Kamali-Chirani: Does Intercultural Dialogue Matter?

“BookKamali-Chirani, Fatemeh. (2019).  Does intercultural dialogue matter? The role of intercultural dialogue in the foreign cultural policy of Iran and Germany. Berlin: Lit Verlag.

Fatemeh Kamali-Chirani examines intercultural dialogue as part of the foreign relations between Germany and Iran. She asks: “What role has intercultural dialogue played with regard to the foreign cultural policy of Iran and Germany towards each other, and why?” (p. 18).

Perhaps the most important quote from the book is this, from page 158, because it applies to all contexts, not just Iran-Germany exchanges:

It is necessary but not sufficient to offer dialogue; it is also necessary that the other side accepts to join the dialogue.

Kamali-Chirani first describes the foreign cultural policy of each country, and then presents details of a series of specific organizations and projects intended to further intercultural dialogue. In Iran, the most typical terms are “interfaith dialogue” and “dialogue among civilizations,” whereas Germany often uses “European-Islamic cultural dialogue.” This section is arranged by organization attempting dialogue, populated with quotes from the main actors. She gained remarkable access, up to and including the separate forewords by Mohammad Khatami (former President of Iran, known for promoting dialogue among civilizations as a goal) and Kurt-Jurgen Maas (former Secretary General, Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations).

In the end, Kamali-Chirani concludes that “Intercultural dialogue was an instrument of political goals, not a goal by itself” (p. 198). Her final thought: “participants mostly agree that it was worth the effort, and that they should continue. This author, after spending five years of research on the topic, tends to agree.”