Cultural Communication Inquiries into the Ghanaian Public and Personal Spheres

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2023-08

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Abstract

This thesis details two qualitative inquiries into the personal and public Ghanaian spheres. In my first study, I set out to write on the similarities and differences among the ethnic groups in Africa while utilizing the philosophical concept of dialectics (Bakhtin, 1986), most specifically intercultural communication dialectics as outlined by Martin and Nakayama (1999). I focus the work on the dialectic of sameness-difference within my analysis as I share my experiences as an Asante (an ethnic group in Ghana), a Ghanaian and as an African in this autoethnography. These experiences include the ones I had in Ghana and the more recent experiences I have had in the United States of America. I argue that while there are similarities in specific African contexts, the differences cannot be ignored. The African situation is not monolithic but nuanced. This work is an exercise in educating others (Orbe, 1998) and also inviting others (Foss & Griffin, 1995) to be aware of the multiplicity of various African situations. I conclude with Martin and Nakayama (1999), who state that understanding intercultural relations from ‘a dialectical perspective reminds us that difference and similarity can coexist in intercultural communication interactions’ (p. 16) and that is how I wish for Africa to be perceived and studied. In the second study, I co-author (with Dr. Amy Heuman) a qualitative study examining the intergenerational tensions between Ghanaian youth and elders and the resulting communication approaches employed by younger generation as they navigate interactions with elders. We adopt the lens of co-cultural theory (Orbe, 1998) to make sense of Ghanaian youth experiences as they assume co-cultural positionings in the political, social, and cultural Ghanaian structure. Via WhatsApp and Facebook, we recruited 14 participants through network and purposive sampling methods to participate in semi-structured Zoom interviews that ranged from 30-60 minutes in duration. We engaged in a critical thematic analysis, combining Owen’s (1984) Thematic Analysis with Lawless & Chen’s Critical Thematic Analysis to identify three emergent themes. These themes included: 1) marking “muted group syndrome” through intergenerational tensions, 2) co-cultural communication practices as a clashing of the “old” and “new,” which include subthemes of a) navigating the “old” ways and b) navigating the “new” ways, and 3) bridging the old and new ways via strategic simultaneity. Participants described a complex and simultaneous interplay between the “old” ways (traditional cultural framework) and the “new” ways (modernist cultural framework) by utilizing assimilation and accommodation strategies most predominantly along with two new practice selections of seeking dominant perspective (assimilation) and engaging in dialogic communication (accommodation). Our study offers important implications for navigations of power and cultural hegemony within socio-cultural milieus and offers to extend the possibilities regarding co-cultural communication practices given the simultaneity of selection practices reported by the Ghanaian youth.

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Keywords

Autoethnography, Africanity, Intercultural Communication, Dialectics, Asante, co-cultural theory, youth, elders, Ghana, intergenerational tension

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