Any research undertaking nowadays is intercultural, multilingual. Qualitative research, in particular, ethnographic research, is a personal undertaking for both researcher and researched as they engage in field work together. Jointly, they must negotiate the research context, the focus and topic of the research, the processes by which data are generated (e.g., through interactions between researcher and researched), and how each comes to know and understand the other. Thus, understanding a phenomenon, or creating knowledge, is a jointly investigated and co-constructed process. In intercultural contexts, when multiple languages and intercultural communication are a part of the researcher/researched dynamic, these processes become all the more complex. Researchers must negotiate their own positioning, the multiple languages in use in the research site, and communicate the purpose and focus of the research, often in language(s) unfamiliar to either researcher and/or researched. My purpose – to suggest some theoretical and methodological possibilities and challenges for researching Chinese people/communities: An auto-biographical non-Chinese researcher perspective by drawing on my own (doctoral) research on Chinese international students, and other contributing research: Researcher reflexivity Researching multilingually Discuss the problem of otherising in the title (of my presentation and the conference theme) Preview
My authority was validated by one of my supervisors (I had lived and worked in China as a teacher (and student) and HK as a teacher/teacher-educator; had studied a little Chinese; tutoring and supporting international/Chinese students in the uni of the research. => Feeling ill-equipped!
My sociology module at VUW in 1975.
Published in 1966; second edition 1971
The author, Franz Schurmann, states in the preface, in relation to the upheaval of the Cultural Revolution:
“Most important of all has been my awareness that ideology and organization are not so all-powerful as I had thought them to be. Chinese society, particularly in the form of its social classes, is asserting itself against the state, and showing that it cannot be manipulated at will” (preface, p. viii).
Alisdair Clayre – shown on TV in early 1980s.
The Eurocentric terrain of humanity has been traditionally shaped by the Enlightenment mentality. Tu (1996) - Its core values (value orientations) are instrumental rationality, individual liberty, calculated self-interest, material progress, and rights consciousness.
N.B. Eurocentric focus on LHS; Asiacentric focus on right. Eurocentric focus: communication is often an expression of unique individuality and a demonstration of independence. ???? If communication is highlighted as a process of separating and secluding our world, alienation, loneliness, division, and domination will prevail in our mindset and lifestyle. Asia contribution: Confucius (551479 BCE) states in the Analects (6: 28) that ‘‘if you wish to establish yourself, you have to help others to establish themselves; if you wish to complete yourself, you have to help others to complete themselves.’’ This Confucian teaching of ren underlines the fact that our well-being is inextricably and inescapably intertwined with those of others. It suggests the importance of an ever-expanding network of relationships across space and time. We need communication principles and practices that strengthen collectivity and connection without suppressing individuality and independence.
Asiacentric position: The Confucian way of learning to be human is to engage in ceaseless self-cultivation and creative self-transformation by crafting the self as a center of myriad relationships. Overcoming self-centeredness requires that we continuously interact with others because we rarely cultivate ourselves in isolation. => The impact of communication on self-discipline and self-cultivation, and vice versa, requires sustained analysis in the increasingly ego-driven world.
The primary locus of responsibility for the success of communication lies in the speaker (less focus on listening). Asiacentric position: The ability to treat a concrete person humanely is not the result of reasonable and rational choice, but of emotional sensitivity and sensibility. Emotional, not conceptual, convergence plays a pivotal role in Asian communication (focus on listening); cf. Eurocentric theory demystifies the process of cognitive convergence based on reason and rationality (Kincaid, 1987).
Asian worldview: We must be grateful to our fellow humans, natural environments, and ancestral spirits for our blessings and have ethical obligations to return something to them because our existence is dependent on all other beings. => Communication needs to focus on the process of not only asserting rights but also assuming responsibilities. (See Guilherme, 2007, IC responsibility) With power, privilege and influence, come obligation and responsibility to enable the disadvantaged to be heard.
Asiacentric position: In Asian cultures, generally speaking, communication is positively evaluated when it attempts to actualize the moral integrity and harmony of the universe, while it is negatively evaluated when it aims to pursue our own individual self-interest.
What do “Western” theories have to offer?
Milton Bennett (in Siena last year) realised that the IDI model was no longer appropriate, that a “stages” model did not necessarily show how individuals experienced intercultural encounters. Instead Rs should draw on social constructionism!!!
Weber’s phenomenological doctrine of verstehen, that is, the understanding of social phenomena from the actor’s own perspective:
the important reality is what individuals perceive it to be.
Thus, understanding and interpretation require the active involvement of the researcher in the research process
What influences the development of our values, attitudes, identities and world views? Identities are constructed in primary and secondary socialisation. Contemporary identities are affected by processes of integration (in local communities) and globalisation.
Discuss my PhD work
Ethnographic interviewing Cf Shu-hsin Chen: being a nonnative interviewer, in a weaker position, makes it easier to elicit information from native interviewees. One reason for this is that the interviewer is obliged to let interviewees define their concepts, deferring to their position as a language authority and recognizing one aspect of the power relationship. Power in ethnographic interviewing is always negotiated.
Continually evolving for both researcher and researched. My questioning prompted: ppts to think about their experience of living and studying, as ethnic Chinese students in a NZ university Me – how I do and should engage with them ethically and appropriately (considering our relationship, and the spaces we occupy)
This “coming to know” requires the R’s active involvement in the sense making going on throughout the research process. S. Hall (1997) The self and other are not separate but always in relation (or dialogue) and situated.
Unexamined experience (in PhD) which I published later: I centralised my own role in the research as “interrogator” who directed and controlled the topics of conversation through my “open-ended interview protocol and prompting. I was privileging what got discussed, when and how (Krog, Piller, 2011) Yet, at the time, I acknowledged the importance of ppts’ collaborative reflection between R and ppts as a form of critical transformation because I collected data on it (used in this chapter, but not included in my doctoral thesis).
How did the ppts perceive my R positioning? AS affirms her commitment in the research process. Relieved my fears about whether some ppts at least were engaging.
But not all positive:
(V) “I’ve been here almost three year, so all of my feeling is the same I think”, and of my questions over the 18 months: “Sometimes it’s very boring. You ask me the same question, and I answer you the same answer as well, similar answer. I told you already” . My doctoral thesis had less of V’s voice in the findings. What was lost by this lack of engagement with and commitment to the research? My conclusion: Some relationships just don’t work! (Acknowledged in research??)
Sharing experience of LJ’s newborn. Taking a gift. (Stepping out of R role.)
Member checking of transcripts. Two pg ppts read the findings chapters
KZ’s comment puts in doubt authority invested in me by my supervisor at the outset. AS acknowledge the political nature of the research – what (Chinese) international students are thinking about their IC/learning experiences in a NZ university, e.g., the ways in which NZ university processes and environment silence them. Others could learn from the research. => their voices are heard and represented – through a collaborative endeavour (between R and researched).
But: Did I call on these voices and their positionings sufficiently throughout the fieldwork, analysis and write-up? No!
Intro: research is no longer a monolingual endeavour. (My role as a supervisor) =>How do non-Chinese researchers work with Chinese participants? How do Chinese researchers plan and carry out their research with Chinese ppts (whether in or beyond China)?
Example: Skype with EdD student (Janet) in Singapore – research in English! Ppts (Singaporean) all speak English! Shu-Xin Chen (Taiwan) – had to
Researching monolingually – is there such a thing? Challenged by the dominance of English as a global language, ELF; Universities teaching in English.
language Scollon, Scollon and Jones (2012) remind us that language choice is also a matter of participants’ face negotiation, since what language they use indicates their relative statuses, and their assumptions about these differences.
Relationships – work through my own study; allude to Sara’s work
So how to frame RM 1) Intentionality - consider the purposefulness of Rs in their decision making and actions. These considerations are linked to communicative purpose of the research Considerations include: data generation (language choices, interviews/FGs, structured/unstructured protocols); data analysis; representation (of people, especially through reporting); literature (use of pubs in another lang); consent forms; policies (rules about lang use, refs – what langs are allowed)
2) R at centre—what they bring/don’t bring; and how all this may inform the character of the study and its subsequent reporting; levels of involvement?? Relational elements (of trust, ethics, power)
Post-doctoral researcher reflection! In my doctoral research, and in my subsequent publications, I make no mention of the challenges in conducting research with participants who do not have the language of the researcher, or the research context: English. I realised that the research focus, and the interview questions, required participants to engage in complex cognitive and affective processes in English. Yet I did not include any discussion of the multilingual dimension of my research, and the challenges and possibilities that this might bring, or participants’ competence in English. To date, I am not entirely sure of how many languages the participants brought to the research context, although I know many had regional and local dialects and other languages that they spoke with their families; nor did I explore their experience of using English, the language of the researcher, to report their experiences. How did they deconstruct their interview experiences with me—either intrapersonally, or with the other participants and friends? What possibilities may have arisen if I had considered the multilingual nature of the research? What if I had privileged focus groups (rather than one-to-one interviews), where participants might have shared their experiences in and through shared languages in a shared sense-making process (Hesse-Biber, 2012)? Or ppts might have discussed their experiences with one another first inan informal focus group in the languages of their choice, and then later shared their co-constructions with me.
Ppts use complex cognitive and affective processes in describing and narrating their (emotional) experiences in English Presentational strategies of the self (Goffman, 1969); face strategies (Brown & Levinson, 1978) Negotiate meanings of interview questions. Culture, values, social experience, communicative phenomena, affective responses to encounters and interactions—not an easy task!
I had to use multiple languaging techniques—recasting, reformulating, repeating PPts new word in Chinese, but not in English, e.g., “values”, “community”, “intercultural communication” (unfamiliar, not easily translated)
Assymetrical linguistic competence I must negotiate language (word choice, sentence structure) interviewer/interviewee and relationship, power issues, and establish empathy and trust. Aware of need to elicit responses that address the ROs, but simultaneously acknowledge ppts’ assymetical linguistic competence.
Ppts’ motivations changed—from uncertainty and reluctance, to cartharsis, and valuing the research Dual reflexivity ppts made sense of their sojourn/IC experiences, demonstrated agency and power in co-constructing research R responsible for well-being and protection of ppts, and an ethics of reporting (disclosure, accuracy of intepretation)Through critical reflection ppts made sense of their sojourn. Need R for sensitivity and flexibility regarding ppts language needs (RM-ly praxis) Agency of ppts – power broker role usually in hands of R. (I didn’t acknowledge this at the time, so omitted from my thesis.) Tension: between Researcher values (in doing the research) and multiple meanings ppts ascribe to research focus and process they began to make sense of their intercultural encounters and (re)construct and (re)negotiate their multiple identities – as friends, international student sojourners, as inhabitants of a particular country, and as belonging to certain groups with whom they may or may not share values. My perceptions of their identities and their multilingual/intercultural selves were shrouded by own researcher identity - of “doing” research and “being” a researcher. Therefore, researchers need to look beyond textual and thematic analysis of data - the words in the interview transcripts and researchers’ treatment of them - for the meanings embodied in participants’ reflexive experiences, and how these insights might enrich and complement more traditional contextual and thematic analyses presented as “findings” in the writing up of research. Conclusion: As researchers engage with participants in their intercultural encounters, they need to be open to and investigate not just their own, but also the participants’ reflexive positions and lifeworlds and how they contribute to the construction of knowledge. The blind spots I have exposed here in my own understanding will hopefully guide me, and perhaps other researchers, towards a more dependable and authentic engagement with others and otherness in future intercultural and multilingual research endeavours.
Acknowledges how people understand, make sense of the other (phen) and how they socially construct an understanding of themselves and the other (soc constr), acknowledging the multiple identities at play and the ways in which these might shift from context to context. PEER – a pedagogy for IC learning – my teaching Valuing the contributions of other ways of thinking, doing, and being; drawing on multiple literatures, but also being critical of them.
Theoretical and methodological possibilities and challenges for researching encounters with Chinese people/communities
Theoretical and methodological possibilities and
challenges for researching encounters with
Chinese people/communities: An auto-
biographical non-Chinese researcher perspective
Intercultural communication between China
and the rest of the world:
Beyond (reverse) essentialism and culturalism?
University of Helsinki, 5-6 June 2014
Dr Prue Holmes
Durham University, UK
1. The researcher’s (subjective) positioning
2. The problem with “isms”: What theoretical
3. In search of something more universal?
Social constructionism, Phenomenology, Identity
4. My researcher experiences in researching Chinese
5. The reflexive researcher
6. Researching multilingually
7. Conclusions and where to next
1. The researcher’s (subjective)
• Bracketing my own experience in the research
• Providing autobiographical or personal
information that serves to establish and assert
(Fine, Weis, Weseen, & Wong, 2000)
• “Had our concepts and
categories of analysis
been wrong? Had we
somehow failed to see
the essence of China
because of our Western
outlook? (p. viii)
(First published 1966;
preface to second edition,
2. Getting started!
The problem with “isms”:
What theoretical possibilities emerge?
- Eurocentrism and Asiacentrism
• What might a synthesis offer?
Synthesising two dualisms:
Eurocentrism and Asiacentrism
• Can “Western” theories of communication inform
non-Western (intercultural) communication
experiences, and the contexts in which they
• How can Eurocentric traditions be informed and
enriched by Asiacentric visions?
• “What can human beings learn about the nature
and ideal of communication from all sentient
beings and their ‘live-and-let-live’ encounters?”
(Miike, 2007, p. 227)
Five biases of Eurocentric theory
1. Individuality and Independence Bias
• Communication is often
an expression of unique
• Communication is a
process in which we
remind ourselves of the
interrelatedness of the
2. Ego-Centeredness and Self-Enhancement Bias
• Communication is a
process in which we
enhance our self-
esteem and protect our
• Communication is a
process in which we
reduce our selfishness
• It fosters our sense of
cooperation from the
interpersonal level to
the cosmological level.
3. Reason and Rationality Bias
reason and rationality
(of speaking clearly and
Communication is a
process in which we feel
the joy and suffering of
all sentient beings (a
focus on emotion and
4. Rights and Freedom Bias
• Communication is
conceptualized as a
means of gaining our
individual freedom and
• Rights and liberty are
• Communication is a
process in which we
receive and return our
debts to all sentient
5. Pragmatism and Materialism Bias
Morality and harmony
Communication is a
process in which we
moralize and harmonize
Theoretical diversity in Eurocentric
• Feminism – the salience of interdependence and
the profundity of feeling.
• Dialogical communication – empathy and other
• Communication ethics – the importance of civility
• Environmental and spiritual communication –
ecological harmony and spiritual liberation.
• Philosophy –capabilities; cosmopolitan
The need to move beyond dualistic thinking and
• divergence in convergence /convergence in
divergence (within and across Eastern and
• local community /the global society
• provincial specificity/universal applicability
• local resonance/global significance
3. In search of something more
• Social constructionism
experience the world
in their daily (socially
(Berger & Luckmann,
– A self-conscious
examination of lived
– The multiple realities
and identities that
“…the world of
everyday life [that] is
the scene and also the
object of our actions
(Schutz, 1973, p. 209)
–how the researcher
comes to know and
–a process of moving
into the mind of the
– Social class, history,
ability, family role,
profession, accent, race
• “The very process of
identification through which
we project ourselves into
our cultural identities, has
become more open-ended,
variable, and problematic.
Within us, we have
pulling in different
directions, so that our
continuously being shifted
(Hall, 2006: 251)
4. My researcher experiences in
researching Chinese students’ IC/learning
Ethnography/in the field
• The sample
• Engagement in the field (over 18 months)
• Building trust, building friendship
• Fieldwork (observation—in the classroom??, in
– “thick description” (Geertz, 1973)
– “methodological assemblage” (Najar, 2014)
• Data analysis (Nvivo)
• Validity/reliability => transferability
5. The reflexive researcher
• … a multifaceted, complex, and ongoing
dialogical process, which is continually
evolving (Byrd Clark & Dervin, 2014)
• A two-way process:
– Profoundly affecting researchers’ sense of the
world and themselves (Canagarajah, 1999)
– Participants’ understanding of their life world and
their place in it.
• This knowledge is incomplete, implicit and tacit:
Our subjects always know more than they can tell us,
usually see more than they allow us to see; likewise, we
often know far more than we can articulate.... [T]he key
issue is not to capture the informant’s voice, but to
elucidate the experience that is implicated by the
subjects in the context of their activities as they
perform them, and as they are understood by the
(Altheide & Johnson, 2011, p. 592)
• How do I, as a researcher, reflexively engage with
the research and participants?
• How do participants reflexively engage in the
research (i.e., how do they (re)construct and
(re)negotiate their relationship with the
researcher and research focus as a result of the
• What ethical and relational issues emerge
between researcher and participants in the
spaces of the research?
My researcher positioning
My position as a New Zealand researcher meant that the data
interpretation reflected to some degree the predispositions and
parameters of a Western research tradition, as well as my knowledge
of the research domain. As a doctoral student, a former teaching
assistant in the school, an older student, and the occupant of an office
with a computer, I may have been perceived by the participants as
holding a position of power. On the other hand, developing an
empathy with the graduate student participants, at least, was
facilitated by commonalities in our life experiences.
(Holmes, 2005: 296)
• AS: It’s just good to have a meeting time, lecturer,
• ME: I’m a student.
• AS: No, you are lecturer before, so it’s a good
experience I think [for her to communicate with
me, a “lecturer”]. . . . As I told you, I do well in this
research and you try to look after all the research
participants very well I think. Contact very well,
and especially the dinner [I invited a group of
them to my house], is unforgettable.
(AS, female undergraduate participant)
• Reciprocal power
– I was intruding on their
lifeworlds; I was bound
to ppts to make my
– They were feeling their
way with me.
• => The Godmother!
• WK “Don’t take much notice
of what I said in the first six
• And later “Initial data might
not be very accurate
because we were . . . self-
conscious, getting the right
answers for you.”
• KZ “The more we talk, the
more I can know your
personality…so I know you
will not do some harm to
me and so I can trust you.”
I don’t think there are some very […] effect or
difference in our culture, but I think it’s try that I
feel much better and better when I communicate
with you. Yeah, I mean, much more comfortable.
When I first talk with you, probably because of
my language problem, probably we don’t know
each other, you know, but today you can
understand, get a far insight of my thought. You
understand me now, to some extent. It’s getting
better and better. (LZ)
Participants’ concerns about data interpretation
I’m quite interested in what you are thinking and
doing and also I am…I want to give you some help . .
. because, you know, the culture is very complicated
thing. . . . Although you stayed in China or in Hong
Kong for some, for a few years, but maybe I think
you’re not very well understand. You’re not well
understand about the culture in China, but I think
the understanding of the culture is quite important
in your research. So I think if I know what you are
thinking and you are doing, maybe something I
know, maybe you are not right, so I can tell you.(KZ )
6. Researching multilingually
(language as a resource in the research process)
“the use of more than one language in
the research process and its
• Cf. researching multilingualism
• Cf. Researching monolingually
Invites considerations about language(s) in:
• initial research design
• the literature review
• consent procedures
• data generation, recording & transcription,
• reporting/writing up
• institutional policies => language choices,
• interpretation and translation practices
• the language politics of representation and
Researching multilingually involves:
(ii) multilingual/intercultural spaces
(iii) Researcher intentionality /purposefulness
Holmes, P., Fay, R., Andrews, J., &
Attia, M. (2013)
• (Un)shared relationships among supervisors,
researcher(s), participants, translators/transcribers,
examiners, funders, publishers
• Negotiating trust, ethics, power and face
• Who speaks for whom, and how, when, and where?
• Identity (re)construction and (re)negotiation
– Avowal – the identity I ascribe to myself
– Ascription – the identity others ascribe to me (Collier,
(e.g., Ganassin & Holmes, 2013)
(ii) multilingual/intercultural spaces
• The research phenomena under investigation
– IC experiences of Chinese students
• the research context
– the classroom, social spaces on campus and in
• The research resources
– languages spoken by researcher and researched
• The representational possibilities
– writing up; publishing
(a 3-step process)
• triggering realisation
– “Can I do that?” “Am I allowed to do that?”
• developing awareness
• informed thinking and practice
My attempts at RM-ly
• Challenges for ppts in working in English?
• Speaking in interviews required ppts to use
complex cognitive and affective processes in
• What was their experience of using English (in
NZ, with me)? Cf. their own
• Usefulness of focus groups? (see Ganassin &
Holmes, 2013; Hesse-Biber, 2012)
Assymetrical linguistic competence
(Ganassin & Holmes, 2013)
(from my data)
I’m quite [a] slow thinker, I mean, I need time to think of the
question. If interview straight away the question, I sometimes,
when I, the answer that I give, [I] have to justify or change
later when I think more about it. Or I might have something to
I don’t like to have interview because I feel uncomfortable, you
know, because I have to speak English. … Sometime we have
interview, I have, I don’t understand. I think that difficult
question also good for me, to think about it. (M)
This question is quite abstract now! (YR)
Conclusions to the study
• Participants’ motivations changed
• Dual reflexivity
– participants demonstrated sense making, agency ,
– researcher responsibility (for well-being , protection ,
ethics of reporting )
• (RM-ly praxis)
• Tension between researcher values and multiple
meanings the participants ascribe to the research
focus and process
…and the participants’ conclusions…
It makes me think whether I value coming
here [to this study] has had any impact on
my life or not. . . . Initially, [it was] just like
[an] obligation because I agreed, but now I
feel it’s a contribution, it is a sort of
pleasure, no[t] to say it’s a pleasure, but
it’s good. I don’t mind, I like it. (WK)
Through this interview I can clear my mind
and I’m thinking, “Why I’m different from
the other people, and why I come here?”
and I can explain to you and I can also
explain to myself as well. . . I can show my
idea. I get feedback about my idea from
another person. That’s what I like. (LJ)
Where to next?
(a methodology for understanding
• intercultural communication between two or
more people with shared and unshared realities
(e.g., linguistic, religious, national, ethnic, gender,
PEER model of intercultural interaction
• Prepare, Engage, Evaluate, Reflect
(Holmes & O’Neil, 2010; 2012)
Synthesising Eurocentrism and Asiacentrism
• something more universal?
social constructionism, phenomenology, identity
• blending Asiacentrism
Interdependence, relationality, circularity