New approaches to intercultural communication 2

Correct citation:

Vallazza, O. (2012, December). New approaches to intercultural communication_2. Published at LinkedIn Forum on Alternative Perspectives in Intercultural Communication, available at

This thread is like a Pandora box full of possibilities. It continues the discussion posted at

Allow me to add a few comments about new approaches to Intercultural understanding, i.e. to the understanding of intercultural situations. This is something that I feel strongly about, and that’s also why I became a member of this group.

When we consider culture as a process in-flux, then essentialist definitions would seem too easy. If cultures develop like open systems, then their level of complexity increases, and at that point it’d be a poor choice to adopt linear, Cartesian tools to understand such complexity. We are now already using a new language, but we also need other tool.

I’d like to go back to the examples of Alsace and South Tyrol in my previous post and to your comments on the book American Nations by Colin Woodard. The discourse behind nation building intentionally avoids recognizing the existence of the cultures that existed prior to the creation of a national state. Consequently, I can safely say that nation states are funded on created myths, and sustained by the belief that those very myths represent the quintessential character of a nation. The word quintessential is an amplified form of the word essential, which – for the sake of our discussion – sounds a lot like essentialist. In other words, discourses behind nation building are politically motivated, to the exclusion of other, previously existing ones. Nation states are per se antithetical to multiple cultural identities, although there have been a few examples in history where the state was not in conflict with multiple, concurrent, transversal, overlapping language and ethnic cultural expressions. The Habsburg Empire was one such entity. It was declared unsustainable and dead way before its actual and factual demise, simply because it was at odds with the very premises of nation states. Something similar is happening today with regard to the European Union, which is presented in many circles as not-credible and utopian. This is a linear view of culture(s), one that lacks both depth and breadth, and only accepts one mono-dimensional cultural slant, eliminating or deliberately disregarding other possibilities. Such exclusiveness has been very often enforced through violent approaches aimed at the forced acculturation of entire populations, with ethnic cleansing being just one of the most obvious and brutal aspects of such endeavors. Discourses of nation building first remove other “competing” cultures (through a more or less violent process of cultural simplification and mystification), also by presenting other cultural perspective as threats and unworthy; then they reinforce the validity of the very mono-culture that they have imposed. To do that, the same linear view of culture that had been used to selectively install the prominent culture is used to establish strict guidelines within that same culture. That is when essentialist definitions are created, cherished, celebrated, and followed.

An example of such approach is the naturalization test administered to new US citizens ( To me, the test represents a quintessentially US-American example of acculturation, as it doesn’t offer an alternative to pre-defined definitions. That is of course understandable, if we consider the test as the product of the very nation building discourses on which the country is based. Going back to the supranational Austro-Hungarian Empire, it should not come as a surprise that its demise was sanctioned with U.S. President Wilson’s blessing. The question may be asked whether the mere existence of that type of state, if left on the map, would have represented a danger (or alternative) to the idea of nation on which the (US) Union was based as described in Woodard’s book on American Nations.

In our search for new intercultural communication frontiers, we are now faced with new possibilities offered by a non-essentialist approach to cultural understanding. That may entail two kinds of discovery: first, the non-conflicting and non-conflictual presence of multiple cultural views in the same geographic area; second, the non-essentialist character of each of these cultures. Let me briefly examine both.

I believe that a change of perspective would ignite a process of transformation. Whether the outcome of that is a desirable or a contested one remains to be seen. In the assumption that a desired outcome emerges from such transformation, the co-existence of multiple cultural views in a certain region (I avoid the use of the term “state” on purpose) may bring about more intercultural cooperation and even promote a process of third-culture building as suggested by Casmir, Evanoff and others. (see literature at the bottom). At the same time, the switch to a non-essentialist representation of each culture may heal issues of intra-cultural exclusion, power and access within each of the cultures present in the region. That will also require a new set of tools for dealing with cultural differences and nuances, tools that won’t be based on established definitions of culture, but rather on the understanding of the dynamics that govern the systemic interactions occurring within a web of multiple cultures and experiences stemming from their relevant historical, geographical, philosophical, religious, and environmental contexts.

My preceding comments touch on both personal and “professional” levels of inquiry.

Let’s start with the first one. You mentioned your family ties to the Habsburg Empire, and your desire to find tools that will allow you and others to elaborate and expand on “the streams of discourse that we carry with us.” I believe that is an interest that you share with a lot of people who are trying to achieve a more holistic form of ascribed identity. Let me say now that I also trace my roots to the Austro-Hungarian world. My grandfather was a career officer in the k.u.k. army, his personal path not unlike that of many of his contemporaries, who came from very diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. In my grandpa’s case, according to his military records, he spoke fluently German, Italian, Ladin and knew enough Hungarian to be posted in Budapest. When I was a kid little I knew of all this, as – after the end of WW I – his experience was banned even from family memories – no questions asked. It wasn’t until a later time that I became interested in my own family’s heritage, but by then it was too late to ask the protagonists, as by then they had already died. Apparently, the discourse that had sustained the first part of my grandpa’s life was quickly dismissed, demonized and removed from public view, with total disregard for all those people who shared that particular Weltanschauung. This refers to what I mentioned in my last post, i.e. that the discourse behind nation building intentionally avoids recognizing the existence of the cultures that existed prior to the creation of a national state. That kind of active plagiarism not only affected Austria-Hungary as an entity, but also the lives of millions who found themselves robbed of their personal histories. Now, having mentioned this, I would say that when it comes to tools, I’d definitely include personal engagement in the understanding of one’s own history. That is very important. Without framing culture within its proper historic context, it’d be very difficult to understand all the nuances of one’s heritage, and how that same heritage interfaces with personal experience and relevant discourses. I am talking here about the emergence of an individual narrative that is not separate from cultural archetypes and discourses. To achieve such level of consciousness, a good amount of genuine and inquisitive research must be carried out. A set of simple “tools” (as simple as paper and pen), and serendipity would probably help.

And here I come to the second level of inquiry – the professional level – that we need to consider in order to elaborate and enact new ways of understanding culture(s). Compared to the kind of personal inquiry I described above, this is a very different scenario. I said in my other post, that a linear approach would not serve well. Once we accept the idea that cultures are open system, always in flux and extremely non-essentialist, with an ever-increasing level of complexity, then we must find ways to move into a new era of intercultural inquiry. I don’t have the expertise to make scientifically sound suggestions, but I feel that system thinking would provide a plausible, viable alternative to the linear definitions and understanding of cultures that have been used so far. Of course, one thing is to build one’s own personal tools of cultural understanding: many of them have been already arrived at as part of the many discussions on Intercultural Competence and similar concepts. Another thing is to create a model informed by our new “theories” on culture, a model that would withstand empirical and practical challenges and that could be used as a new meta framework that could serve as a new reference for future intercultural work and research. Due to its non-linear, systemic nature, the crafting of such model will be a true challenge. Given the fact that similar models already exist in other disciplines, I am hopeful that in time even in our field we will make headway in that direction. This would require the elaboration of what Gregory Bateson called An Ecology of Mind. The kind of work he did may well serve as an inspiration for the vision we are trying to explore.

The good news is that we do not really have to start from scratch, as there has been already a great amount of intercultural work around these concepts. What’s missing is the kind of meta framework that I mentioned earlier. This could be undoubtedly a fascinating venue to explore, one that incorporates, expands, and transcends the very models that have guided the work of interculturalists for decades.

Casmir, F. L. (1999). Foundations for the study of intercultural communication based on a third-culture building model. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 23(1), 91-116.

Evanoff, R. (2001). Discussion Paper on intercultural dialogue and education. UNU – United Nations University Accessed on-line on September 2, 2009 at

These are some additional thoughts.

In a discussion appeared in the Linkedin Group Competence in intercultural Professions, I posted some thoughts on the future of Intercultural Communication in which I elaborated on some of the issues I raised in this thread. You can read that post at:

Next is an excerpt from a Master’s research on multicultural identity formation that I did in 2010. It connects the two levels inquiry mentioned in my last post — the contextualization of personal narratives along with the development of a systems-thinking meta model for the understanding of cultural complexity.


Furthermore, for Kim (1994) processes of intercultural identity formation depend on external (present, past, context) and internal factors (temperament, desirability), both influenced by power issues. In more recent studies, Kim (1994) embraces an alternative “Systems Approach to identity” that envisions the possibility of complex identities that interact in a constructionist, dialogical fashion towards possible identity transformation. This would lead to the emergence of an in-flux intercultural identity that “would discourage the obsessive adherence to the rigid categorization of people, [and the] exclusive loyalty based on past group affiliations” (p. 17). This is summarized in a recent paper on Intercultural personhood (Kim, 2008) on her systems-based evolutionary view of intercultural identity. The term intercultural personhood would then be synonymous of multicultural identity.

Kim’s views are clearly located within a systems-thinking tradition such as Casmir’s and Martin and Nakayama’s, although the latter place her among traditional humanistic, interpretive scholars (Martin & Nakayama, 1999).


Kim, Y. Y. (2008). Intercultural personhood: Globalization and a way of being.  International Journal of Intercultural Relations: IJIR. 32(4), 359.

Kim, Y.Y. (1994). Beyond Cultural Identity Intercultural. Communication Studies  IV:1 1-24. Retrieved on Dec. 2, 2008 at

Martin, J., & Nakayama, T. K. (1999). Thinking dialectically about culture and communication. Communication Theory, 9, 1-25.

Vallazza, O. (2010). Processes of nurturing and maintenance of multicultural identity in the 21st century. A qualitative study of the experience of long-term transcultural sojourners. Master thesis. Linköping University, Sweden. Available at Linköping University press:


GLL – Swedish Study Circles

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: on Larsson’s Study Circles

TOPICS: local global learning, development, Transformation, Adult Education

Step 4 – Part 1: Adult education/learning in civil society organisations and social movements

Keywords: Study circles, Sweden, civil society, democracy, pluralistic citizenship

Link to blog

Link to forum Link to Forum 2

Larsson, S. (2001) Study Circles as Democratic Utopia: A Swedish Perspective, in Bron, A.&  Schemmann, M. (eds) 2001 Civil Society, Citizenship and Learning. Bochum Studies in International Adult Education, vol. 2. Transaction Publishers, USA/UK


In this article Larsson presents the case of the Study Circles as “a mass-phenomenon in contemporary Sweden.” (p. 1) Study Circles refer to both the content and the educational framework within which learning occurs.

Since the foundation of the first study circles association in 1912, Study Circles in Sweden were understood as a means to the advancement of education from the bottom up. Unlike traditional education, they were based on the following “grammar” derived from democratic principles of egalitarian participation:

“1) There are no examinations or merits to be gained; 2) Participation is voluntary; 3) One operates with the expectation of a limited number of persons in a circle, normally somewhere between 5 – 19 persons; 4) Time is often treated in a different way from ordinary schools – often study circles will meet for 3 hours once a week with a break in the middle. A study circle will often consist of 10 to fifteen of such meanings; 5) A circle will have a leader, who does not have to be an expert – it can be one of the participants. On the other hand, there are often experts acting as leaders.” (p. 2)

Study Circles have focussed on learning activities that would strengthen people’s active participation in democratic society by offering a plethora of topics that would represent diverse world views.

Historically, Study Circles underwent a transmutation.

Originally, their activities were entwined with the civil society movements that were the driving force behind the popular participation in the circles. In fact, “participation in study circles during the first half of the century was often part of a relatively strong, sometimes class based, relation to a specific movement.” (p. 3) From that perspective, study circles were “in sharp opposition to state and market.” (p.3)

In the course of the twentieth century, however, with the weakening of popular movements and the corresponding emerging of institutions of representative democracy within the state, Study Circles lost their relevance as loci of political activism.

Compared with the limiting effect that states exercise elsewhere on education, the role of the state in the Swedish Study Circles is ambivalent. In Sweden the state provides financial support to the study circles without imposing limits to their mission.

In discussing Study Circles, Larsson examines their relevance for and impact on today’s adult learning education in Sweden. He recognizes the loss of importance experienced by civil society movements over the last century, partly due to the emergence of a globalized society and what that entails. It seems that “the power and the possibilities of the civil society have been reduced, since there is less that is decided upon through democratic decision-making in the society as a whole.” (p.15)

This has led to a shift of focus in the activities of Study Circles. They went from being the educational arm of class-based social movements to being more and more involved with the pursuit of learning at the personal level. The effect on civil society and the state institutions is not to be found anymore in the action taken by the related popular movements, but in the small-scale influence that individuals may exert in their private political spheres.

The core pillar in the Swedish Study Circles still clearly rests on Oscar Olsson’s original view of “education for and through the people.” (p.12) He is considered the father of the study circles. In spite of their changing role, Study Circles are therefore still based on the promotion of equality, knowledge, active participation, democracy and diversity. These issues are by all means not clear cut and remain highly contested in the ways they may be achieved and by whom.


Today’s function of Study Circles

Larsson recognizes how the function of Study Circles in relation to the State and Civil Society class-based movements has changed since their inception.  In particular, the promotion of action does not appear to be any longer the driving force behind Study Circles. Recognizing this loss of political traction reminds me of our discussions on Youngman and Freire with regard to the actuality of their views. I believe many of us have recognized the change in today’s context and conditions. Study Circles appear to have been highly adaptive to such changes.

Consequently, they reflect the shift from a context dominated by popular movements to one that values participation as “individual and private rather than something that is supporting the influence and power of a civil society versus other societal powers.” (p.13) Maybe one could argue that Study Circles were never meant to be the tools for political actions. In fact, even in the past, political action was the domain of social movements. What has changed is the intensity of how the learning activities developed in Study Circles would transfer to political action.


With regard to diversity, Larsson emphasizes how Study Circles have provided an arena for the production of new identities, concluding that “the study circle tradition provides a system that is very much adapted to support diversity. We can also note that this is not only a potential but it is in fact used in practice as a place to produce and reproduce diverse identities.” (p.11) I find this specific point very important to our course and the relevant discussion on glocal education. I believe the relational nature of Study Circles provides a fertile ground for dialogue that would consider diverse narratives and discourses. That could be the prelude to the emergence of a transformative and then enactivist perspective and possibly a new holistic cultural paradigm based on Third-Culture building practices.

Global citizenship, European model.

I find Larsson’s article refreshing in its affirmation of the concept of “pluralistic citizenship.” (cited from Johnson, 1999) It reflects current approaches to people’s participation that transcend both Freire’s and Youngman’s class-based thinking. Of course, I recognize that his views are rooted in the Scandinavian tradition, quite different from the contexts discussed by the other authors. Nevertheless, his vocabulary is suitable for a comprehensive discussion of transformative education that relates to the changed landscape of the new millennium. I am saying this not because Freire’s observation on inequality and oppressions do not have merit nowadays, but because I believe we have now gained deeper, systemic insights into the relevant issues.

In Larsson’s words, the alternative to a traditional, juxtaposed idea of democracy

“will be a view, where there is no universal truth or ‘correct’ decision, but rather that democracy is about peaceful solutions of conflicting interests and world-views, in other words, negotiations and compromises between a multitude of groups in the population who have elected representatives. Possibilities to develop a diversity of opinions and form organisations based on this diversity become a prerequisite for such democracy” that would” embrace diversity and cultural pluralism.” (p. 9)

This will also entail politics of mutual recognition.

As an example of this kind of societal transformation, I would like to bring up the case of a EUROPA as outlined at and . The language used in these web pages is consistent with Larsson’s findings and – in my view – also with the Cape Learning Region as conceptualized by Walters.


Cohen, J. L., & Arato, A. (1995). Civil society and political theory. Studies in contemporary German social thought. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.]: MIT Press.

Larsson accept the definition of civil society given by Cohen and Arato. They believe that “social movements constitute the dynamic element in processes that might realize the positive potentials of modern civil societies.” Check this for more on Cohen and Arato:




He does not mention the potential of the Internet as an opposite force to this, similar in a sense to study circles, but on a global scale.  I would argue that wikis, blogs, social networks, the diversity of web pages (self-promotional, knowledge-based, and otherwise) made available through the Internet offer similar eclectic, self-initiated, and non-hierarchical options to informal adult learning.  Because these go well beyond geographical state borders, are divorced from physical or locally situated constraints, they open up diverse knowledge building, and a kind of equality that restricts membership based on technological access alone. It remains to be seen whether this medium will reinforce collective participation in self governance or merely further fragmentation of local civil societies.

Hi Marie!

Thank you so much for your eloquent post. I found it meaningful, easy to read and well-written.

Here are some comments on the issue of changing educational venues.  On reading Larsson, I had this picture of a Swedish landscape scattered with small, self-contained communities, where people gather in cosy buildings with a very warm atmosphere to work on their social networking and personal adult education advancement. It is a comforting image, one that may reveal an aspect of Swedish society that may be hard to find in places outside Scandinavia. It is an image that may look quintessentially Swedish, and by extent is more familiar and palatable to Europeans, especially Northern Europeans, than to people in South Africa. I may be wrong, but this image may still dominate the Swedes’ approach to their adult education extension programs such as the Study Circles, because it is “culturally appropriate”, situated in the Nordic tradition. This may be a reason why immigrants are underrepresented in such context. As you point out, IT education opportunities are nowadays available. I wonder if they would satisfy the need for personal interaction sought after by the aging Swedish population. That would be the topic for another research project.

What is important here in terms of glocal education – I think – is to imagine. Let’s imagine how the learning spirit typical of study circles would work elsewhere. For example, would it be relevant to the specific context of South Africa? And let’s imagine how learning approaches from other places would benefit the Swedish adult education environment. How would that affect society? Transformation in the global age is about new ways in which we can imagine a different world.



Kathy wrote:

dear oscar and Marie

just to add to your images of fireplaces and cosy rooms – the same organisation who is using Reflect in SA has been piloting a few study circles. They are working in the rural areas of the eastern cape in one of the poverty nodes of South Africa. so the study circles will be happening in in mud huts around a fireplace. People believe that in these areas, the original home of Nelson Mandela, Ubuntu still exists.

I guess the methodology of Reflect and a study circle would complement each other as both allow people a space to explore and develop; to work without an ‘expert’ towards transforming ones own community.


Dear Kathy and Marie,

The image of people gathering in mud huts to learn is very empowering. My stereotyped image of Sweden was actually more representative of the past. I am aware that things have changed a bit (-: . My point was that, for the Swedes, that image still holds power over the way democracy may be understood as belonging to the people. It’d be interesting to hear about this point from some of our cohorters in Scandinavia.

Kathy wrote: “to work without an ‘expert’ towards transforming ones own community.”

That reminds me of how David Bohm envisioned dialogue. On this, I’d like to share the following excerpt from Klenemas (2008), which I believe reinforces the philosophical approach of the Study Circles.

(emphasis added) “David Bohm sees equality of/among the participants as an important feature of dialogue. He says that this equality can be reached through a fair hearing of all parties involved. This demands of course also a certain degree of openness among the dialogue partners and that everyone has the chance to participate.

Bohm claims that hierarchical power structures would be counterproductive to the interaction. In his eyes, a discussion – in contrast to a dialogue – aims at a win-lose situation, where the parties “play” against (i.e. not with) each other. In a dialogue, on the other hand, people aim to reach a win-win situation.

To say it differently, dialogue is not about convincing or persuading the other. (This would mean that I know everything about my opinion, but nothing or little about the others’.) It is through listening carefully to each other without judging the others’ opinions that everyone can create the “same” stock of knowledge. Bohm is not saying that you should suppress your opinions and feelings. On the contrary, talking openly about facts and feelings is also important to reach what he calls “coherence of thought”. He stresses that if there is a coherence of meaning (or thought) the process and outcome will be much stronger and more effective. Let me sum up these three features of dialogue with David Bohm’s words:

‘How can you share if you are sure you have truth and the other fellow is sure he has truth, and the truths don’t agree? How can you share? Therefore, you have to watch out for the notion of truth. Dialogue may not be concerned with truth – it may arrive at truth, but it is concerned with meaning. If the meaning is incoherent you will never arrive at truth.’ (Bohm 1996: 15f)”

This approach brings Freire’s ideas on conscientization into focus by making it the individual’s responsibility to find coherence among a diversity of thoughts and meanings. For me, as I pointed out in another post (Link to forum ), this would be a supporting pillar for a new thinking paradigm.



Kleinemas Hanne (February 2008) Excuse me, is this the way to intercultural competence, in Coyote #13, Intercultural Dialogue, Council of Europe & European Commission Youth Partnership, Strasbourg, France. Accessed on September 2, 2009 at

Bohm, D.(1996): On Dialogue. Reprint 2006. London/New York: Routledge Classics.

>>>>>>> cultural essentialist view<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Thank you Annika for your comments as an insider. They play well into the etic vs. emic debate. (The “emic and etic” perspective is used in anthropology and cross-cultural counseling.)

Interestingly, you confirm the lower participation of immigrants in the Swedish Study Circles, which in turn may highlight the Nordic nature of such particular approach to adult education and the difficulty in transcending its original cultural imprint. This is a good example how complex issues of glocal education are, highlighting the difficulty of applying ideas across cultural differences. With regard to Study Circles, hat many view as a well-organized approach may feel and look to others – e.g. immigrants, broadly generalizing – as constrictive and at odds with their own ideas of learning. At the beginning, in Sweden it was assumed that Study Circles would work well to address local adult education needs. It was a system that was culturally appropriate and responding to Swedish minds. Extending the system to “outsiders” may be tricky, as it may reveal that not everyone agrees on the original assumption.

On this particular point, I would like to write some considerations. Larsson says that, “Even though there was a strong tendency to celebrate scientific knowledge at the time, study circles gave in fact space for diverse world-views. In that sense pluralism was in fact supported in worldviews by the organisational structure of independent study associations with different ideological connections.” (p. 2) He continues with several examples of what this diversity of world views is about. His thinking betrays a basic essentialist view of diversity, one that is necessarily limited – at least at the beginning – to diversity as perceived within Swedish society, and therefore mostly relevant to aspects of Swedish civil society. Even when he mentions issues of globalization, he considers them from a Nordic perspective.

It would be interesting to know if non-autochthonous variations of diversity now exist along Larsson’s examples of diversity as cited in his paper, and how these levels interact.


GLL – What’s transformative education?

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, development, Transformation, Adult Education

Step 3 – Part 1: What is Transformative Adult Education?

Link to blog

Link to forum


Youngman, F. (1996) A Transformative Political Economy of Adult Education: An Introduction in Wangoola, P & Youngman, F (eds) Towards a Transformative Political Economy of Adult Education Theoretical and Practical Challenges, USA:LEPS.


Political economy; pedagogy of transformation; capitalism; Marxism; social change; systems thinking; SAP (Structural Adjustment Program); Imperialism; Post-industrial society; civil society; popular education; destatization; state;


Youngman presents a post-Marxist view of the world, where he envisions a transformative pedagogy of adult education that will eventually transcend capitalism. He believes that “The role of adult education in social transformation is to help challenge the dominant ideologies of capitalism and to build a counter hegemony which will embody the ideas and practices that prefigure a new society.” (p. 11)

“The chapters exhibit an opposition to the following: economic exploitation and accompanying divisions between classes and na­tions; imperialism and maldevelopment in the South; uncontrolled industriali­zation and environmental destruction; poverty, inequality, and social domination; the exclusion of the majority from decisions which affect their lives; the processes of globalization and homogenization of cultures; injustice and violence; values of competitive individualism and ideologies of racism, ethnocentrism and sexism.” (p. 10)

“social action for change is conceived not in terms of incremental improvements within existing structures but in terms of fundamental transformation.” (p.10)

To that extend, he advocates for a systems-thinking approach and a “multidimensional analysis” to address the several levels of entwined inequality and oppression, “namely, those deriving from imperialism, class, gender, and race-ethnicity.” (p. 10)


Even though he emphasizes the need to overcome the language of socialism, in order to move beyond capitalism (p. 10), Youngman makes it clear throughout the chapter that the main goal of a transformative pedagogy of adult education is the eradication of capitalism and of its global, imperialistic agenda.

His writing, dating back to the mid-nineties, does not cover important developments that have occurred over the first decade of the new millennium. His insists on analyzing the state of the world through the lenses of the capitalist-Marxist dichotomy, failing to see that that dichotomy itself may be partly to blame for our current conditions. He seems preoccupied in not sounding like an old-fashioned socialist, but does little to suggest a model that would transcend his class-based view of the world. This is not to say that his remarks do not have merit (one can certainly agree on his analysis of the factors of exploitation that affect both development and education), only that his approach does not depart from the perennial struggle between Marxism and capitalism as it unfolded in the 19th and 20th centuries.


First, I want to say that I do believe in education as a transformative force. However, I do not fully agree on the model suggested by Youngman, which I see as stemming from an inherent rejection of capitalism based on established Marxist discourses.

I would prefer a different approach that could leave “old” diatribes behind, not because they cannot be supported by relevant discourses, but simply because I favor a more refreshing and experimental approach. (e.g. Learning Cape).

In a non-performance-driven learning environment, I favor a transformational approach to adult education that would also address the intercultural learning dimension; free the discussion from established, stereotypical essentialist views of cultures; and explore and clarify issues of identity, assumptions, otherization, representation through thick description of discourses and personal narratives. That would include issues of oppression and marginalization as enumerated by Youngman. (see quote above)

Here are two orientations that I believe could influence relevant transformative adult learning approaches: a constructivist transformational orientation, and an enactivist perspective.

Constructivist transformational orientation

Following this orientation, educators could act as promoters of transformation processes. According to Merizow (1991), this approach leads “to a dramatic shift or transformation in the learner’s way of viewing the world.” by “bringing of one’s assumptions, premises, criteria, and schemata into consciousness and vigorously critiquing them.” (Fenwick, 2001, p. 13)

This orientation is suitable to challenge and discuss cultural assumptions through cognitive reflection. However, one has to recognize that not everyone is interested in shifting perspective, or capable of reflecting cognitively, in which cases this approach may feel to some like a piloted operation.

Enactivist orientation

This orientation promotes a new paradigm of learning derived from whole systems thinking. It transcends the confinements of the established world view (what Youngman is not yet ready to do) and its embedded traditional education practices.

This entails an investigative, open-ended approach to learning that is not separate from teaching. The educator is viewed as a communicator, story-maker, and interpreter. (Fenwick, 2001, p. 49) “The educator’s role might be first, a communicator: assisting participants in naming what is unfolding around them and inside them, continually renaming these changing nuances, and unlocking the tenacious grasp of old categories, restrictive or destructive language that strangles emerging possibilities. Second, the educator as story-maker helps trace and meaningfully record the interactions of the actors and objects in the expanding spaces. Third, the educator as interpreter helps all to make community sense of the patterns emerging among these complex systems and understand their own involvements in these patterns of systems.” (Fenwick, 2001, p. 49) In this way, issues of social, gender, national, ethnic, and racial inequality (to mention just a few) would be discussed within a framework that does not forcibly support Marxist-capitalist juxtapositions.

The language used in this perspective is conducive to understanding relations between systems, including the interplay between actors and issues in the education universe. This presides over the co-emergence of an interrelated pattern, in which “each participant’s understandings are entwined with those of other participants, and individual knowledge co-emerges with collective knowledge.” (Fenwick, 2001, p. 49) The Marxist-capitalist dichotomy would not make much sense in such devised learning context.

I view this orientation as linked to the broader, global perspective of whole systems thinking that envisions the emergence of a new thinking paradigm. Accordingly, enactivist educators “can provide feedback loops to a system as it experiments with different patterns leading out from disequilibrium.” (Fenwick, 2001, p.50) This resonates with views of a paradigmal change such as those presented by Dr. Ervin Laszlo, founder of The Club of Budapest, in his work on macroshifts. (Laszlo, 2001)

This perspective, however, may be of difficult application under today’s established educational circumstances, as it requires reframing current paradigms, discourses, and world views.


Youngman has highlighted the role of certain kind of people’s organization. Defining the role of Civil Society, however, entails to first understand what Civil Society is, and how it related to established agencies (state, local government, international institutions). I hope to get a better understanding of this point from our discussion. Here I would like to make some comments of the term “role”. During the last U.S. presidential elections “civil society” crossed over into politics in support of Barak Obama’s “agenda for change.”

After he became president, the “popular movement” (was it really a movement, or just a campaigning strategy?) dropped out of sight, and did not transition into a government role. Something similar happened to the Easter European people’s organizations that were instrumental to the demise of the Communist regimes. I want to add that, when W.G. Bush got elected, he actually brought into government those very interest groups that had helped him get elected. This did not happen in the case of Obama. With regards to these developments, there is also a confusion of terms. Obama rallied around a platform of “change”, but when he got into office, that quickly changed, as he has presented him as a “reformer”, as one that can fix the broken system. This is a contradiction in terms which should stress the importance of clarity in the language we use when addressing education/learning and transformation.


As I mentioned above, transformative orientations are not good for everyone. Does that mean we need ‘consensus” before we can proceed?

I would like to bring up the following three issues, as I believe they have a huge impact on the effectiveness of adult learning transformational practice

Governmentability: defined by Foucault (1991) as “A form of power that is exercised through an ensemble of institutions, procedures, analyses, and reflections, which results in the formation of a specific governmental apparatus.” (Fenwick, p. 42)

Self-subjugation: Chappell et al (2003) recognize that in many traditions the existing social frameworks remain unchallenged, as individual identities remain anchored in established socio-cultural assumptions. This in turn perpetuates issues of subjugation and domination resting on “false consciousness.” It is important to recognize this, as often established discourses override one’s awareness of mechanism of power and discrimination. (p.6)

Confessional education: defined by Usher and Edwards (1995) as “practices such as journaling, life planning, self-evaluation, portfolios, and counseling that are commonly associated with experiential learning.” They believe that people become “objects of scrutiny” as they follow their educators’ advice on issues of identity definition. (Fenwick, 2001, pp. 41-42)

When we discuss transformative education we also need to be mindful of the educators’ role and how that may concur in reinforcing entrenched patters of discrimination and inequality.


Chappelll, C., Rhodes, C., Solomon, N., Tennant, M. and Yates, L. (2003) “Selfwork” in Reconstructing the Lifelong Learner: Pedagogy and identity in individual, organisational and social change (2003) by C. Chappelll, C. Rhodes, N. Solomon, M. Tennant & L. Yates Routledge Falmer, London

Fenwick, T. (2001) “Experiential Learning: A Theoretical Critique from Five Perspectives” Information Series No 385, ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational Education now located at the Centre for Education & Training for Employment at Ohio State University, accessed on June 2, 2009 at

Laszlo, E. (2001). Macroshift: Navigating the transformation to a sustainable world. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler

Mezirow, J. (1991) Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Usher, R., and Edwards, R. “Confessing All? A ‘Postmodern’ Guide to the Guidance and Counselling of Adult Learners.” Studies in the Education of Adults 27, no. 1 (April 1995): 9-23. (ERIC No. EJ 504 441)

>>>>>>>>>>>>>FORUM DISCUSSION<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Ginger Norwood wrote:

The role of adult education in social transformation is to help challenge the dominant ideologies of capitalism [or power, or imperialism or or ] and to build a counterhegemony which will embody the ideas and practices that prefigure a new society.” (11)  I’ve been pondering the idea of whether adult education can be both transformational and initiated by the State, and this sentence would make me say no.

This is a point that I also raised in my post. I actually challenged Youngman’s view of transformation as being too concerned with “fighting capitalism.” I believe that such view keeps us inside a repetitive loop of thinking based on the Marxism-Capitalism dichotomy. Youngman’s article does not mention that the 90’s saw a (re)birth of discussions/activities/meetings/literature/experiments/education enterprises/exchange programs that transcended such dichotomy, although they recognized the factors of discrimination/exclusion/exploitation mentioned in Youngman’s writings. This new movement for change and transformation emerged – so I like to believe – from the need to step beyond what had brought us to where we are now, which includes also the perennial diatribe between communism and capitalism (which are actually part of the same worldview). In previous posts I mentioned David Korten as one of those that have been engaged in such approach, but also Vandana Shiva, Ervin Lazslo and many many others.

Ginger Norwood wrote:

It reminds me of Audre Lorde’s famous quote ‘the masters tools will never dismantle the master’s house.’ – the State, as an institution, is interested in preservation, and transformative education implies critiquing the very power that preservation yields.

The quote, like many quotes, may refer to a specific situation, but I am not sure it can be generalized to all contexts. As an example, I remember when Gorbachev introduced his policies of Perestroika and Glasnost. I believe he did that as a way to “reform” the Soviet Union. Instead, his intervention unleashed the demise of his own state, which ceased to exist just a few years later. The same happened when Nelson Mandela and F.W. De Klerk agreed on dismantling Apartheid and, with it, the old South Africa. There is no doubt in my mind that they both knew they were taking a leap of faith and shelving the old system for good.



Here is a paper on perestroika and glasnost and Gorbachev’s “reform” of education:


Elizabeth Saunders wrote:
From the little history I have learned about Hilton Head, it would seem like an example of a sector of civil society having succeeded in maintaining the white dominated way of life, being more right-wing and conservative than the State. This group’s values, life style and behaviour certainly represent a barrier to societal transformation.


Anne, what a great post! Your considerations about that place remind us that class transcends borders. It also reminds me of something I thought when I first came to the U.S. and people were wondering why it was taking the white minority in South Africa so long to relinquish Apartheid. I though that, unfortunately, the same people who were asking that of white South Africans, would have been by far less adamant at relinquishing their privileges in this very U.S. of A. Around the same time, people were asking of the Russians to just dump their “old system” and embrace the glory of Capitalism. Just like that. Now I have been here long enough to know that, when it comes to making NOTICEABLE social changes, Americans are very good at dragging their feet (not all of them, of course. I am talking about societal change)  Health Care “reform”, public transport, building codes, are just some of many examples I could come up with.

At that time I also thought – whether I was right, I don’t know – that the difference between Apartheid-era South Africa and the States was that discrimination in South Africa was codified into the law, whereas the U.S. had a democratic framework. But at the end of the day I couldn’t fail to think that the two countries shared a history of oppression and imperial conquests. Both countries considered territorial expansion as a God-blessed mission. (In downtown San Francisco explicit references to “the American Empire” are visible on several monuments for everyone to ponder on.) The Voortrekkers saga reminds me a lot of the theory of Manifest destiny and the conquer of the frontier so loved in certain American circles. There was – however – a difference. While in U.S. Native Americans were subject to genocide because they were not willing nor able to integrate into a Western-style exploitative system, in South Africa the colonists found a way to integrate the autochthonous population into the perverse economic system that was decades later to become codified as Apartheid.

I am therefore not surprised to hear your story about Hilton Head.



Marie wrote:

My question is: as an era ends and another begins, when changes are happening to us all so rapidly, who educates the educators?

Hi Marie,

I hear you, and share your concern. I believe – like in our case in the ALGC – we are actually educating ourselves. But of course, this is a rather simple way to answer your question.

I have a link to share. It is an article I found at the Linköping University on-line library ( you will need to log on at Linköping University Library to access this:

A Phenomenological Study of the Development of University Educators’ Critical Consciousness

Journal of College Student Development | May 1, 2007| Landreman, Lisa M; Rasmussen, Christopher J; King, Patricia M; Jiang, Cindy Xinquan

The abstract says that “The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore how multicultural educators known for their expertise in this area acquired the capacity to effectively serve in this role and to explore the kinds of experiences that facilitated these educators’ visions of social justice.”

Click here to go to the file:

A Phenomenological Study of the Development of University Educators’ Critical Consciousness.pdf

This article emphases the use of self-reflection, aha moments (remember Brookfield and Chappel and our discussions on reflective teaching/learning?) to engage in social justice action and coalition building through the development of critical consciousness. (basically Freire’s views). Although I have just taken a quick look at the article, I have the feeling that it connects several aspects of my learning in the ALGC by waving together Freire with issues of intercultural dimension of globalized society (the work of M. Bennett on Ethnorelativism is cited).

GLL – The Intercultural dimension – Third Culture Building

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, development, South Africa, Adult Education, Intercultural Communication, Transformation, Third-Culture, Hybridity, Integration.

Step 2 – Part 3: Adult Education, Development and Transformation: South African case study

Link to blog

Link to forum

Link to General Discussion Forum (Cafe)

Hello everyone!

In this post I would like to take a critical stand towards Walters’ article.

It seems to me that – aside from a generic “lip service” reference to the importance of culture for civil society and adult learning approaches – she fails to address the cross-cultural and multilingual dimension of South African society. I have noticed such absence also in the other readings presented in this course.

That is of course a complex issue that would require, especially in the case of South Africa, attentive and systemic analysis. Nevertheless, I believe that a comprehensive discussion on adult learning in South Africa should not hide the fact that South Africa is a multilingual, multicultural and multiethnic society and that the dynamics of communication in such complex web of cultures greatly affect any kind of cooperative efforts and dialogue.

The composite intercultural make-up of South African society is by no mean a marginal factor in decisional policies on adult education and learning. In fact, I like to see it as the platform on which any workable project can be built on.

The Intercultural Communication dimension of education and development in South Africa is premised first of all on the actual cultural and language variations found in the population, but it is also stressed in the broader discourse on globalization, education, and development.

As Richard Evanoff writes in an interesting paper on Intercultural Dialogue and Education,” “From the point of view of intercultural education the alternative model of development advocates democratizing the decision-making process in a way that fully takes the interests and concerns of non-elites into consideration.”

Walters, like the other authors reviewed so far, very often use terms like transformation, dialogue, and communication without taking a closer look at these concepts. I realize that a discussion on this topic would be complex and long, thus I want to end this post with the following statement.

Elaborating, defining and enacting new workable and effective policies for Adult Learning in South Africa is a somewhat Herculean task. I believe that a process of transformation will need to take place, based on dialogue and respectful/effective intercultural communication. In that regard, we will need to first define what kind of transformation we are striving towards, which also means that we need to be up front about what kind of society we are envisioning, given the richness of cultures and languages co-existing in South Africa. Processes of society-building in such complex intercultural context will need to clarify what kind of transformation will develop in South Africa and towards what model the country is moving, e.g. integration, thirdculture building, or hybridity. (Each of these terms means a different future scenario).

The following is an example, extrapolated from Evanoff’s article (2001)

“When dialogue between people from different cultures begins, we can also speak of an integrated “third culture” perspective in sociological terms. When third-culture individuals from different cultures (i.e., individuals who have integrated aspects of the other culture into their own personal psychology) begin working together with each other, they may evolve entirely new ways of doing things.”

The road ahead is wide open.


Kathy wrote:

thank you for bringing to our attention the idea of a third culture – how would you compare this to ‘ a community of practice’ ?

Hi Kathy,

You are raising a very interesting question that would require time to be properly addressed.

Briefly, the “third-culture” model I was referring to was presented by Fred Casmir (1993) in Third-culture building: A paradigm shift for international and intercultural communication. Communication Yearbook. 16, 407-428.

There is by now a lot of literature available on Third-culture building, which would make it hard for me to even try to squeeze it into a post. An interesting summary is available at:

In general, I agree with Casmir, although I believe that local governments – as evidenced in Walters’ article and Marie’s post – may be in a position to promote a third-culture approach.

Casmir views are similar to those promoted in their scholarly work by Young Yun Kim, Brent Ruben, Peter Adler, Muneo Jay Yoshikawa, Richard Evanoff, David Bohm, Alexander Langer, and Getinet Belay (to cite just a few) in their extensive work on Intercultural transformation, identity, multicultural identity,  intercultural identity, transformation, building bridges, interplay of local and global dimensions, systems thinking. Theirs writings seem to be all informed by a General System perspective that allows for flexibility and recognizes that

“human beings are equipped with the capacity to maintain an overall integrity despite the continual instability, and that such systemic integrity is possible because of an open system’s capacity to evolve, that is, to develop new forms of relating to a given milieu.” (Young Yun Kim, Beyond Cultural Identity, Intercultural Communication Studies IV:1 1994)

It is indeed a fascinating work in progress!

This line of scholarly work is linked to the broader discourse on Intercultural dialogue (which would also require more time for a meaningful discussion), which I have addressed in other parts of this course.

As for the link between third-culture building and “communities of practice” (as in Wenger), here are my thoughts. From my reading of Wenger’s participation perspective and communities of practice, even considering the merits and the systems view of her perspective, it seems to me that it lacks the necessary recognition of intercultural factors that is central to the development of a third-culture approach. Wenger rarely consider intercultural dynamics, which seems to make her approach not easily adopted in a multicultural contested context like South Africa. Compared to Wenger’s overly codified model, I believe that dialogue applied to a third-culture perspective would offer a much more flexible and effective approach to issues of local/global education.

GLORIA wrote:

I think we have evolved a third culture of sorts.  What is not evident in our thinking and articulation yet, is the recognition and value afforded those attributes that have come from cultural traditions that are still marginalised in the realms of power – politics, formal education, economic/business


Thank you so much for your comments on Third Culture (TC) and how the concept seems to have found resonance within NZ. I believe the reason why I am interested in exploring it more is twofold: firstly, it seems it applies also to my home region, and secondly, it relates to the wider spectrum of inter and cross-cultural communication experiences. (international sojourners, immigrants, international students, international workers…). Basically, it embraces both a personal and a social dimension, which I find truly fascinating, as it links personal experience to the local/global contexts of our planetary society.

Today I did some reading up on third-culture building to better understand its applicability to the specific South African scenario. It seems that your comments on its coming short on the examination of power issues are right on target. And although TC presents itself as an opportunity for the emergence of a societal and cultural transformation, it isn’t clear how it deals with those who resist such evolutionary process. Some view TC as being in opposition to the more emic idea of multiculturalism.

I believe that the two perspectives need not be in opposition or even self exclusive. There is room for a combined productive co-existence. For me, the key to the success of TC building processes is summarized by the word synergy, which can be loosely defined as “the relational interdependence” that constitutes the building block of TC development. (Robert Shuter, On Third-Culture Building, 1993) I also believe that such synergistic approach should be based on a shared vision of a new emerging paradigm, a vision not enforced from the top down. Casmir called it an approach “from the bottom up,” which resonates with Walters’ “connect up” model.

Like the old SBS Australia spot once said: The world is an amazing place!

Best to all of you folks!

Anita wrote:

My children, and those of my peers, are far, far beyond multiculturalism. I truly think they are forging some sort of third culture in this social crucible they find themsleves it.  Unlike multiculturalism, this is not planned, encouraged, or government policy; it is simply people adapting to their environments, and creating new ways of being as a result.  This is a profound change and it is not being documented as well as it might be, I think because there is still a societal tendency to view it through the limiting lens of multiculturalism.


Your conclusion really points at the essence of the multicultural vs. TCB dichotomy. And, as I wrote in my previous post, the two phenomena apparently co-exist side by side, maybe symbolizing a generational transition to a paradigm shift in the way cultures will intersect and possibly evolve in the future. (a future that, like in your example, has already begun).

In his article cited in a previous post, Evanoff (2001) suggests an advanced stage of intercultural development, which results from a process of cultural transformation. He calls this stage a “generative” stage “in which entirely new forms of culture are creatively produced.”

Evanoff expands on Milton Bennett’s Development Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS), which I discussed in previous courses and presented in a group paper posted at It was also mentioned in a discussion thread in Itslearning.

By going beyond Bennett’s Model, Evanoff suggests that, in a globalized society of co-existing cultural perspectives and traditions,

“ The goal is not simply to say which of the existing cultural pies is best (ethnocentricism) nor to simply say that each of the pies is equally delicious on its own terms (ethnorelativism), but to make a better and different pie. The generative stage provides for the possibility of both personal and social transformation. Not all of the new options we are able to generate will be of equal value (some may be flops, others unworkable), but there is nonetheless a need for ongoing experimentation.”

Evanoff provides with a hopeful, holistic approach to intercultural understanding, one that will transcend the confinements of “tolerance” and emerge into a new stage of human co-operation.


what Robert Wickert wrote in his article Acculturation and Intercultural Identity in the Post-Modern World

“Casmir makes the profoundly valid observation that the modern state has proven itself ineffective in dealing with intercultural and interethnic problems” (Belay, 1993). His alternative to the existing model takes the form of a proposal that compares the conventional social scientific paradigm to the functional needs of people, organizations, and states. He argues that the conventional paradigm is focused on domination not cooperation, but the use of domination as the primary measure of success is inconsistent with the needs of people, organizations, and states. The domination paradigm is consistent with assimilation, not mutual acculturation of the host culture and the individual.

Casmir (1993) explains that the use of the domination model is based on the Western view of argument and rhetoric. Belay notes that “linear, one-sided models that are derived from Aristotelian logic constrain the analysis of intercultural communication” (Belay, 1993). This Western model of argument and dominance is even more absurd when one takes into account the fact that many of the intercultural communication episodes studied will certainly involve cultures where the Western view may not be held by either side of the conversation.

Casmir (1993) rejects the domination model and characterizes the third culture building process as the natural outgrowth of non-threatening cooperation. Dominance is not intended and should not result from the acculturation process. Consistent with Kim’s characterization of acculturation, where the individual becomes comfortable with the new society as the new society becomes comfortable with the individual as acculturation is accomplished; the third culture is built only when “the participants engage in an active, coordinated, mutually beneficial process of building a relationship” (Casmir, 1993). This mirrors Kim’s theory of acculturation, and her theory of development of an intercultural identity.


Ackoff, R., (1984) “On the Nature of Development and Planning”, in Korten, D. C., & Klauss, R., People-centered development: Contributions toward theory and planning frameworks. West Hartford, Conn: Kumarian Press

Bohm, D., & Nichol, L. (1996). On dialogue. London: Routledge

Casmir, F. (1993) in Third-culture building: A paradigm shift for international and intercultural communication. Communication Yearbook. 16, 407-428

Cologne Charter, Aims and Ambitions for Lifelong Learning (1999), adopted be the 25th G8 Summit in Cologne, Germany, 18-20 June Accessed on Sept. 5, 2009 at

Evanoff, R. (2001) Discussion Paper on intercultural dialogue and education. UNU – United Nations University Accessed on September 2, 2009 at

Fenwick, T. (2001) “Experiential Learning: A Theoretical Critique from Five Perspectives” Information Series No 385, ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational Education now located at the Centre for Education & Training for Employment at Ohio State University, accessed on June 2, 2009 at

Foucault, M. (1991) “Governmentality” In The Foucault Effect, edited by G. Burchell, C. Gordon, and P. Mills, pp. 87-104. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. [New York]: Herder and Herder

Knowles, M. (1984) The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species. Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Company

Korten, D. C., & Klauss, R. (1984). People-centered development: Contributions toward theory and planning frameworks. West Hartford, Conn: Kumarian Press.

Land, S. (2006). Barriers to education faced by educationally deprived adults in

Muthukrishna, N. (ed.) Mapping Barriers to Basic Education in the Context of HIV and AIDS: A Report on Research conducted in the Richmond District, KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg: School of Education and Development, University of Kwazulu Natal.

Rostow, W. W. (1960). The stages of economic growth, A non-Communist manifesto. Cambridge [Eng.]: University Press.

Shuter, R. (1993). On third culture building. Communication Yearbook. 16, 429-436.

The Learning Cape, web page, accessed on Sept. 3, 2009

Toffler, A. (1984) “Third Wave Development: Gandhi with Satellites,” in Korten, D. C., & Klauss, R., People-centered development: Contributions toward theory and planning frameworks. West Hartford, Conn: Kumarian Press

Toland, J. and Yoong, P. (ND) A Framework to Evaluate Learning Regions:

The ‘7-I’ Approach, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Accessed on Sept. 10, 2009 at

Trainer, F. E. (1989). Developed to death: Rethinking Third World development. London: Green Print

UIE, UNESCO Institute for Education, (1998) The Mumbai Statement on Lifelong learning, Active Citizenship and the Reform of Higher Education. Hamburg

United Nations Development Programme- UNDP (2003). South Africa Human Development Report. New York: Oxford University Press. Accessed on August 19, 2009 at

Walters, S. (2006). Adult learning within lifelong learning: a different lens, a different light, Journal of Education, No. 39 Adult Education Special Focus Edition, Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal

Walters, S. (2005) Optimism of the will, pessimism of the intellect: Building communities of trust in South Africa. The annual Q-Africa Conference at Gallagher Estate, 16-17 November 2005. Accessed on Sept 9, 2009 at

Woolcock, M. (1998). Social capital and economic development: Toward a theoretical synthesis and policy framework. THEORY AND SOCIETY. 27 (2), 151-208.

Young Yun Kim, Beyond Cultural Identity, Intercultural Communication Studies IV:1 1994

Youngman, F. (2000). Adult Education and Development Theory in The Political Economy of Adult Education & Development, (Chapter 4). London: Zed Press.


On John Dewey

Cologne Charter on Lifelong Learning

A Memorandum on Lifelong Learning, EU Commission

The Learning Cape

David Bohm: On Dialogue, On-line version:

Journal of Intercultural Communication, Goteborg universitet

Pamala Morris’ Training Module on Building Cultural Competencies:

Milton Bennett’s Development Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS):

On Global Education:

Coyote #13, Intercultural Dialogue

Glaserfeld and Intercultural Communication

Glaserfeld and Intercultural Communication

In his article, von Glaserfeld explains that, according to Piaget’s Theory of Cognition, for learning to occur, it is necessary to go through assimilation and accommodation. Piaget’s Learning Theory also recognizes that “cognitive change and learning take place when a scheme, instead of producing the expected result, leads to perturbation, and perturbation in turn leads to accommodation that establishes a new equilibrium.” (p.6)

I believe that these stages of learning are also relevant to the experience of experiential learners in a cross-cultural setting, as they mirror similar stages of intercultural learning. I also believe in the possibility that a social constructivist approach may result in a kind of cultural transformation that may give birth to a new kind of social context that I refer to as third culture.

When we find ourselves outside our familial cultural environment a scheme approach as described in the article may lead to a kind of perturbation that is specific to intercultural settings. In fact, when dealing with other cultures, we may misinterpret symbols simply because we tend to perceive them through the lenses of our culture and filter them through our cultural schema. Such experiences may progress through learning stages such as perturbation and adaptation, resulting in new knowledge and possibly in opportunities for personal transformation.

Furthermore, in von Glaserfeld’s article, perturbations are presented as those fundamental events in the occurrence of learning. The social dimension of perturbations is also emphasized: ‘the most frequent source of perturbations for the developing subject is interaction with others.” (p.11) This reinforces my argument that cross-cultural situations, typically charged with human interaction, may lead to perturbation and subsequent adaptation.

At this point I would like to ask myself and the forum if constructivism could also include a dialectic transformation between (among) interacting learners, one that would establish a new shared compatible conceptual framework that could lay the foundation for a “third culture.” I define a third culture as one that would result from a Gestalt, wholistic vision, a culture that is not merely the sum of disconnected and independent cultural fragments.

This idea sprung into my mind from the readings on constructivism, and particularly from Constructivism and Online Education and its description of social constructivism. Specifically, two quotes prompt me to consider the possibility that constructivism may indeed serve as a platform for cultural transformation, in ways similar to those explored by David Bohm. He even went beyond the vision of truth as “socially constructed and agreed upon, resulting from ‘co-participation in cultural practices’ ” (Cobb &; Yackel, cited in Doolittle), and embraced the possibility that a new paradigm and relevant social context may emerge from the transformational power of dialogue and open communication.

For more on David Bohm, I suggest reading the book On Dialogue, partly available on-line.

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