Rethinking the concept of intercultural conflict: Italian returnees’ attitudes towards others during a cultural conflict
The article aims to rethink the concept of intercultural conflict. Specifically, I argue that the use of the adjective “intercultural” within ‘intercultural conflict’ is usually an expression of rhetorical discourse or is not appropriate. Following a semantic analysis I show that a cultural conflict, here conceptualized as incompatibility of cultural values between a minimum of two people belonging to different cultural backgrounds, might be described as an intercultural conflict. This is possible if the interactants, rather than focussing on solutions, adopt an ‘intercultural attitude’ (comity, ethical relativism, critical self-reflection, openness toward a potential change, suspending judgment, reframing meanings, curiosity, respect, and self-decentralization) between them. Existing theoretical concepts are explored through qualitative research examining supposedly interculturally competent high school students’ (after one scholastic year abroad) attitudes towards others during a cultural conflict. The study shows that curiosity and respect towards others might be considered as preconditions for a true dialogue. Two main attitudes emerge from the analysis: the multicultural one and the intercultural one. The former corresponds to respect for the different ideas of others. The second is exemplified by true interaction between interactants who seek a deep understanding of what is behind the point of view held by themselves and others. Adopting an intercultural attitude, they make all possible efforts to truly encounter each other’s otherness.