While intercultural scholars tend to stress the fundamental differences among individual cultures that steer our varied everyday behaviour, transcultural research focuses on what we have in common and on our chances to individually choose aspects from a pool of global cultures. For RUITS, this is not a question of 'either that or the other' but rather of bringing the national and global dimensions together: We are different and we are not - we are programmed and we are not.
The world-wide growing number of people simultaneously living in two or more cultures, e.g. British-Asians, French-Algerians, German-Turks, is an excellent area for further research into such questions of cultural belonging, alienation and choice. It is also an important field for exploring new mixed identities that might provide us with models for overcoming traditional boundaries, in particular those of a racist nature, be it of nationalist or colonialist origin.
Key areas of research therefore include:
Languages are central to intercultural and transcultural communication. Language is one of the most important defining features of personal and social identities and in particular learning and speaking a language other than one's first language directly affects a person's identity. In addition, globalisation and increasing mobility means that more and more people communicate in a language that is not their first language (which is especially the case for English with its current role as the international language of higher education, research, business, media, etc). This can result in communication problems, for example when interlocutors have difficulties understanding each others' accents while speaking the same language.
These difficulties could be caused by unexpected and unfamiliar pronunciation patterns, or they may be caused by social factors, for example when the speech is perceived as 'too accented' or if there are stereotypes and prejudices involved. RUITS' approach to Second Language Acquisition incorporates both structural and social aspects of second language development to gain an in-depth view of the factors affecting communication in the individual and in communities.
Key areas of research are:
Joint projects include:
Further research is easily accessible via the international and peer-reviewed journals GFL (German as a Foreign Language) and iMex (Interdisciplinary Mexico) to which RUITS members contribute as editors, advisors and authors.
RUITS aims at facilitating international communication by exploring the dynamics and dominant concepts of culture and identity, group mentalities and communication patterns within contemporary global environments, including diasporas as spaces for neo- and post-colonial encounters and for the emergence of hybrid identities.
This will be conducted from an international and interdisciplinary perspective within which key research can be brought together from individual disciplines, including linguistics, literary studies, history, sociology, politics, urban studies, business and law.
The Unit will act as an umbrella for the development of collaborative projects that preferably include:
The Research Unit will seek external funding for its projects from fundholders such as AHRC, British Academy, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and/or the Framework Programmes of the European Commission.