Posts Tagged 'Interculturalism'

Websites I have known and logged

Sara Wajid realises her professional interests coincide with the DiverCities agenda.

As a writer and editor specialising in the history of minorities in Britain, I was excited about the working at the Intercultural Cities Conference – not least because it also gave me a chance to view Liverpool’s much-hyped International Museum of Slavery at The Maritime Museum. The last decade has seen a radical revolution in the heritage sector. Museums and archives are rich resources for stories about nationhood. And, if you ask the right questions and know where to look, they are surprisingly redolent repositories of stories about the long history of immigration. While communities of new and settled migrants are urgently recording their own oral histories, places like The Maritime Museum have begun, imaginatively and creatively, to discharge their duty to tell previously untold histories. The national narratives we choose to recall directly informs our futures together. This shift has coalesced neatly with advances in new technology leading to a tsunami of shiny new mega websites available to all who know they are there.
Here are my intercultural favourites.

Med Voices
The Mediterranean Voices project commenced in June 2002 and represents a three-year ethnographic investigation into the cosmopolitan oral and social histories of 13 historic cites across theMediterranean region, and in particular, certain urban quarters within them.

Moving Here
Discover how and why people came to England over the last 200 years – you can also trace your own roots.

London history told through the eyes of its cultural minorities. Search London museum collections by the diverse ethnic origins of the city’s inhabitants.

Refugee Stories
Stories taken from interviews with over 150 refugees now living in London.

Hidden Histories
Eastside Community Heritage tell the story of the last fifty years of East London


Stories Of London’s Refugees
Oral Histories from the Museum of London’s recent exhibition.

Port Cities – Unearthing Britain’s Maritime Heritage
This packed website offers a great starting place for anyone looking to explore the diverse cultural history of Britain’s great maritime cities, including Liverpool.


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.



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.”

‘Contacting the World’ comes to Liverpool

This summer Liverpool, Europe’s Capital of Culture for 2008, will showcase the outcome of an unusual theatre twinning scheme that brings together teenagers from across the world.

Since 2002 European theatre companies have been twinning with counterparts in other parts of the world, in a project that encourages young people aged 15-25 to explore each other’s lives through performance.

Aaron Cunningham, a young artist from Manchester’s Contact Theatre Company, described to DiverCities his experience of an exchange with Afro-Reggae, a theatre group based in Rio de Janeiro which sought to offer young people an alternative to the attentions of the police or the gangs.

“Through Afro-Reggae young people living in the favellas (shantytowns) got the chance to visit places outside their favella, read their poetry to people elsewhere and even got to other shanty towns,” he said. “It was a real eye-opener for me.”

Meanwhile back in Manchester youngsters use improvisation to dramatise stories based on random items and actions.

Both groups have sent each other CDs of their favourite music tracks, with explanations about what makes them so special.

The two groups also swapped boxes of artefacts associated with their lives. Aaron sent a piece of marble given to him by his grandmother just before she died. He was unaware that a Brazilian girl had sent to Manchester a large smooth, egg-shaped stone her father had plucked from the sea two days before he died. For her it contained his spirit and she hoped he would bless her friends in England. The Contact Theatre group have developed a play around her story.

It is these kinds of connections that make the project such a remarkable method of connecting young people who might never get to meet although they do use Facebook too.

All of which promises to make the final festival of fun very special indeed.

For more information see
Or contact Julia Turpin (Project Director): +44 (0161) 274 0631

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.


Conversations at the conference with Sir Bob Scott

“Multiculturalism is important insofar as it breeds sympathy and a sense of belonging and welcome – so everyone is respected with their own background.

“We encourage the building of mosques and temples, for example, so you don’t lose your character by being in this country. We also expect you to obey UK law but we are keen to encourage the notion of people living under one roof.

“But it has also led to the creation of ghettoes. In one northern city, for example, 20,000 people from North India and Pakistan all live close together in one area. So there is a problem for the second generation living a terrible double life – with their parents who may not have learned English and going to an English speaking school. So they live a very difficult life…

So inter-culturalism has become more important – because people feel they can genuinely participate in every conceivable way and become British first without losing their Indian identity

Something like 50 percent of the population of Liverpool claim an Irish background – so we have always had the notion of Liverpool Irish. And like any big port, we have small but well-established maritime communities of sailors and merchant seamen from China, Somalia and Sri Lanka as well as Italy and Spain, for instance. So we have always seen ourselves as ‘the world in one city’.

Liverpool has great cathedrals and one of the great synagogues in the country. In 2004 we had a faith community year with Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Jews all working together and participating in their own ways.

We’re trying to develop inter-culturalism here without it being painful or unnatural. The worse thing we can do is make such an effort of political correctness that people get very put off by it.

What we believe passionately is that what leads to riots and real unhappiness is a multi-culturalism that leads to real ghettoes. We need inter-culturalism that develops respect for other cultures – living cultures talking to each other.”

Intercultural Photos

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