Intercultural Political Leadership


Political communication happens all around us, though perhaps it is more overt in some national cultures than others. At some universities, people promote causes with posters and speeches in public spaces, there are special presentations for causes, and even editorials in the school paper can have a political component. In other cultures, there might be less public discussion of political alternatives, but there are still likely to be political and social movements present. 

Political messages work to co-construct our cultural environment. Depending on one’s cultural perspective, they either reflect and contribute to a systematic set of values (concern for justice, altruism, freedom of speech, democracy, etc.) or they promote a fragmented public discourse where the same notion (e.g., product of conception/unborn baby, global warming) is given different meaning within different sets of ideas for different groups (this is a more postmodern perspective).

Finally, this political communication can be more formal, such as deliberate attempts at social movements, or it can be “vernacular”—local and grass-roots movements that are outside of the official channels. For more information, see Bowers, J.W., & Ochs, D.J. (1971). The Rhetoric of Agitation and Social Control. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.


Locate examples of intercultural political leadership. Find a leader who is working to change cultures or across cultures (e.g., Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Teresa) and explain why this person is important and what her or his contribution is.

1.  Would you say that it pertains to traditional politics or to politics 2.0? Why?

2.  What do the different messages have to do with culture and communication? Are some more “cultural” than others? 

3.  What seems to be the intended audience of the message? What is the attempted change in behavior? What structural or group interests does the change support? 

4.  In what ways do you think this message will be effective or ineffective for this audience?

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