Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster: Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration

The Pragmatics of Intercultural Communication

Dr. Robert Crawshaw


An analysis of the research grants awarded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council during the last five years:


and the titles of Social Science publications by Routledge over a similar period


offer evidence of the ‘cultural turn’ taken by sociology in recent times. Questionnaire based survey and statistical analysis have given ground to qualitative methodologies focusing on generalised conceptualisations of human behaviour such as ‘identity and belonging’, ‘space and place’, ‘religious practices’, ‘consumption’, ‘memory’, ‘hospitality’, ‘citizenship’ and ‘community’… in which data derived from ethnographic observation and discursive representation are seen to ‘signify’ the evolving structures of relationships in society. Insofar as this corresponds to an emphasis on collective mental processes of perceiving or recalling reality, the act of ‘bearing witness’ to processes of social construction has itself become an object of study as a means of accessing collective ‘states of mind’.

Against this background, the role played by narrative in social analysis has become increasingly significant. As the borders between fiction and reality are progressively undermined, narrative as social evidence finds expression in both personal and institutionalised forms of textual representation: diaries, memoirs, histories, journalistic comment, documentary, reality television and, most recently, blogs and twitters. It can be said that literature itself has taken a social turn becoming both the product of materially determined forces in society and, as it has always been, an instrument of social constitution. To study literature as a social artefact therefore implies two fundamental approaches which are mutually complementary. The first considers the forces which determine the socio-economic, institutional conditions in which literature in produced, an approach described in outline by Goldmann (1967) and perhaps most explicitly theorised by Bourdieu (1982) and Foucault (1969). The second, more complex approach seeks to identify how the structures of literary discourse interact with those of other discourses in society, at one and the same time re-producing them and modifying social relationships through language. The theoretical reference points for this latter perspective are Bakhtin (transl. 1968, 1981) and Volosinov (transl. 1973), re-interpreted by Kristeva (1971 ff.) and understood in the context of the multiple, fragmented, exteriorised, inter-subjective view of human identity explored through the work of Jacques Derrida.

The original conception behind the Moving Manchester project


and my own contribution to it derived from the theoretical positions just outlined. To these can be added the notion of ‘articulation’ formulated by Hall (1996) and Laclau and Mouffe (1995 ) in which forms of collective expression, including literature, are seen both to be constituting community by cementing relationships between individuals and groups and acting as dynamic counterpoints to other, more dominant, discourses, such as policy statements, academic commentary, public broadcasts and so on. The two papers and the many presentations on this topic I have undertaken over the last three years (e.g. Crawshaw and Fowler 2008; 2009) and the text on which I am currently working, form the background to my contribution to the co-authored academic study arising out of the project which has just been approved by Manchester University Press. My approach arises directly out of the mixed data compiled by the project, including as it does the original literary texts, the spoken testimony of authors in interview and focus group discussion and the ‘metadiscursive’ commentary and dissemination on the part of official agencies: educational Authorities, cultural organisations, the press, public broadcast media and academics… In developing this approach through the analysis of a number of the authors involved in the Moving Manchester project, I would hope to make an active contribution to the work of the Exzellenz Cluster at Konstanz while benefiting from the extensive theoretical and sociological knowledge which resides in the Centre. I would be delighted to take part in seminars and workshops and, if appropriate, to make an input to a graduate programme in the field of literature and society. Apart from the pleasure of working amongst friends and colleagues in a new academic environment, my objectives during my fellowship at Konstanz are to complete my contribution to the Moving Manchester Publication, to finalise the editing of a special issue of the journal Regional Studies and to progress the book on The Pragmatics of Intercultural Communication for which I am currently under contract to Cambridge University Press.