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Human Encounters

Introduction to Intercultural Communication


Øyvind Dahl

This book gives a comprehensive introduction to intercultural communication in the era of globalization. The reader is introduced to essential concepts in the field, different theories and methods of analysing communication, the importance of verbal and nonverbal languages for bringing about mutual understanding and, finally, the ethical challenges that arise.

The volume also has a practical aspect. The author discusses subjects such as handling encounters with people using foreign languages; incorporating different life styles and world views; the use of interpreters; non-familiar body language; different understandings of time; relocation in new settings; the use of power and how to deal with cultural conflicts generally.

Published in English for the first time following a very successful original edition in Norwegian, this richly-illustrated book offers a refreshing and engaging introduction to intercultural understanding.

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Chapter 9: Identity: Who Am I?


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Identity: Who Am I?

What do you see when you look in the mirror? A man, woman, your hairstyle, face, wrinkles, age, attire? Do you see a person who has particular parents, siblings, neighbours or friends? Do you see a person who has certain beliefs, who has specific social background, one who belongs to a particular religion, nation or ethnic group? Do you notice skin colour or an individual having a particular personality? Do you accept what you see? Or do you wish you were someone else? Are you honest? All these considerations refer to identity. How we perceive ourselves, the groups and categories we belong make us into who we are. In addition there are lot of things you cannot observe in the mirror.

Identity is a complex word and applied in many ways. The word originates from Latin, where idem means “the same”. It refers to aspects of a person, group or culture that is believed to be more or less invariable over time. In everyday language, the word is used in particular in two senses: first, we talk about identity in the sense that it is possible to identify a person, for example by checking an ID-card and social security number which makes an unambiguous identification possible.

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