Mindfulness and intercultural personhood: Understanding students' intercultural experience at a culturally diverse UK university

UoM administered thesis: Phd


The study reported in this thesis focused on the intercultural experience of students at a culturally-diverse university in the UK, and in particular, on their processes of meaning-making regarding their experience as well as on the resulting meanings they attach to their experience. Conceptually, the study - as framed by a small culture (Holliday, 1999) approach to understanding 'intercultural' - rejected the common large culture deterministic use of prescribed labels of difference (e.g. nationality). Further, the concept of mindfulness - a dimension of some intercultural competence theories (e.g. Ting-Toomey and Kurogi, 1998) - provided a lens for understanding how students make meanings about their experience. I use the concept to refer to a mental state of paying attention with the 'right' (i.e. wholesome) intention. Reciprocally, the study also developed understandings of what mindfulness might be in intercultural thinking. Methodologically, I used multiple creative-visual-arts (CVA) methods to explore five mature students' meaning-making about their intercultural experience. In order to systematically analyse the generated dataset, I developed what I call 'Multislicing Semiotic Analysis' (MSA) (Huang, 2017) for the study. The study provides an in-depth understanding of students' meaning-making about their intercultural experience. It offers six areas of contribution. First, it enriches the understanding of students' intercultural experience in the higher education (HE) context. Second, acknowledging Kim's (2008, 2015) lead, it further conceptualises 'intercultural personhood'. Third, it provides a more developed understanding of 'mindfulness' in intercultural thinking. Fourth, by working with the concept 'mindfulness', it offers an example of using intercultural ethics and epistemic justice to guide the increasingly interconnected knowledge-work of our era. Fifth, the study contributes to arts-based research by developing multiple CVA methods, and a systematic approach to analysing the generated data. Last, it critiques the underpinning essentialism of much discussion of the HE, and suggests an interculturally progressive awareness and responsibility for intercultural education in a world of increasing connectivity, complexities and conflicts.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2019