CID Poster #3: Intercultural Dialogue

CID PostersThis is the third of the posters designed by Linda J. de Wit, in her role as CID intern. The quote by Peter Praxmarer does not come from a publication, but from a Skype conversation we had on April 25, 2017. I was struck by what he said, and how nicely it summed up the concept of intercultural dialogue, and requested permission to turn the definition into a poster, and he graciously agreed. In terms of visual design, Linda indicated “art” by the picture frame, and “science” by the design in the background. Hopefully this definition will find a wide audience, because I think it does a better and more concise job of explaining intercultural dialogue than other definitions I’ve seen.

Intercultural Dialogue definition

Just in case anyone wants to cite this poster, the following would be the recommended format:

Center for Intercultural Dialogue. (2017). Intercultural Dialogue. CID Posters, 3. Available from:
https://centerforinterculturaldialogue.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/art-and-science.png

As with other series, if you wish to contribute an original contribution, please send an email before starting any work to receive approval, to minimize inadvertent duplication, and to learn about technical requirements. As is the case with other CID Publications, posters should be created initially in English. Given that translations of the Key Concepts in Intercultural Dialogue have received so many views, anyone who wishes to translate their own poster into another language (or two) is invited to provide that as well. If you want to volunteer to translate someone else’s poster into a language in which you are fluent, send in a note before starting, to receive approval and to confirm no one else is working on the same one.

Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz
Director, Center for Intercultural Dialogue
intercult.dialogue AT gmail.com


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Key Concept #39: Otherness Translated into Italian

Key Concepts in ICDContinuing with translations of the Key Concepts in Intercultural Dialogue, today I am posting  KC#39: Otherness and The Other(s), originally written by Peter Praxmarer for publication in English in 2014, now translated with the help of Paola Giorgis into Italian. While translating, he has taken the opportunity to slightly revise and update the original English version as well. As always, all Key Concepts are available as free PDFs; just click on the thumbnail to download. Lists of Key Concepts organized chronologically by publication date and number, alphabetically by concept, and by languages into which they have been translated, are available, as is a page of acknowledgments with the names of all authors, translators, and reviewers.

KC39 Otherness_ItalianPraxmarer, P. (2016). L’Alterità e gli Altri. Key Concepts in Intercultural Dialogue, 39. (P. Praxmarer & P. Giorgis, Trans.). Available from:
https://centerforinterculturaldialogue.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/kc39-otherness-italian1.pdf

If you are interested in translating one of the Key Concepts, please contact me for approval first because dozens are currently in process. As always, if there is a concept you think should be written up as one of the Key Concepts, whether in English or any other language, propose it. If you are new to CID, please provide a brief resume. This opportunity is open to masters students and above, on the assumption that some familiarity with academic conventions generally, and discussion of intercultural dialogue specifically, are useful.

Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz, Director
Center for Intercultural Dialogue
intercult.dialogue[at]gmail.com


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Key Concept #39: Otherness Translated into German

Key Concepts in ICDContinuing with translations of the Key Concepts in Intercultural Dialogue, today I am posting  KC#39: Otherness and The Other(s), originally written by Peter Praxmarer for publication in English in 2014, now translated by him into German. While translating, he has taken the opportunity to slightly revise and update the original English version as well. As always, all Key Concepts are available as free PDFs; just click on the thumbnail to download. Lists of Key Concepts organized chronologically by publication date and number, alphabetically by concept, and by languages into which they have been translated, are available, as is a page of acknowledgments with the names of all authors, translators, and reviewers.

KC39 Otherness_GermanPraxmarer, P. (2016). Anderssein und die Anderen. Key Concepts in Intercultural Dialogue, 39. Available from:
https://centerforinterculturaldialogue.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/kc39-otherness_german.pdf

If you are interested in translating one of the Key Concepts, please contact me for approval first because dozens are currently in process. As always, if there is a concept you think should be written up as one of the Key Concepts, whether in English or any other language, propose it. If you are new to CID, please provide a brief resume. This opportunity is open to masters students and above, on the assumption that some familiarity with academic conventions generally, and discussion of intercultural dialogue specifically, are useful.

Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz, Director
Center for Intercultural Dialogue


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Refugees, Germany, Willkommenskultur and Intercultural Communication

Response to Dominic Busch’s guest post by Peter Praxmarer

Executive Director of EMICC (European Masters in Intercultural Communication)
Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) Lugano, Switzerland


Refugees, Germany, Willkommenskultur and Intercultural Communication

I find myself in almost full agreement with what Dominic Busch writes.

In particular, I find his reflections on language in what he calls “internal social discourse,” pertinent and well taken. Also, the fact that “the cultural argument” has been hijacked by the far right and the national populists, in our times, is not surprising. This would, by the way, merit a little more research: attention to the culture of others has more often than not been a child of animosity, enmity, hostility, rejection if not outright war, as the history of exclusion, but also of conquest, colonialism, imperialism, and domination in general, amply testifies. As we (should) know, the very idea of “intercultural communication” as a more or less independent field of study, research and practical application was born during WWII, as part of the “war effort” of the US (viz. Leeds-Hurwitz). From this, also, stems the particular and sometimes incongruent vocabulary of the field, which is utterly US-social-science-lingo dominated, with some inroads from languages which still claim their droit de cité in the global social science supermarket (or, more benignly stated, the Global Republic of Letters), e.g. French and German. The field of study called intercultural communication became less war-related only later (but not everywhere), when  nation- and culture-crossing processes and constellations other than war started to play a more important role in the modern world-system (to follow Immanuel Wallerstein’s still pertinent terminology, preferring it to the shallow term “globalization”) – but it has kept its very peculiar vocabulary, at least in the mainstream.

Aside from that, while reflecting upon the present discourse on refugees in Germany and the “cultural” problems of the more or less autochthon residents (the “Old Germans”, as Busch cites a fellow professor in his piece) with them, it is worthwhile also to reflect on the position of the very term Kultur in Germany. In Germany, and not only during Nazi times, there has long existed an attitude which was described as Am deutschen Wesen mag/soll die Welt genesen, meaning that German culture is the remedy for all other (cultural) ills, all over the world. The Allied Propaganda posters, both in WWI as in WWII, took up this cultural theme. Thus, e.g., US War Propaganda during WWI showed a Mad German Brute holding a club with written Kultur on it, or an US Sleeping Beauty by the name of Civilization, calling every man, woman and child to war  – these and similar illustrations were meant to convey that deutsche Kultur is not so peaceful as other civilizations. In historical perspective, one has to agree. Looking into what was done in the name of German Kultur and how Kultur was used during WWII and before, would just confirm the very xenophobic and worse essence of it, inhumanely and most horrendously. (Caveat: Allied war propaganda is not presented here as an authoritative source, but only to provide a stark illustration of the use of the cultural argument; and many other than German “cultures” and “civilizations” certainly also have their share in war, conquest and violence-in-the-name-of-culture, epitomized, e.g., by “The White Man’s Burden” or the “mission civilisatrice”.)

Therefore, and also in view of the fact that the populist right wing and nationalistic parties have been able to hijack the term “culture” for their purposes, it is so good to see how civil society in Germany has constructed a new culture which is not national or völkisch, nor aggressive or expansionist, but welcoming: Willkommenskultur. In addition, even the counterpart to civil society, the German state, not least through its Chancellor, is, to varying degrees and for various reasons, in favor of taking in refugees, as is, again for still other reasons and purposes, the economy and a great part of the media. A beautiful page in the otherwise not always so beautiful book of contemporary Europe. And also a great example of (co-)constructed (inter-)culture, as well as of the fact that  “culture” never stands alone and cannot be meaningfully explained without taking into account history, society, economy, the polity, as well as, in our day and age, the many influences and experiences of mediated virtual reality in all its forms.

Yet, I also want to mention a point of potential disagreement with what Busch writes, regarding the role of Intercultural Communication Studies and Research. It is certainly true that the term “culture” has been critically evaluated, and the field is rapidly moving away from an essentialist and relatively static position to a more constructivist interactional and dynamic view of culture, in very simple terms privileging “communication” and “inter” over “culture”. However, by and large the main concern of intercultural communication research has been predominantly either relatively elite or middle-class or strictly utilitarian, covering, e.g. management or other professional groups, hospitals, schools, the military, police, development cooperation, etc. Relatively rarely concerned with, e.g., social integration per se (if not in special trainings for social workers, etc.), or with social integration from below (viz. the reference to Conflict Discourse Ethnocentrism in Busch’s text). In other words, the field has been center- and middle-class- or elite-focused, and not periphery- and non-elite, and where non-elite, then mostly only in terms of social management of deviations from norms or dangers from (culturally defined) others. This has also impacted our methodology: we have not always tried to understand, but we have been “overstanding”, as Raimon Panikkar so masterly phrased it already a quarter of a century ago. This is exacerbated when interculturalists (have to) jump on data-driven “fast science” jets instead of cultivating philosophy-fertilized “slow science” gardens, since this leaves no time to reflect either on the cui bono question or on participative methods or more sophisticated research questions than the ones required and funded by the global social science marketplaces – and it most certainly does not give a voice to those directly researched upon and with. Also for these reasons (conceptual, exemplified by “culture”, as well as methodologically), I would argue, we have so little to say when it comes to refugee crises, or to horrorism/terrorism, or to many other social “problems”. One reason why “the cultural argument” has been so successfully hijacked by the right and the nationalists, could therefore probably be that the interculturalists have far too long worked – even if engaging in what Busch calls a “sophisticated” debate – with a de-historisized, de-socialized, de-materialized, de-economized, de-politicized and overly value-oriented and psychologized concept of culture (and communication, for that matter). In other words, if one wants to understand (parts of) social reality in terms of culture and communication (and “inter” dynamics and processes), one has to look at it as what Busch calls, following Michel Foucault a “Dispositiv” (“dispositif” or “apparatus” in Foucault’s terminology). Likewise, it is necessary to overcome the “Unbearable Lightness of Communication Research”, as The International Communication Gazette tellingly titles its forthcoming 2016 Special Issue.

This critical look at the field is of course not meant to belittle the many initiatives of academic interculturalists in Germany, of which “Helfern helfen” of the intercultural campus of the Interkultureller Hochschulverband is but one. Or the numerous other initiatives undertaken by people who have studied intercultural communication and want to put their knowledge to good use; not to forget all those who practice sustainable – and sustained — intercultural communication in their daily dealings with the Stranger, the Migrant, the Refugee, the Other. It is simply a call for more “social” intercultural communication studies – more social in more than one sense.

Charlie Hebdo and Intercultural Dialogue

[Occasionally CID publishes posts about intercultural dialogue and related issues by various colleagues. The following comments were sent by Peter Praxamer. Those wishing to continue the conversation may respond with comments at the bottom of the page.]

Dear readers of this page:

As so many all over, I am following the unfolding of the dynamics of the Paris events. I do not think that I have particularly much to say about this, but I do want to share some thoughts that trouble me. They have to do with the Paris crimes and with intercultural communication; “intercultural communication” here understood as a research field in contemporary social science and/or the humanities, as a professional practice, and as the social practice of living together in a multifaceted and diversified society.

I do not want to enter into the debate about free speech vs. obscurantist or fundamentalist religious faith, but would like to draw your attention to the possibly problematic relationship between limitless free speech and expression on the one hand, and respect for the dignity of all human beings on the other. This problem is very well addressed n a series of discussions provided by “Democracy Now” (take it from 11:59 onwards). Separate interviews/contributions/debates with Art Spiegelman, Gilbert Achcar, Tariq Ramadan and others can be downloaded. For those who read German, these reflections of a Swiss historian may also be of interest.

More succinct, but equally telling, are the caricatures by Joe Sacco of The Guardian (caricature against caricature, so to speak), who takes a different stance than the one taken now by the hardcore provocateurs-and-proud-of-it, in the name of unbridled freedom of expression or in the name of xenophobia or utter racism.

What happened in Paris very much involves satire, also satire as a form of communication. The question: “To what culture does satire pertain?” or headings such as “The satirical differences of cultures” are probably idle ones, at least in this context, even though some people hail satire as a hallmark of a culture of democracy. Likewise, speculating about that particularly vitriolic “French” form of satire, developed since the French Revolution, which some see as typically Charlie Hebdo sarcasm, does probably not yield too much in this respect. At any rate, I think one can make some points regarding satire as a form of (intercultural) communication.

When analyzing acts of speech, argumentation – indeed, communicative utterances in all forms and communicative (re-)actions –, certain questions are all too seldom asked: “cui bono” or “cui prodest”, and the question “why”. Why do we communicate what and how we do, for what reason, to what end and purpose, and to whose benefit? Analyzing the Charlie Hedbo caricatures (and the earlier Danish ones) by asking these simple questions, one could come to the conclusion that efficiency as well as effectiveness of communication can also be measured in terms of the underlying reason and purpose. Seen in this way, a superior and refined intercultural communication competency would be, to say it with J.M.C. Le Clézio: (Coexister, c’est) comprendre ce qui peut offenser l’autre.

Considering all this, I am not so sure if I can without reserve underwrite “Je suis Charlie” – it depends on what Charlie stands for: if Charlie stands for the journalists and the others murdered, yes, then I can indeed identify with and proudly defend Charlie, just as I could say Je suis Ahmed. If Charlie stands for the right and license to provoke, to offend, to denigrate, in the name of free speech seen as universal, absolute and unilateral human right without corresponding duty and obligation to respect the Other, then I would not like to be seen with this sign in my hands.

A number of points could still be made while reflecting on, and trying to analyze and interpret, these Paris events. Let me just refer to two, which I think are particularly important for those who deal, professionally or in other ways, with intercultural communication:

First, we have to resist any attempt to construe this barbaric act as a clash of cultures or civilizations, or religions, as “Islam against the West”. Even in its more qualified form of “Radicalized Islam”, “Islamic Terrorism” or the like – let’s leave Islam, the Moslems, and indeed culture, out of this. The fact that some individuals use the terminology of a religion and profess to be violent and criminal defenders of a faith does not mean that that religion and its faithful are violent and criminal. Any analysis of this in terms of legitimization and ideological justification is much more explanatory than in terms of culture or religion. No cultural essentialism here – this may be a hard blow for those interculturalists who live off and by culturalizing anything and everything, including conflicts and violence. Equally, any appeal to identity, “Western”, “Christian” or other should be carefully avoided in this context – identity anyways being a very problematic concept that one anthropologist (Francesco Remotti) considers “poisonous”, while a famous economist, Amartya Sen, warns us about the potential of violence inherent in what the French call repli identitaire.

Secondly, what happened is clearly a failure of inclusion, of integration – socially, politically, economically, psychologically and, why not, “culturally”. In a wider context: the free-market-consumer-capitalism-cum-liberal-democracy model of integration does not work anymore (not my thought alone, but the thought of such prominent scholars as Joseph E. Stiglitz, Thomas Piketty, Tony Judt, Richard Wilkinson, Immanuel Wallerstein, Richard Sennett, Colin Crouch, and a host of others). France, as other European countries, has been unable to give to all of her immigrants the space and opportunities where to develop, where to grow into and together with society. Add to this the stigmatization and all too often outright enmity towards Muslims in today’s Europe – the veritable construction of an inner and outer enemy, as exercised daily by xenophobic and populist-nativist (usually right-wing) political parties and certain media – and then you get that type of social climate and political culture, in which violence thrives. Moreover, this climate in Europe is exacerbated by what happens in many of the Muslim majority countries, from corrupt or utterly undemocratic regimes backed by the (capitalist) West for economic or geopolitical reasons, to direct, almost always US-led, military intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere. And, in the specific case of France, consider that nation’s colonial past, particularly in North Africa.

I think that we, as interculturalists, cannot ignore the wider, indeed global, context of what is happening (in Europe and elsewhere) in the name of Islam and anti-Islam, but should be well aware of the fact that there are other than “cultural” reasons, factors and dimensions that fuel this conflict.

The only way out of this, and here our contribution and the very name of, and idea behind, the Center for Intercultural Dialogue come in, is to search for (new and original) ways of understanding, dialogue and inclusion – intercultural communication as science (or is it an art?) and practice of human understanding and dialogue, to put it loftily…

Cordially yours,
Peter Praxmarer

Peter Praxmarer Researcher Profile

Researcher ProfilesPeter Praxmarer, lic.oec.publ. (University of Zurich, 1977) and Docteur ès sciences politiques (The Graduate Institute, Geneva, 1984), is, since 2003, Executive Director of EMICC (European Masters in Intercultural Communication), a network of ten European universities specializing in intercultural communication, at Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) Lugano, Switzerland.

Peter Praxmarer
Praxmarer (right) with students of the 2014 Paris Eurocampus in the Archives nationales de France, Paris

For a number of years he taught international politics and relations in the United States (Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, Brown University and University of Rhode Island). He also was a consultant for UNITAR and the United Nations University on issues of social development, and has worked in the private sector (publishing, agriculture, art and antiques). During the wars in ex-Yugoslavia he participated in a fact-finding and assessment mission visiting UN peacekeeping forces in the Krajina region (Croatia), and served as Field and Training Coordinator with the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, for which he has also developed training programs in the field of democratization and good governance.

His main research focus is on epistemological issues (conceptualizations) in IC studies and the social sciences in general. His teaching is mainly on conceptualizations of “The Other”, as well as on intercultural communication in international organizations, and in particular peace communication in post-conflict and emergency contexts. He also works on academic cultures.

During the past ten years he has taught and lectured at more than two dozen universities in Europe and the US, and supervised a number of Bachelor and Master theses for students at different universities.

He also gives workshops and training courses in intercultural communication for different publics, including teachers at various levels, tourism professionals, immigration officials, paramedical personnel, healthcare professionals and managers.


NOTE: Peter Praxmarer passed away quite suddenly on November 5, 2017. He was a good friend to CID and will be sorely missed. A few concrete results of our frequent conversations follow. He wrote Key Concepts in Intercultural Dialogue #39 on Otherness and the Other, translated it into both German and Italian, compiled a reader with study materials on intercultural communication competence, and prepared a poem, Languages of Peace. He wrote a guest post on Charlie Hebdo and intercultural dialogue, and responded at length to a guest post by Dominic Busch on refugees in Germany. Most recently, during a Skype call with me, he came up with the concise definition of intercultural dialogue that was turned into CID Poster #3.  – Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz

Key Concept #39: Otherness by Peter Praxmarer

Key Concepts in ICDThe next issue of Key Concepts in intercultural Dialogue is now available. Click on the thumbnail to download the PDF. [NOTE: this concept was updated in 2016, and the original 2014 version replaced.] Lists organized  chronologically by publication date and numberalphabetically by concept in English, and by languages into which they have been translated, are available, as is a page of acknowledgments with the names of all authors, translators, and reviewers.

KC39 Otherness_v2Praxmarer, P. (2016). Otherness and the Other(s). Key Concepts in Intercultural Dialogue, 39. Available from:
https://centerforinterculturaldialogue.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/kc39-otherness_v2.pdf

The Center for Intercultural Dialogue publishes a series of short briefs describing Key Concepts in intercultural Dialogue. Different people, working in different countries and disciplines, use different vocabulary to describe their interests, yet these terms overlap. Our goal is to provide some of the assumptions and history attached to each concept for those unfamiliar with it. As there are other concepts you would like to see included, send an email to the series editor, Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz. If there are concepts you would like to prepare, provide a brief explanation of why you think the concept is central to the study of intercultural dialogue, and why you are the obvious person to write up that concept.


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Università della Svizzera italiana 2014

WLH and PraxmarerFrom May 20-30, 2014, I had a wonderful invitation to stay in Cimo, Switzerland (a village just outside Lugano), with Peter Praxmarer, the executive director of the European Master in Intercultural Communication (EMICC), which is coordinated through the Università della Svizzera italiana (known in English as the University of Lugano). He also collaborates with, and teaches for, the Master of Advanced Studies in Intercultural Communication (MIC), as well as a number of other European universities.

My goal was to learn more about the EMICC, an intensive and international semester-long study of intercultural communication jointly offered by ten European universities since 2002. This program is a model of international collaboration for graduate education, and an innovative form of what in the USA is called “study abroad,” ensuring that students not only learn about intercultural communication at a theoretical level, but also practice it. We were able to discuss not only some of the logistics of this program, but also shared interests in intercultural communication more generally, as well as inventing future possibilities for collaboration.

While in Lugano, I was able to connect also with Prof. Bertil Cottier, Director of the Institute for Public Communication at USI. Trained as a lawyer, one of his current interests is in data protection and new technologies. As it turns out, the Institute will be conducting a search for a faculty member specializing in intercultural communication shortly – keep an eye on this website for the details.

I also met with Alexandra Stang, a graduate student at the University of Duisburg-Essen (in Germany) currently studying the Intercultural Campus platform, “an international university network created for intercultural learning.” She was in town to interview Peter Praxmarer, and took the opportunity to interview me as well.

Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz, Director
Center for Intercultural Dialogue

Languages of Peace (poem)

In response to the earlier poem posted by Gomes de Matos, Peter Praxmarer (at the University of Lugano, Switzerland) submitted one of his own.

Languages of Peace by Peter Praxmarer

     Friday, April 4, 2008

Experts say that they are
between three to six thousand
depending on how one counts
the languages of the world.

The languages of humans
to be more precise.

Plus words and gestures
poses and pauses
voice and noise
layers of meaning behind
underneath and above.

And many more dimensions
variables, categories and types
some hidden some salient
are said to make up culture:
values norms and beliefs
or simply how things are done
plus artifacts and action
tradition, time and space
and how they are perceived and lived
which all are relevant
when cultures or rather
humans interact
in word and deed.

But if one looks a bit more closer
one sees that there are two
two basic types of culture
one of peace and one of violence
one of conflict and one of understanding
one of love and one of hatred
not only as context, situation and moment
may warrant or demand
but in a basic, more elementary way.

And so the linguist steeped in
the social science tradition of our days
may well ask:
If there is a language of violence
what is the language of peace?
If there is a language of death
what is the language of life?
What are the words of a peace-life-language?
Is there just one or are there many?
Vocabulary, grammar, syntax, structure?
Signs and signals of that language, those languages?
In any language that we know?
Or in a language to create
ex novo, ab ovo, so to speak?

Who are the speakers of such a language?
Who her teachers, who her students?
Who her creators, who her developers,
And who those who cannot bear her prosody
nor listen to her words?

As elaboration on this poem, he offers this quote:

“Mit einer neuen Sprache wird der Wirklichkeit immer dort begegnet, wo ein moralischer, erkenntnishafter Ruck geschieht, und nicht, wo man versucht, die Sprache an sich neu zu machen, als könnte die Sprache selber die Erkenntnis eintreiben und die Erfahrung kundtun, die man nie gehabt hat. Wo nur mit ihr hantiert wird, damit sie sich neuartig anfühlt, rächt sie sich bald und entlarvt die Absicht. Eine neue Sprache muß eine neue Gangart haben, und diese Gangart hat sie nur, wenn ein neuer Geist sie bewohnt.”

(BACHMANN Ingeborg (1959) Frankfurter Poetik Vorlesung. 25. November, at: http://www.ingeborg-bachmann-forum.de/ibvorles.htm)