Communication Intercultural Capital
Andreas Pöllmann
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 October 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0237


Since about 2006, a growing number of academic publications have employed or referred to the concept of intercultural capital. In analogy to Pierre Bourdieu’s forms of embodied, objectified, and institutionalized cultural capital, it is analytically meaningful to conceive distinct forms of intercultural capital. Foreign language skills, experience of living abroad, and intercultural friendships constitute examples of empirical indicators of embodied intercultural capital. Products of art, writing, science, architecture, and design that carry intercultural meanings, associations, or connotations in durable and tangible ways exemplify manifestations of objectified intercultural capital. Examples of institutionalized intercultural capital include officially issued and recognized laws, guidelines, commemorative days, exchange programs, curricula, school books, and academic titles with a more or less explicit intercultural outlook. Existing empirical research spans a considerable range of different areas, including pre-tertiary and tertiary education, migration, intercultural dialogue, collective identity formation, tourism, electoral studies, social work, neighborhood politics, and transmigrant families. Thus far, questions pertaining to students and teachers at different levels of formal education have attracted particularly pronounced scholarly interest. Much still remains to be learned about the quantity and quality of concrete empirical manifestation of embodied, objectified, and institutionalized forms of intercultural capital in different geopolitical and sociocultural contexts, at different points in time. There is also a need for more theoretically informed empirical investigations of processes of intercultural capital realization in terms of awareness, acquisition, and application, which combine an emphasis on individual-level factors with a focus on pertinent contextual forces and fields of (symbolic) power. Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology of culture lies at the heart of current conceptual developments and is likely to sustain or frame future theoretical advances. However, it is important to emphasize that while the notion of intercultural capital is situated within a Bourdieusian conceptual framework, the famous French sociologist himself did not focus on the intercultural dimensions of cultural capital. Moreover, the centrality of Bourdieu’s body of work does not preclude explorations of the idea of intercultural capital in productive dialogue with other pertinent concepts, such as “intercultural analphabetism,” “funds of knowledge,” and “community cultural wealth.” The structure of this Oxford Bibliographies entry proceeds by topic rather than citation type—from important conceptual considerations to different pertinent areas of research. Yet, information on the particular citation type (e.g., book, book chapter, or journal article) forms an integral part of the respective annotations.

The Concept

Pierre Bourdieu’s body of work is of central importance to current conceptualizations of “intercultural capital” and most likely to benefit future theoretical developments in productive dialogue with other pertinent conceptual approaches.

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