AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 582

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Session 582: Synergy of Intercultural Contact:Past, Present, and Future

Organizer: Judit Hidasi, Budapest Business School, Hungary

Chair: Teruyuki Komatsu, Independent Scholar, Japan

Discussant: Judit Hidasi, Budapest Business School, Hungary

“Kontaktologie” traditionally used to be a well-established area of philological research and study at many scholarly centers of European humanitarian studies. Earlier intercultural contacts were meant for study essentially among neighbouring countries or nations, recently, however, the scales and methods of contact-research have been rewritten and greatly influenced by the ever-increasing speed and intensity of globalization. The academic horizon has widened: scholars of diverse disciplines and of different regions gather to think, to discuss, to share and to contribute with colleagues in different fields of study. This panel offers a forum for joint discussion of scholars from Asia and Europe on topics on intercultural contacts crossing the borders of their respective countries. What role did and does Asia have on Europe in terms of thinking, of attitudes and of values? Is it economy that has been having the greatest impact on the European perception of Asia? What kind of contacts did and does Europe (particularly countries like Germany and Hungary) have with Japan and China and how these relations have been influenced by the course of history? What are the recent developments in intercultural contacts formation and trends? Changing times bring about changes in contact establishment, in contact maintenance, in contact-keeping and in contact-building among individuals and communities of Asia and Europe. Concrete examples of intercultural contacts will be introduced from the domain of education, media and business so that we can explore the conditions under which the best-practices of synergy can result from intercultural contacts.

Overcoming value-relativity, finding common ground: why synergy from continuous intercultural dialogue matters
Keiko Matsui Gibson, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan

With the recent tide of Globalization, “diversity” has emerged as an important issue both empirically and conceptually. More than ever, academic conferences put emphasis on interdisciplinary, multicultural, and multidimensional presentations. Although this is a welcome trend, something important is missing. Intercultural discussion should not end merely as understanding one another’s difference, but must continue to seek some form of common ground. Postmodernism has contributed to our sense of liberated value systems (or non-systems), but has left us with the sense of helplessness in trying to find a mutually agreeable consensus of some kind. The relativity of Postmodernism should not paralyze us into avoiding any kind of “universal values”. Thus I argue for the importance of an “active” type of intercultural understanding that seeks to create new values, rather than simply understand the opponent’s position. We need to overcome this impasse urgently and engage in “active” and authentic dialogues about values. In this presentation, I take up the actual case of a recently-held international conference on Dignity: Empirical, Cultural, and Normative Dimensions at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research at Bielefeld University in Germany, and examine how the concept of “Dignity” was presented and discussed in a transcultural, transnational and interdisciplinary setting. Christian, Jewish, Islam, Buddhist perspectives were discussed from a historical standpoint to investigate a possible open-ended “universal” that may give some common ground to tackle urgent issues in Bioethics. Continuous dialogue may not lead to immediate consensus, but could be regarded as a crucial means for building “synergy” in intercultural conflicts.

Cross-cultural social skills learning: Cross-cultural psycho-education for developing cross-cultural interpersonal relationship
Tomoko Tanaka, Okayama University, Japan

When Europeans and Asians exchange students, they sometime visit area with very distant and different cultural backgrounds. In such case, culture learning before departure would be considered useful.. Culture learning in daily behavior level is especially important for international students. Since they individually try to achieve academic purpose and foster friendship in host society, it is advantageous for them to understand and adopt cultural behavior of the area they visit. Then, they will be in a position to bring what they understand in the target culture back to their home country and would be able to explain it to others in future. “Cross-cultural social skills learning” is psycho-educational session to get accustomed to cross-cultural interpersonal behavior. Participants are expected to understand and practice social skills to begin, maintain and develop interpersonal relationship with hosts, focusing on culture-specific cognition and behaviors. Social skill includes greeting, negotiation, appreciation, apology, small chat, invitation, refusal, and so on. For example, indirect refusal for maintaining harmony or Confucian attitude to superiors in Japan could be embarrassing for international students and they often would like to know the reasons why the Japanese would employ such skills..   We developed the experimental session for international students in Japan. The session includes cultural background of Japanese behaviors, role play of such behaviors and application of such behaviors based on the cognitive-behavioral learning theory. After participating in such sessions, participants could anticipate hosts responses and choose their behavior accordingly, depending on the socio-cultural context.   It would be a good idea to prepare such skills learning program in each culture, because I believe that culture shock of sojourners could be lightened psychologically. through such learning program. I suggest that the procedure of making the session in any society is possible in the future.. Finally, I will discuss significance of this social skill learning from the perspectives of cross-cultural education.

Kontaktologie in a new context
Viktoria Eschbach-Szabo, University of Tuebingen, Germany

Historically we can see the process of increasing culturization of Japanese and Chinese and aestheticization especially in modern media. We can see a range of consumer culture , which have become increasingly important in everyday life – shopping centers with Japanese and Chinese products, European products with Japanese brand names. Since Japanese or Chinese represented in the German context is already mediated and semiotized before the data arrive, linguistics has to investigate the channels of many stages in the process of mediation, influences, interferences as called in the linguistic tradition. This process in Germany contains a historical shift from historical East-Asia to modern East-Asia. Japan’s image has changed from Rodriguez’ Shôgun to computer animated Pokémon, computer entertainment, manga industry, animation, sports, game shows (Takeshis Castle), Japanese texts in advertisement, tourism. Japanese and Chinese as an exotic languages are existent in contemporary Europe. This process entails in language spaces a shift from classical important languages to new important languages in the Western world. Japanese and Chinese and quasi-Japanese or quasi-Chinese aesthetic features and objects become more important in our everyday environments. Japanese and Chinese are normal languages in European school education. Every semiotic practice presupposes an ideal awareness of its laws. It is difficult to say whether Eastern and Western theories on the Japanese language and culture have the same semiotic development or not. However, in many cases we have a certain common syntactic, semantic and pragmatic basic knowledge about “Kontakte” and “Sprachfelder”.