Appropriation or Approximation: The Emergence of Intermediate Horizons

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Constructing a model of intercultural communication faces two major challenges. First, it has to cope with the problem of understanding, and second, a model must be developed that explains how shared meaning can emerge from interaction processes and in which ways. In order to answer these two questions, I propose, to identify different modes of communication in the literature about post-colonialism and hermeneutics, and to bring them together systematically. The analysis of the works by Shmuel Eisenstadt, Homi Bhabha, and Hans Georg Gadamer show that we have to distinguish between three forms of interaction: mimicry, appropriation, and non-appropriative communication. Mimicry can be understood as an unconscious process of imitation of ideas and cultural practices. In contrast, appropriation, as an intentional and creative mode of changing meaning, refers to an action that takes a term or idea intentionally out of its former context, integrating it into one´s own horizon, or narrative. This appropriation can lead to new meanings, but it does not include actors or authors of the “other” idea, term, or vocabulary into the communicative act. In contrast, non-appropriative communication, as Gadamer developed it rudimentarily in his model of the convergence of horizons, seeks to include the other into the communicative act. But, the problem, his approach causes, is that the two concepts of understanding and judging are too closely linked together. A concept of intercultural communication instead needs to explain how understanding is possible without instantaneously judging. A fourth leading approach seems to be Judith Butler’s concept of addressing. It shows how interrupting the judgment opens up the possibility of learning about the other, and of understanding the way he or she wants to be. Therefore, building on the difference between understanding and evaluating, non-appropriating communication has to be described as the approximation of intermediate horizons.


Keywords: Appropriation, Intercultural Understanding
Stream: Identity and Belonging; the Politics of Diversity; Globalisation
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Appropriation or Approximation


De La Rosa Sybille

Research Assistant, Otto Suhr Institut, Freie Universität Berlin
Berlin, Germany


Ref: D08P0423