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Discursive Grouping in a Virtual Forum: Dialogue, Difference, and the “Intercultural”

Pages 109-126
Published online: 20 Apr 2011


This paper engages with the notion of intercultural dialogue by exploring how participants in a virtual forum constructed difference and whether this difference fostered or prevented dialogue. The questions in this paper are grounded in dialogue scholarship which regards difference as an opportunity for dialogic transformation. The analysis illustrates that interlocutors mostly confirmed group locations through identity terms, truth talk, and distrust, which prevented dialogue. However, the data also exemplifies moments of dialogic alignment. The discussion reflects on the concept “intercultural” and cautions not to overemphasize the cultural at the expense of other meanings which are important to interlocutors.


The work described in this paper was partially supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (Project No. CUHK451908/2008–2010/Social Sciences) and a Direct Grant from CUHK (Project ID 2020931). The author would like to thank the editors and anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback.


1. This study is part of a larger project, which examines space and place-creation by exile Uyghurs in the United States and Europe over a period of 3 years. There are approximately 8.4 million Uyghurs living in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR; Gladney, Citation2004; National Bureau of Statistics of China, Citation2009), a number sometimes indicated as being higher by exiled Uyghurs (10 million). Due to political, economic and religious reasons, Uyghurs have migrated to Central Asia, North America, Turkey, Australia, and Europe (Feng & Ai, Citation2008; personal interviews with asylum seekers and refugees in Germany and the United States). Exiled Uyghurs have founded organizations which educate an international audience about Uyghur culture, language, and history, provide platforms for Uyghurs to network, promote Uyghur self-determination, and report on human rights violations in Xinjiang, a province Uyghurs often call East Turkistan.

2. In the following, I will use both names as they were both used in the forum.

3. I present the posts in their original form and without having corrected spelling and syntax.

4. In my interviews in the United States and in Germany, Uyghurs expressed a strong sense of identity.

Additional information

Notes on contributors

Saskia Witteborn

Saskia Witteborn is Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism and Communication, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

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