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New Book Co-Authored by Maggie Griffith Williams Analyzes Cross-Cultural Films Through Intercultural Communication Lens

Maggie Griffith Williams (top) and Ishani Mukherjee.

A new book co-authored by CAMD faculty member Maggie Griffith Williams, Communication Studies, analyzes – through an intercultural communication lens – six cross-cultural films that tie into global movements, their complexities, and implications. Each chapter of the book, Migration, Mobility & Sojourning in Cross-Cultural Films: Interculturing Cinema (2020, Lexington Books), explores how intercultural communication functions in the film’s storytelling and in the movement or stasis of the characters’ relationships. The authors, Williams and Ishani Mukherjee, Ph.D. (University of Illinois at Chicago), argue that these films’ depictions of migration, mobility, and the resulting intercultural communications are complex and stressful moments of conflict, with mixed outcomes ranging from productive personal growth to endless oppression, familial or social separation, and loss of identity.

“The book idea, in many ways, grew from my teaching in the Communication Studies Department here at Northeastern. I have found that using film and other popular media to engage with complex intercultural communication topics has been successful and rewarding for my students,” said Williams. “Dr. Mukherjee and I both love cinema and we love teaching intercultural communication and media studies. Writing this book was a natural fit for us and so much fun to do! I think sometimes the narrative distance that film offers can make engaging with controversial or divisive topics more approachable as students learn to talk through their ideas in constructive ways.”

Migration, Mobility & Sojourning in Cross-Cultural Films: Interculturing Cinema pays homage to the cinematic trend – both in Hollywood and beyond – of exploring themes of global movements and intercultural communication. Williams and Mukherjee explore and critique these cross-cultural media for how they inform audiences about real life movements and intercultural experiences.

The book, slated to be published by the end of the year with Lexington Books, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield, is incredibly relevant as we all adjust to new lifestyles during and after the pandemic.

“Typically, work and travel are where people encounter cultural differences most often, but in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, even those with the resources to travel can’t, so spending time at home watching movies is among the few ways that we can engage with different cultures,” explained Williams. “Popular cross-cultural cinema can help audiences learn how to navigate intercultural interactions resulting from mobility, migration, and globalization. But, what are films teaching us about how to communicate, behave or relate to culturally different individuals in moments that are stressful, confusing, oppressive or ambiguous? How are these kinds of experiences depicted? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these films’ depictions in terms of intercultural communication? These are some of the questions that we sought to answer in our book.”