at a later stage to address certain aspects as they emerge from the narrative analysis. It will serve as a triangulation tool. Rather than implementing additional theoretical sampling, I will attempt to clarify and deepen the findings collected through the available written narratives. This will be done iteratively with the examination of available, relevant literature.



A new cultural environment exerts an influence on people’s experience, which may have an impact on people’s identities. I see the process of identity negotiation as a learning experience.

  • What is the influence of culture on personal identity
  • How is one’s experience influenced by perceived and/or projected avowed and ascribes identities?
  • What are the building blocks of personal identity?

Individual’s ability to successfully engage cross-culturally:

People who live outside of their original culture develop skills and knowledge to deal with their everyday reality. This process lies at the foundation of how successfully (however that may be defined) they engage with their context.

  • What are the difficulties encountered when living in another culture?
  • What are the perceived benefits of such experience?
  • What are the learning outcomes of such experience?
  • How do international sojourners balance their original cultural identity with the need for functionality in a new cultural environment?
  • What are the learning mechanisms at work?

Stages of Intercultural competence:

Stages of intercultural development are not set in stone; they accurately reflect the main levels of experience through which people refine their intercultural competencies. They can be considered stages of global learning.

  • How does one develop intercultural competence?
  • In what ways do peoples’ narratives reveal issues of denial, defense, minimization, acceptance, adaptation, integration as defined in Milton Bennett’s developmental model of intercultural sensitivity, and of transformation, an additional step in the development of intercultural competence as defined in the literature?

LITERATURE AND THEORY (very tentative)

The literature will serve as a foundation for the formulation of the interview questions; it will also serve as an aid for the iterative analysis of the finding as they emerge from the narratives.

The literature will include literature explored during the ALGC program and relevant scholarly publications on issues of intercultural communication. As an example, Milton Bennett’s developmental model of intercultural sensitivity could be used to inform my research questions.

Relevant literature will include publications on relevant topics, e.g.  Cross-cultural Adaptation, Multicultural Identity, Third-Culture Identity, Intercultural Communication Competence, the “A-B-C approach,” Culture Shock, Achieved Identity, experiential learning, perturbation, schemata.



Bennett, M. J. (1993). Towards Ethnorelativism: A developmental model of intercultural sensitivity. In R. M. Paige (Ed.), Education for the intercultural experience. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.

Cobern, W. W. (1993). Contextual Constructivism: The Impact of Culture on the Learning and Teaching of Science. In K. G. Tobin (editor), The practice of constructivism in science education (pp. 51-69). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Retrieved on Oct. 15, 2008 from

Lincoln, YS. & Guba, EG. (1985). Naturalistic Inquiry. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

UR – link to essay

Understanding Research. A critical, comparative analysis of the methods and methodologies employed in the course case studies (link)

Link to E-portfolio (login required)

Learner: Oscar Vallazza – Linköping University

Course: Understanding Research (Linköping University)

Instructor: Martin Lundberg, Emilia Fägerstam and Fredrik Sandberg

Tutor: Fredrik Sandberg

Group: Indian Ocean

Essay 2 Date: December 5, 2009 Words:  2139

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