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Human Encounters

Introduction to Intercultural Communication

Oyvind Dahl

This book gives a comprehensive introduction to intercultural communication. 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 bodylanguage; different understandings of time; relocation in new settings; the use of power and how to deal with cultural conflicts generally.

Published as a general textbook in English for the first time following a very successful original edition in Norwegian, also translated to Russian and French, this richly-illustrated book offers a refreshing and engaging introduction to intercultural understanding

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CHAPTER 9 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.

Second, we use the word identity as an expression for how a person or a group perceives himself or itself or what others perceive to be constant characteristics of the person or group. In this sense it refers to belonging...

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