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The Concept of 'Third Space'

Updated on November 28, 2019
Dense Densyang profile image

Denise is a communication student, a poet and a book lover. She enjoys watching documentaries and film.

The concept of third space has been discussed by many professionals. The term is coined by Homi Bhabha (1994). The term third space refers to the “in-between” space in the clash between cultures where meaning and representation are negotiated and cultural identity can be re-imagined.

People from different backgrounds and cultures who interact with each other makes adjustments or comprises to be able to understand aeach other and build relationships.

As an example, I will give you a personal situation that I was able to apply the concept of third space.

I used to work before as an English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor and in our company we teach English to people from different non-English speaking countries such as Japan, Korea, Brazil and Turkey. Before I start my shift, I usually do a research about the cultures and traditions of these people to get prepared. However, not all information regarding these people are posted on the internet and so in order to avoid offending one of these people, I am careful with my language. Then, there was this time that I talked to one of my students about a certain phrase that we commonly use in our country. He was not able to understand it at first because in his mind, the phrase means different thing (different from what I ahve explained). Soon enough, he told me that the phrase I used was very different from their interpretation. The phrase was kind of an offensive word or languae for them and so I apologized for uttering the phrase to him. He was not angry at all, he said. It was because he understood and was aware that the phrase could mean different thing. He even thanked me for sharing the phrase to him because he learned something that he can apply and use when speaking to people in my race. The respect, awareness and sensitivity that we both have while we were conversing created the so called "third space."

Another example is from an article by Rappler on November 05, 2019.

Duterte, Abe discuss comfort women, South China Sea in meeting


In this article, the two government leaders have negotiated some issues such as comfort women and the South China Sea. The two leaders and the people that they embody have very different and conflicting ideas but through this meeting, they have reached a point to negotiate the conflicting ideas. It is shown through the discussion they made upon drafting a certain Code of Conduct to address the tension between each other. The negotiation they made created a "third space" to which led them to discuss about that particular/ possible solution.

Simply put, the third space is what happens when
people from different cultural backgrounds negotiate meanings when in the same setting
(Kramsch & Uryu, 2012).

With third space, the conflicting ideas, varied meanings and understanding in intercultural communication can be addressed. We may come from different races and backgrounds but there is still hope for us to better understand each other. Through this, the acceptance of our differences is possible.

© 2019 Dens Yang


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