Issue Vol. 3, No. 4 / October 2007

Asian Contributions to Communication Theory: An Introduction
Author(s): Yoshitaka Miike
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The eleven essays contained in this special issue represent future lines of communication inquiry from Asiacentric vantage points. They advance Asian communication research by propounding indigenous theoretical frameworks and examine Eurocentrism in communication theory by deploying Asian parameters and exemplars. This introductory article provides the reader with a background and overview of the special issue. The article highlights several important attempts that are made in the present volume: (1) non-Eurocentric comparisons; (2) the re-reading of Asian classical treatises; (3) critical reflections on Western theory; (4) an East-West synthesis; and (5) explorations into cultural concepts. Taken together, the essays that follow open up new vistas about humanity and diversity on the threshold of the multicultural turn in communication theory.
Alternate Perspectives on Gandhian Communication Ethics
Author(s): William J. Starosta and Lili Shi
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Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, drawing from experiences in South Africa and England, and grafting these onto his foundational Hindu beliefs, articulated a philosophy of truth \"firmness\" or \"force\" (Satyagraha) that rests on nonviolence (ahimsa), sacrifice (vrat), respect for one’s opponent, self-purification and renunciation (bramacharya), resistance to \"unmorality,\" and the pursuit of an ideal personal state that should produce an ideal social outcome. Gandhi's philosophy can be viewed either on its own terms, or in comparative terms. This article first considers Gandhi's philosophy on its own, then in comparison to European and Chinese philosophy.
Confucianism and Communication: Jen, Li, and Ubuntu
Author(s): June Ock Yum
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The most appropriate way to understand East Asian patterns of communication is to understand the joint impact of jen (humanism) and li (propriety or etiquette). They are two of the most important Confucian principles. The essence of Confucian humanism is to treat other people with respect and deference. Propriety provides concrete ways to express humanism. As the North American culture moves away from formality towards informality and increasingly equates propriety with being old fashioned and stuffy, civility has been jeopardized. Incivility is fundamentally an expression of extreme individualism in the sense that one is unconcerned with the impact of one’s actions on other people. Asian patterns of communication emphasize the use of proper language befitting the context and interlocutor and of formal versus informal communication patterns. The combination of humanism and propriety provides a method for correcting the trend towards rudeness and returning to civility. A concept that is very similar to jen is South African concept of ubuntu. Ubuntu means human dignity and collective sharedness. According to this definition, people are people through other people. In other words, the very existence and identity of an individual depends on his/her relationships with others. It has been acknowledged that reconciliation and the rather peaceful transition from apartheid policy to current form of democracy in South Africa was possible due to the shared understanding and exercising of ubuntu.
Theoretical Perspectives on Islam and Communication
Author(s): Hamid Mowlana
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This article problematizes Western biases and practices in the current system and structure of mass communication as they relate to the Islamic world. It calls for the need of a professional association of Muslim journalists that aims to set ethical criteria for news reporting, protect the rights of individual local journalists, and promote education and training of young people who represent a major source of human resources for Islamic culture and civilization. The article then discusses five cardinal concepts of the Islamic worldview that could serve as the fundamental principles of communication ethics for such a network of Muslim journalists: (1) tawhid, (2) amr bi al-ma'ruf wa nahy’an al munkar, (3) ummah, (4) taqwa, and (5) amanat. By and large, Muslim societies have not responded positively to communication ethics coming from outside their own culture. Nor in the post-colonial Muslim world has the communication system acquired from the West gained a broad popular base. Throughout the Islamic history, information has been not a commodity but a moral imperative. From an Islamic perspective, therefore, this article concludes that linguistic and political vocabularies and concepts, now at the center of global politics, both celebrate the arrival of a new communication age and hold the key to ultimate information control.
Nagarjuna and Modern Communication Theory
Author(s): Wimal Dissanayake
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Nagarjuna (150-250 A.D.), who sought to illuminate the human meaning of Buddhism from a Mahayana point of view, is held in the highest esteem by Buddhist scholars both in India and outside. His magnum opus, the Mulamadhyamakakarika, is an interpretive work that displays his understanding of the essence of Buddhist thought and epistemology. This text contains many intersecting concepts such as emptiness or devoidness, relativity, dubious linkages between cause and effect, and misperceptions of the idea of time that can prove to be of inestimable value in advancing modern communication theory. The fact that Western communication theorists have ignored, or paid scant attention to, Nagarjuna makes the attempt to understand his writings in the light of communication theory much more important and compelling. This article focuses on some of the ideas enunciated by Nagarjuna in the Mulamadhyamakakarika and discusses their implications for theorizing human communication.
Exploring the Path to Buddhist Enlightenment (Bodhi) as Ultimate Communication
Author(s): Satoshi Ishii
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In this age of postmodern scholarly paradigm shifts, an increasing number of intercultural communication researchers have begun to search for unconventional philosophies, theories, and concepts of communication based on East Asian cultures. Under such circumstances of scholarship, the present study attempts to pursue three purposes: First, to reconfirm the rising significance of making East Asian contributions to human communication research; second, to take a historical overview of the two major schools of Buddhist soteriology concerned with enlightenment; and third, to propose a graphic model which illustrates the path to Buddhist enlightenment as ultimate communication. This study will provide intercultural communication researchers with new insights and tasks from Buddhist perspectives.
The Asian Communication Scholar for the 21st Century
Author(s): Ronald D. Gordon
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Increasingly, young academics from East Asia and elsewhere around the world go to America to attend graduate school in communication studies, and then eventually return to their home countries armed with American communication theories, concepts, and methods. True to research traditions of their American mentors and institutions, these young scholars willingly import an American neo-positivistic paradigm and theory package to their homelands. Other scholars from Asia remain in America, becoming successful exemplars of competence in American topics, constructs and procedures. The articulation of Western neo-positivism and the adoption of standard theoretical stances by both groups establishes the model for yet other young scholars in Asia to emulate. This is a discernable pattern. As a consequence, rather than the development of local approaches to indigenous Asian perspectives on human communication, imported-from-America methods and theories become the norm. Indeed, it can be said that what is currently positioned as \"human\" communication theory bears the stamp \"Made in the U.S.A.\" There is need for Asian communication scholars and researchers to pursue contributions that do not merely duplicate Western topics and methods, but that generate fresh visions, and even paradigm shifts, within the international communication discipline. Chinese, and other Asian, communication scholars are here encouraged to go beyond obedience to the further promulgation of received views, and to join those who are making original contributions of method and substance from within their own Asian cultural, historical, philosophical, religious, and social contexts. It is in this way that a truly \"human\" communication discipline will emerge. Of particular importance is scholarship, research, and practice that has relevance to the survival and harmonization of the peoples of the planet Earth.
Let Many Journalisms Bloom: Cosmology, Orientalism, and Freedom
Author(s): Shelton A. Gunaratne
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The resolute attempts of the West to propagate the two-pronged model of liberal democracy and independent journalism presume the universal applicability of Westcentric secularized Judeo-Christian ideals. This presumption reflects a continuation of the practice of Orientalism, which the imperial West adopted to downgrade non-Western wisdom and justify colonialism. Eastern onto-cosmology makes it very clear that diversity and unity (yin and yang) are complementary aspects of every material or mental aggregate. Moreover, the Buddhist doctrine of dependent co-arising asserts that nothing is permanent and everything is conditioned reciprocally by its environment. Therefore, there cannot be One Journalism or One System of Governance. Until advanced computer technology enables us to verify such metaphysical concepts, we must rely on philosophy (and interpretive journalism) to impress on humanity that the wisdom of these two cultural aggregates (East and West) are complementary. Furthermore, the article points out that although many genres of journalism inhabit the libertarianauthoritarian continuum, no consensus has yet emerged on the norms of socially responsible (or Middle Path) journalism. Norms based on Buddhist philosophy may provide the answer.
The Concept of Rhetorical Competence and Sensitivity Revisited: From Western and Eastern Perspectives
Author(s): Roichi Okabe
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This article examines the philosophical and conceptual grounding for the concept of rhetorical competence and sensitivity from the Eastern perspectives. Cultural differences have been found to exist in the uses of logic and in the ways of establishing speaker credibility between the Eastern and Western cultures. Adherence to the norm in the highly collectivistic, and extremely uncertainty avoidant cultures suggests that the importance of situational sensitivity and audience analysis may not be the same as in the Western cultures. Thus, it is clear that the Western rhetorical approaches may not apply to conceptualizations of rhetorical competence and sensitivity in the Eastern cultures such as Japan. In this article, specific attention will be paid to the cross-cultural validity of a traditionally Western cultural view of rhetorical competence and sensitivity.
Understanding Friendship from a Thai Point of View: Negotiating the Expectations Involved in Work and Non-Work Relationships
Author(s): Michael Pfahl, Pornprom Chomngam, and Claudia L. Hale
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This article heeds calls for a more nuanced vision of communication studies while simultaneously arguing against approaches that position \"Asia\" as a monolithic term under which the study of one culture, for example, China, is read as sufficient to provide an understanding of all Asian cultures. Our specific focus is on the concept of friendship as that concept is understood within the context of the Thai culture. Based on interview data, we explore the meaning of friendship for Thais, as they experience that very important personal relationship in work and non-work settings. We outline a research agenda for the future that we hope will, once enacted, broaden the discipline’s understanding of personal communication within Thailand.
The Chinese Malaysians' Selfish Mentality and Behaviors:Rationalizing From the Native Perspectives
Author(s): Ee Lin Lee
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In this study, I provide an understanding of the stereotyped selfish mentality and communicative behaviors of Chinese Malaysians from the perspective of the natives. The stereotype is held by the Chinese and non-Chinese in Malaysia and is based on contemporary national public discourse and the Chinese Malaysians' mundane conversations. In describing the popular stereotype of selfishness, I discuss a culture-specific keyword \"kiasu\" that highlights the \"Chineseness\" of the Chinese Malaysians, which might explain their mentality and communicative behaviors. I also propose three influences in Malaysia that promote the stereotype of the selfish Chinese Malaysian: (a) the Chinese Malaysians’ comparative economic strength, (b) the Malaysian education system's competitiveness, and (c) the Chinese Malaysians' redefinition of their identity to lie between the traditional Chinese from mainland China and the modern Westernized Chinese. In the discussion, I explain how the Chinese Malaysians' selfish mentality and communicative behaviors fit in with past research on Chinese cultural groups and East Asians in general and stress the importance of understanding a cultural community through the people's history, their sociopolitical situation, and its contemporariness. I also emphasize the importance of the understanding of Chinese diaspora's pluralities and complexities in Asiancentric research and theory building.
The Impact of Feng Shui on Chinese Communication
Author(s): Guo-Ming Chen
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Feng shui, the art of space arrangement, has made a great impact on Chinese society. It reflects and shapes most of the traditional Chinese cultural values. Because feng shui continues to play an important role in the contemporary Chinese world, it is important for scholars in different disciplines to systematically study feng shui in order to better understand the Chinese way of thinking and behavior. The goal of this article is threefold: (1) to delineate the meaning of feng shui, (2) to examine the philosophical and cultural bases of feng shui, and (3) to analyze its impact on the Chinese social interaction. It is concluded that, as a collection of Chinese ancient wisdom, feng shui not only contains much mysterious knowledge, but also possesses many ideas that can be explained and studied by using the contemporary research methodology, including empirical and interpretive investigations.
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