Rethinking intercultural competence in Asian contexts: Intercultural citizenship in light of Asiacentricity

Author: Mark Sawyer (Kwansei Gakuin University)
Speaker: Mark Sawyer
Topic: Language, community, ethnicity
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


This paper will attempt to clarify and reconcile two promising but possibly conflicting directions for promoting intercultural competence in Asian contexts.
The paper first briefly overviews intercultural citizenship education (ICE), developed by Alred, Byram, and Fleming (2006) in the European context, but applied to wide-ranging contexts, including Japan (Parmenter,2006) and China (Byram, Golubeva, Hui and Wagner, 2017; Porto and Byram (2018).

The paper then briefly overviews Asiacentricity, proposed by Miike (2010) based on earlier ideas of Afrocentricity theorized by Asante (1980), and updated in Asante, Miike, & Yin (2014). Both Afrocentricity and Asiacentricity critique mainstream universalist communication theory as being inappropriately Eurocentric. Therefore, they suggest new communication metatheories, based on particular cultural traditions.

The paper finally examines the compatibility of ICE with an Asiacentric metatheory of communication, suggesting how each set of ideas might be modified toward promoting intercultural competence and intercultural citizenship in Asian contexts. Though ICE was developed in Europe, based on western theories of intercultural competence, to promote the intercultural citizenship among the diverse groups of people living in the geographical area of Europe, it aspires to create democratic communities of action and communication wherever there are people with diverse values. As intercultural communication, in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere, involves interaction among participants with African, Asian, European, and other identities, it is worthwhile to attempt to reconcile these universalist- vs. particularist-oriented sets of ideas.


Alred, G., Byram, M., & Fleming, M. (Eds.). (2006). Education for intercultural citizenship: concepts and comparisons. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Asante, M. (1980). Afrocentricity: The theory of social change. Buffalo, NY: Amulefi Publishing Company.
Asante, M. K., Miike, Y., & Yin, J. (2014). The global intercultural communication reader (Second edition. ed.). New York: Routledge.
Byram, M., Golubeva, I., Hui, H., & Wagner, M. (2017). From principles to practice in education for intercultural citizenship. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Miike, Y. (2010). An anatomy of Eurocentrism in communication scholarship: The role of Asiacentricity in de-westernizing theory and research. China Media Research, 6(1), 1-11.
Parmenter, L. (2006). Beyond the nation?: Potential for intercultural citizenship education in Japan. In G. Alred, M. Byram & M. Fleming (Eds.), Education for intercultural citizenship: concepts and comparisons (pp. 144-163). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Porto, M., & Byram, M. (2017). New perspectives on intercultural language research and teaching : exploring learners’ understandings of texts from other cultures. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords: intercultural citizenship, Asiacentricity, intercultural competence, language education