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Journal of Intercultural Communication Research

For a Special Issue on

The ecological turn in Intercultural Communication: State of the art and avenues for future research

Abstract deadline
01 September 2024

Manuscript deadline
01 March 2025

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Mélodine Sommier, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
[email protected]

Diyako Rahmani, Massey University, New Zealand
[email protected]

Alice Fanari, Northeastern University in Boston, USA
[email protected]

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The ecological turn in Intercultural Communication: State of the art and avenues for future research

In 2016, Mendoza and Kinefuchi pleaded for an ecological turn in intercultural communication arguing that the ongoing ecological collapse “is now the globalized framing context of all intercultural encounters” and an “imperative for re-visioning intercultural communication.” (p. 276). With their call, Mendoza and Kinefuchi (2016) urged researchers to challenge and move past constraining anthropocentric assumptions about what constitutes intercultural communication. In response to their call, a number of scholars have proposed renewed ways of conceptualizing and exploring intercultural relations outside of Euro-western-centric epistemologies (see e.g. Castro-Sotomayor, 2020; Lamb, 2021; Mendoza, 2023). Eight years later, this special issue asks where the field of intercultural communication stands with regards to this ecological plea. This special issue calls for articles to map out how the interplay between ecology and interculturality has (not) been researched thus far and point to avenues for future research.

Connecting ecology and interculturality is of particular importance for several reasons. First, taking an ecological turn to intercultural communication broadens our areas of inquiry by calling into question ways in which (discourses of) cultures and identities are mobilized, invisibilized and contested to talk about and prioritize specific environmental agenda—and vice-versa. Thus, echoing Ingrid Piller’s (2017) agenda for intercultural communication research, doing work at the intersection of ecology and interculturality urges us to consider how culture is made relevant in connection to ecology for which purposes and in which contexts, and how ecology is made relevant in connection to culture for which purposes and in which contexts. What is more, intersections with current scholarship on social justice, decolonization, and environmental justice point to the way the ‘ecological turn’ can offer renewed theoretical and methodological approaches.

Second, the ongoing ecological collapse is unfolding worldwide and affecting all countries and species on earth. Yet, research has shown that not all individuals and countries are affected in a similar manner as the ecological collapse underlines historical and systemic inequalities pervading societies and the world order. Research on environmental racism has for instance shown how racialized populations in the Global North/s and Global South/s are at increased risks of suffering from pollution as well as effects from the ongoing ecological collapse (Waldron, 2021). The interplay between social and environmental (in)justices points to the relevance of studying these issues jointly by bringing together ecology and interculturality. Such a dual lens can shed light on dichotomous representations of ‘us’ versus ‘them’, ‘nature’ versus ‘culture’, and ‘humans’ versus ‘non-humans’ (Mendoza & Kinefuchi, 2016).

Third, the intrinsic connection between environmental and social justice is sometimes overlooked by intercultural communication scholars as ecology tends to be reduced and relegated to ‘natural sciences’, excluding it from the realm of the humanities and social sciences. However, the unprecedented scale of the ongoing ecological collapse is the consequence not the cause of the problem. The current environmental destruction of fauna and flora can therefore only be tackled by addressing the social, racial, economic, and political injustices that produced it in the first place. This highlights the prominent role that intercultural communication can take as a discipline to tackle both ramifications and implications of the ecological collapse. Research on interculturality and ecology is relevant for a myriad of contexts (e.g. national, spatial, (small-)cultural, organizational, educational) as well as in relation to different discourses and topics typically associated with intercultural communication (e.g. migration, beliefs, equity, diversity).

Fourth, the role of intercultural communication in addressing and tackling the ongoing ecological collapse is of particular relevance given its connection to colonial systems of oppression. The interlinked exploitation of land and people during colonization drew, in part, on anthropocentric views that have present-day implications (Ferdinand, 2022). Such anthropocentric views, partly in connection to capitalism, are used to create hierarchies between and among humans and non-humans based on how profitable they are perceived to be. The joint exploitation of people and land also resonate with academic work that is at times guilty of extracting data and knowledge from minoritized groups to benefit privileged institutions and individuals (see e.g. Tierra Común, n.d.). The ecological turn in intercultural communication therefore calls to reinvent structures and systems, including academic ones.


Goals and Scope of the Issue:

This special issue hopes to tease out and strengthen the connections between interculturality and ecology by showing what such a dual focus can bring to light. Specifically, we invite articles engaging with, but not limited to, the following questions and areas of inquiry:

  • How are notions and discourses about culture, identity, community, and borders constructed and mobilized to talk about the ecological collapse?
  • How can a dual focus on interculturality and ecology be used to renew the field of intercultural communication and some of its central concepts such as competence, dialogue or reflexivity?
  • How can a dual focus on interculturality and ecology be applied in research various contexts such as education (e.g. sustainability (language) education), interpersonal relationships (e.g. interspecies dialogue), mediated communication, health etc.?
  • How can the study of interculturality and ecology benefit from and contribute to other lines of work such as decolonial scholarship, environmental justice, pluriversality and post-humanism?
  • What methods and paradigms are particularly useful to explore the interplay between interculturality and ecology?
  • How can the ecological turn in intercultural communication be used to move the field away from the Euro-western-centric production of knowledge and give room to indigenous and marginalized academic voices?


List of References:

Castro-Sotomayor, J. (2020). Ecocultural identities in intercultural encounters. In T. Milstein & J. Castro-Sotomayor (Eds.), Routledge handbook of ecocultural identity (pp. 66-85). Routledge.

Ferdinand, M. (2022). Decolonial ecology: Thinking from the Caribbean world. John Wiley & Sons.

Lamb, G. (2021). Ecocultural Identity and Intercultural Communication in Wildlife Ecotourism: Stance-taking Toward Sea Turtles in Hawai. In B. K. Sharma & S. Gao (Eds.), Language and Intercultural Communication in Tourism (pp. 179-205). Routledge.

Mendoza, S. L. (2023). Theorizing at the End of the World: Transforming Critical Intercultural Communication. In T. Nakayama & R. T. Halualani (Eds.), The Handbook of Critical Intercultural Communication (pp. 109-126). Routledge.

Mendoza, S. L., & Kinefuchi, E. (2016). Two stories, one vision: A plea for an ecological turn in intercultural communication. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication9(4), 275-294.

Piller, I. (2017). Intercultural Communication. A Critical Introduction (2nd ed). Edinburgh University Press.

Tierra Común. (n.d.). Interventions for data decolonization. Tierra Común.

Waldron, I. R. (2021). There’s something in the water: environmental racism in Indigenous & Black communities. Fernwood Publishing.

Submission Instructions

Extended abstracts should consist of no more than 1,000 words (not including references) and be submitted by 1 September 2024 the latest. Both empirical research reports and theoretical or conceptual essays are welcome. For empirical research, the extended abstract should highlight the theoretical rationale and how the findings will contribute to the focus of the special issue. For theoretical or conceptual essays, the extended abstract should clearly elaborate on the conceptual, theoretical, and applied contribution of the proposed essay. After a review of the extended abstracts, selected authors will be invited to complete a final manuscript. Final manuscripts will undergo peer review. Page limits and other requirements for the final manuscripts will be provided at the time of invitation.

For questions, please contact the guest editors, Dr. Mélodine Sommier ([email protected]), Dr. Diyako Rahmani ([email protected]), Dr. Alice Fanari  ([email protected]).

Extended abstracts should be submitted by 1 September 2024 via the following link:

Instructions for AuthorsSubmit an Article