Prefigurations of Intercultural Thinking: Explorations in Ancient Mediterranean and Chinese Sources
Journal: Journal of Intercultural Communication & Interactions Research Volume 1 Issue 1 Year 2021 pp. 101 - 134
A very recent history of intercultural communication traces the field back to the formation of culture as a concept in mid-17th century Europe. Does this mean that interculturality came into being at that time? If it is indeed only a fairly recent development, it will not have strong roots in our collective civilizational history and might thus be easily overturned by countercurrents. We should therefore inquire whether earlier documentations of interculturality exist. This essay examines the earliest expressions of intercultural thought that are still accessible to us, while acknowledging that any so-called first traces are already marked by echoes and duplications. Hence the essay offers a synthesis which has not been attempted before. We find early expressions of interculturality in the Mediterranean region, a fertile contact zone connecting the European, African, and Asian continents, but equally in ancient China. The chief categories that are discernible from the records are foreign languages, countering ethnocentric bias, travel experience, and cosmopolitan thought. The evidence shows that historical discourses form irreducible interactional identities, and that these are effective in shaping the growth of major analytical perspectives which concern us at present. Accordingly, what might seem to be remote historical experience can gain a new role in our time’s emerging multicultural global order.