Thinking dialectically about culture and communication

Judith N. Martin, Thomas K. Nakayama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

215 Scopus citations


A survey of contemporary research reveals distinct and competing approaches to the study of culture and communication. These approaches reflect various metatheoretical assumptions, research goals, and beliefs about the role of power and relevance in contemporary research. In order to legitimate the various approaches and facilitate interparadigmatic discussion, this essay first examines the metatheoretical assumptions of current research and then proposes a dialectical approach to scholarship. First, we identify and describe four distinct paradigms of culture and communication, based on Burrell and Morgan's (1988) framework: functionalist, interpretive, critical humanist, and critical structuralist. For each paradigm, we identify metatheoretical assumptions, concomitant conceptualizations of culture, the relationship between culture and communication, and contemporary research exemplars. We then propose a dialectic approach that facilitates interparadigmatic dialogue and offers new ways to conceptualize and study intercultural communication. We offer six dialectics of intercultural communication practice that could guide future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalCommunication Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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