IAIR Recent Research in Focus: Rapid Fire Panel

RapidFirePanelThis group of IAIR scholars will present short summaries of their recent research, showcasing some of the different topics and perspectives that Academy Fellows and Members engage in to address current intercultural issues and phenomena.


Dr. Plamen Akaliyski (Keio University, Japan and LCSR, HSE)

Presenting for collaborators Christian Welzel (Leuphana University Lueneburg, Germany and LCSR, HSE) and Josef Hien (Stockholm University, Norway, and University of Mid-Sweden)

 A Community of Shared Values? Dimensions and Dynamics of Cultural Integration in the European Union

Abstract: Whether the EU is the self-proclaimed “community of shared values” is increasingly contested as evident in events like the Euro-, refugee-, and the rule of law crises. Using European Values Survey 1990-2017 data, we analyse the level and change in the public’s acceptance of the EU’s officially promoted values in seven domains: personal freedom, individual autonomy, social solidarity, ethnic tolerance, civic honesty, gender equality and liberal democracy. We find that member states support the EU-values strongly and increasingly over time.

Member states are notably distinct culturally from Eastern European non-EU-nations, especially in individual freedom and gender equality. Simultaneously, however, member states are internalizing the EU-values at different speeds—alongside traditional cultural fault lines that continue to differentiate Europe—in the following order from fastest to slowest internalization: (1) Protestant, (2) Catholic, (3) Ex-communist and lastly (4) Orthodox countries. In conclusion, the EU writ large evolves into a distinct value-sharing community at different speeds.


Dr. Chan-Hoong Leong (Singapore University of Social Sciences, Singapore)     

How Do Neighborhood Characteristics Shape Intercultural Contact, Social Inclusion, and Wellbeing?

Abstract: Singapore is a global city-state with a diverse demography and a multicultural social fabric. The bedrock for Singapore’s stability is built on the unwavering emphasis for social interactions between people of different ethnic identities, country of origins, and socio-economic backgrounds.  This is especially so in the case of residential neighbourhoods, where there is strict ethnic and immigrant quota in place to mitigate the formation of social enclaves. In-spite of these housing policies, recent housing data have revealed a strong proclivity towards racial and class segregations at the regional level. With this emerging schism in mind, how does the social and built environment shape diversity inclusion and social interactions?  What are the individual and intergroup dynamics that underpin these effects? 

This exploratory study combines survey data and geographic information to produce an overview on how the lived environment shapes social inclusion, contact, and wellbeing. In line with other empirical evidence, locations with concomitantly higher concentration of ethnic minorities and immigrant households demonstrated greater diversity exclusion, lower social trust, and quality of life, but proximity to shared spaces such as community clubs mitigated the impact of diversity. These environmental factors help predicted the outcome beyond the respondents’ socio-demographic conditions. The findings are discussed in the context on how spatial big data can be harnessed to enhance reliable social sensemaking, and the emerging or prospective areas that we can explore in future studies.


Dr. Justine Dandy (Edith Cowan University, Australia)

Drinking like an Aussie: Alcohol use patterns, attitudes, and behaviours as indicators of acculturation to Australian norms among youth from immigrant and refugee backgrounds

Abstract: It is commonly accepted that drinking alcohol is an Australian cultural norm. Statistics show that the consumption of alcohol at risky levels remains high among young people (Australian  Institute  of  Health  and  Welfare,  2017)  and  Australia  is  the  number  one  country  for  alcohol  related  medical  emergency  (2019  Global  Drug  Survey).  However, little is known about  the  attitudes  and  behaviours  of  migrant  background  youth  on  alcohol and other drug (AOD) use. Findings of national surveys of adults show lower consumption and less problematic drinking among immigrants compared with Australian-born but this changes with length of residence in Australia and successive generations.

In addition, there is a widespread belief that there is underutilisation of AOD and mental health services among immigrants due to factors such as lack of culturally appropriate services, stigma, shame and cultural differences in explanations for health and illness. Thus, there is a perception that there is a ‘hidden problem’ but little evidence to support it. This is in part because obtaining such evidence – getting young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds to speak openly about AOD use and mental health - is difficult. In this presentation I outline the methodology we used to engage 55 young people from diverse cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds to speak about AOD use and misuse, and mental health. Secondly, I present our preliminary findings regarding migrant youth heritage cultural norms for AOD use and their adoption of local drinking and drug taking practices as behavioural indicators of acculturation to Australian norms.


Dr. Michael Bender (Tilburg University, The Netherlands)                 

Meta-analytic Overviews on the Role of Social Support, Biculturalism, and Perceived Cultural Distance on Psychological Outcomes: Observations and Suggestions.

Abstract: Our academic world is based on communication and collaboration. We therefore recently started compiling meta-analytic overviews of how our fields have approached what we believe to be central topics: We investigated (1) the role of different types of social support for the psychological adjustment of international students (Bender et al., 2019), and we have finished analyses on (2) the meta-analytic relation between biculturalism and psychological outcomes, and (3) the role of perceived cultural distance for psychological adjustment.

We find that social support consistently matters for the adjustment of international students, (integrated) biculturalism is associated with better psychological outcomes, and perceived cultural distance with less psychological adjustment. We also find in all three meta-analyses that reporting practices are quite heterogenous across the sampled studies. I therefore conclude with a glass half full/half empty suggestion on what we can do to improve upon our methods, particularly with regard to reporting on findings and tools.


Dr. Zhu Hua (University of Birmingham, UK) 

Cultural polarization at a Time of Crisis: An Epistemological Challenge to intercultural Communication Research 

Abstract:  In this presentation, using examples from a British Academy funded project that examines the experience of international Chinese students quarantined between cultures during the pandemic, I reflect on the paradigm shift and tension in the intercultural communication research. Recent work in language and intercultural communication has embraced more postmodern, performative and interdiscursive approaches to the concept of culture, and this more ‘fluid’ understanding of culture has also gained popular acceptance in, for example, discussions of ‘interculturality’ and more recently, ‘transculturality’. In the meantime, there are situations in which reified notions of ‘national culture’ become salient, as people make conscious efforts to draw boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’, to enforce so-called ‘cultural norms’ and to ‘strategically essentialise’ (Spivak, 1996) themselves and others.

In the current time of crisis, we have seen how Covid-19 and responses to it (for example, wearing face masks, vaccine nationalism) have polarised both differences between cultures and within communities and come to function as markers of in- and out- group. I argue that, now more than ever, understanding how cultural differences are polarised and talked into being should be a priority for scholars in intercultural communication if we are to respond to the rise of tribalism and nativism in everyday life.  We need to interrogate what culture does and how culture accentuates differences and boundaries and reconnects with the original goals and concerns of the field of intercultural communication (e.g., Bateson, 1935; Thornton, 1988).