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‘I’m afraid there are no easy fixes’ : reflections on teaching intercultural communication through embracing vulnerability

Badwan, Khawla ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1808-724X (2021) ‘I’m afraid there are no easy fixes’ : reflections on teaching intercultural communication through embracing vulnerability. In: Intercultural Pedagogies for Higher Education in Conditions of Conflict and Crises: Culture, Identity, Language. Routledge Studies in Language and Intercultural Communication . Routledge, London. ISBN 9780367714123 (In Press)

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Abstract

In this chapter, I present a pedagogical approach that demonstrates the potential for embracing vulnerability as a critical intercultural pedagogy, inspired by feminist and post-humanist thinking. I start by discussing my positionality as an educator from the Global South teaching about language, culture and communication to a diverse student population situated in the Global North. After that, I introduce three types of vulnerability: individual, collective and disciplinary. Individual vulnerability stems from the need to unthink mastery (Singh, 2018) in order to decreate the self (Weil, 2002) and challenge binaries and hierarchical orderings upon which Western knowledge is constructed (Foucault, 1980, 1984). Collective vulnerability highlights the inevitable dependence on one another and on everything around us (Butler, 2004). As a pedagogical approach, it critiques, and responds to, notions such as competence, mastery and confidence in our cultural knowledge and worldviews. It enables new ways for unlearning essentialism and easy fixes in order to embrace uncertainty as a state of being. Disciplinary vulnerability fosters the epistemology of the perfect imperfection of understanding culture, a step towards liberating it from ontologies of thingification and objectification (Césaire, 2001). Together, these types of vulnerability can be utilised as a teaching pedagogy that resists colonial mastery and intercultural confidence in order to unlearn discourses of dehumanism and prejudices. I conclude by highlighting the role of vulnerability in renovating, decreating and co-creating new knowledge and discourses which are conceptually unlimiting and socio-politically more inclusive. Together, this chapter develops a critical intercultural pedagogy grounded in multiple types of vulnerabilities that harness willingness for (un)learning, listening, observing, remaking and becoming; all of which are integral to developing a sense of global citizenship. Developed with and through vulnerabilities, this chapter calls on us to challenge what is ‘known’ and who is regarded as the ‘knower’, deconstructing oppressive epistemic systems and distributing knowledge across the Global South and the Global North.

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