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Cultural Interaction: A Global Perspective


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
Limited places are also open for exchange students.
Please note: this course takes place in The Hague. Traveling between University buildings from Leiden to The Hague may take about 45 minutes.


Following on from the first-year courses “Sociolinguistics” and “Cultural Studies”, this course takes a micro and a macro approach to interaction between people and cultural groups.

The first half of the course will examine culture and cultural differences in terms of how they work socio-politically and how they affect people and the interaction between cultural groups. The very term intercultural interaction provokes a pivotal research question: is there one world in which different cultures manifest themselves, or is it the case that cultures shape and embody different worlds? The question will lead us to consider whether cultural expressions are just expressions or whether they connote forms of life; whether, globally, cultures tend towards becoming the same (as a matter of universalism), or whether they are and remain fundamentally different. If the latter is the case, this connects culture to the political, the realm of disaccord. Students will have to read one article per session and in sessions we deal with concrete cases.

Communication often proceeds on the basis of culturally-formed assumptions about who should speak, when, and for how long, what are appropriate topics for conversation, and linguistic and paralinguistic cues indicating how interlocutors feel about the evolving conversation. However, such assumptions are hardly ever made explicit. To begin to unravel how culture shapes everyday interaction, the second part of this course introduces classic notions in cross-cultural pragmatics and conversation analysis, through weekly readings uploaded on Blackboard. Students must familiarize themselves with this literature prior to coming to class.

Course objectives

The goal of this course is to provide students with the theoretical background to account for: 1.) the ways in which culture is used to shape worlds and world views; 2.) the different meanings from which our social worlds are constructed as they arise in everyday conversation.

More specifically, students will:

  • Be able to assess the role of culture in the dynamics between politics, economics, and religion, in relation to history and global and local situations;

  • Be able to respect cultural differences and interactions in terms of complex forms of understanding, of translation, or fundamental mis-understanding;

  • Gain insight into how sociocultural interpretations are constructed through and during interaction;

  • Learn to reflect on and interrogate the main concepts in pragmatics, sociolinguistics and intercultural communication studies as applied in different cultural contexts;

  • Learn to apply the theories and methods discussed in the course to analyze communicative, narrative and visual productions from regions of their choice.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction


Lectures are held every week, with the exception of the midterm exam week. Weekly lectures will cover issues both inside and outside the readings.


Tutorials are held once every three weeks, with the exception of the midterm exam week. Attending all tutorial sessions is compulsory. If you are unable to attend a session, please inform your tutor in advance. Being absent at more than one of the tutorial sessions will result in a lowering of your tutorial grade (30% of the end grade) with 1 point for each session missed after the first session. Please note that being absent at any tutorial session may have a negative impact on the grade of the assignment due for that particular tutorial session. This is at the discretion of the tutor.

Course Load

Total course load for this course is 5 EC (1 EC = 28 hours), which equals 140 hours, broken down by:

  • Attending lectures: 24 hours

  • Attending tutorials: 8 hours

  • Assessment hours (exams): 4 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature (approximately 7 pages / hour): 64 hours

  • Completing assignments, preparing for classes and exams: 40 hours

Assessment method


  • Presentation: Poster presentation during the tutorial.

  • Midterm Exam: Digital examination.

  • Final Exam: Written examination with open questions and closed questions (multiple choice).


Partial grade Weighing
Tutorials 30%
Midterm Exam 30%
Final Exam 40%

End Grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note of the following:

  • The end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of Tutorial grade, Midterm Exam grade, and Final Exam grade.

  • The weighted average of the Midterm Exam grade and the Final Exam grade needs to be 5.5 or higher.

  • This means that failing Exam grades cannot be compensated with a high Tutorial grade.


If the end grade is insufficient (lower than a 6.0), or the weighted average of Midterm- and Final Exams is lower than 5.5, there is a possibility of retaking the full 70% of the exam material, replacing both the earlier Midterm- and Final Exam grades. No resit for the tutorial is possible.
Please note that if the Resit Exam grade is lower than 5.5, you will not pass the course, regardless of the tutorial grade.

Retaking a passing grade

Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2018 – 2019.

Exam review

How and when an exam review takes place will be determined by the examiner. This review will be within 30 days after official publication of exam results.


Blackboard will be used for tutorial groups. Students are requested to enroll on Blackboard, but only after correct enrolment in uSis.

Reading list

Book chapters and journal articles by John Gumperz, Dell Hymes, John Haviland, Steve Levinson, Michael Silverstein, Herbert Clark, Harold Garfinkel, and Erving Goffman. A detailed syllabus will be provided at the start of the semester; readings will be uploaded on Blackboard one week in advance of the relevant lecture.

Articles by Geert Hofstede, Bruno Latour, Charles Taylor, Saba Mahmood, Emily Apter, and lemmas from the Stanford Encyclopedia. A detailed syllabus will be provided at the start of the semester; readings will be uploaded on Blackboard one week in advance of the relevant lecture.

NB: for the essay part of the final exam, students will have to have watched the movie Biutiful by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu.


  • Enrolment through uSis for Tutorials and Lectures is mandatory.

  • Students will be enrolled for Exams by the Administration Office, as long as they have a valid Tutorial enrolment.

  • General information about uSis is available here.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Prof.dr. F.W.A. Korsten Dr. L.M. Hess

When contacting lecturers or tutors, please include your full name, student number, and tutorial group number.