Difference in human experience can be parsed in a variety of ways and it is this parsing that provides the entry point to our discussion of “race,” “gender,” “class,” and “sexuality” as foci of study in the field of organizational communication. Social sorting of difference has material consequences, such as whether individuals, groups, organizations, communities, and nations have equal and equitable access to civil/participative liberties, food, clean water, health, housing, education, and meaningful work. Communication perspectives enable researchers to examine how difference is produced, sustained, and transformed through symbolic means. That is, communication organizes difference. In the field of organizational communication the communicative organizing of race, gender, class, and sexuality is examined in everyday social arrangements, such as corporate and not-for-profit organizations, communities, and other institutional contexts locally and globally. Topics of central concern in organizational communication difference studies are those related to work and the political economy of work, such as labor, conflicts between public and private domains, empowerment, and agency. Research on race, gender, class, and sexuality as communicatively structured difference has progressed in the field of organizational communication from early top-down functionalist approaches, to bottom-up and emergent interpretive/critical/materialist methods, to poststructuralist approaches that deconstruct the very notion of “categories” of difference. More complex intersectional approaches, including queer theory and postcolonial/decolonial theory, are currently gaining traction in the field of organizational communication. These advances signal that difference studies have matured over the last decades as the field moved toward questioning and deconstructing past approaches to knowledge production while finding commensurability across diverse theoretical and research perspectives. These moves open up more possibilities to respond to societal imperatives for understanding difference.
Patricia S. Parker, Jing Jiang, Courtney L. McCluney, and Verónica Caridad Rabelo
Tiara R. Na'puti
Colonization and decolonization continue to be debated both in terms of their meaning and their efficacy in Communication Studies scholarship and across related fields of inquiry. Colonization is part of ongoing processes of subjugation that are linked to other forms of oppression including labor, occupation, and resource extraction. Inquiries about processes of colonization also involve examining corresponding efforts in decolonization processes. Decolonization entails an effort to critically reflect on colonialism and its impact upon colonized people and environments, it involves processes entangled with issues of sovereignty, self-determination, and territory, and so on. Indigenous Studies scholarship helps to foreground Indigeneity as a place from which broader inquiries on colonization and decolonization may be launched. The legitimacy of colonialism and its communicative dimensions has been a concern for scholars. Within the field of Communication, it notes particular contexts of colonization inquiry that overlap across topics and various areas of the discipline. Research on colonialism and its influence spans throughout rhetorical theory and critical/cultural studies to organizational communication and global communication. This scholarship has employed expansive methodologies from applied research to theoretical work and considered a wide range of issues from domestic, international, and transnational perspectives. The study of these powerful structures in rhetoric draws on interdisciplinary fields and raises challenges to intellectual traditions of the West, which have maintained the rhetoric canon. Rhetorical scholars call for the need to examine artifacts that exist at the “margins” and “outside” the imperial centers. They have theorized methods of rhetorical analysis that attend to the colonial and decolonial elements of discourse, power, and identity.
In a broad sense, Scandinavia consists of the five sovereign states of Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, with an autonomous status within the Danish state), Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland (including the Åland islands in the Baltic Sea, with an autonomous status within the Finnish state). Historically, the dominating powers in the area have been Denmark and Sweden. Linguistically, the westward dominance of Denmark resulted in Danish having a strong influence on the language situations in Norway, the Faroes, Iceland, and Greenland; and as a consequence of the historical eastward dominance by Sweden, Finland has two official languages: Finnish and Swedish. In a narrow sense, Scandinavia consists of Denmark (without the North Atlantic territories), Sweden, and Norway. Scandinavian languages normally comprise Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian. The crucial point about the Scandinavian languages is that they are, to a high degree, mutually intelligible. Intergroup communication—in the sense of communication between national groups—is possible, by and large, when native speakers of Danish, Swedish, or Norwegian speak their own language in interaction with a “neighbor.” The three languages are often referred to as neighboring languages, and the intergroup communication they allow for has been called “semi-communication.” It is “receptive multilingualism” according to the principle, which also functions in communication between speakers/listeners of neighboring dialects: “speak your own language and understand the language of your neighbor.” This has been the way most intergroup communication has functioned in “narrow Scandinavia” at all levels of society; it still is, but today, English takes over as a lingua franca among younger generations (who are strong in English compared to earlier generations), especially when Danish is involved (because many changes in the phonology of modern Danish have distanced that language from Norwegian and Swedish). In contrast, linguistic differences inhibit mutual intelligibility when any of the other languages in the area are involved—with the exception of some degree of mutual intelligibility between Icelandic and Faeroese (although more in writing than speech). It is true that Icelandic and Faroese are North Germanic languages, just like Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian, but due to much historical change in the latter three (away from the common Old Norse language of the Viking Age), mutual intelligibility has not been a reality for centuries. Greenlandic is an Eskimo-Aleutic language. Finnish and Sámi both belong to the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic language family, but are not mutually intelligible. In “broad Scandinavia,” the three Scandinavian languages have been the basic means of intergroup communication, in particular at the level of official institutional-based cooperation; but not surprisingly, the tendency is even stronger for non-native speakers (than for native speakers) of a Scandinavian language to prefer English as a lingua franca in inter-Nordic communication. The numbers of users of each of these languages can be given only as approximations (the estimations given here include users scattered within broadly defined Scandinavia, e.g. Faeroese-speaking people living in Copenhagen, Finnish-speaking people living in Sweden, etc.): Swedish, 9.5 million; Danish, 5.5 million; Finnish, 5.5 million; Norwegian, 5 million; Icelandic, 300,000, Faroese 60,000, Greenlandic 55,000, and Sámi 25,000.
The need to de-Westernize and decolonize communication and media studies is based on criticisms on a dominant elitist “Western” axiology and epistemology of universal validity, leaving aside indigenous and localized philosophical traditions originating in non-Western settings. Scholars of the Global South continue to question a dominant inherent Eurocentric bias that was—and continuous to be—underlying many Anglo-American and European research projects. Scholars warn against a persistent influence of foreign-imposed concepts such as modernity and development, as well as universal assumptions regarding the use of certain categories and ontologies to deconstruct and understand the media around the globe. While the West is understood more as a center of power than as a fixed geographical entity, de-Westernization asks for a revision of the power relations in global academic knowledge production and dissemination. The most prominent call for de-Westernizing media studies goes back to Curran and Park who, in the early 2000s, encouraged a Western academic community to revise and re-evaluate their theories, epistemologies, methods, and empirical research approaches, especially in research targeting the Global South. In a similar way, the call for decolonization asks to investigate and question continuing colonial power imbalances, power dependencies, and colonial legacies. It challenges the uncritical adoption of research epistemologies and methods of former colonial powers in solving local problems, as they fail to explain the complexities of non-Western societies and communities, asking for practicing “decolonial epistemic disobedience.” Contrary to de-Westernization aimed at a Western research community, scholars from the Global South have struggled for decades for international recognition of their voices and intellectual contributions to a global academic community. Their ideas draw on post-colonialism, subaltern studies, or a critical-reflective sociology. Different efforts have been made to address the global imbalance in media studies knowledge generation. However, neither replacing theories with indigenous concepts alone nor being relegated to cases studies that deliver raw data will gain ground in favor of countries of the Global South, as research efforts need to incorporate both local realities and wider contextualization, or the call for a research with a region, not just about or from it. More successful are cooperative South-South efforts, as the thriving scholar networks in Latin America, Africa, or Asia demonstrate. The de-Westernization and decolonization project is ongoing. Where inequalities appear most pressing are in resource access and allocation, in conference participation, or in publishing opportunities. In this sense, journalism and media studies curricula still reflect largely an Anglophone centrism and a lack of understanding of local issues and expectations. Here, more reflective de-Westernizing approaches can help to lessen the gaps. However, as de-Westernization relies on vague geographical categorizations, the term cannot be the final path to re-balance the academic knowledge exchange between powerful and less powerful actors.