UNU-IIAOC helps organize intercultural dynamics seminar

  • 2012•01•17     Barcelona

    Since 2004, the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB) has facilitated the Forum for Young Researchers into Intercultural Dynamics (FJIDI). The aim is to create a space for exchanging ideas and tools (perspectives, methodologies and bibliographies) among researchers and young professionals undergoing training.

    The 2011 CIDOB Training Seminar was organized in cooperation with the Barcelona-based UNU International Institute for the Alliance of Civilizations (UNU-IIAOC).

    The three-day seminar, which was conducted in English and Spanish, started on 14 December 2011 with a presentation of Mieke Bals′ latest movie, “A Long History of Madness”, in which a psychologist is confronted with the death of one of her mentally ill patients. The question is whether she (the psychologist) might be partially to blame for the death. The movie shows the journey of the protagonist and delves into the minds of thosewho are “’mad” and those designated to cure them.

    This introduction can be seen as a bridge to the seminar′s main questions: Must we conceive of the world’s agonisms and antagonisms not merely in epistemological or discursive terms, but also in metaphysical and, consequently, ontological terms? What if different cultures do not merely understand one world in different ways, but literally inhabit different worlds? And, if so, how can they ever communicate, how can they interact?

    Mieke Baal also conducted the opening session on the second day, following opening remarks by Jordi Vaquer, Director of CIDOB, and Luk van Langenhove, Director of UNU-CRIS. The participants were mostly PhD candidates who were interested in sharing thoughts and readings around the idea of intercultural dynamics.

    In the first panel topic on day two,“Categories and Grammars of Intercultural Dynamics”, panelists and the public discussed such tools as digital literacy, distance-shrinking technologies and the “knowledge” that is emerging from the exchange of experiences and maintanance of relationships among those involved in migration fluxes. In this context, Katherine Chandler of the University of California, Berkeley, proposed “the idea of mediation, more than that of negotiation, as negotiation highlights the role of speech and discussion”.

    In the afternoon, panels on “Strategies and Resistances from the Politics of Knowledge” and “Contemporary Mobility and Alterations” analysed critically how media content is mobilized and distributed. Overcoming “shame and stigma by using social networking can work only if there is some correspondence with the “real world”, warned Maria Gioga of the UN Information Centre, Bucharest (Romania). “Otherwise, we are running the risk of building fake expectations through the Internet” she said in regard tote key role of political action online.

    The seminar′s final day started with a panel on the “Path of Culture and Interculture”. Narratives that circulate among people as “common sense” and permeate the collective imaginary have an important influence on relations between different cultural groups. They may even foster relationships of life and death, as in the case described by one of the speakers regarding the Rwandan genocide. Yet what might be defined as “common sense” can also contribute to generating peaceful coexistence.

    In the wrap-up panel on “Methodology and Knowledge: e-Research and the Ethics of Social Investigation”, the question of how current capitalist society shows its dynamics in education was raised. While once students were considered as “future citizens”, they now tend to be considered as “future human resources” and have “become the object of new tests that must measure their ‘skills and capacities’, which are now more important than knowledge itself for the future of our ‘human capital’”, explained Sergio Más of the University of Barcelona.

    Of the three-day seminar, one participant commented:“Here we are not speaking about mere variations in the education system and related public services; this is a new and different perception of the world and of our place in it”.