In our age of technologically empowered virtual or embodied mobilities and a veritable deluge of information the possibilities for, and challenges resulting from, cross-pollination among ethnic, professional, disciplinary, etc. cultures abound. The present qualitative study takes the university to be an environment that is especially conducive to the dispersal and hybridization of “cultural capital” (Bourdieu, 1985), in this extended sense. In this context, it examines issues around the structural positioning and systemic interactions of various epistemic, political and affective subjectivities. The overarching philosophical question is, In what way can “dialogue”/“conversation”, as theorized within Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutics ([1960] 1975) and reinterpreted by Michael Oakshott (1969) and Richard Rorty (1979), help to re-vision and re-shape mutually beneficially the sociality of human epistemic actors who embody various multi-, inter- and trans-culturalities?

The study maps cross-cultural fluency on to the interdependent dimensions of knowledge, power and affect, scanning for the purpose the finely graded continua between understanding and ignorance, collaboration and conflict, fulfillment and frustration. Students and faculty are analyzed according to their “situatednesses” (in the sense of Donna Haraway 1988), factoring in parameters like academic seniority, ethnic/national background, psychological makeup, prior exposure to various alterities. Additionally, explicit effort is made to bring to the fore the role of support staff and higher-level university management. It is argued that all-round cross-cultural maturation is likely best revealed and most impactfully manifested through the will and ability to integrate academic commitments and civic engagement by way of university governance and broader social activism.

In conclusion, the proposal is advanced to make a crucial distinction between authentic understanding/speaking and merely performative use of another’s language. Approaching cross-cultural communication developmentally can encourage the evolution of individuals and communities toward cultivating “mutual subjectivity” (generalized from Kelly Oliver’s 2001 specific context) for as well as beyond alterity “recognition”.

Keywords: multi-, inter-, trans-cultural maturation; affect, knowledge, power; cross-cultural fluency, mutual subjectivity, situatedness


Bourdieu, Pierre (1985) The forms of capital. In J. E. Richardson, ed., Handbook of theory of research for the sociology of education, pp. 241−258. New York: Greenwood Press.

Gadamer, Hans-Georg ([1960] 1975) Truth and Method. New York. (originally published in 1960 as H. G. Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode. Grundzüge einer hermeneutischen Philosophie, Tübigen: J. C. B. Mohr)

Haraway, Donna (1988) Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective. Feminist Studies 14(3), pp. 575-599 (Autumn 1988).

Oakshott, Michael (1969) The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation of Mankind. London: Bowes & Bowes.

Oliver, Kelly (2001) Witnessing: Beyond Recognition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Rorty, Richard (1969) The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation of Mankind. London: Bowes & Bowes.