The 17th International Conference of the International Association for Languages and Intercultural Communication (IALIC) - Interrogating the 'Third Space': Negotiating meaning and performing 'culture'

Registration deadline

The 17th International Conference of the International Association for Languages and Intercultural Communication (IALIC)

Interrogating the 'Third Space': Negotiating meaning and performing 'culture'

Edinburgh Napier University, UK

19 - 20 June 2017

Keynote speakers:

Malcolm MacDonald, University of Warwick

Alison Phipps, University of Glasgow

Until the recent two decades or so, intercultural communication research has focused on constructions of ‘cultural difference’ that tend to fix communication behaviour to large-scale, monolithic collectivities, such as nation, class, and race. This essentialist tradition, which applies culture as an a priori explanatory framework, is now giving way to a research paradigm that construes culture as a complex, emergent phenomenon (Holliday, 2011) and highlights individuals’ interactions in multicultural settings.

However, much of current intercultural research, policy and practice following this trend tends to manifest a neo-essentialist position that oscillates between a stated emphasis on ‘cultural diversity’ and an underlying essentialist legacy that different ‘solid’ cultures (Dervin, 2016) exist, can co-exist peacefully, and may be fused into a ‘new culture’ through equally negotiated compromises, e.g. in the form of strategic conflict resolution or collaborative partnerships around common tasks (Kramsch and Uryu, 2014). This liberal relativist perspective (Rutherford, 1990) has been critiqued for its normative stance and oblivion to the power asymmetries and political struggle between dominant and marginalised groups, which were particularly stressed in Homi Bhabha’s (1994) seminal work on the ‘location’ of cultures.

In the current scholarship of intercultural communication, concepts developed for addressing the ‘location’ of cultures are increasingly cited, such as ‘thirdness’, ‘hybridity’, ‘liminality’, ‘in-betweenness’, and ‘interstices’. However, the ways in which these terms are used sometimes reflect very different philosophical stances. Furthermore, these terms are often mentioned to signpost the ontological and epistemological positions underpinning the main inquiry, yet the very phenomena denoted by the concepts themselves, i.e. the complexities of the locales of intercultural communication, are less commonly studied as the research focus (MacDonald and O’Regan, 2014).

This conference thus draws on Bhabha’s (1994) concept of ‘third space’ and foregrounds intercultural communication as a site of struggle, where established orders become unstable and ambivalent. It aims to explore how, in this site, ‘cultural difference’ is articulated, ‘culture’ and ‘cultures’ are performed, and the space for the creation of new meanings opens up (or is suppressed).

The conference invites both theoretical contributions and empirical insights which contest the notion of ‘third space’ and enrich this area of inquiry. Abstracts are invited in relation (but not limited) to the sub-themes suggested below:

· discursive / narrative constructions of Self and Other
· performance of linguistic and cultural resources
· ethnographic accounts of emergent patterns of meaning and practice in the ‘third space’
· (re)conceptualisation of interculturality vis-à-vis the ‘third space’
· current usage of ‘third space’ and related concepts in intercultural communication theory and research
· possible implications of the ‘third space’ for social and educational policies and practices

Proposals will be in the format of individual papers for 20-minute presentations.

Please note that there will be two ‘Paper-for-Publication’ panel sessions for doctoral students to present their working papers aimed for publication and receive feedback from invited discussants.

Please submit your proposal in a single Word document to Your proposal should include the following:

- a title
- abstract (no more than 300 words)
- five keywords
- one sentence indicating how your proposal fits with the conference theme (for example, with reference to the sub-themes above)
- each author’s name, institution and a short bio (no more than 150 words)
- an email address for correspondence
- if you are a doctoral student and would like your abstract to be considered for the Paper-for-Publication panel, include the words ‘Paper-for-Publication Panel’ in the subject line of your email

The deadline for submission is 12th Feb 2017.

Notifications of result will be sent out by 19th Mar 2017.

We also invite doctoral students to present an overview or slice of their research in the form of posters. If you intend to bring a poster, please inform Min at by 19th Mar and provide your name, email address, affiliation and the title of your poster (you do not need to submit an abstract). We will then arrange a space for your poster to be displayed at the conference.

For more information about the conference, please visit the conference website:

Tourism and Languages Group
Edinburgh Napier University
The Business School