In conversation with GLP Convenor, Dr Sabine Krajewski

During my time as a GLP Student Representative I had the privilege of speaking with Dr Sabine Krajewski from the Macquarie department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies. She also convenes the GLP colloquia, Cross Cultural Understanding and Taboo – The Consequences of Tasting Forbidden Fruit.

Sabine’s research considers the field of intercultural communication with particular focus on taboo in intercultural contexts. Sabine was born in Salzgitter in Germany, but her heart belongs to Berlin where she moved as a student and made friends for life.

She started her academic journey at a university in the East End of London, England, where she became an interculturalist when she was working with students from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. She was confronted with her own stereotypes about what English people and their cats look like and learnt from her own mistakes.

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Sabine at the Office for Learning & Teaching awards ceremony

Sabine points out that a global leader is not able to do without cross-cultural communication skills in a globalised world.

“We are communicating with people from different parts of the world in everyday life. We may be working with people of mixed linguistic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Even when we stay in the same place we grew up in, there will be people around us who came from elsewhere, and we need to accommodate them.”

Sabine completed her PhD in Cultural Studies in Germany looking at hospital drama and titled her thesis “Life Goes On. And Sometimes It Doesn’t”. She compared the representation of different illnesses and taboos across three different countries and developed an interest in the use of humour across different cultures.

Her adventures didn’t stop there. Her curiosity led Sabine to China where she was teaching and researching for three years at the University of Nottingham. She didn’t speak Chinese and was handed a piece of paper with instructions for taxi drivers that she could point to, such as “please take me to the university of Nottingham”, “please take me to the airport”. Despite these humble beginnings, she felt very welcome in her host country and had a great time. In 2008, Sabine moved to Australia where she picked up a second passport which she is very proud of.

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Sabine, with friends Maya and Phyllis (also a GLP Convenor!), on the day she became an Australian citizen

“Each time you move to a new place, your horizon expands, you meet different people – it’s fascinating. Using another language changes the way you see the world, language is like a live animal.”

The most challenging part of Sabine’s ethnographic research is to make sure it produces reliable results. Qualitative research is exciting but when you have a small number of interviews it can be difficult to put your findings into perspective. She expressed cross-cultural research does and should have subjective elements and depends on the circumstances. “It’s all about the context, the particular situation people are in and how they experience intercultural encounters. A good research design needs to be developed carefully.

I asked Sabine what is most important to her about research. “For me, it’s the connection between research and teaching. It’s making sure it is relevant and applicable. The subjectivity, finding out how individuals feel about culture or taboos, is really the beauty of it.

For those interested in careers in intercultural or cross-cultural communication, Sabine warns that it still is a limited field. There is a need for language and cultural skills in diplomacy, there are possibilities to engage in intercultural training for companies. However, in combination with other areas such as business or law or medicine, cross-cultural skills will enhance job opportunities. Many workplaces require intercultural competence. There is a growing number of companies facilitating staff exchanges for cultural exposure and universities offer numerous possibilities for international experiences. The key is to seek opportunity in areas where people are the principal resource.

Thank you Sabine for taking the time to speak to me. During my interview I was inspired to see the world from a different angle. I hope you are inspired to read Sabine’s work on taboo (see below) which I found absolutely fascinating. In the words of Sabine “I look at people who have gone further and think, if they can do I can too”.

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Written by Ivana  Stojanovic (pictured above).

Ivana was one of our Session 2, 2016 GLP Student Representatives. She is currently in her fourth year of a Bachelor of Law and International Studies.


Interested in reading Sabine’s work on Taboo?

  • Krajewski, S. ‘Listening to the Unsaid. Pacific Shades of Taboo‘ Kodikas/Code Ars Semeiotica Vol 38(2015) No.3-4 Tübingen: Gunter Narr, 2016, 187-202.
  • Krajewski, S., ‘Spit it out: History of a habit‘, in Crossing Cultural Boundaries. Taboo, bodies and Identities. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009, 81-91.
    Krajewski, S and Schroeder, H. ‘Silence and Taboo’ in Handbooks of Applied Linguistics (HAL), eds Antos, G., Ventola, E. in collaboration with T. Weber, 2008, vol 2. Interpersonal Communication, pp. 595-622, Mouton de Gruyter.

Ivana’s interview with Sabine is part of a blog series to give you a better insight into our GLP Convenors and their colloquium and think tank topics. We asked our GLP Student Representatives to interview a Convenor on their area of expertise – what inspires them, what makes them tick and what advice they would give GLP young leaders.

Also read our interview with Colloquium and Think Tank Convenor, Susanne Moore – Global Perspectives on Gender Economics and Colloquium Convenor, Dr Sara Fuller – A Global Perspective on Climate Justice.

Sabine’s colloquia, Cross Cultural Understanding and Taboo – the Consequences of Tasting Forbidden Fruit will be running a number of times for the remainder of the Session. Book in on Thrive (undergraduate & study abroad/exchange only).

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