intercultural-dialogue

 

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2.3.1 Basic terms

Culture and core thesis

In the context of migration, culture is usually defined as national or religious belonging to one group. This is doubtless the easiest way to determine differences but it can also lead to the formation of prejudices which impede the discovery of similarities.

To prevent this, we suggest understanding culture as an orientation system. Depending on the society, this system unifies specific symbols and values, and influences the way of thinking and acting for different groups of people.  This neutral definition of culture is a broad term giving orientation and identity to certain people and includes not only nation and religion, but also refers to ethnicity, education, health, fashion and sport, as well as many other aspects.  These additional aspects can not only separate but also unify people, e.g. a German and a Syrian who are both football players.  

From this definition three core theses can be formulated.

  1. Culture is made by people
  2. The biggest part of culture is unintentional (unconscious)
  3. People’s behaviour and perception are culture-bound.

The first core thesis argues that people themselves decide on the symbols, values and norms of their culture. Once they have decided what their culture is, they become influenced unconsciously by it in their daily life (third thesis), where it is constantly reinforced by our experiences of one another. Finally, passed from generation to generation, culture becomes an indispensable and inescapable part of social life, but it remains unconscious (second thesis).

To summarise, culture is created by people.  This influences them and shapes their lives until they begin to reflect on them. This reflective process is the key to mutual understanding and tolerant encounters.

Interculturalism

Cross-cultural dialogue is an issue of interculturalism. Interculturalism refers to support for cross-cultural dialogue and for challenging self-segregation tendencies which exist within cultures.  Interculturalism involves moving beyond a passive acceptance of the existence of multiple cultures in a society and towards the promotion of dialogue and interaction between cultures.

Change of perspective and ability for empathy

The acknowledgement of different cultures as orientation systems does not automatically lead to intercultural interaction. To initiate this type of interaction, a change of perspective and an ability for empathy are needed. This means having the ability to put oneself in another person’s position and not just evaluating how you act, but also reflecting on your own behaviour. Doing this allows you to understand the relationship between your behaviour and your culture as well as that of others. So, interculturalism is possible when people of different cultures empathise with others and actively connect with them. Conflict ability and ambiguity tolerance Even in cases of dramatically differentiating orientation systems, a tolerant dialogue is still possible. This conversation requires abilities such as conflict resolution, tolerance of ambiguity, the ability to deal out and accept criticism and also the capacity to mediate in conflict situations. Running through this is the understanding that culture is a man-made, unconscious system with enormous power and influence.

Interim conclusion for sports facilitators:

Sports facilitators often operate in an intercultural context nowadays. To manage this interculturalism it is important to understand that:

  • Culture is neutral and means nothing but a system of orientation.
  • Made by people from a particular area, it starts to differ from other cultures and leaves some cultural imprints on the population living in the same area.
  • ‘Intercultural’ means the encounters of people with different systems of orientation or cultures.
  • Intercultural encounter is only possible with empathy from both sides and it implies common change of perspective.
  • In the case of dramatically differentiating cultures, a tolerant dialogue is only possible with qualities such as conflict ability and ambiguity tolerance.
  • Culture is neutral and means nothing but a system of orientation.
  • Made by people from a particular area, it starts to differ from other cultures and leaves some cultural imprints on the population living in the same area.
  • ‘Intercultural’ means the encounters of people with different systems of orientation or cultures.
  • Intercultural encounter is only possible with empathy from both sides and it implies common change of perspective.
  • In the case of dramatically differentiating cultures, a tolerant dialogue is only possible with qualities such as conflict ability and ambiguity tolerance.

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