Exploring lived experience of the intercultural: ideologies of identity, language & culture among EFL speakers in South Korea
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 11:03 authored by Catherine Peck
While the intercultural has been broadly theorized across the social sciences, empirical studies have been scarce and are dominated by the testing and instantiation of theoretical constructs. Few have analysed individuals’ sense making of intercultural encounters grounded in their personal realities. Inquiry outside formal education and beyond Anglo European contexts has also been limited. This thesis investigates ideologies of the intercultural among individuals in South Korea, for whom education, work, religion and family entail regularly crossing linguistic and cultural borders. The focus on participant’ lived experience and their ideological landscapes in relation to the intercultural has enabled unique insights into interculturality and its processes. I analyse what these individuals have to say about what it means to live interculturally, and make visible the complex ideologies of identity, language and culture reflected in those discourses. My analysis and findings highlight the situated nature of intercultural interaction, where structural dynamics of power, economic privilege and socio-historic legacy intersect with personal agency. In the participants’ discourses, the interplay of structure and agency is reflected in their contextually dynamic cultural identifications. I also make visible the complex emotions they associate with foreign language use, and the ways in which they make recourse to essentialist ideologies of culture when making sense of difficult or conflictive intercultural experiences. An implication of findings from this study is the need to better account for the contextual dynamics of intercultural experience in theorizing the intercultural, particularly in relation to the teaching of English as a foreign language. These include the dynamics of cultural identification, of foreign language use, and of the implicit and explicit power relations that characterize situated intercultural experiences. I call for the expansion of current models of intercultural competence, proposing a tentative framework that makes visible locally situated constraints and enablers of intercultural competence.