Navigating Contact Zones in 21st Century Schools: Creative Identity Development in Two Complex Transcultural Spaces

Claude-Hélène Mayer (1)
(1) Dept. of Industrial Psychology and People Management, University of Johannesburg, Auckland Park, 2006 Johannesburg, South Africa, South Africa


This article describes the experiences and the creative identity development of A., an 11-year-old bicultural and bilingual boy who attended school in two different cultural contact zones (CCZs), in South Africa and Germany. The study is anchored in a single case qualitative research paradigm and follows an ethnographic approach by using qualitative interviews, observation and field notes. Findings show A.’s identity development within the two CCZs. The article discusses how A. develops creatively to manage himself in the different CCZs by focusing on expanding or minimizing selected identity parts to create “safe zones”. It concludes that to grow within the two school environments, identity needs to be developed creatively and flexibly in correspondence with the schools’ approaches to diversity.

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Claude-Hélène Mayer (Primary Contact)
Author Biography

Claude-Hélène Mayer, Dept. of Industrial Psychology and People Management, University of Johannesburg, Auckland Park, 2006 Johannesburg, South Africa

Claude-Hélène Mayer is professor in industrial and organisational psychology at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa; adjunct professor at the Europa Universität Viadrina in Frankfurt am Oder, Germany; and senior research associate at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. She has published monographs, collections, and journal articles; she has edited special journal issues on transcultural mental health, shame in cultural contexts, sense of coherence, transcultural conflict management and mediation, women in leadership, transcultural identities and psychobiography.

Mayer, C.-H. (2021). Navigating Contact Zones in 21st Century Schools: Creative Identity Development in Two Complex Transcultural Spaces. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 21(1), 19–33.

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