Archive for the 'Speakers' Category


The tour Itinerary at the Inter-cultural Cities Conference

Saturday, 3rd May 2008: visit around
Kensington, starting 10.00am

More info on Kensington Regeneration is available at

10.00am. Convene at St. Georges Hall, North Entrance & leave in Minibus for Kensington The bus will have two distinct groups going to Kensington, some going to a) METAL in Marmaduke Street; and the rest going on b) Kensington Magical Mystery Tour to end up at the Hindu Cultural Organisation at 10.45pm for our hour’s meeting there on Kensington.

We will first pass Edge Hill Railway Station to show all delegates where the Liverpool Pavillions Festival will take place from 12 noon to 6.0pm the same day with our Kensington Czech Slovak Roma Band playing at 5.30pm


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


Conversations with Conference delegates

2. Bhikhu Parekh

“Multi-culturalism has been a great success in India and Canada. In Britain it served us well in the 1980s and 1990s but it took a slightly disturbing trend when it became a way of supporting minorities that meant we couldn’t criticise. The Rushdie affair played a big part in that shift because the country was so shaken. White society didn’t want to create problems even though the Muslim community were perfectly prepared to hear criticism, but we created a climate where ‘hands off minority communities’ became the common policy…

“I would say multi-culturalism has been fairly successful policy, but it certainly needs changing. Every 10 or 15 years we need to take another look at it and move in the direction of a more responsible culture; a version of multi-culturalism which is open to common values.

“I don’t know what Inter-culturalism means. If it means we want people to be talking to each other, my immediate question is that they do that anyway.

“It could be a step backwards towards assimilation, because interculturalism could be another form of mono-culturalism, which is ‘We will not tolerate differences because we want everyone to be talking and engaging in dialogue.’

“So if you have a person who is perfectly happy to say ‘I live in my tradition and I am happy to interact with other people, meet them in market-places, cinemas, sport grounds, but by and large I live my life in my own tradition,’ the Interculturalist would say: “Oh you blighted man, we’ll have to come and civilise you.”

As someone from India I know the danger of a ‘civilising mission’ and we should avoid that. Interculturalism, in my opinion, could be very claustrophobic.”

Milica Pesic – The Media: Part of the Problem or the solution?

Milica Pesic, Director of Media Diversity Institute will be giving a presentation tomorrow afternoon in the style of Pecha Kucha a style of presentation originated in Japan which allows work to be easily and informally shown (click here for more information.) Milica’s presentation will focus on the ways media can provide the space and mediate dialogue between different individuals and communities.

Her presentation slide show can be seen below.

Images from Intercultural Cities

Brian Cross ( has been busily taking photgraphs of the first day of the Intercultural Cities Conference. We have been uploading them throughout the day to flickr and will continue to do so as the conference progresses to see these images click here.

Promoting Interculturalism

The thing that sticks in my head the most from this morning’s session is Phil Wood’s statistic: 35% of white people in the UK socialise with people from another culture. When I first heard this figure, I  thought it was awful. Now, thinking about it, I’m not so sure. Maybe, given all the bad publicity around interculturalism and the number of people who are evidently still against it, this is actually pretty good. More worrying might be his other stat: that just a quarter of people think there is now more cultural integration than there was five years ago – and almost another quarter think there is actually less.

As an economic development consultant who spends lots of time helping the public sector develop regeneration strategies, I’ve been particularly interested in views on what civic authorities can do to promote interculturalism as a social and economic asset for a local area. Again, Phil Wood went straight to the point by criticising the office-bound ‘diversity teams’ in local authorities who operate in the murky world of monitoring targets and fail to understand or embrace what’s going on in the real world. On the flipside, Leonie Sandercock made some interesting points from the experience of Vancouver – she contends that a ‘thick institutional infrastructure’ of immigrant support (both social and economic) is essential, implying an active, hands-on role for the public sector.

Finally, you would be foolish to ignore the ‘so what’ issue. Bhikhu Parekh was excellent, as always, in cutting through the rhetoric and daring to observe that for many people, there just aren’t any obvious benefits of seeking inter-cultural dialogue. Why is it a cause worth promoting? As a twenty-something having grown up, studied and worked in and around a big city, the answer is obvious. But for many people, it’s probably not. Maybe this is the real issue.

Mike Phillips Regeneris Consulting, for more information click here.

Interculturalism: Thoughts from Session 1

Five very good presentations and no time for questions. That is the problem of too many conferences. Where are the timekeepers?

Nonetheless, here are the ideas from the first two presentations that intrigued me that I hope to find time to follow on with panelists this afternoon…

The civic is made out of the work of overcoming difference without weaponry. – Saskia Sassen

We must be able to invent new instruments to deal with difference and in their making we will be inventing the new civic. – Sassen

Concerns about national security and national unity have merged into one and spawned the question of who belongs? – Ash Amin

It is unrealistic to expect us to “know our neighbor” and much more so to “love our neighbor.” The best we can hope for is “thrown togetherness” or “tacit publicness.” Chess between strangers in public spaces is a good example of this and it produces “studied trust.” If we want to deal with interculturalism productively, it is critical to repopulate public spaces.” Bazaars and community gardens are examples. Urbanism with a light touch is called for. Urban conviviality should be the ambition rather than the necessity of empathy. There are simply limits to how much interpersonal contact we can expect. – Amin

Intercultural Photos

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