Communication ETDs


Erin Watley

Publication Date



Intercultural conflicts continue to persist for numerous reasons. The groups involved remain polarized, individuals tend to primarily concentrate on defending their own point of view, or solutions concentrate on individual actions instead of the consequences perpetuated by complex social systems. The communicative behaviors that often accompany intercultural conflicts also frequently work to sustain them, helping those who are involved to perpetuate dominant narratives and marginalizing social systems in ways in which they are both active and complicit. In this study Critical Discourse Analysis was used to examine the ways that undergraduate students discussed and conceptualized intercultural conflicts during their involvement in an Intercultural Communication course. The pedagogical goal was to encourage critical approaches from the students. Key critical concepts of context, intersectionality, and critical reflexivity were incorporated as part of intercultural dialogue into the course activities and assignments. Analysis was conducted on written reflections that the students completed for class, and an audio recorded conversation that the students had with a partner who was not a part of the class about cultural identities and conflicts. Discursive tools such as equivocation, disclaimers, positive-self versus negative-other, and making broad generalizations based on individual experiences were used to both constitute and challenge broader ideologies such as individualism, whiteness, classism, and nationalism. Across all of the writings and exchanges there was a strong tendency to position the intercultural conflicts as the result of individual choices or deficiencies. Overall, the frequency of dominant ideologies that were reinforced demonstrates the strength of these ideologies throughout US American social practice. That the dominant ideologies were reproduced by individuals who have marginalized racial, gender, and sexual identities as well as those who had more privileged identities, is evidence of the strength of dominant ideologies. The prominence of color-blind, post-racial discourse showed the persistence of ideologies of individual meritocracy and the continuing need for critical pedagogies and discourse.




critical discourse analysis, intercultural conflict, context, intersectionality, critical reflexivity

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Collier, Mary Jane

First Committee Member (Chair)

Eguchi, Shinsuke

Second Committee Member

Washington, Myra

Third Committee Member

Marsh, Tyson