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Researching multilingually and inter-epistemically: constructing a ‘cross-cultural dialogue’ between intercultural communication and Buddhism

Zhou, Vivien Xiaowei



In this talk, I discuss how I identified points of dialogue between intercultural communication theories and the Buddhist Middle Way by traversing linguistic and epistemic landscapes. In a study where I pondered the potential value of Buddhism for intercultural praxis (a research interest inspired by personal experience), I faced a web of challenges and resources when engaging with Buddhism for academic purposes, e.g. the ambiguous historical identity of Buddhism (e.g. religion, philosophy); the difficulty to pinpoint the original source of many Buddhist doctrines; my inability to read Buddhist scriptures in their original languages of dissemination (i.e. Pali, Sanskrit); the possibilities for me to access Buddhist literature and relevant commentaries via the languages I speak (Chinese and English).

Therefore, in the study in question, I drew on the linguistic and theoretical resources available to me (Stelma et al., 2013) and engaged with commentaries, academic essays, Dharma writings (and talks) contributed (in Chinese and English) by contemporary Buddhist scholars and teachers as well as the more original texts from historical Buddhist scriptures and treatises (via their Chinese and English translations). Through this literature exploration, I noted several areas where intercultural communication studies (especially the postmodernist paradigm) and Buddhist thoughts resonate, including their ontological and epistemological positions about truth, their goals to overcome essentialism, and the paradoxes they grapple with at the boundary between theory and practice. I also discovered some areas where Buddhism offers more elaborate analysis (e.g. human consciousness, psychology) and can potentially enrich intercultural communication studies.

In this talk, I present my journey of developing this ‘cross-cultural dialogue’ oriented mainly towards an Anglophone academic audience. I will illustrate the revealing moments that would not have been possible to me without this intercultural engagement with multi-type materials in my literature corpus. I also discuss how this study made me realise the superficiality (even falsity) of my earlier (lay) understandings of Buddhist teachings - a case for re-evaluating 'non-dominant knowledges' in contemporary studies of human communication.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name IALIC 2021 'Language, culture and interculturality: Global debates, local challenges'
Start Date Nov 22, 2021
End Date Nov 26, 2021
Deposit Date Nov 23, 2021
Keywords intercultural communication; Buddhism; researching multilingually; inter-epistemic dialogue
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