Communication ETDs


Yea-Wen Chen

Publication Date



This project addresses an important, but often overlooked, phenomenon of communication in intercultural relationships in the context of nonprofit organizations (NPOs) with attention to the role of intersecting cultural identity positions and status relationships. Specifically, I examined discourses of how members across three status positions in two social justice-oriented NPOs, namely Center of Peace for Asians and Social Enterprise of Hispanic Women, constructed the identity of the NPO and negotiated their intersecting cultural identities, relational dialectics, and status hierarchies. Also, I interrogated the ideological implications of discourses and the reproduction of broader social order. Four research questions were posed to guide my research. I relied on theoretical and conceptual foundations of cultural identities, intersecting standpoints, and relational dialectics to answer my research questions. I employed a method of critical discourse analysis that is consistent with an integrated critical/interpretive theoretical perspective. My data collection was guided by a case study approach that is commonly employed in researching NPOs. The two NPOs were selected based on their uniqueness and similarities as social justice-oriented NPOs. I collected three forms of data, among which interview discourses were the primary source of data. Findings in this study document ways in which intersecting cultural identity positions and status relationship negotiation affected the work of the two NPOs. Though not explicit in the interview discourses or organizational materials, the work of the NPOs, trying to enable women (and men) to succeed in the face of wider social systems, functioned implicitly to reproduce classism, patriarchy, and white supremacy. Overall, this study argues that cultural identities and relationships are best understood as contextually driven and having political implications, because they reflect status positions and have implications for the work of organizations and the lives of the marginalized clients/employees. In particular, underlying the reproduction of race-, class-, education-based privilege and higher status for staff and board members in both NPOs seems to be a unique form of liberalism ideology that I term benevolent liberalism. This form of liberalism is benevolent as rooted in a strong sense of moral obligation prevalent in the nonprofit sector to help people in need. Also, the findings in this study also suggest the critical role that "middle-range actors," who understand both the social worlds above and below, can play as bridges to name differences and bring up critical issues. Finally, I synthesize a list of principles that appear central to intercultural relationship processes in the two NPOs in this study.




Critical Discourse Analysis, Intercultural Relationships, Status Relationships, Dialectical Tensions, Cultural Identities, Nonprofit organizations

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Collier, Mary Jane

First Committee Member (Chair)

Cramer, Janet

Second Committee Member

Chavez, Karma

Third Committee Member

Allen, Ricky