Intercultural relations: re-visioning an interdisciplinary field through the global lens of women

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Intercultural relations: re-visioning an interdisciplinary field through the global lens of women

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In this project, I conceptualize the interdisciplinary field of intercultural relations through the global lens of women. This study is a two-phased, mixed-methods study situated in feminism and feminist research. I use a broad definition of intercultural relations that transcends multiple disciplinary areas including, among others: education, communication, psychology, and business. In Phase One (survey study) I address the questions: Who are the women? What are their contributions to the field of intercultural relations? Survey results name 420 women and their associated work/ideas, representing multiple countries and cultures worldwide. Findings indicate widespread global influence by women and their work in intercultural relations. Women are working across disciplinary lines and across geographical and regional areas. They have been (and continue) to influence the field through their roles in academia, consultancy, leadership, and organizational management. In Phase Two (interview study) I address the questions: How have women engaged with and come to know the interdisciplinary field of intercultural relations? How do women envision an intercultural relations history that includes everyone? In this phase, I conduct 27 face-to-face interviews with women from across the globe using a mapping exercise to facilitate rich data collection. Results from the interview study demonstrate that feminism and social justice issues have influenced (and continue to influence) how women engage with, and have come to know, the intercultural field. Further, participant stories exemplify different facets of intercultural relations work, including: the role of bridging; the topic of cultural marginality; refugee and immigrant issues; and expatriate and sojourner experiences. Finally, several stories illustrate the role of professional associations, education, and leadership in developing professional applications. Overall, this study argues the need to consider more carefully that, a) intercultural knowledge continues to be constructed through multiple ways of knowing and being in the world; and that, b) globally, women are participating in intercultural knowledge production; and that, c) by adding women's knowledge and perceptions to the historical context, implications and research considerations for the intercultural relations field are ostensibly endless.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2013. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. Advisor: Rebecca L. Ropers-Huilman. 1 computer file (PDF); xiv, 459 pages, appendices A-O.

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O'Brien, Nancy Lynn. (2013). Intercultural relations: re-visioning an interdisciplinary field through the global lens of women. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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