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Theoretical and methodological possibilities and challenges for researching encounters with Chinese people/communities

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Theoretical and methodological possibilities and challenges for researching encounters with Chinese people/communities

  1. 1. 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
  2. 2. Preview 1. The researcher’s (subjective) positioning 2. The problem with “isms”: What theoretical possibilities emerge? Eurocentrism; Asiacentrism 3. In search of something more universal? Social constructionism, Phenomenology, Identity 4. My researcher experiences in researching Chinese students’ IC/learning 5. The reflexive researcher 6. Researching multilingually 7. Conclusions and where to next
  3. 3. 1. The researcher’s (subjective) positioning • Bracketing my own experience in the research process • Providing autobiographical or personal information that serves to establish and assert authority (Fine, Weis, Weseen, & Wong, 2000)
  4. 4. • “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, 1971)
  5. 5. 2. Getting started! The problem with “isms”: What theoretical possibilities emerge? - Eurocentrism and Asiacentrism • What might a synthesis offer?
  6. 6. Synthesising two dualisms: Eurocentrism and Asiacentrism • Can “Western” theories of communication inform non-Western (intercultural) communication experiences, and the contexts in which they occur? • 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)
  7. 7. Five biases of Eurocentric theory 1. Individuality and Independence Bias • Communication is often an expression of unique individuality, a demonstration of independence. • Communication is a process in which we remind ourselves of the interdependence and interrelatedness of the universe.
  8. 8. 2. Ego-Centeredness and Self-Enhancement Bias • Communication is a process in which we enhance our self- esteem and protect our self-interest. • Communication is a process in which we reduce our selfishness and egocentrism. • It fosters our sense of connection and cooperation from the interpersonal level to the cosmological level.
  9. 9. 3. Reason and Rationality Bias Eurocentric rhetorical theories underscore reason and rationality (of speaking clearly and convincingly). Communication is a process in which we feel the joy and suffering of all sentient beings (a focus on emotion and listening “renqing”).
  10. 10. 4. Rights and Freedom Bias • Communication is conceptualized as a means of gaining our individual freedom and liberating ourselves from oppression. • Rights and liberty are complemented by responsibility and obligation. • Communication is a process in which we receive and return our debts to all sentient beings.
  11. 11. 5. Pragmatism and Materialism Bias Morality and harmony are sometimes marginalized by pragmatic and materialistic inclinations. Communication is a process in which we moralize and harmonize the universe.
  12. 12. Theoretical diversity in Eurocentric scholarship • Feminism – the salience of interdependence and the profundity of feeling. • Dialogical communication – empathy and other directedness. • Communication ethics – the importance of civility and morality. • Environmental and spiritual communication – ecological harmony and spiritual liberation. • Philosophy –capabilities; cosmopolitan citizenship.
  13. 13. Conclusion The need to move beyond dualistic thinking and theorising: • divergence in convergence /convergence in divergence (within and across Eastern and Western traditions) • local community /the global society • provincial specificity/universal applicability • local resonance/global significance
  14. 14. 3. In search of something more universal? My approach… • Social constructionism • Phenomenology • Verstehen • Identity
  15. 15. Social constructionism How individuals experience the world in their daily (socially constructed) interactions and communication with others (Berger & Luckmann, 1966)
  16. 16. Phenomenology – A self-conscious examination of lived experience (through engagement with others) – The multiple realities and identities that individuals construct and inhabit “…the world of everyday life [that] is the scene and also the object of our actions and interactions.” (Schutz, 1973, p. 209)
  17. 17. Verstehen –how the researcher comes to know and understand the actor’s own perspective –a process of moving into the mind of the other through empathy
  18. 18. Identity – Social class, history, family, education, geography, memory, gender, beliefs/values, ethnicity, politics, nation-state, other 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 contradictory identities pulling in different directions, so that our identifications are continuously being shifted about.” (Hall, 2006: 251)
  19. 19. 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 • Interviews • Fieldwork (observation—in the classroom??, in the field) – “thick description” (Geertz, 1973) – “methodological assemblage” (Najar, 2014) • Data analysis (Nvivo) • Validity/reliability => transferability
  20. 20. 5. The reflexive researcher (Holmes, 2014) • … 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.
  21. 21. • 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 ethnographer. (Altheide & Johnson, 2011, p. 592)
  22. 22. Researcher questions • 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 research experience? • What ethical and relational issues emerge between researcher and participants in the spaces of the research?
  23. 23. 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)
  24. 24. • AS: It’s just good to have a meeting time, lecturer, like you. • 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)
  25. 25. Relationship building • Reciprocal power relationship – I was intruding on their lifeworlds; I was bound to ppts to make my research happen. – They were feeling their way with me. • => The Godmother! • WK “Don’t take much notice of what I said in the first six months.” • 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.”
  26. 26. Building trust 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)
  27. 27. 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 )
  28. 28. 6. Researching multilingually (language as a resource in the research process) http://researchingmultilingually.com/ “the use of more than one language in the research process and its dissemination” • Cf. researching multilingualism • Cf. Researching monolingually
  29. 29. Researching multilingually…. Invites considerations about language(s) in: • initial research design • the literature review • consent procedures • data generation, recording & transcription, analysis • reporting/writing up • institutional policies => language choices, • interpretation and translation practices • the language politics of representation and dissemination.
  30. 30. Researching multilingually involves: (i) relationships (ii) multilingual/intercultural spaces (iii) Researcher intentionality /purposefulness Holmes, P., Fay, R., Andrews, J., & Attia, M. (2013)
  31. 31. (i) relationships • (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? (Krog, 2011) • Identity (re)construction and (re)negotiation – Avowal – the identity I ascribe to myself – Ascription – the identity others ascribe to me (Collier, 2005) (e.g., Ganassin & Holmes, 2013)
  32. 32. (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 community • The research resources – languages spoken by researcher and researched • The representational possibilities – writing up; publishing
  33. 33. (iii) intentionality/purposefulness (a 3-step process) • triggering realisation – “Can I do that?” “Am I allowed to do that?” • developing awareness • informed thinking and practice
  34. 34. 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 English. • What was their experience of using English (in NZ, with me)? Cf. their own languages/dialects? • Usefulness of focus groups? (see Ganassin & Holmes, 2013; Hesse-Biber, 2012)
  35. 35. 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 add. (AS) 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)
  36. 36. Conclusions to the study • Participants’ motivations changed • Dual reflexivity – participants demonstrated sense making, agency , power – 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
  37. 37. …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) …and…
  38. 38. 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)
  39. 39. Where to next? Intercultural encounters (a methodology for understanding intercultural communication)
  40. 40. Intercultural encounters… • intercultural communication between two or more people with shared and unshared realities (e.g., linguistic, religious, national, ethnic, gender, etc., etc.) 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
  41. 41. Thank you Prue Holmes p.m.holmes@durham.ac.uk

Notizen

  • 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.

    Transferability: credibility, trustworthiness, authenticity
  • 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.

    My PhD
  • 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.
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