Archive for the 'Interculturalism' Category

Culture shock

Histoires de choc culturel (le premier et le dernier de votre vie)

Effy Tselikas records first and last encounters with difference
Liverpool 01/05/08


« C’était à Sofia, en période communiste où j’ai passé mon enfance. En sortant de l’école, je voyais souvent des jeunes enfants, des femmes vêtues avec de longues robes bariolées mendier. Je ne comprenais pas ; comment dans mon univers aussi normé, il y avait des gens qui échappaient à la conformité : ne pas travailler, ne pas être habillés de façon sobre, faire la manche, … J’ai demandé une explication à mes parents. Je ne me souviens pas de ce qu’ils m’ont répondu, mais sûrement la même chose que ce que tout le monde pensait à l’époque : ‘Oh, ce sont des Tziganes, des paresseux, des parasites…’ Ce fut ma première expérience de la différence.

« Ma plus récente expérience est plus légère. Lors d’un voyage d’étude dans un pays voisin du mien, qui me semblait appartenir à la même sphère culturelle, la Pologne pour ne pas la nommer, je me suis rendu compte qu’ils n’avaient pas du tout les mêmes horaires de repas que nous. Les séances de travail se succédaient sans fin, j’avais une faim de plus en plus terrible et personne ne semblait vouloir s’arrêter. Finalement, la pause déjeuner est arrivée vers 14h30 de l’après-midi, heure toute à fait méditerranéenne pour un pays situé beaucoup au Nord que le mien (la Bulgarie). »

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My reflections

A fascinating event that has stimulated lots of thoughts and generated some questions for me:-

Is interculturalism desirable?

Why do we want or need intercultralism?

Whose interests does interculturalism serve?

Is interculturalism just a new term for long standing issues? I’ve noticed, for example, that more than one speaker seems to use interculturalism interchangeably with ‘diversity’.

There’s also a sense that interculturalism seems very ‘problem centred’, with the emphasis on conflict or even ‘hatred’ between communities, strangers not getting on, etc.

I share with Bikhu Parekh and Ash Amin a concern about taking interculturalism outside its political and national context. For me, I’d come to see interculturalism as a framework to get beyond the idea of cultures as fixed and immutable, with people locked in boxes or silos defined by their ethnic cultures. In this sense, interculturalism seemed to me to be about how cultures are continually shaped, reshaped and changed, new fusions are borne out of a dynamic process of interaction where people come to form a new sense of belonging around ‘place’ while still being able to assert their own self-defined identity – as black woman, disabled person, Muslim young person.

Some of today’s presentations however seem to take us back to notions of ‘them’ and ‘us’, giving greater value to ‘host’ cultures as somehow more pure and talked about ‘tribal cultures’ clashing with dominant host cultures, which I found disturbing. To what extent this is raising a wider question of whether or not we can engage in intercultural dialogue across national boundaries where language and political contexts are so different is one of the issues that I think needs to be considered. At the very least I think there is a need for a common and shared language to enable effective and meaningful dialogue and debate to take place with people from across different nations.

One final point, there has so far been a complete lack of mention of human rights in the debate. Is this absence an oversight? Do we see human rights as integral to the interculturalism debate and if so, we need to ensure it has a highe profile and visibility in future dialogues.

Lorna Shaw

The missing aspects

In my opinion the conference focused on how the host city and its inhabitants can make the migrant group part of the large community, but only by indicating what the hosts should do for them.

I personally think that intercultural approachoes should be established by the two parties involved:

the immigrants should want to be part of the host community and make efforts to align him/her to the culture and invironment of the city.

the governments should draw up rules to be followed by everybody: natives and migrants in equal terms. Sometimes, in order to maintain political relationships the police and bodies expected to enforce the law ignore what it is happening in certain communities, and they identify these situations as “domestic incidents”. By so doing the natives will see that there are no special treatements for the new comers and will see them as equals.

The central governments, on the other hand should recognize that after a certain period of honest work, best behaviour and payment of taxes in any country, the migrant should obtain automatically the nationality of that particular country.

These are a few ideas that may help in establishing interculturalism.


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