East and West communication: A framework for dialogue.
[Beth Bonniwell Haslett. East and West Communication: A Framework for Dialogue. China Media Research 2017; 13(3): 17-28]. 3
Keywords: East/West rhetorical traditions, Relational Dialogics, the Middle Way, Face, Wang's commensurability/incommensurability
There are widely divergent views on whether there is an 'East' or 'West' because of globalization, diaspora and the rapid flow of information throughout the world, and about what regions or countries might constitute East and West (Halualani, 2008). To problematize this even further, scholarly debate has emerged around the changing conceptualizations of both culture and communication. Some have searched for common themes across cultures (East in contrast to West) (Kincaid, 1987); other scholars suggest that searching for broad themes within a culture is essentializing and stereotyping a culture (Wang & Kuo, 2010); and yet others have argued for hybridity in our views of culture (Hannerz, 1992). All of these views have some validity and collectively they help frame the issues around a dialogue between East and West. Regardless of these varied positions, this paper suggests that the terms 'East' and 'West' have value because they routinely express people's beliefs about cultural differences (Nisbett, 2003) and because governments act on the basis of geopolitical and social issues framed by the East/West dichotomy as enacted across different times, spaces, contexts and social positions.
Giddens' structuration theory (1984) argued that people, through their social practices and interactions, instantiate and enact culture in their daily behaviors. Cultural change is introduced with new ideas and information that become part of interactional patterns which reproduce those changes (Giddens, 1991). Three sources of social change in modernity are distanciation (the separation of time and space from place); disembeddedness (where relationships and interactions can be lifted out of local contexts), and reflexivity (whereby people continuously evaluate their practices in light of new information). Globalization has also increased our interactions with others: "we are constantly in communication with them all" (Giddens, as quoted in Rantanen, 2005, p. 73). Of great interest is Giddens' reliance on the communicative processes (the interaction order) developed by Erving Goffman (1955, 1967, 1981). This interaction order integrates social structure with agency: through daily interactions, people form the social structures and values that enact culture. From an integrated perspective of Giddens and Goffman, in the theory of structurational interaction (Haslett, 2012), we have a perspective that can view East-West intercultural dialogue on multiple levels.
Dialogue, if it is to lead to further understanding, requires commonground. That is, some points of convergence or connection are needed to allow for a meaningful dialogue to occur. Both Eastern and Western approaches to communication can be utilized to achieve some convergence. The Eastern tradition of the Middle Way seeks balance across opposing forces (Lu, 1998). The Western theory of Relational Dialogics (Hermans, 2002, 2004) develops a framework for expressing and accommodating multiple points of view. Goffman's concept of Face (1955) based on Eastern thought and tradition, provides a platform through which dignity and respect for all can be achieved. These three perspectives form the basis for commonground and convergence--unity across diversity.
Views of Culture
Culture may be viewed as a category of discourses (Shi-xu, 2009) through which we express our beliefs, traditions, values and social practices. Culture is not just a place but also a communicative space in which we negotiate meaning and relationships with others (Sorrels, 2013). These views of culture allow us to focus on communicative processes. Giddens (1984) argued that daily interactions build meaning systems which form cultures and the social institutions within a given culture. Within a given culture, however, there may also be significant variation among people in terms of what values and perspectives they identify with as well as the strengths of the those identifications. Cultures are heterogeneous groups, containing substantial intracultural diversity, and experiencing rapidly increasing diversity (Kaplan, 2014; Shuter, 2012).
Gradually views of culture have moved from locating a cultural core, values and beliefs centered in a society and dichotomously compared to other societies (e.g., individualism versus collectivism) to views of culture influenced by travel and translocality (Halualani, 2008) with much of cross-cultural interaction occurring on cultural boundaries (Clifford, 1997; Hannerz, 1992; Hermans, 2001). Rather than looking for a cultural core, Hannerz (1992) discussed culture in terms of global changes. These changes reflect global shifts: in ideas and modes of thought, in forms of externalization (the means by which ideas and thought are made public and accessible), and in social distribution (the ways in which ideas are spread across a population) (Hermans, 2001). These three dimensions are complex and interrelated, with most attention given to the first two dimensions. Technology has played a major role in sharing cultural forms and ideas, and facilitating hybridization (Hannerz, 1992; Hermans, 2001; Giddens, 1991).
Culture is the broad context in which communication occurs (Goffman, 1983a, b; Haslett, 1987). Scholarly approaches to the study of communication have been dominated by Eurocentric approaches which foster a view of communication as rational, linear and overt (Kincaid, 1987). In the early 1980s and 1990s scholarship calling for recognition and awareness of alternative approaches to communication began, such as Asiacentric and Africentric perspectives, which have now become more fully developed (Asante, 1998; Chen & Miike, 2006; Chen & Starosta, 2003a, b; Miike & Yin, 2015). In addition, there is increasing research in indigenous communicative practices which reveal differing social practices within a culture. In addition, analysis of the past rhetorical traditions can provide increased understanding of current communicative practices (Dissayanake, 2009). While these efforts are important advances in our understanding of communicative processes, we need to move beyond these perspectives, and to develop bases for mutual understanding (Kim, 2010). Through dialogue, progress can be made to improve human relations and to deal collaboratively with important world problems, such as climate change and poverty.
Excavating Rhetorical Traditions: Expanding Our Communicative Knowledge
Our understanding of communicative contexts incorporates implicit knowledge, which represents participants' knowledge of cultural traditions and social practices: such knowledge is also regarded as antecedent knowledge--that is, knowledge held prior to any interaction (Germain, 1979; Giddens, 1991; Goffman, 1983a; Haslett, 1987). Such implicit knowledge reflects one's understanding of recurring episodes of social interaction within a broader cultural environment, and consensually defined boundaries and sets of social roles and behavioral norms (Bargiela-Chiappini, 2005; Forgas, 1978). Giddens (1991) noted that it is important to understand the sociohistoric context in which communication, social relationships and social order develop. Bargiela-Chiappini (2012) points out that the metaphysical level of knowledge has "a set of beliefs and doctrines with practical consequences" (p. 74). In contrast, the explicit social context reflects the text, participants, and special features of an actual encounter: this context is the emergent context as it evolves during an interaction (Haslett, 1987, 2012).
When implicit contextual knowledge differs across members of different cultures, misinterpretation and misunderstanding may occur because standard implicit assumptions may not apply: furthermore, participants may mistakenly assume a common interpretation of the context is operating when, in fact, no common assumptions exist. Excavating these deeper, implicit understandings may help avoid misunderstanding because there will be recognition that common ground assumptions may not exist and that further effort to understand and bridge these implicit differences is necessary. As Bargiela-Chiappini (2012) noted, understanding the 'cultural other' in terms of their own sociohistoric conditions is important. This richer cultural frame of reference will also provide some guidance in negotiating new, evolving communicative contexts such as the challenges of globalization (Bloomaert, 2003).
Establishing meaningful dialogue across Eastern and Western cultures rests upon fully understanding differing worldviews and social practices (Miike & Yin, 2015). For example, differing worldviews reflect differences in point of view; views of change, binary thinking versus holistic thinking, individualistic versus collectivist perspectives, and alternative views on change and paradox (Nisbett, 2003). Differences in communicative practices and assumptions flow from these worldviews. Cultural differences by themselves may facilitate dialogue: Wang and Kuo (2010) suggest that cultural commensurability/incommensurability may offer a useful approach to intercultural communication because "as yin and yang forces, they are a symbiotic pair in contrast to one another; they may be contradictory, but also complementary and mutually constitutive. Through clashes and interactions, convergence and divergence, they define and transform one another" (pp. 159-160).
The communicative context can be layered so that we can explore broad philosophic traditions (sociohistoric contexts) which form the basis of cultural values; then look at some present day communicative differences in cultural social practices, and finally, explore specific strategies in particular settings, such as business exchanges or interpersonal relationships (over these layers, we move from macro-level to micro-level analyses). Chung (2011) suggests that context, moving from the macro-level to the micro-level respectively, moves from history to political and social milieus to local contexts and finally, to particular interactional practices. More research is needed in each layer and on their interconnections.
Broad Philosophic Traditions
Macro or etic aspects of human communication deal with some of the universal challenges of communication (Chen, 2012). In brief, Western worldviews stem from Greco-Roman and Aristotelian perspectives. People are oriented toward an emphasis on binary thinking (either/or), a linear logic, and rationality (Kincaid, 1987). In contrast, Eastern philosophic traditions orient one toward both/and ways of thinking; holism, and harmony (Miike, 2008, 2012, 2014). Dissanayake (2011) points out that classical texts contain "concepts and theorizations about human communication that modern communication scholars could press into service productively" (p. 223). Shi-xu (2009) also calls for the excavation of ancient Eastern texts and a broadening of the view of communication itself including diverse forms of expressing meaning.
In an essay contrasting Eastern (Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indian) and Western communicative styles, Kincaid (1987) suggested five major differences. First, there are differing purposes for communication with Eastern views emphasizing maintenance of relationships, whereas Western views emphasize instrumental, intentional purposes. Second, Eastern views rely upon direct, immediate perception of reality while Western views tend to emphasize verbal symbols and conceptual processing. Third, Eastern views tend to incorporate concern for emotion and shared sentiments while Western views tend to emphasize rationality and de-emphasize emotions and feelings. Fourth, Eastern views focus on the unity and wholeness of parts whereas Western views tend to look at parts and their relationship to the whole rather than at their unity. Lastly, in terms of human relationships, Eastern views focus on the relationship itself and the circumstances that support relationships. In contrast, Western views focus on the instrumentality of relationships and how people can share information. Westerners tend to focus on building understanding while Easterners tend to focus on emotional connections among participants.
To some extent, China, Japan and Korea share similar philosophic traditions from Confucianism and Buddhism (Kincaid, 1987). In all these cultures, harmony in social relationships and preservation of social relationships is a core cultural value. Elevating others, sublimating the self, using forms of honorific communication as well as ritualized, hierarchical patterns of interaction are important East Asian values (Kadar & Mills, 2011).
Xiao and Chen (2009) present an insightful discussion of communicative competence from Western and Eastern perspectives. While Western views tend to view communicative competence in terms of the ability to achieve goals and assert one's self, Eastern views focus on communicative competence from a moral perspective of sincerity, respect and appreciation for the self and others (see also Miike, 2012).
In common among these Eastern societies is more emphasis on harmony, on hierarchy and on loyalty than generally found among Western nations. In particular, emotional dimensions of communication and indirectness are valued in communication. An appreciation of wholeness, or the interconnectedness of the universe is also important, as opposed to the either/or orientation of many Western nations (Nisbett, 2003). The emphasis on self-knowledge or internal growth appears to be a key quality of communication in the East and less emphasized in the West (Campbell, 1998; Dai, 2010; Miike, 2012). Okabe (2007) noted the importance of silence among Easterners. Chen and Starosta (2003b) noted the following similarities or points of convergence among Eastern cultures: relying on intuition, being empathic, seeking harmonious relationships and communicating in a subtle, indirect style. In their discussion, Starosta subsequently added the quality of being contingent--that is, allowing for unforeseen contingencies (ibid). Finally, they noted that people may choose to see either differences or similarities because both are present in communicative contexts.
An Asiacentric Approach
Building from these common, enduring traditions among Eastern cultures, an Asiacentric model of communication has emerged (Chen & Starosta, 2003a, b; Dissanayake, 2009, 2011; Miike, 2008, 2012, 2014; Miike & Yin, 2015). This Asiacentric model incorporates philosophical views that value harmony and treating all with dignity and respect. A reciprocal bond between the individual and community emerges such that "the reciprocal interplay between self as center and self for others enables the self to become a center of relationships. As a center, personal dignity can never be marginalized and, as relationships, the spirit of consideration is never suppressed" (Tu, 2001, p. 26). Miike and Yin (2015) observe that the "ethics of duty consciousness in Asia obligates all parties of a community to work together for the common good and well-being of all members" (p. 458). However, "cultural identity is not only what makes the individual a unique and concrete human being, but also what defines a culture and bonds the individual with other members of the culture" (ibid, p. 458). Thus many Eastern traditions view the self as being in the center of an expanding network, but the network also supports individual identity. Miike (2012) notes that Asiacentrists refer to tradition as a "'living tradition' that is always invented and reinvented and proactively blending the old and the new" (p. 3). The Asiacentric metatheory means that one's own culture becomes central, not marginalized, "without completely ignoring other cultural viewpoints on our culture" (ibid, p. 4).
Reciprocal bonds that create community and culture include both past and future generations. Such reciprocal bonds focus on the interconnectedness of humans, nature and spirituality (this interconnectedness is expressed in Confucian terms by tianrenheyi, the Islamic tradition of tawhid, or the Hindu perspective of sarvodaya) (Miike &Yin, 2015), or building shared socioemotional bonds, kuuki, among the Japanese (Tsujimura, 1987). Understanding these common themes, as well as differences among specific social and cultural practices, is a necessary base that allows us to become global citizens, or, as Dai (2010) expressed it, to display interculturality. To achieve a multicultural mindset, according to Chen and Starosta (2003b), requires openness to diversity, envisioning change and embracing a "broader picture of context in which diversity and cultural differences are valued and balanced" (p. 7).
Looking more specifically at different Eastern nations, some exemplars emerge. Yum (1987) points out that uye-ri, proper interpersonal relationships, is valued as an 'end-in-itself' which implies obligation, loyalty and long-term reciprocity: this builds long term interdependence among Koreans. In Japan, building shared social-emotional bonds with others (kuuki) and saving the face of the other are important (Tsujimura, 1987). Qualities such as indirectness, ambiguity and understatement are used to display a sense of humbleness and tolerance in both cultures (see also Yum, 2007).
The brief overview of the rhetorical and philosophic traditions of the past also points toward the continuity of such traditions in contemporary communicative practices. A number of scholars have linked past traditions with present practices and thus enriched our understanding of communicative practices (Chang, Chen, Chung, & Holt, 2010; J. Chung, 2011).
Yunxia and Hildebrandt (2003) contrasted communicative models as presented in current Chinese and U.S. business texts. Li (reason), qi (emotion) and harmony (he) represent major themes in Confucius' rhetorical tradition and also form the foundation for modern business communication. In the Chinese business texts, relationship building (ren dao) was emphasized, with reason (li) and feelings/emotions (qing) being used. They argued that the Western tradition of logos (reasoning), ethos (credibility) and pathos (emotion) have connections with the Confucian rhetoric of yan (eloquence), ren (benevolence) and zhong yong (balance/harmony). In persuasion, both cultures used reason and emotions, but the U.S. texts emphasized logos whereas the Chinese texts emphasized qing and ren dao. And as Yunxia and Hildebrandt point out, such themes are present in current communicative practices and understanding these continuities over time helps us to achieve a deeper understanding of communicative practices in particular settings.
Other scholars have investigated more specific contexts in which culturally laden communicative practices occur. Contrasts between Korean and U.S. students were found with Koreans having more attitudes fostering holism and cognitive relativity than U.S. students (Kim, Lim, Dindia & Burrell, 2010). Liu (2008) examined different interpretations of chi (life force or energy) and suggested that a "naturalistic chi-based philosophy" (p. 90), with altering states of yin and yang, provides a significant foundation for contemporary humanities and social sciences.
An approach that blends rhetorical traditions with contemporary approaches is reflected in Kuo and Chew's (2009) culture-centric model of communication. They use the symbol of Chinese knot as a way to represent each particularistic cultural perspective (Asiacentric, Afrocentric, etc.) but also to reflect the underlying presence of human universality. They argue for synthesis of alternative communicative approaches such as guanxi being contrasted with Western social network theory to note overlapping theoretical views.
As we have seen, threads of convergence and divergence run through Eastern and Western perspectives on communication and on communicative practices, emerging from the past and continuing to present day. Meaningful dialogue across differing worldviews rests upon awareness of the cultural, cognitive and communicative perspectives, in both their sociohistoric development and current practice. However, mutual awareness and understanding is not sufficient to sustain dialogue. But how can these differing perspectives be balanced in a dialogue?
An Organic Model: Wang's C/I Model
Wang's model (2014) of commensurability offers potential for bridging across these differing perspectives. Rather than the dualistic contrast of universality versus particularity, she proposes a framework "in which commensurability and incommensurability (C/I) are seen as a pair of symbiotic and interactive concepts. By way of explaining irreconcilable differences between knowledge paradigms and cultural traditions, the concepts make it possible for us to develop theoretical discussions on the basis of similarities, rather than commonality" (2014, p. 374). While many Asian and African scholars value particularity as an "effective way to balance the overwhelming influence of European universality" (p. 376), it is theoretically paradoxical because to be "Asian it has to be particularistic; to be theoretical it has to be universalistic. Herein lies the paradox (Goonasekera & Kuo, 2000, p. xii as quoted by Wang (2014).
Two other problems arise, according to Wang: one problem is the concept of theory itself which is derived from the age of Enlightenment as is "everything else is the modern language of research--including the term "Asia" (ibid). A second problem emerges with the assumption that cultures are homogenous, although the existence of heterogeneity within a culture "does not rule out the existence of core values and shared experiences" (p. 377). Furthermore, Wang notes that geocultural theories may lead to "cultural essentialism, parochialism and the tendency to focus on the past and the traditional" (ibid, see also Chen, 2011, and Dissanayke, 2009).
In contrast, the goal of the culture-general perspective is to create general theories by integrating different paradigms (Gunaratne, 2013; Wang & Huang, 2016; Wang & Kuo, 2010; Wang & Shen, 2000). As Wang observes, the culture-general approach accomplishes universality through the "workings of the particular...particmarity is not seen as the opposite of universality, but is given an active and vital role in theory formulation" (2014, p. 378). The U/P (universalistic versus particularistic) model, although challenged by postmodern and poststructuralist scholars, still remains a dominant research and theoretical model, although recognizing human influence, such as personal experience and beliefs, on research (Wang, 2014).
Models representing an organic worldview have been developed. Wang cites system theory, mind and mentality in cultural psychology and body and technology theories as examples. Wang notes that these theories depart from the U/P dualism with their focus on "interactions between paired concepts: open systems constantly interact with their environment; mind and mentality are mutually dependent and invigorating, and...body and technology are interactive and mutually constituted" (2014, p. 379). Wang concluded that a new framework is needed which allows "ideas from different cultural traditions and paradigms to freely compare and communicate.... It is possible to "interpret them [incommensurate theories] in the language of another paradigm when sufficient efforts are made to understand them" (p. 380). In order to achieve commensurability, (1) similarity and equivalence are acknowledged; (2) comparison and communication are always possible, with sufficient effort to understand and (3) exploring the incommensurable--"commensurability unfolds itself in this process of explanation and interpretation"(ibid, p. 381). Deeply hidden differences can be brought to light by understanding the sociocultural history of thoughts and ideas in much the same way that linking past traditions to current practices helps us understand the current practices more deeply. As an example, scholars can re-examine the incommensurable ideas around collectivism, develop the concept of relationalism and create further links to social networks and social exchange (Wang & Liu, 2010). Wang also noted the importance of uncovering incommensurabilities in order to develop arguments and theories.
Through utilizing a C/I perspective and relying on an organic worldview, this research proposes that points of divergence reflect incommensurabilities while points of convergence reflect commensurability in communication. Through understanding how past rhetorical traditions influence present day communication, these differences and similarities can be more richly understood and assist in theory development. As Wang suggested, deeply hidden differences can be illuminated by understanding the sociohistorical past.
To enhance intercultural dialogue, based on points of commensurability, people should practice three key concepts: forging communicative connections through the Middle Way, Relational, Dialogics, and acknowledging and giving Face. Hopefully what follows will provide some initial steps along the path to achieving productive intercultural interactions as well as theoretical development.
Forging Communicative Connections The Middle Way
Change is assumed and constant change is underlaid by unity, or the Middle Way (Lu, 1998). The Middle Way reflects the Chinese art of creativity, and of balance and compromise (Chen, 2002; Chung, 2011). Zhong yong or the Middle Way is a "means to achieve harmony, it does not entail compromise or simple accommodation and reconciliation of one's differences" (Lu, 1998, p. 160). As Wang suggests, "a path or patterns of development emerges through changes" and provides an opportunity to analyze the dynamics, similarities and differences that emerge and ultimately reveal the "unifying Way" (2014, p. 383). This is one of the greatest virtues, according to Confucius, because the Middle Way represents what is moral and appropriate. When there are conflicts and paradoxes, the Middle Way seeks to find a creative synthesis that moves beyond competing poles of attention to forge a new understanding. Opposites are not "dichotomous nor exclusive... [they] are manifested in light of, their antithesis. Just as incommensurability brews commensurability, the best place to observe stars is somewhere with no light" (Wang, 2014, p. 384). There is a continual push-pull between opposing forces--the yin and yang--which maintains a changing, fluid balance. Creative new resolutions of these forces, in turn, create new tensions and thus the cycle of continuous growth, development and change occurs and re-occurs.
The Middle Way tradition acknowledges unity within diversity. Chen and Starosta (2003a) note the importance of openness and that "within all differences...there is unity (which tends to be invisible)" (p. 5). With such a mindset,
people are able to cultivate a synergistic ability through a creative process of combining and balancing our own and their ways. Thus, while cultural differences may lead to problems, they as well provide advantages for nourishing personal growth if one knows how to recognize and use them to create positive opportunities. (p. 9)
An important key to following the Middle Way tradition is to recognize the unity of life in viewing events as 'both/and' rather than 'either/or'. 'Both/and' enables one to see multiple opportunities rather than a restrictive binary set of choices. Wang (2014) argues that the yin/yang paradigm values contradictions and uncertainties because it leads to creativity, inspiration and innovativeness.
An exemplar of Middle Way approaches to communication may be found in Chen's yin-yang model of communication (2009). Five qualities of Chinese thinking (holism, interconnection, hierarchy, creativity and harmony) are linked to a perspective of communication as a changing, transformative, continuous process with the ultimate goal of achieving harmony. It should be noted that harmony as used here refers both to inner harmony with oneself as well as harmony with others. While harmony is the ultimate goal of interaction, conflict may also occur in communication (see, for example, Chen's discussion of the two faces--one of harmony and one of conflict--in Chinese communication, 2004).
A Western approach which parallels and resonates with the Middle Way is Hermans' theory of Relational Dialogics (2001, 2004). The dialogical self is a part of a web of relationships. Giddens (1984, 2000) argued that the self occupies many different social positions throughout the lifespan and experiences different social relationships in varied social positions. One's lifespan also needs to be understood in the light of the surrounding sociohistoric context. Relational Dialogics complement Eastern worldviews which emphasize the relational quality of human existence (Ho, Chan, Pang & Ng, 2001).
Hermans conceptualizes the "self and culture as a multiplicity of positions among which dialogical relationships can be established...Cultures and selves are seen as moving and mixing and as increasingly sensitive to travel and translocality" (2001, p. 243). Giddens (2000) also noted that modernity has brought about rapid change in which the self and society are interrelated in a global milieu, and that the reflexivity associated with modernity causes one to continuously evaluate social practices in light of new information (see also Bauman, 2000). Within dialogical relations, the multifacetedness of ideas can be expressed, and the self may shift from position to position, with these positions at times inconsistent or contradictory.
Hermans (2001) draws upon the work of psychologist William James who recognized both the unity and multiplicity of the self as well as from Bakhtin's work acknowledging the concept of multivoicedness. Hermans argues that people represent multiple voices (or viewpoints) as they shift among dialogical relationships within themselves and with others. The I (self), in internal dialogue with the self or in external dialogue with others, moves among many different positions and can imaginatively establish dialogical relationship among those positions. As he noted, "In this conception the existence of unity in the self, as closely related to continuity, does not contradict the existence of multiplicity, as closely related to discontinuity" (2001, p. 248). Hermans (2001) further observed that the dialogical self "decentralizes both self and culture to a considerable degree without losing track with the notion of unity" (p. 275).
In structuration theory, the self is reflexively understood as one shifts social positions over space and time, and in "the capacity to keep a particular narrative going" (Giddens, 1991, p. 53). Dialogue is essential for culture and selfhood for both Hermans and Giddens. Ho et al. (2001) suggested that the dialogical self is "capable of polyvocality, but also of achieving unity with diversity" (p. 393).
The dialogical self, according to Hermans, is always anchored in a given time and space, and is social in that others occupy positions in the multivocal self. He suggests that the self is able to imagine another individual as being in a space that the self could potentially occupy. This constructed position "creates an alternative perspective on the world and myself. The constructed perspective may or may not be congruent with the perspective that is defined as the perspective of the 'actual' other" (2001, p. 250).
Dialogical relations are to be understood as "qualitatively different, spatially located voices involved in actual, remembered or imagined relations" (Hermans, 2004, p. 303). The self ('I') can move from one spatial position to another according to the situation and time, similar to Giddens' view of the self as occupying different social positions across the lifespan. The self fluctuates among different and even opposed positions as part of dialogical relations. Hermans also noted that technology has enabled "mediated dialogue" which expands the scope and multiplicity of the self's multivocal dialogues (ibid, p. 305). Through travel, hybridity and cultural complexity, the self ('I') experiences (1) a greater number of positions; (2) a greater heterogeneity in social systems and (3) greater "position leaps" than in prior times (ibid, p. 307). Consequently, humans may experience more change and innovation.
Both inter-psychological and intra-psychological processes are important for dialogicality (Hermans, 2002), and they are not restricted to verbal dialogues, but also incorporate nonverbal communication as well. Multivocality also includes individual voices as well as group voices (Hermans, 2001). Collective voices represent social positions while individual voices represent personal positions. Tensions may also exist between an individual voice and a collective voice, or between personal versus a social position. These dialogical exchanges may encourage metacognition (self-reflection) and lead to creativity and transformation of the self (Ho, Chan, Peng & Ng, 2001; Ho, Long, Lian & Chen, 2012). Such exchanges may contribute to the reflexivity that Giddens (2000) suggests is part of modernity.
In sum, Hermans (2001) moves beyond internal mental processes and external communication to argue that dialogical relationships are "embodied, structuralized and temporalized processes that start from the beginning of life.... individual voices coexist and are interwoven with collective voices and that all these voices are located in a field of tension between (symmetrical) interchange and (asymmetrical) social domination" (2001, p. 206). Hermans is notable in that his work acknowledges power differences across varying social positions as does Giddens.
Of particular interest to intercultural communication scholars is Hermans' (2001) rejection of depicting culture in terms of dichotomous categories such as individualism versus collectivism. He argued that cultures cannot be viewed as internally homogenous and externally distinctive because of increasing cultural connections that create 'hybridization' in which existing forms are recreated into new forms. Giddens (1991, 2000) would also agree that hybridization occurs as a result of globalization, transportation and communication. In addition, the concept of a single global system argued that all cultures are variants of a single global civilization emerging around 1500 BC (Wilkinson, 1995). And finally, the increasing complexity of cultures through travel, communication and movement of people limits the usefulness of dichotomous categories.
As Hermans (2001) concluded,
an increasingly interconnected world society requires attention to dialogical relationships between different cultures, between different selves, and between different cultural positions in the self (e.g., multiple or hyphenated identities). Cultures can be seen as collective voices that function as social positions in the self. Such voices are expressions of embodied and historically situated selves that are constantly involved in dialogical relationships with other voices. At the same time these voices are constantly subjected to differences in power. (p. 272)
Although this article's focus has been on broad cultural themes, as noted earlier in the discussion of rhetorical traditions, the variation across and within cultures and the rapid pace of globalization cannot be overlooked.
In an insightful article that integrated the dialogical self with Eastern traditions, Ho, Chan, Peng, and Ng (2001) found that "the dialogical self is capable of polyvocality, but also achieving unity with diversity" and can also transform itself creatively (p. 393). Using Hermans' dialogical relationships, Long, Buzzanell, and Kuang (2016) examined how post 1980's Chinese workers negotiated the meaning of work across tensions in different contexts, expectations and generations.
Dialogical relationships are parallel to the concept of the Middle Way. Both acknowledge unity yet allow for shifting, sometimes contentious voices. Both theories allow for change and flux. The flexibility and openness of thought in the Middle Way concept is matched by the openness and continuous change in dialogical relationships. Thus, both approaches complement one another and permit common ground to be established. In both, self and society--the individual and the collective--are manifest. Both paradigms fit the C/I paradigm and fluidly move between contradictory and/or uncertain relationships and ideas.
The concept of face provides another venue for establishing common ground and communication across diverse cultures. Face is viewed as a universal aspect of all cultures (Haslett, 2012, 2014a, b; Haugh, 2009; Ho, 1976; Hu, 1944; O'Driscoll, 2007) yet divergent in that face is carried out differently in different cultures (Haslett, 2012; Hwang, 2011; Ting-Toomey, 1994; Ting-Toomey & Kurogi, 1998; Ting-Toomey & Oetzel, 2002). It is the deep structure of face that also recognizes our common humanity (Haslett, 2012).
Face refers to claiming positive regard for the self and extending it to others. Goffman (1955, 1967, 1983a, b) and O'Driscoll (2007) point out that mutual face is necessary for interaction. Giddens (1991; Haslett, 2012) argued that social structure and agency are intertwined via the interactional order (Goffman, 1967, 1983a). That is, we develop cultures, social structures and social order through agency--our interactions with one another, especially in terms of our daily interactional routines. We need to trust others to behave in respectful ways so that the social fabric of interaction is preserved (Ho, 1976; Hu, 1944). Each culture has its own communicative practices for maintaining face (O'Driscoll, 2011).
Ho (1976) recognized face as the "reciprocated compliance, respect, and/or deference that each party expects from, and extends to, the other party. He (1994) further argued that
concern for face is a pervasive social sanction... it is a powerful mechanism underlying other-directedness, that is, acting in ways that reflect a high degree of sensitivity for how one's actions are perceived and reacted to by others... to maintain face, to avoid losing face, and to regain face lost are essential for effective social functioning. (pp. 272-273)
Face also applies to groups and the group face may, at times, take precedent over individual face (as it may in Asian countries) (see Haugh, 2007, 2009; Ho, 1995).
Emotions are attached to face and individuals defend their own and others' face (Goffman, 1967; Spencer-Oatey, 2005). In addition, in dialogue, interactants need to establish self-images as competent communicators: "The contributions of all are oriented to these and built up on the basis on them" (Goffman, 1967, p. 42). Without this trust and established communicative competency, people do not know how to interact.
Face is also relationally oriented: as Goffman noted "Each individual is responsible for the demeanor image of himself and the deference images of others, so that for a complete man to be expressed, individuals must hold hands in a chain of ceremony (Goffman, 1967, p. 11). Both honoring one's own face and the face of others is required for appropriate and effective communication. Holtgrave (1992) suggested that "Acting with demeanor (supporting one's own face) entails acting with deference (supporting the other's face)... facework is (and must be) a cooperative venture" (p. 142). As Ho (1994) also observed, face "is a powerful mechanism underlying other-directedness, that is, acting in ways that reflect a high degree of sensitivity for how one's actions are perceived and reacted to by others" (p. 272).
Thus face is constitutive of interaction--a necessary condition for interaction itself. "At rock bottom, face as the integrity of one's social being is not something that has to be earned, but is an inalienable right to human dignity" (Ho, 1994, p. 277). Being treated with dignity, when interacting with others, is at the heart of Goffman's concept of face and is how we demonstrate our saneness and competence as social beings. As O'Driscoll noted, face is "something whose quality can be threatened in interaction but whose existence cannot" (2011, p. 30). It is at this deep level understand that we acknowledge our common ground as humans to be treated with dignity and respect.
Facework (the work needed in interaction to preserve face) varies across people, cultures and situations. In fact, Goffman (1967) argued that
Each person, subculture, and society seems to have its own characteristic repertoire of face-saving practices. It is to this repertoire that people partly refer to when they ask what a person or culture is ' really' like... It is as if face, by its very nature, can be saved in a certain number of ways, and as if each social grouping must make its selection from this single matrix. (p. 13)
Through these sets of possible cultural practices, we express agency and move through different social positions during our lifespan.
Ting-Toomey's (1994) face-negotiation theory suggests that face is negotiated in all cultures and may be problematic in interpersonal situations. Her research suggests that facework varies as a function of individualism/collectivism, power distance, different types of face concerns, and self-construal (Ting-Toomey & Kurogi, 1998). In Hermans' dialogical relationships, facework may express the practice of putting one's self in another person's position, and respecting that individual's position.
Face is also an important component of Spencer-Oatey's (2005, 2007) rapport management theory. Rapport (2005) refers "to the relative harmony and smoothness of relations between people" (p. 96). She argued that behavioral expectations, face sensitivities and interactional wants enable us understand how people negotiate interpersonal relations.
Goffman (1967) argued that individuals and groups are "taught to be perceptive, to have feelings attached to self and a self expressed through face, to have pride, honour, and dignity, and to have tact and a certain amount of poise" (p. 44). These qualities may be contribute to intercultural communicative competence--perceptiveness enhanced by knowledge of cultures in their sociohistoric contexts, both in terms of broad cultural themes and differences within and across cultures; identification of the feelings and values of others; to understand one's own self; and to behave with dignity, tact and poise.
Although Goffman's work focused on interaction within a culture, he nevertheless acknowledged culture as the basic frame for interaction. Culture is the primary framework that shapes interactions and Goffman also utilized frames as a way of establishing contexts for interaction. Goffman (1981) noted that
Frames are a central part of a culture and are institutionalized in various ways. They are subject to change historically.... Whatever the idiosyncrasies of their own motives and interpretation, they [individuals] must gear their participation into what is available by way of standard doings and standard reasons for doing those doings. (,p. 63).
Those standard doings and standard reasons characterize social interactions which constitute cultural practices and institutions (Giddens, 1984; Haslett, 2012). Dai's concept of interculturality (2010) acknowledged the wisdom of a 'global self' that extends human dignity to all, thus honoring face, and argued for a holistic appreciation of humaneness across cultural difference.
Since the 1980s, more calls for communicative models recognizing cultural diversity have been issued. With an enriched understanding of West/East differences and similarities, coupled with Wang's C/I model, this paper proposes three concepts to fully explore points of divergence and convergence in E/W dialogues so that more productive dialogues are possible. Taken together, the use of the Middle Way, Relational Dialogics and face, provide a framework for contentious debate and discussion amidst uncertainty and change, while reflecting multiple points of view from participants.
Understanding points of commensurability and incommensurability from past rhetorical traditions as well as current practices enable an in-depth perspective on these issues. For example, guanxi can be understood as representing a deeply embedded set of relationships of mutual obligation (in-depth perspective) rather than 'just doing a favor for an acquaintance' (a superficial analysis). Our views of culture are similarly enriched through the use of structuration theory and Wang's conceptualization of incommensurable and commensurable aspects of culture. To bridge incommensurabilities, practicing the Middle Way seeks to reveal unity across diversity. Dialogic Relations enable multiple voices to be heard, even those of contradiction and challenge. Finally, respecting face acknowledges the basic humanity of all, although honored in different ways by different cultures.
These three concepts provide both practical and theoretical guidance. From an everyday framework, dialogic relations and face enable interactants to pursue incommensurabilities across cultures and to engage in productive dialogue. The concept of face may provide a point of commensurability for intercultural theories. Commensurabilities, the unity across diversity, may provide the basis for new theoretical developments (for example, see Buzzanell, 2012). Encouraging both/and thinking may lead to new theoretical frameworks for old problems, especially through recognition of the interrelatedness of previously identified dichotomies (see Wang, 2014, for her discussions of agenda setting as well as social media, and Wang and Huang, 2016).
* I wish to thank Boris H. J. M. Brummans and Patrice Buzzanell for their comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript and Yoshitaka Miike for very interesting discussions on East/West communication.
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Beth Bonniwell Haslett
University of Delaware, USA
Dr. Beth Bonniwell Haslett Department of Communication University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716
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|Author:||Haslett, Beth Bonniwell|
|Publication:||China Media Research|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2017|
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