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I know, 'cos I was there: how residence abroad students use personal experience to legitimate cultural generalisations.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date09/2002
JournalDiscourse and Society
Journal number5
Volume13
Number of pages22
Pages651-672
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article examines the discursive construction of cultural generalizations, by analysing generalizations about gender and culture made in a large corpus of diary, focus group and interview data produced by modern languages students at university in Britain during or shortly after their period of residence abroad. It is argued that although students demonstrate an awareness of the negative cultural evaluation of stereotyping through the use of mitigation strategies, they are nevertheless willing to produce generalizations under the right discursive conditions, particularly when permission is given by the other participants in the interaction and when they are able to produce evidence to legitimate the generalization in some way. Analysis of the entire corpus shows that the most common form of legitimation is the appeal to personal experience, whereas close analysis of extracts from the data demonstrates the importance of discursive context and process in making such generalizations possible and acceptable.