We present a field study concerning the introduction in a group of teenagers living with their families in a multicultural dwelling cooperative sited in Padua, Italy, of the competence in information technology required to build a web site of their cooperative. The research group proposed the construction of the website, assisted the teenagers in the acquisition of the necessary skills, and was involved in the complex social processes which accompanied the acquisition of the competence and the design of the website by the teenagers. The research group expected to find emergent patterns of the different specific cultural, religious, and ethnic "identities" which the teenagers were supposed to possess. On the contrary, we found that in everyday life the teenagers presented themselves, at first sight, just as teenagers instead than as persons possessing a single and fixed "identity". Instead of preexisting and fixed "identities" mobile "identification processes" emerged in the different specific situations of everyday life (Baumann, 1996, 1999; Mantovani, 2000, 2004). Everyday practices such as discourse, cooperation during the learning activities, and narratives of the teenagers about themselves were video recorded and analyzed using a methodology of etnographically oriented discourse analysis (Duranti, 1994, 1997); the key concepts used were those of the situational "positioning" of the actors, of the "system of activity" (Goodwin, 1994) in which the actors were involved, and of the overall "history of the project". The corpus of video records analyzed amounts to 30 hours for 20 sessions and collected during a period of 12 months. A pragmatic perspective has been proved necessary both theoretically and methodologically to study intercultural processes. To study the interactions taking place among people coming from different backgrounds requires that no previous, fixed, stereotyped categories: new meanings are created moment-by-moment by social actors through their practical intercourse. Current cross-cultural research considers "cultures" as homogeneous, stable and coherent entities capable of controlling the actions and the minds of the person who "belong" to them. In this way the "agency" which actors constantly exhibit in their everyday life is ignored: actors are supposed to act constantly according to their "culture" (Triandis, 1989; Markus and Kitayama, 1991). "Culture" itself undergoes a process of "reification" in cross cultural research: it ceases to be a narrative, controversial construction and it is transformed in a "badge" used to distinguish the members of mutually exclusive social groups (Amselle, 1990, 2001. On the contrary, a pragmatic approach allows to focus on the performative aspects of the interaction, in which actors re-define themselves through their practices adapting themselves smoothly to different situations. In order to understand what happens in intercultural contexts the traditional research strategy that uses general concepts to illuminate specific situations is no longer valid, just because the "general", "universal" concepts are put at risk in the intercultural contexts (Chakrabarty, 2000). The only viable methodological route available in situations in which "the other" has to be recognized as (at least partially) "other" is that of relying on the multiple, changing, often dissonant narratives offered by the actors involved.

Focussing on contact zones: Pragmatics in intercultural research

COTTONE, PAOLO FRANCESCO;
2005

Abstract

We present a field study concerning the introduction in a group of teenagers living with their families in a multicultural dwelling cooperative sited in Padua, Italy, of the competence in information technology required to build a web site of their cooperative. The research group proposed the construction of the website, assisted the teenagers in the acquisition of the necessary skills, and was involved in the complex social processes which accompanied the acquisition of the competence and the design of the website by the teenagers. The research group expected to find emergent patterns of the different specific cultural, religious, and ethnic "identities" which the teenagers were supposed to possess. On the contrary, we found that in everyday life the teenagers presented themselves, at first sight, just as teenagers instead than as persons possessing a single and fixed "identity". Instead of preexisting and fixed "identities" mobile "identification processes" emerged in the different specific situations of everyday life (Baumann, 1996, 1999; Mantovani, 2000, 2004). Everyday practices such as discourse, cooperation during the learning activities, and narratives of the teenagers about themselves were video recorded and analyzed using a methodology of etnographically oriented discourse analysis (Duranti, 1994, 1997); the key concepts used were those of the situational "positioning" of the actors, of the "system of activity" (Goodwin, 1994) in which the actors were involved, and of the overall "history of the project". The corpus of video records analyzed amounts to 30 hours for 20 sessions and collected during a period of 12 months. A pragmatic perspective has been proved necessary both theoretically and methodologically to study intercultural processes. To study the interactions taking place among people coming from different backgrounds requires that no previous, fixed, stereotyped categories: new meanings are created moment-by-moment by social actors through their practical intercourse. Current cross-cultural research considers "cultures" as homogeneous, stable and coherent entities capable of controlling the actions and the minds of the person who "belong" to them. In this way the "agency" which actors constantly exhibit in their everyday life is ignored: actors are supposed to act constantly according to their "culture" (Triandis, 1989; Markus and Kitayama, 1991). "Culture" itself undergoes a process of "reification" in cross cultural research: it ceases to be a narrative, controversial construction and it is transformed in a "badge" used to distinguish the members of mutually exclusive social groups (Amselle, 1990, 2001. On the contrary, a pragmatic approach allows to focus on the performative aspects of the interaction, in which actors re-define themselves through their practices adapting themselves smoothly to different situations. In order to understand what happens in intercultural contexts the traditional research strategy that uses general concepts to illuminate specific situations is no longer valid, just because the "general", "universal" concepts are put at risk in the intercultural contexts (Chakrabarty, 2000). The only viable methodological route available in situations in which "the other" has to be recognized as (at least partially) "other" is that of relying on the multiple, changing, often dissonant narratives offered by the actors involved.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11577/1421995
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