Report on the Launch of Third Space Lab

By Junyi Tao

Class of 2023

Third Space Lab (TSL) held its first launch event on April 6th at 9PM CST. Considering the COVID-19 epidemic, this event took the form of an online zoom meeting and was also recorded and posted on the TSL Sakai site. In total, 97 students, faculty, and staff from DKU and Duke, and from various institutions in China and in the US, attended this exciting event.

Third Space Lab is a research lab at Duke Kunshan University (DKU) which aims to, “accompany and understand students’ experiences and learning in intercultural spaces and encounters” by examining the transformation of multilingual identities both at DKU and abroad. Currently, TSL has a series of workshops and research projects led by co-directors Dr. Chiocca, Dr. Naghib, and Dr. Zhang. Currently, the co-directors are in the process of planning more interesting events in the future, such as panel discussions, other webinars, as well as forum discussions.

Third Space Lab invited the DKU community and distinguished interculturalist Dr. Darla Deardorff to attend their lab launch. Dr. Chiocca, Dr. Naghib, and Dr. Zhang began the launch with the definition of Third Space, the aims of the lab, and its research projects and workshops on intercultural education. Then Dr. James Miller, co-director of the Humanities Research Center, discussed the background and values of this lab. Dr. Don Snow, director of the Language and Culture Center, introduced Dr. Darla Deardorff who is a researcher at Duke University’s Social Science Research Institute and a leading scholar in the field of intercultural competence.

Dr. Deardorff began her plenary talk, entitled “Developing Habits for an Intercultural Lifestyle”, with five myths related to intercultural competence and lifestyle. To clarify any misunderstandings, she pointed out that intercultural lifestyle and competence cannot be assessed or achieved, but are rather lifelong processes; moreover, we cannot develop intercultural competence and lifestyle by simply speaking multiple languages, living in international environments, or learning relevant knowledge. After covering these myths, she asked the participants to think of somebody who exhibits an intercultural lifestyle and shared the story of Yo-Yo Ma, who demonstrates an intercultural lifestyle by embracing multiple identities and an attitude of life-long learning. After sharing this example, Dr. Deardorff provided the definition of Intercultural Competence (ICC). It refers to the capacity to analyze intercultural issues critically and from multiple perspectives, to understand the effects of differences, and to engage in appropriate, effective intercultural interactions with openness and respect. She then briefly introduced her ICC process model and the ICC frameworks, recommending some relevant books about the essential skills, knowledge, and attitudes in developing intercultural competence.

In the latter portion of her talk, Dr. Deardorff went on to say that the interpretations of intercultural competence depend on different contexts and thus vary globally. However, the key themes of intercultural competence are consistent and encompass respect, listening, adapting, relationship building, cultural humility, self-awareness, and multiple perspectives. Next, Dr. Deardorff summed up the five considerations of ICC development. She advised us to seek real-world engagement and think of the underlying values. Meanwhile, intercultural lifestyle is a process and involves skills, attitudes, and multiple identities. Finally, Dr. Deardorff spoke of the principles for living interculturally. They include seeking first to understand, staying curious, being a good neighbor, and reflecting on ourselves regularly.

The launch ended with a Q&A session, where Dr. Deardorff answered several questions. The first question regarded the cultivation of ICC in homogeneous societies, and the answer was that difference always exists and therefore intercultural habits are needed. Second, Dr. Miller asked about the role that history plays in ICC, and Dr. Deardorff responded by explaining that history matters because intercultural knowledge concerns historical context, which is important to developing intercultural competence. When it comes to the most important aspect of ICC, she thought it depends on different perspectives and contexts. With respect to the importance of ICC, Dr. Deardorff said that we must learn to live together and embracing an intercultural lifestyle is the start. As to the last question, she replied that we could practice living interculturally in many ways regardless of the COVID-19 epidemic.

In sum, this launch introduced Third Space Lab and the conceptualization of intercultural competence and lifestyle. Dr. Deardorff provided valuable advice on how to develop intercultural competence and live interculturally, which were especially useful to members of the DKU community.