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Is the study of Intercultural Communication Applied Anthropology?

A Case Study on Intercultural Training

Seminararbeit 2008 14 Seiten

Ethnologie / Volkskunde


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Definitions
2.1. Applied Anthropology
2.2. Intercultural Communication

3. The Role of an Applied Anthropologist

4. Case Study: Intercultural Communication in Corporations
4.1. Situation
4.2. Definition of Intercultural Training
4.3. Needs and Outcome of Intercultural Training
4.4. Content and Structure of Intercultural Training
4.5. Job field: Anthropologists in Intercultural Training

5. Evaluation

6. Conclusion and Outlook


1. Introduction

As anthropologists we want to make a difference in our world. Intercultural training provides us with that opportunity.

(Ojile 1986: 48)

To make a difference includes the issue of change which is essential to the discipline of applied anthropology. Training in cross-cultural interaction and behaviour forms part of communication. Constitutes intercultural communication therefore a part of the academic discipline of applied anthropology? This paper tries to further investigate the correlations between these two academic fields.

Since one of the most obvious developments in contemporary society is that the world is continuously growing closer and closer, people get to meet and communicate that would have never met a few hundred years ago. Objects, customs and information get accessible that open up new worlds and horizons for any individual. As innovative opportunities arise with a closer interlinked worldwide society, also problems occur. People with different attitudes, perceptions, worldviews and ideas are confronted with each other and are being forced to communicate. This is where the discipline of intercultural communication comes in to inquire, clarify and explain the newly appeared circumstances. But is this concrete facilitation part of the larger context of applied anthropology?

As the author wants to further investigate this issue, she draws first on the definitions of the most important two terms to afterwards clarify the specific role expected of an applied anthropologist. A case study is used to relate this theoretical matter to a concrete situation. The example of cross-cultural training is employed as a practical and functional aspect of intercultural communication. This is followed by an overall evaluation in which the case study as well as the theoretical discussion are combined to answer the presented question. The conclusion infers the whole topic and tries to give an outlook on future development.

2. Definitions

2.1. Applied Anthropology

Applied anthropology, a sub-discipline of anthropology, describes the utilization of academic theories and methods to find practical solutions for societal problems. It is said, that “applied anthropologists use the knowledge, skills, and perspective of their discipline to help solve human problems and facilitate change” (Chambers 1985: 8). It is anthropology put to use. Scientific expertise is applied to a wide variety of employment settings. Certain matters like skills to identify, specify and resolve contemporary social problems through anthropological background and methods open up a whole new set of employment locations. These abilities assume their significance in relation to acts of decision making. The empirically obtained information is often related to processes of planning and implementation of programs and policies. It is, furthermore, useful in judging the worth of projects, informing about results and predicting further outcomes (Chambers 1985: 13).

2.2. Intercultural Communication

Intercultural Communication inquires the face-to-face interactions among people of diverse cultures (Jandt 1998: 36). It is a domain closely linked to the academic discipline of communication studies. However, other fields of study, such as anthropology, cultural studies and psychology contribute to the speciality as well (Kwintessential I). This subject seeks to comprehend how people from different societies and cultural backgrounds behave, communicate and recognize their surroundings. Furthermore, the study of interpersonal interaction is an essential part of the field. The conclusions drawn from such research are applied to real-life situations. The developed theories have been related to many areas such as business, management, marketing and advertising as well as within education, health care and other public services for the reason of growing multicultural populations (Kwintessential I). Its aim is to create awareness of the potential of various misunderstandings and the wish to avoid them.

The foundation of intercultural communication is the assumption that communication and culture are inseparable, for the reason that the former is an essential element of the latter (Jandt 1998: 25). The possibility of a “misunderstanding between members of different cultures increases when this important connection is forgotten” (Jandt and Taberski 1998: 15). The necessity for this academic field is expressed in the idea that communication can only be appreciated with an understanding of the culture it supports (Jandt 1998: 25).

3. The Role of an Applied Anthropologist

One of the roles of an applied anthropologist in the occupational world exists in the brokerage between different societies. This involves some type of transfer of knowledge, expertise, or service between distinct cultures (Chambers 1985: 26). Furthermore, the view “from the ground up” is an important and critical contribution to the understanding of the effects of public decisions (Chambers 1985: 28). Chambers specifies in his book “Applied Anthropology- A practical guide” (1985) five separate roles of applied anthropologists within cultural brokerage. There would, firstly, be one as a representative, whose purpose it is to account or testify on behalf of the people they studied. Another one would be as a facilitator, which includes activities directed towards causing a matter in a relationship between two or more groups of people. It can further be divided into a “top-down-approach” such as a field-situated change agent or a “bottom-up-approach” like action anthropology. A further function would be as an informant who transfers knowledge about one sector of society to another one. The analyst’s role is based upon consultation, where the anthropologist is an expert, who is called upon to respond to specific needs for information or insight. He is an active contributor in the formulation and investigation of applied research activities. The last task is one as mediator. The intention is thus to treat each faction as an equal partner and participant in obtaining solutions from compound social problems. It is argued, that “the role of the mediator is compatible with the perspective of the anthropologist” for the reason that “it encourages a holistic view developed around issues and events, supports public participation in decision making, and acknowledges cultural diversity as a major concern in public decision making” (Chambers 1985: 33). It can be said that new situations raise distinctive learning prospects “and the practitioner`s role changes in response to accumulated experience and in relation to the changing needs and capabilities of the community served” (Peterson 1987: 263).



ISBN (eBook)
402 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University – School of Governmental and Social Sciences
75 Prozent
Intercultural Communication Applied Anthropology Seminar Applied Anthropology



Titel: Is the study of Intercultural Communication Applied Anthropology?