Intercultural communication comic.
As part of a group on my masters degree we worked on an Intercultural Communication project. Based on this Intercultural Communication book we explored the topics of identity, culture, essentialism, the influence of media discourse on our understanding of the world and otherisation that were all outlined with a mixture of subjective interpretations of scenarios and passages from other texts. It would be important to add that the authors were quite clear from the start that this was not a “how to communicate interculturally” book because in order to do so would involve having to solve the ‘problems’ in communication with ‘others’ by condensing an infinite amount of variation in identity and culture down to a common set of ‘ingredients’ that the authors could prescribe ‘recipes’ to.
The whole point of the text is that you can’t reduce people to down to a common set of ingredients. To attempt to do this is essentialist, which on the surface doesn’t seem all that terrible. But it is because it paves the way to quickly produce an identity of an entire group of people based on a few fixed attributes in a word sterotyping.
People are individuals and whilst the individual may identify with and share attributes that belong to many people from a range of backgrounds, they should not be defined by their differences to us. When we do so ‘they’ become others to ‘us’. This is the basis for *isms and a fine example of otherisation.
When we’re communicating with individuals the authors assert that the responsibility for successful communication is ours. We’re the ones who essentialise, otherise and otherwise impede communication through issues that are our own. If we can solve these issues or take steps to acknowledge and tackle them then we can begin to communicate interculturally.
The Comic Strip
Part of the final work for the project was to produce a comic and I accepted this challenge though I was at first a little hesitant because I’d never created a comic before. So based on the only character I’d ever created “Headputty” I cracked off three comic strips on the subject. If you prefer you can view the original fullsize pdf
If you’re going to take one thing away from this blog post then remember that it’s up to you recognise and overcome the various ways in which you create perceived differences between people. It’s about understanding yourself, not the person you’re talking to.