In the context of accelerating technological advancements, favourable governmental policies and more sophisticated management structures, global networks continue to be expanded and strengthened at an impressive pace. Such developments include many opportunities, challenges and threats for rapidly growing international relations.
However, successfully working and/or living together very much depends on the level of individual competence for the successful negotiation of cultural identities and on practical communication skills. Of particular importance in this context is the process of second language acquisition which provides the individual with the linguistic skills and the intercultural competences to cope with an increasingly globalised environment.
The Research Unit for Intercultural and Transcultural Studies (RUITS) aims at facilitating international communication by exploring the dynamics of culture and identity, language and identity, group mentalities and communication patterns, but also individual and social factors of speaking a second language, within our increasingly global world.
As the movement of peoples across Europe and beyond keeps growing at an impressive pace, a strong focus will be set on aspects of current migration and diaspora. Within this framework, RUITS will try to connect with interculturalism and transculturalism - two fields of study that have so far often been categorised as oppositional.
What makes RUITS different is in particular a combination of the following aspects:
- a strong Anglo-German institutional link, in particular to CITS. Such collaboration will allow RUITS members to explore new and different funding opportunities.
- a focus on socio-cultural, political and economic developments in urban spaces in a period of increasing transnational migration, in particular but not exclusively from so called former colonised peripheries to metropolitan centers in Europe and the US.
- an inclusion of different notions of 'whiteness' that blurrs the traditional boundaries within which white race and/or culture has been framed as a 'pure' homogeneous entity in opposition to a variety of coloured and/or hybrid races/cultures.
- a solid Anglo-German theoretical and philosophical base to draw on. RUITS members might start from notions of interculturalism that focus on interpersonal interactions between members of different cultures (see Jones 1995, Byram 2001, Bolten 1993, Müller-Jacquier 2004) while stressing that dissimilarity, i.e. in archives of knowledge and symbolic action, as a result of different life experiences or collective programming. There is, however, also a perceived need for including scholarly work on the interconnectedness of our increasingly more globalised societies as well as on human agency and individual cultural choice in the wider framework of a pool of global cultures. Such work has frequently been summarised under the concept of transculturalism (see Huggan 2006, Ritzer 2000, Welsch 1997, Antor 2006).
- an approach that combines intercultural and transcultural studies with Second Language Acquisition, which allows for a more detailed understanding of how languages develop on an individual and societal level and are influenced by migration and globalisation.
The British Academy has generously supported the founding conference and first workshop series of the Unit.