Michela Menegatti and Monica Rubini
Language is one of the most powerful means through which sexism and gender discrimination are perpetrated and reproduced. The content of gender stereotypes, according to which women should display communal/warmth traits and men should display agentic/competence traits, is reflected in the lexical choices of everyday communication. As a consequence, language subtly reproduces the societal asymmetries of status and power in favor of men, which are attached to the corresponding social roles. Moreover, the hidden yet consensual norm according to which the prototypical human being is male is embedded in the structure of many languages. Grammatical and syntactical rules are built in a way that feminine terms usually derive from the corresponding masculine form. Similarly, masculine nouns and pronouns are often used with a generic function to refer to both men and women. However, such linguistic forms have the negative effects of making women disappear in mental representations. Although the use of gender-fair linguistic expressions can effectively prevent these negative consequences and promote gender equality, there are even more implicit forms of gender bias in language that are difficult to suppress. By choosing terms at different levels of abstraction, people can affect the attributions of the receiver in a way that is consistent with their stereotypical beliefs. Linguistic abstraction, thus, is a very subtle resource used to represent women in a less favorable way and thus to enact gender discrimination without meaning to discriminate or even be aware that this linguistic behavior has discriminatory results. In order to reduce gender bias, it is necessary to change people’s linguistic habits by making them aware of the beneficial effects of gender-fair expressions.
William A. Donohue
Understanding intergroup communication in the context of genocide and mass killing begins with an exploration of how this kind of communication can devolve into such heinous human tragedies. How does communication set the stage that enables groups to pursue this path? The literature suggests that genocide is preceded by a period of intense communication that seeks to exacerbate racial divides while also providing social sanctions for killing as a solution to this intergroup strengthening activity. As individuals use language in their intergroup exchanges that seeks to build their own identity through the derogation of an outgroup, they become trapped in a conflict paradox that can then lead to violence or genocide. Strategies for detecting language associated with forming an identity trap and then dealing with it are also discussed.
Hans J. Ladegaard
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Please check back later for the full article.
The conceptualization of “culture” as a concept, as well as the degree to which “culture” is said to determine, or at least influence, our behavior, has been discussed and contested like perhaps no other concept in language and communication research since the late 20th century. Since Hofstede’s ground-breaking research on work-related values in the 1980s, scholars from a variety of disciplines have discussed how to conceptualize “culture,” how to best research it, and how to provide evidence for or against the idea of national cultures. Hofstede’s research argues that members of the same national groups have the same cultural characteristics, which makes it possible to talk about national cultures. However, more recent research argues that culture is a process that is constantly changing, and being changed, in the ongoing co-production of meaning by participants in intergroup encounters.
How and the extent to which globalization changes culture have also been discussed in recent years. Some scholars argue that globalization leads to sameness and uniformity and ultimately to the end of the nation state as we know it today. Others disagree and argue that globalization leads to a strengthening of the nation state and of the cultural values we tend to associate with it.
The importance of “culture” as an analytical concept in (intercultural) communication research is yet another pertinent topic in the literature. Some scholars have argued that the culture concept has lost its potency as a meaningful analytical concept and therefore should no longer take center stage in communication research. Others have argued that from a minority-group perspective, culture will always be salient and a determining factor for behavior.
Stuart Hall was a Jamaican-born, British-based theorist, critic, and activist, who flourished between the late 1950s and his death in 2014. Known both for his theoretical and empirical work on culture and communication and for his role as a public intellectual, Hall produced scholarly writings and charismatic teaching that were matched by his columns and interviews in magazines and newspapers and appearances on television and radio.
Marco Briziarelli and Jeff Hoffmann
Hegemony generally refers to the mechanisms and dynamics describing how a determinate group comes to organize its ruling at multiple levels, such as the political economic, social, cultural, and linguistic. In communication studies, the term is almost automatically associated with the particular conceptualization of Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci, who provides a way to describe and explore the critical link between “power,” culture, and communicative practices. However, different readings of Gramscian hegemony, mediated by different traditions inside the discipline, have produced competing and evolving definitions. The common trait of all these approaches is an interpretation that tends to privilege “consent” over “coercion,” “leadership” over “domination,” and “civil society” over the “state.” Finally, a narrative is provided regarding how the concept gradually moved out of its Marxist origin to become a more sociologically abstract account of organized asymmetric power relations.
Diana Cárdenas, Roxane de la Sablonnière, and Donald M. Taylor
Indigenous languages are at the verge of extinction. For many indigenous communities, saving their languages means protecting one of the last-standing symbols of their cultural identity, a symbol that has survived a history of colonization and that can impact their well-being. If indigenous languages are to survive, language revitalization strategies need to be adopted by indigenous communities and governments. One such strategy is language revitalization planning, where communities and governments are actively engaged in changing the way group members use language. Language revitalization plans are often derived from two theoretical stands, either language reversal theory (which adopts a language-autonomy perspective) or language vitality (which focuses on the factors that favor a linguistic group’s survival).
Language revitalization strategies also involve some form of bilingual education. Bilingual education in indigenous communities allows indigenous children to learn, and hence to gain competency in, both their indigenous language and the mainstream language. Strong forms of bilingualism, as opposed to weak forms of bilingualism, have great potential for nourishing competency in indigenous languages, because they give equal value to the indigenous language and the mainstream language.
Language revitalization strategies also need to consider the collective functions of language, or how groups use their language. Language can be used by groups as a vehicle for cultural knowledge, as a symbol of identity, and as a tool for communicating in formal and informal settings. Strengthening the collective function of indigenous languages is essential to their survival.
In the case of indigenous people, every single step taken to revitalize their languages (language planning, bilingual education, and the collective functions of language) is an affirmation of their continuous existence in the world, upholding their distinctiveness from colonizers. This “collective existential affirmation” of indigenous people may very well be the drive needed to achieve language revival.
Conflict, as part of interpersonal interactions, occurs in specific cultural settings. Viewing conflict as cultural behavior helps explain why disputes over seemingly similar issues can be handled so dissimilarly in different cultures. There have been numerous cross-cultural comparison studies of different conflict management strategies, most of them utilizing a “national culture” approach. The findings reported in the cross-cultural conflict literature point to a picture that collectivists value harmonious interpersonal relationships with others, preferring indirect or avoiding styles of dealing with conflict and showing concern for face-saving. Understanding the range of behavior choices and strategies available to manage conflict as well as differences in preferred styles adds considerably to people’s skills as effective communicators.
Federica Pieragostini, Bruno Gabriel Salvador Casara, and Caterina Suitner
Globalization is making interethnic communication an increasingly widespread issue. The reduction of actual and psychological distances due to migratory flows and media communication increases contact opportunities between individuals from different ethnic groups. Communication between members belonging to different ethnic groups can also be considered a challenge as it brings in more general intergroup controversies. Ethnicity affects both verbal and nonverbal communication at different intensity levels. For example, using verbal communication, interethnic conflict may emerge through the use of hate speech, and—at a lower intensity level—may also emerge by the subtle use of pronouns (e.g., avoiding the use of “we” to exclude members of other groups). Similarly, in nonverbal communication, interethnic conflicts may strongly be evident in explicit exclusion behaviors, but also in subtler cues such as by enhancing spatial distance from persons belonging to other groups. Ethnic identities and their implications are also evident in and influenced by mass media narratives, which mirror, establish, and perpetuate inequalities and discrimination. Interethnic communication is therefore a challenge and an opportunity to understand and to improve relationships between ethnic groups.
Labor in the global neoliberal economy is configured by overlapping networks of power in a manner that sustains imperial patterns between nations and the profitability of transnational corporations (TNCs) in many ways. New forms of institutional controls enabled by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund usher in new categories of workers—part-time, temporary, flexible—and precarious forms of work. The advancement of technology is increasingly interdependent on the exploitation of labor. This article critically explores the implications of neoliberalism in transnational labor involving women employees and the employees in the offshoring industry in general in the global South—the two workforce categories boosting profits for TNCs but remaining invisible for the most part and suffering precarity while driving global capitalism.
Jonathan van 't Riet, Jorinde Spook, Paul E. Ketelaar, and Arief Huhn
Many of us use smartphones, and many smartphones are equipped with the Global Positioning System (GPS). This enables health promoters to send us messages on specific locations where healthy behavior is possible or where we are at risk of unhealthy behavior. Until now, the practice of sending location-based messages has been mostly restricted to commercial advertisements, most often in retail settings. However, opportunities for health promotion practice are vast. For one, location-based messages can be used to complement environmental interventions, where the environment is changed to promote health behavior. Second, location-based messages incorporate opportunities to tailor these messages to individual characteristics of the recipient, increasing perceived relevance. Finally, location-based messages offer the distinct possibility to communicate context-dependent social norm information. Five preliminary studies tested the effects of location-based messages targeting food choice. The results suggest that sending location-based messages is feasible and can be effective. Future studies should explore which messages are most effective under which circumstances.