The process of critical engagement with the ideas in a text, as I have found through analysis of my data, is partly occasioned by students reflecting on their own experiences. I have called this process ‘being a text ethnographer’.
Being a text ethnographer, I contended in Chapter 3, is looking at text both from an inside and an outside perspective. However, I do not conceive the inside perspective as trying to understand the text from the perspective of the author or even of the intended audience. Helping students to engage with otherness in a text is more likely to come about in engaging with ideas within the text. Ideas, moreover, which do not have to be understood and agreed with, but can also be critiqued from their discursive and ideological perspectives – their claims to truth. However, the research findings showed that the richest moments of engaging with texts and the ideas embedded within were those moments where students abandoned the text temporarily and related the ideas to their own life, their experiences, and their knowledge about society. It is this aspect of ‘engaging with’ which comes close to being a critical intercultural language user. The most intercultural moments were then largely instigated by the students themselves.
However, despite this engagement, students stopped short of reflecting on their own interpretation of the text and their own culturally located position as a reader. So as such they did not make their own reality ‘strange’. This was not surprising, as I had not invited students to engage with that level of reflexivity during the classes. In fact, I had only conceptualized text ethnography as a result of this data analysis. This notion of reflexivity as part of reading a text as a text ethnographer is an area for further theoretical development.