Francesco Vacchiano (Università Ca' Foscari Venezia)
Matteo Benussi (Università Ca' Foscari Venezia)


From 15:00
to 16:30
From 15:00
to 16:30

Course description
The course provides an introduction to the main topics and issues in intercultural communication. Students will become acquainted with perspectives from different disciplines (anthropology, philosophy, political studies, religious studies, sociology, social psychology) and concrete examples of intercultural exchange. In addition to classroom activity and an engagement with the literature, the course includes a hands-on, practical side. Students will be invited to reflect on their own experiences of intercultural communication.
The course is divided into two modules. The first module, dedicated to seminar discussions of weekly readings (twice a week), is articulated into three tightly interconnected parts. Initially, we will unpack the key elements of intercultural communication: ‘communication’ (what constitutes communication? What is unique about how humans communicate?), ‘culture’ (what does this term refer to? What are some of the potential problems associated with its use?), and, for want of a better way to put it, ‘inter-ness’ (what are the contradictions of a multicultural, globalized world?). Subsequently, we shall explore a particularly important mode of intercultural encounter – the ethnographic method – and explore its applicability to a variety of situations, from scholarly projects to everyday life. By teasing out the most common difficulties associated to ethnography (intersubjective challenges, linguistic hurdles, power dynamics, etc.) and the methods used to overcome them, we will consider how to develop a posture of openness to intercultural encounters. Lastly, the course will zoom in on a particularly rich, if fraught, arena of intercultural communication, i.e., interfaith dialogue. A close look at concrete case studies will invite constructive reflection on the practicalities of dialogue across religious as well as other types of divides. The second module will be devoted to the presentation of individual projects (practical exercises + conceptual essays), invited guest lectures, and supplementary discussion on topics relevant to the course.
The goal of the course is to increase students’ understanding, awareness and critical thinking about intercultural communication (both discursive and non-verbal), the advantages and challenges of multicultural/multilinguistic/multireligious situations, as well as some practical strategies aimed at reducing and mediating bias and culturally influenced conflicts. 




28 February. (How) do cultures communicate?
Hall, Edward T. & William Whyte. 2007 (1960). “Intercultural Communication.” In C. Mortensen (ed.), Communication Theory. Second Edition. London/NY: Routledge (403-419). + Watzlawick, Paul, et al. 2007 (1967). “Some Tentative Axioms of Communications.” In C. Mortensen (ed.), Communication Theory. Second Edition. London/NY: Routledge (74-80).

02 March. The dilemmas of language
Farb, Peter. 2007 (1974). “Man at the Mercy of Language.” In C. Mortensen (ed.), Communication Theory. Second Edition. London/NY: Routledge (433-448). + Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 2014 (1953). “Communication as a language game.” In J. Angermuller, D. Maingueneau & R. Wodak (eds.), The Discourse Studies Reader. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publisher (49-53).

07 March. When cultures collide (or do they?)
Huntington, Samuel. 1993. “The clash of civilizations?” Foreign Affairs 72 (3): 22-49.

09 March. The world as an oyster
Hannerz, Uf. 1996. “Cosmopolitan and Locals.” In Id., Transnational Connections: Culture, People, Places. London/NY: Routledge (102-111). + Huang, Chun-Chieh. 1997. “A Confucian Critique of Samuel P. Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations.” East Asia 16 (2): 147-156.

14 March. Does culture actually exist?
Lentz, Carola. 2017. “Culture: The making, unmaking, and remaking of a concept.” Zeitschrift für Ethnologie / Journal of Social and Cultural Anthropology 142 (2): 181-204.

16 March. Accessing other cultures
Geertz, Clifford. 2006 (1973). “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture.” In Id. The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic Books (3-30).

21 March. The method and craft of ethnography
Malinowski, Bronislaw. 2002 (1922). “Introduction […]: The native’s vision of his world.” In Id., Argonauts of the Western Pacific. London: Routledge (1-21). + Borges, Jorge Luis. 1969. “The Ethnographer.” (This short story will be read in class).

23 March. Misunderstandings
Fabian, Johannes. 1995. “Ethnographic Misunderstanding and the Perils of Context.” American Anthropologist 97 (1): 41-50.

28 March. Across worlds, (almost) without words
Wikan, Unni. 1992. “Beyond the Words: The Power of Resonance.” American Ethnologist 19 (3): 460-482.

30 March. Irony, fun, and intercultural communication
Sclavi, Marianella. 2008. “The Role of Play and Humor in Creative Conflict Management.” Negotiation Journal 24 (2): 157-180.

04 April. Other people’s (ir)rationalities
MacIntyre, Alasdair. 1964. “Is Understanding Religion Compatible with Believing?” In Hick J. (ed.), Faith and the Philosophers. London: Palgrave Macmillan (115-133).

06 April. The values of interfaith dialogue
Lindsay, Jenn. 2020. “Interfaith Dialogue and Humanization of the Religious Other: Discourse and Action.” International Journal of Interreligious and Intercultural Studies 3 (2): 1-24.

11 April. Dialoguing beyond words
Lindsay, Jenn. 2020. “Creative Dialogue in Rome, Italy: Thinking Beyond Discourse-Based Interfaith Engagement.” Journal of Dialogue Studies 8: 173-189.

13 April. How is it done?
Cornille, Catherine. 2013. “Conditions for Inter-Religious Dialogue.” In Id. (ed.), The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Inter-Religious Dialogue. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell (20-35). + Case studies from The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Inter-Religious Dialogue (to be discussed with course instructor).


27. Roundtable & revision

02. Mid-term exam (not evaluated).
04. Discussion of practical assignments (ethnographic experiments).
09. Guest lecture 1
11. Guest lecture 2
16. Guest lecture 3
18. Guest lecture 4
23. Presentation of essays 1
25. Presentation of essays 2
30. Presentation of essays 3.

1. Classroom participation during First Module. Includes: 1.A. oral presentation of at least one item selected from the list of readings (readings will be allocated at the start of the course), and 1.B. active participation in seminar discussions: students are expected to come to class having engaged with the readings, prepared a list of questions and/or observations, etc., so as to contribute to the conversation.
2. Practical assignment. Let’s get our hands dirty with intercultural communication! Students will carry out a practical experiment in ethnographic fieldwork and produce a report in written and oral form. It’s an enriching and fun experience. Specifics about the assignment will be given in class.
3. Essay. Students are asked to produce a text covering one or more of the topics discussed in class, engaging with the relevant literature. Specifics about this assignment, alongside a list of (nonmandatory) further readings and/or bespoke suggestions, will be given in class.

30% class participation
30% practical assignment (includes oral presentation)
40% conceptual essay (includes oral presentation)


Isola di San Servolo
30133 Venice,

phone: +39 041 2719511
fax:+39 041 2719510

VAT: 02928970272