What does knowing an individual's cultural identity tell you about that individual? If you assume that that individual is like everyone else in that culture, you have stereotyped all the many various people in that culture into one mould. You know that you are different from others in your culture. Other cultures are as diverse. The diversity within cultures probably exceeds the differences between cultures. So, just knowing a person's cultural identity doesn't provide complete or reliable information about that person.Fred E Jandt, An Introduction to Intercultural Communication
This chapter investigates intercultural communication in literary texts. The chapter analyses Sesotho and isiZulu novels, aiming to answer the following questions: What is it that texts encourage or discourage about personal, relational and communal identities? How do texts represent cultural identities such as age, gender, religion, social class, race, ethnicity and nationality, among other aspects? Do they represent intercultural interaction that encourages the positive interplay between cultural differences and similarities? What do they present as barriers to intercultural communication, or its facilitators?
Underpinning the chapter is the contextual approach to intercultural communication proposed by Neuliep (2012). The approach is ‘based on the idea that whenever people from different cultures come together and exchange verbal and nonverbal messages, they do so within a variety of contexts, including a cultural, micro-cultural, environmental, socio-relational and perceptual context’ (Neuliep 2012: xiii).
At this stage, it may perhaps be useful to answer the question: What is ‘intercultural communication’? Intercultural communication occurs between people of different cultures and involves a ‘minimum of two persons from different cultures’ (Neuliep 2012: 24). As a field of study, intercultural communication concentrates on intercultural relationships based on the dynamics at work in those intercultural interactions (Martin and Nakayama 2007). It is from narratives of such relationships that ‘we can learn a tremendous amount about other people and their cultures and about ourselves and our own cultural background’ (Martin and Nakayama 2007: 4).