1.3 The Academic Field of Intercultural Communication

In the past decade, in particular, Intercultural Communication has more strongly emerged as an independent field. In order to qualify as an independent academic field, certain criteria need generally to be fulfilled:

There need to be a considerable number of:

  • professional researchers working in the field
  • scientific societies
  • publications, journals
  • congresses
  • academic subjects and professorships

These criteria are today fulfilled in Intercultural Communication. A further traditional criterion for an independent academic field has  been that it has its own theory/theories and method(s). This criterion is a more complicated one for Intercultural Communication because of its multidisciplinary roots. However, the field is progressing in establishing a new theoretical framework or paradigm.

In its theory building, Intercultural Communication

  • borrows theories from other fields (e.g. psychology, attribution theory)
  • applies theories from intracultural communication (e.g., Gudykunst's Anxiety-Uncertainty Management [AUM] theory from the Uncertainty Reduction theory [URT])
  • forms new theories (Kim's work combining adaptation and communication theories).

Depending on the research goals and focuses, Intercultural Communication uses both functionalist (social science)/etic and interpretive (humanist)/emic approaches. Increasingly, studies involve multisource data, and mixed methodology, as the realization of the complexity of studying intercultural interactions and the need for a dialogue, increase, in the research community.


© Liisa Salo-Lee, 2006



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