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(Mis)communication, Conflict and Compromise: Intercultural Encounters in the Internationalising University

by Professor Hans J Ladegaard, Head of Department of English, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Conference/Seminars
Date                  1 February 2016
Time                 5:00pm-6:00pm
Venue               AG434
The talk will be conducted in English.

Abstract
Recent research has shown that increasing the number of international students and staff in universities does not necessarily make the campus more ‘international’. Ladegaard & Cheng (2014) found that local and non-local students live completely separate on campus and do not work together, let alone socialize, unless forced to do so by their teachers. Lack of cultural awareness may be one of the reasons why local and international students do not interact, and scholars have recommended that universities should play a more proactive role in promoting intercultural competence. In this talk I argue that the major obstacle for successful integration between local and non-local students and staff is not lack of knowledge, but negative outgroup stereotypes and prejudice. I report on an ongoing study of international students’ experience of sojourn in Hong Kong. the talk analyses discourse excerpts from informal group discussions among international students, and the examples show that for some students, meeting ‘the other’ has been associated with disquieting tension more than anything (Bredella 2003). Despite their commitment to the intercultural endeavour, they feel their integration has been inhibited by their own or other people’s prejudice. I conclude that real dialogue, which addresses taboos and painful issues and seeks compromises, and the courage to question our own and other people’s ethnocentric discourses, should be the way forward if local and non-local students and staff are to integrate and work together in meaningful ways.

About the speaker
Hans J Ladegaard studied at Odense University, Denmark and Cambridge University, England. Prior to his present post as Professor and Head of the Department of English at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, he taught at HK Baptist University, the University of Southern Denmark, and Cambridge University. His research interests include intercultural and intergroup communication, language attitudes and stereotypes, language and gender, narratives of migration, and pragmatics and discourse analysis, and he has published widely on these issues in international journals and books. His recent monograph, The Discourse of Powerlessness and Repression: Life Stories of Domestic Migrant Workers in Hong Kong, will be published by Routledge in 2016. He is Co-Editor and Review editor of Pragmatics & Society (John Benjamins).

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