Academic Experience Abroad: Autonomy and Sociability, Southern and Northern Style
Gonzaga University / International Studies Institute
Globalization studies underline the transnational standardization of education, in terms of both methods and curricular content. Comparative analysis of autoethnographical essays written by international master students at the University of Helsinki (North Europe) and the University of Florence (South Europe) permits detailed reconstruction of their academic experience. The two institutions share three crucial structural features: public, no tuition fees (at the time of the field work), non-English speaking countries. They also share the cultural emphasis on fostering students’ autonomy.
However, within a similar Bologna-type institutional organization, students’ narrative accounts reveal sharp differences in their academic experiences precisely vis-à-vis the cultural value of autonomy. In Helsinki, it is up to the students to find all the relevant information and construct an autonomous learning itinerary; however, administrative staff and professors are ready to respond to students’ queries. In Florence, autonomy is accompanied by chaotic academic organization. International students rely on peers and professors to find their way in the academic bureaucratic jungle. Here the lack of English proficiency is a key factor; the apparent linguistic glue of global academe is differently declined locally.
Another marked difference is the organisation of students’ sociability. The University of Helsinki fosters academic and social engagement through international students’ associations, which act as an important bridge with city life and highly ritualistic Finnish society. Students’ associations are totally absent in Florence. The thought/unthought interpenetration between university and social life produces a profoundly diverse academic experience that transcends obvious social and cultural differences between the two cities.
The Young Cosmopolitan Between School and 'Home': An Ethnography of Multiple Attachments
York University, Canada
A major premise of the study of everyday cosmopolitanism is that as the horizons of social interaction stretch past the confines of local life, a person’s attachments should become more diverse and their place of birth should no longer be the primary determinant of their sense of belonging and loyalty. Drawing on fieldwork with young students ages 16-20 who are enrolled in an international school in Europe, I examine the labour involved in accounting for and representing “home” at school. With a focus on young people who come from situations of political violence, I trace their efforts to provide an account of home to an international group of interlocutors and within an institutional context that is characterized by the paradoxical imperative of being rooted but open. I argue that young people are torn between doing justice to their ideas about (and experiences of) home and the commitment to express allegiances beyond its particularities. I demonstrate that while allegiances appear in dense and overlapping ways, some are marked as problematic and thus subject to reprimand and censure.
Everyday Nordic Cosmopolitanisms: Food Spaces and Intercultural Encounters in Danish Society
University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
Taking inspiration from scholars who argue there needs to be better understanding of social spaces that enable everyday interaction, participation, and intercultural dialogue within increasingly diverse European societies, this paper presents findings from ethnographic research in Denmark on how cultural differences are represented and negotiated in commercial spaces of food consumption. Research within literatures on multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism have recently migrated away from studying the institutional basis and discursive negotiations of differences. One important development has been a move towards an understanding of the embodied and practical dimensions of everyday social interactions where diversities are experienced ‘on the ground’; in neighbourhoods, and in ‘public’ spaces such as streets, shops and shopping precincts, or workplaces. For this reason, we focus on how differences are represented, experienced and encountered using the case of food and drink consumption spaces. Food consumption, especially in commercial public settings, can be an important aspect of cosmopolitan taste portfolios but is also a particularly potent public carrier of feelings and practices of cultural belonging and civic inclusion. In the Danish context, food is an axiomatic domain of banal nationalism. Yet, class also matters and new food cultures may afford an exclusivist redefinition of public understandings of Nordic culture. We combine traditional ethnographic methodologies with spatial analysis techniques to explore the material-spatial encoding of inclusion in a selection of spaces of food consumption in Copenhagen. We reflect on methodological implications of the approach for studying diversities, and also on the meaning of cosmopolitanism in Nordic contexts.
Cosmopolitan Encounters in the International Workplace
University of Helsinki, Finland / NRU Higher School of Economics, Russian Federation
A great body of research on intercultural communication in the workplace inherits the legacy of Hofstede’s theory. They assume a national culture to be a homogeneous entity, clearly separated from the others, and predetermining how a person tends to behave in routine job situations. This paper adheres to an alternative approach based on the concept of 'everyday cosmopolitanism' and 'cosmopolitan encounters', which allows a more flexible and deeper understanding of how people make sense of Others’ behavior, identity, and attitudes in practice.
The paper is devoted to the case study of the middle-level managers of an international company who regularly communicate with their superiors and co-workers from the other offices (in central Europe, several African countries, Turkey and Russia) or with the international colleagues at their office. The fieldwork included 21 semi-structured interviews conducted in person at the Moscow office or online via Skype.
In the presentation I will focus on two aspects of the study:
1. What triggers intercultural reflexivity or prevent it from developing in particular situations? Under which conditions do people provide 'national' explanations of how the Others behave? And when do they, on the contrary, insist on individual differences as the determinant factor of diverse behavior?
2. How people recognize and define “international” character of the company in relation to their national corporate cultures? How the idea of the “international” corporate space is manifested and perceived at the head office (the company's place of origin in Europe) and at the regional offices?
Thus, I aim to explain various types of problematic cosmopolitan encounters that are constantly produced within the social space of the global business standards and common means of communication.