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Intercultural Communication with China

A major objective of this book is to identify the key determinants of the “East” and the “West” in the field of intercultural communication. It examines but also counter-attacks essentialist and culturalist analyses of intercultural communication between China and the rest of the world. Offering a cross-country examination and comparison of drought awareness and experience, this book shows two fields of research, which are complementary but rarely found side by side, i.e. the Arts and Intercultural Encounters, serve as illustrations for theoretical and methodological discussions about intercultural communication between China and the West. Scholarly and media discourses will find this work thought-provoking, instructive and informative.

New forth. book

Book title: Critical Interculturality: Lectures and Notes (2017, Newcastle: CSP)

Series title: Post-intercultural Communication and Education

This book offers new critical and interdisciplinary insights into intercultural communication and education. It assembles previously unpublished lectures delivered in different countries (Canada, China, Finland, Russia and the USA), as well as notes on intercultural events and encounters. The lectures propose conceptual, theoretical, and methodological discussions, and introduce a range of examples to encourage readers to reappraise their own ways of thinking about interculturality. The notes help readers to develop their critical and reflexive thinking. Critical Interculturality represents an attempt to fill a lacuna by helping students, practitioners, scholars and decision-makers to understand the complexities of critical interculturality. The book also stimulates discussion about the challenges ahead.


Fred Dervin (文德) is Professor of Multicultural Education at the University of Helsinki (Finland), where he leads the TENSION Research Group (Criticality, Interculturality and Bias in Education). Dervin has been awarded several honorary titles in Australia, Canada, China, Luxembourg, Malaysia and Sweden. He is a leading authority on multicultural/intercultural education in the world.

New book on intercultural competencies

HIGHLY recommended!

A memoir and more. Seth Polley, a once well-employed Episcopal priest, tells the story of the night he lit up to avoid burn out. Humorous and poignant, autobiographical and then some, The Vicar’s Night Out is Polley’s first foray into telling the story about what happened when Polley went green, things went south, and he wound up back in high school.

“In this moving and exciting story Seth Polley has managed to give novelty and originality to a story that is more and more common today: The experience of burnout. What makes the book original is the fact that the main character is a priest, who finds solace in marijuana. Set in Bisbee Arizona, on the border between Mexico and the US, The Vicar’s Night Out will enchant readers who know this fascinating town. Polley has a real gift of storytelling that absorbs. Definitely a writer worth following!”
Prof. Fred Dervin, University of Helsinki, Finland


Coming soon

Intercultural Communication with China

Beyond (Reverse) Essentialism and Culturalism?

Dervin, Fred, Machart, Regis (Eds.). 2017.

  • Helps readers to reflect critically on intercultural encounters between China and the ‘West’
  • Provides readers with interdisciplinary theoretical and methodological tools to work on interculturality
  • Solves coherently and systematically major issues related to essentialism and culturalism

Check HERE


Call for Chapters
Interculturality and the Political
Eds. Ashley Simpson & Fred Dervin, University of Helsinki, Finland
Deadline for abstracts: 1st March 2017

Purpose of the book
The notion of the ‘intercultural’ dates back to the 1950s – although many of the ideas that it discusses have, of course, a much longer history. In over 70 years and in the different fields that have used the notion, as one would expect, the ‘intercultural’ has witnessed changes in the way it is defined, constructed, researched, practiced. However, it has also retained some of its original flavours (e.g. culturalism, see Abdallah-Pretceille, 1986). Highly ideological, the ‘intercultural’ is being used in different ways across the globe, and sometimes interchangeably with other notions and concepts such as multicultural, transcultural and even global. In the 2010s ‘Western’ voices are still dominant in the ways the ‘intercultural’ is constructed, although voices from the ‘peripheries’ are being heard little by little. Institutions like the EU and the Council of Europe have used, abused and misused the notion over the past 30 years, passing onto practitioners and researchers a certain number of biases, stereotypes and uncritically reflexive positions, well beyond the geo-political space that they cover. For the Council of Europe, the ‘intercultural’ is misused today to support the idea of ‘our’ (European) democracy while for the EU it is used as a way of promoting, amongst others, some form of imagined (and implicitly superior) European identity and culture.

Building on critical work on intercultural education (Piller, 2010; Dervin & Liddicoat, 2013; Dervin, 2016; Dervin & Gross, 2016; Dasli & Diaz, 2017) and intercultural communication (Holliday, 2010, 2013; Clark & Dervin, 2014) from the past decade, this book aims to problematise the ‘intercultural’ from the perspective of the ‘hidden’, which is often represented by the ‘political’. The form of interculturality, suggested here, examines the ideologies behind discourses of cultural and societal differences, encounters but also the forms of bias and manipulation that go with them. The main goal is to dive under the surface of neutrality and objectivity that pollute research and practice (Dervin, 2016). Finally, the volume aims to contribute to drain the marsh of emptiness that the ‘intercultural’ often experiences.

Here it is important to delineate our take on the political. By the political we mean spaces of power, conflict and antagonism (Mouffe, 2005a). This reading is based on an ontology of ‘the political’ (Mouffe, 2005a; 2005b; 2013), moving beyond ‘rationalist’ understandings of the political such as Jürgen Habermas’ (2015) deliberative approach to democracy. At the heart of an ontology of the political is the belief that the political is constituted by a number of simultaneously contradictory, ambiguous and antagonistic forces (Mouffe, 2013) (e.g., the constitution and formation of identities, how intersectionalities-come-into-being, the relationship within and between the others-within-the-self). Mouffe argues that ‘liberal thought’ is ‘blind’ to ‘the political’ as it essentialises ‘being as presence’, thus, engendering politics as an exteriorisation of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ (Ibid.). A focus on ‘the political’ acknowledges the permanent coexistence and irreducibility of antagonistic forces inherent within societies (Ibid.).

This understanding of the political runs contra to Eurocentric and Anglophone notions of ‘democratic values’, which, historically, have focused on the universality and rationality of political concepts and values (including the ‘intercultural’). In Mouffe’s understanding of ‘the political’ one must distinguish between antagonism and agonism – agonism being the re-accentuation of the political towards the possibility of a ‘democracy’ which does not deny the radical negativity found within subjectivities (Mouffe, 2013). An agonistic approach to ‘democracy’ embraces the plurality of meanings and the possibility of multi and varied forms of ‘democracy’ depending upon how ‘democracy’ comes-into-being within a given context (Ibid.). Therefore, the political moves beyond the ‘Westernisation’ of political thought and encourages its accentuation and reaccentuation through spatial and geographical differentiations, linguistic differentiations, intersectional differentiations, amongst others.

In this book, we aim to problematise the political within the intercultural and the intercultural within the political. The book seeks to engage in a critical dialogue with current practices and discourses across differing spaces and places. The focus on ‘the political’ offers an alternative trajectory to explore interculturality. The volume will appeal to a number of interdisciplinary fields including educational theory and practice, political theory and practice, sociology, cultural studies, linguistics and language education and, communication studies.


Questions to be addressed:

* How is the relationship between interculturality and the political understood in research, practice, policy-making and daily interactions?
* In the wake of intercultural approaches how is the political constituted and constructed? How does it come-into-being?
* How are political struggles (Race/Gender/Sexuality etc.) constructed and negotiated in combination with interculturality? How are notions of struggle/resistance understood within interculturality? Can interculturality support these struggles?
* To what extent does e.g. education attempt to introduce and/or sanitise the political in interculturality by imposing ideas such as democracy, human rights but also tolerance and respect?
* What is the role of ‘democracy’/‘human rights’ in interculturality today? How can one develop critical intercultural methods/approaches/practices to ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’?
* Finally, can interculturality encourage people to develop political strategies of ‘resistance’?

Themes for contributors:
– The relevancies and significances of interculturality in relation to the political.
– Interculturality and confrontations/antagonisms/encounters with the political.
– Theoretical approaches to interculturality and the political.
– Hidden agendas in dealing with interculturality.
– ‘Values’, ‘the ethical’ and the Other (the moralisation, the ethicalisation, and, the humanitarianisation of the Other).
– ‘Democracy’/ ‘human rights’ education and interculturality.
– Racism, anti-racism, (Neo-/post-)colonialism and interculturality.
– Interculturality and power.
– Gender, sexuality and interculturality.
– Discourse tools/strategies for critical intercultural education.
– (Im)possible strategies of ‘resistance’ and interculturality (art as resistance, performance as resistance, non-violence strategies, occupying spaces and places, etc.).
– Reflexivity, the political and interculturality.
– Language, interculturality and the political.

Abstract of proposed chapter (300 words): 1st March 2017
Answer to authors: 15th March 2017
Full chapters to be submitted: 1st September 2017 (double blind peer review)

Potential authors are invited to submit a 300-word proposal (+ a few lines about the author(s) to the editors (<> +<> – please no pdf!
The proposed book will be submitted to Routledge.


Abdallah-Pretceille, M. (1986). Vers une pédagogie interculturelle. Paris: PUF.
Clark, J.S.B. and Dervin, F., 2014. Reflexivity in language and intercultural education: Rethinking multilingualism and interculturality. London: Routledge.
Dasli, M. and Díaz, A.R. eds., 2017. The Critical Turn in Language and Intercultural Communication Pedagogy: Theory, Research and Practice. New York/Oxon: Routledge.
Dervin, F., 2016. Interculturality in education: A theoretical and methodological toolbox. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Dervin, F. and Gross, Z. eds., 2016. Intercultural Competence in Education: Alternative Approaches for Different Times. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Dervin, F. and Liddicoat, A.J. eds., 2013. Linguistics for intercultural education. Amsterdam John Benjamins Publishing
Habermas, J., 2015. Between facts and norms: Contributions to a discourse theory of law and democracy. London: Polity Press.
Holliday, A., 2013. Understanding intercultural communication: Negotiating a grammar of culture. London: Routledge.
Holliday, A., 2010. Intercultural communication & ideology. London/New York: Sage.
Mouffe, C., 2013. Agonistics: thinking the world politically. London/New York: Verso.
Mouffe, C., 2005a. On the political. London/New York: Routledge.
Mouffe, C., 2005b. The return of the political. London: Verso.

New article

Haiqin Liu & Fred Dervin (2017): ‘Education is a life marathon rather than a hundred-meter race’: Chinese ‘folk’ comparative discourses on Finnish education, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education
Free online copies available here



Over the past decade Finnish education has been praised worldwide for its students’ ‘amazing’ results in the OECD PISA studies. Thousands of pedagogical tourists – including policy-makers, researchers and educators – have visited the country to find out about the reasons behind the success and to borrow, often uncritically and un-reflexively, Finnish practices that can help them to become ‘good performers’ too. This has resulted in what we call ‘folk’ comparative discourses on Finland. China is no exception to the rule. In this article we examine a range of books about Finnish education published in the Middle Kingdom (China) for a general rather than narrowly specialist readership. We are interested in how these volumes construct certain images and myths about it and what these tell us about how the authors view Chinese education but also current societal discussions about it. Our approach is based on critical and reflexive interculturality.

Talk at Institut français Feb 2017 (Helsinki)



Transdisciplinary Approaches to Language Learning and Teaching in Transnational Times, in Volume 8 Issue 4 of the L2 Journal.

Edited by Julie Byrd Clark

A Transdisciplinary Approach to Examining and Confidence-Boosting the Experiences of Chinese Teachers of Chinese in Finland
Liu, Haiqin & Dervin, Fred