Identity and Self

Correct citation:

Vallazza, O. (2011, October). Identity and self. Published at http://tinyurl.com/3tfjftp LinkedIn Forum on Competence in Intercultural Professions, available at  https://worldconnections.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/identity-and-self/

Hi everyone!

What a great discussion. Thank you for all your comments. I may be late in posting, but I nevertheless would like to add a few lines. Several posts seem to subscribe to the notion that intercultural experiences are by far and foremost a learning process, which occurs at the interface between meaning creation and experience, and develops within a context that is both personal and social. Von Glaserfeld’s (1989) constructivist perspective provides a valuable tool for the understanding of processes of intercultural learning and – I would add – transformation.

This also means that dynamics of intercultural adaptation become embedded in a larger process of intercultural individuation, where the context is made up of the complexity of the many intercultural frameworks crosscultural sojourners find themselves, and where their experience unfolds. I believe that rather than being an either-or choice between juxtaposed cultural systems and perspectives, the personal entanglement with one’s perceived identity is concurrently the result and the means towards transformation.

The vast and diverse arena in which intercultural interactions occur provides powerful stimuli that undoubtedly leave a mark on an intercultural sojourner’s personality and/or identity. There is of course a wide range of  differences found in the levels to which such experiences may be arranged within the context of each person’s cultural, situational, psychological framework. As Mariana pointed out, the A-B-C, affective, behavioural, cognitive dimensions presented in the works of Y.Y. Kim, Colleen Ward, Stephen Bochner, and Adrian Furnham, and Zaharna’ Self-Shock may provide an analytical understanding of the psycological aspects of the experience of intercultural sojourners. In my opinion, however, we also need to consider other aspects that do not necessarily fall into the realm of psychology. Such richness of intercultural relational factors has clearly emerged in this discussion. I am skeptical though, as to whether they can be arranged as a vademecum to be used as a desk reference for everybody coming to grips with the complexity of cross-cultural sojourning.

As pointed out in this discussion, nothing really remains the same, which means that – in a sense – there is no “going back” to a space and time that has meanwhile evolved to a different level of reality. I struggle with these ideas myself, as I am pondering my transcontinental relocation “back” to Europe. It’d be easy to believe that I could just drop my current persona and easily slip back into long-outgrown old clothes. Although the linear simplicity of such possibility makes it appealing, the complexity and ramifications of intercultural exposure make it sound rather naif, all the more so when I reflect on the factual changes in my A-B-C sphere. I would conclude that the powerful effects of our intercultural experience do not simply bring about changes that can be turned on and off at will, but also result in actual transformation, when single components can no longer be understood and lived separately from the complexity of our lives. As suggested by Y.Y. Kim (1994), the notion of permanence – once an Italian, always an Italian – is untenable. In the following excerpt, she emphasizes the evolutionary, in-flux aspect of intercultural identities:

“The evolutionary conception of identity presented in this essay, then, projects a personhood that is profoundly humanistic. It points to a sensible existence in the face of a multitude of divergent cultural identities. Both individuated and universalized, intercultural identity allows for ever-widening circles of self-other definition without diminishing one’s cultural root. The concept of intercultural identity further discourages the obsessive adherence to the rigid categorization of people, exclusive loyalty based on past group affiliations.” (p. 17)

Albeit rooted in a Western approach to individuation, Boulding (p. 206) is confident that “each of us can discover the shape of our own identity along the way, rather than insisting on the one already defined by birth and the scripts prepared by others.” (p.17) Washed over, sometimes overwhelmed by so many cultural stimuli, I believe that intercultural sojourners need to develop a critical awareness of the complex personal and cultural dynamics in their lives. This is of course a life-long learning process that requires all the well-known ingredients of intercultural competence, including tolerance for ambiguity and openness towards personal change and – possibly – transformation.

LITERATURE

Boulding, K. (1985). The World as a Total System. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Glasersfeld, E. von (1989). Cognition, construction of knowledge, and teaching.

Synthese 80(1):121–140. Available at http://www.univie.ac.at/constructivism/EvG/papers/118.pdf.

Kim, Y.Y. (1994). Beyond Cultural Identity Intercultural Communication Studies IV:1 1-24. Available at http://tinyurl.com/64pxrs

Addendum to the post:

Here is an interesting article on new approaches to understanding intercultural identity available on-line at:

http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/sussman/publications/Sussman_Identity_Model_2000.pdf

I also believe that change happens, In many cases, true transformation occurs, one that may not be understood by simply juxtaposing cultural perspectives. It is a transformation that transcends essentialist views and embraces a new dimension. Third-culture unfolds at the interface of our intercultural experiences and dilemmas, not unlike what TCK’s go through in their continue search for identity and understanding.

I have always been inspired by the following quote by T.S. Elliot:

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time…..

To me, it epitomizes the realization that the world is constantly evolving, so that upon”coming home” after many years we may see old familiar places under a new light, and experience them as the locus of a new chapter of our earthly adventure.

In Italian, the same quote reaches an even more epic climax:

Non cesseremo mai di cercare
E quando avremo concluso il nostro viaggio
Arriveremo dove siamo partiti
Vedremo i luoghi per la prima volta.

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New approaches to intercultural communication

Correct citation:

Vallazza, O. (2011, April). New approaches to intercultural communication. Published at http://tinyurl.com/3f483kd LinkedIn Forum on Competence in Intercultural Professions, available at https://worldconnections.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/new-approaches-to-intercultural-communication/

I hope I am not straying from the main question in this thread by engaging in the conversation with the following comments. It seems to me that some contributors, including myself, feel strongly about the need for new tools for understanding intercultural dynamics. I believe that intercultural trainers may be more restricted than scholars in their scope and choice of theoretical approaches, in that they are called upon to “deliver results.” Such scenario may justify the adoption of a somewhat “rigid” intercultural communication measurement tools that are based on widespread reductionist and essentialist views of cultures. Nevertheless, I believe that much of the classification in use may have been made obsolete by the development of globalism and complex globalization processes, as Bernard Saint-Jacques states in an article of recent publication that he mentioned above. Saint-Jacques, B. (2011). Worldview in Intercultural Communication: A Religio-Cosmological Approach. In L. Samovar, R. Porter, E. McDaniel, (Eds.), Intercultural Communication. A Reader (pp. 45-56). Boston, MA: Wadsworth.

I’d like to use his article as a reference for further discussion, for which I have adapted some of the conclusions about a research carried out in 2010. The full text of the paper is available at http://tinyurl.com/24sfh6m

The preceding posts cover a broad range of topics, including issues of identity, intercultural adaptation, theoretical approaches to intercultural communication, new ways of approaching cultural definitions and categorizations, and how that may change the way cultures are presented and studied. Let me get started.

ACCULTURATION AND LEARNING

Bernard writes: “Following several authors, Waldram (2009) argues that the concept of acculturation has outlived whatever usefulness it may have had, and that scholars should focus on the process of enculturation, or culture learning.”

I agree. I believe we need to consider transformative learning approaches as those presented by Mezirow (1991). The language used by Merizow provides a much needed syntax for the needs of current and future Intercultural Communication research and praxis.

I believe that intercultural processes may progress beyond the confinements of mere adaptation to a majority culture and reach “a generative stage in which entirely new forms of culture are creatively produced” (Evanoff, 2001). Mezirow’s (1991) Transformative Learning Theory supports this evolutionary view of multicultural identity formation in that it postulates emancipatory change through individual transformation. His theory confronts and challenges the taken-for-granted norms, leading to a dramatic shift or transformation in the learner’s (intercultural sojourner) way of viewing the world. According to Mezirow, at the core of transformational learning lies individual learners’ ability to construe, validate, and reformulate the meaning of their experience. The emphasis is on ‘perspective transformation’ as a means to promote personal growth and, eventually, the emergence of a new society. In her analysis of transformational learning, Lena Wilhelmson (2002) also concurs that “perspective transformation leads to a revised frame of reference, and a willingness to act on the new perspective”. I believe that such approach would inject new inputs and a fresh perspective into the understanding of intercultural dynamics. Such transformational learning approaches cultural assumptions through cognitive reflection, which would lead “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). As Bernard Saint-Jacques says in his article, this would be made possible “through questioning, debates, discussions, reflective writing about one single cultural aspect, thus allowing the person to reflect about her or his own perception about one cultural aspect, often linked to other aspects of the culture.”

RELATIONAL VIEW OF IN-FLUX CULTURE AND IDENTITY

My approach to intercultural communication concurs with Bernard’s and with Aneas and Sandin’s (2009), who also reject the idea of culture as a “collection of fortuitous traits,” (Par.57) and emphasize the relational, ever-changing character of culture.

The findings of my research indicate that culture is not the sum of specific traditional traits, but the result of relational dynamics. They also show that the lived experience of intercultural sojourners cannot be easily generalized, which would indicate that a mechanistic taxonomy is insufficient to define multicultural identity development processes. In times characterized by a global Diaspora, there is a need for a new way of contracting one’s own cultural identity beyond essentialist limitations and monocultural allegiances.

As in Bernard’s article (“Identity, particularly in the age of globalization, is never a fixed reality, a pre-given identification; it is a dynamic and evolving reality.”), my study also shows that multicultural identity derives from the idea of the self as an ever-changing concept that varies based on the relational context people are in, and develops out of the exploration of multiple meanings. Intercultural identity is therefore in flux (Aneas & Sandin, 2009; Martin & Nakayama, 1999; Peter Adler, 1977; Kim 1994), and changes depending on and through the nature of intercultural relationships. This is particularly important for those who do not clearly fit the mold of a single culture, but instead see themselves as the product of several cultural influences.

FUTURE OF INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION

With regard to the future of intercultural research, I believe it would be important to break away from unidirectional approaches that focus on an individual’s adaptation to a specific new cultural context but fail to consider relevant transformative processes within the host cultures (Evanoff, 2006). Future research should recognize the complexity of processes of intercultural adaptation by including relationships of “third-culture building” (Casmir, 1999), an approach that considers cultural identity not as the result of “fixed trajectories but in dynamic, interactional, and complex patterns” (Roth, 2003, par. 82).  Such broader dialogical approach could include an investigation of glocal dialogue (Matoba, 2003) as a practical application of intercultural communication. A better understanding of dialogue might in fact help people break out of essentialist cultural mindsets and explore a wider range of possibilities for our global society. In turn, this would also improve opportunities for effective co-operation on many common issues (Evanoff 2001).

My question now is on how we can move closer to a systems-oriented view of intercultural communication and avoid the trap of falling into using established essentialist notions and standardized cultural classification. What are the tools available to us for “making sense” of intercultural dynamics within the complexity of globalization trends? Is Bohm’s idea of Dialogue a viable alternative?

Adler, P. S. (1977). Beyond cultural identity: Reflections upon cultural and multicultural man. In R.W. Brislin (Ed.), Topics in Culture Learning, 2, 23-40 Honolulu, HI: East-West Center. Retrieved on July 7, 2002 at http://www.mediate.com/articles/adler3.cfm.

Aneas, M. A., & Sandín, M. P. (2009). Intercultural and Cross-Cultural Communication Research: Some Reflections about Culture and Qualitative Methods. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 10(1), Art. 51, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0901519 Accessed on Dec.10, 2009 at http://www.qualitativeresearch. net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1251.

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. (2006). Integration in intercultural ethics. International Journal of Intercultural Relations 30, 421–437.

Evanoff, R. (2001). Discussion Paper on intercultural dialogue and education. UNU – United Nations University Accessed on-line on September 2, 2009 at http://www.unu.edu/dialogue/papers/evanoff-s5.pdf.

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, retrieved on June 2, 2009 at http://www.uni-koeln.de/hf/konstrukt/didaktik/situierteslernen/ fenwick1.pdf.

Kim, Y.Y. (1994). Beyond Cultural Identity Intercultural. Communication Studies IV:1 1-24. Retrieved on Dec. 2, 2008 at http://www.trinity.edu/org/ics/ ICS%20Issues/04%20ICS%20IV%201/Microsoft%20Word %20-%20p%20%201%20%20Y.%20Y.pdf.

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

Matoba, K. (2003). Glocal Dialogue Transformation through Transcultural

Communication. Paper presented at ENGIME Workshop: Communication Across Cultures in Multicultural Cities 7-8 November 2002, The Hague. Retrieved on Dec.28, 2009 at http://www.idm-diversity.org/files/infothek_matoba_glocaldialogue.pdf

Roth, W-M. (2003). Culture and Identity. Review Essay: Ayan Kaya (2001). “Sicher in Kreuzberg” Constructing Diasporas: Turkish Hip-Hop Youth in Berlin / Carl Ratner (2002). Cultural Psychology: Theory and Method [94 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 4(1), Art. 20, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0301204.

Saint-Jacques, B. (2011). Worldview in Intercultural Communication: A Religio-Cosmological Approach. In L. Samovar, R. Porter, E. McDaniel, (Eds.), Intercultural Communication.  A Reader (pp. 45-56). Boston, MA: Wadsworth.

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 (91 pages) Available at Linköping University press: http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-59533

Wilhelmson, L. (2002). On the Theory of Transformative Learning. In Bron, A. & Schemmann, M. Bochum (Eds.), Social science theories in adult education research (180-210) Studies in international adult education, v. 3. Muenster: Lit Verlag.

GLL – Body work, bioenergetics ( Nadeau)

Link to blog

Link to forum

Nadeau, D. (1996): Embodying Feminist Popular Education in Global Restructuring (Chapter Two), in Gender in Popular Education: Methods for Empowerment, Cape Town: CACE Publications and Zed Books

Body work – Bioenergetics

Hi everyone,

I have noticed that Nadeau’s article has created an antagonized discussion. From there, we apparently have succeeded in establishing a broad dialogue on her contested views, enlarging it to a wider spectrum of issues.

I would like to go back to one of the central themes in Nadeau’s article, bodywork. I couldn’t agree more on the importance of body awareness, as it relates to the unity of body, mind and spirit. When we use the kind of bodywork advocated by Nadeau, however, we need to know exactly what we are doing and what we are dealing with. She suggests bioenergetics – as postulated by Wilhelm Reich – as a suitable approach to raising awareness. Although she recognizes that Reich was a psychotherapist, she fails to mention that the bioenergetics is known to most of us thanks to the work of Alexander Lowen, which makes me wonder how much she knows about bioenergetics. I am left with the impression that she is experimenting with any technique that can advance feminist empowerment only having minimal knowledge.

Bioenergetics is a form of therapy that is certainly used to unlock repressed emotions, including those derived from repression and oppression. This needs to be done under supervision of a competent expert, as the dynamics that may unfold may be cathartic but also violent. Doing unsupervised group bioenergetics may end up hurting more people than it really help. For all the above, I am sceptical about Nadeau’s idea that bioenergetics is a means to uncover issues of social injustice within a civil society movement, also because she does not explain how she would handle the unavoidable dynamics of “emotional release” that would eventually ensue. Finally, as someone has written in this forum, it remains to be seen whether the level of personal awareness gained through bioenergetics or any other kind of body work would lead to socially meaningful action and/or change. In Bioenergetics action takes the form of “violent release of anger” within the safe environment of the therapy. For obvious reasons, I would certainly not recommend transferring that experience of liberation to society. As for the transformative power of bioenergetics, my feeling is that this kind of therapy may help at some level, but does not depart from the assumption that interpersonal dynamics develop as a sequence of actions and re-actions to counteract outer pressure.  It is, like many other types of therapy, about adapting to hostile conditions, and certainly does not consider a circular, alchemic approach to conflict transformation.

Integral Theory and Transformation

INTEGRAL THEORY AND TRANSFORMATION

Posted on e-portfolio

In recent posts I noticed a growing discomfort related to possible future scenarios that would break through currently employed discourse. I would like to share some information I gathered over the past few days, as the result of a search that was no doubt prompted by some comments in the forums.

I believe one of the issues that emerged from the discussion is the search for something that would allow us to take a leap of faith and move beyond the current paradigmal thinking. (I like to call it Cartesian world view).

The second issue, directly related to our current course, is transformative learning.

I believe the two things can be looked at together. I spent hours on the web researching these issues, and eventually contacted several people working on transformation and Integral Theory. This is the great thing about the internet! As a result, I have now some initial information that gives more substance to my claim that there is more than just a dichotomous approach to today’s problems.

Here is a summary of some resources that I thought I’d share with you.

Transforming wholeness

INTEGRAL THEORY

Ken Wilber defines integral as:

“to integrate, to bring together, to join, to link, to embrace. Not in the sense of uniformity, and not in the sense of ironing out all of the wonderful differences, colors, zigs and zags of a rainbow-hued humanity, but in the sense of unity-in-diversity, shared commonalities along with our wonderful differences.” (A Theory of Everything)

“The word integral means comprehensive, inclusive, non-marginalizing, embracing. Integral approaches to any field attempt to be exactly that: to include as many perspectives, styles, and methodologies as possible within a coherent view of the topic. In a certain sense, integral approaches are “meta-paradigms,” or ways to draw together an already existing number of separate paradigms into an interrelated network of approaches that are mutually enriching.”

You can explore Integral Theory at:

http://www.integralresearchcenter.org/sites/default/files/integraltheory_3-2-2009.pdf (paper)

http://www.integralresearchcenter.org/vision

http://www.integralresearchcenter.org/source

Integral Education

http://i-edu.org/articles-resources.php very comprehensive collection of articles

http://i-edu.org/Articles/Integral-Education-Esbjorn-Hargens.pdf

MACROSHIFT

If you are interested in learning more about Dr Ervin Laszlo’s Macroshift check out the suggested links:

http://www.worldshiftnetwork.org/home/index.html

http://www.clubofbudapest.org/

http://www.wie.org/bios/ervin-laszlo.asp

DIALOGUE

I believe that learning and dialogue may be key tools in such paradigm shift. For now, we are still dealing with a world premised on the industrialization era where people in general are reluctant to move into uncharted land, and instead prefer to linger on whatever we have, in spite of its obvious failures.

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.”

Evanoff, R. (2001) Discussion Paper on intercultural dialogue and education. UNU – United Nations University Accessed on September 2, 2009 at http://www.unu.edu/dialogue/papers/evanoff-s5.pdf

On dialogue:

http://www.transcultural-dialogue.com/documents/dialogue_process.pdf

TRANSFORMATION

On conflict transformation:

http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/transformation/

A Changing Worldview:

http://twm.co.nz/Harm_wldview.html

The Split between Spirit and Nature in Western Consciousness:

http://twm.co.nz/West_Consc.html#Western

Another scholar that addresses transformation in education is Mezirow, whom we encounter in our FLIP course.

———————-

These are examples of wholistic, non-essentialist approaches. I hope it’s clear that I am sharing this information not in an attempt to proselytize, but just to provide some examples of a different thinking paradigm.

Best,

Oscar

IMAGINE!

IMAGINE!

Dear all,

Reading through these posts again gives me the impression that a certain degree of uncertainty about the future has simmered through our academic discussions. Many of our thoughts are about conflict that exists in society, and how that stems from forms of oppression and inequality across the board. In the end, I believe it’s going to be about finding ways to work together, Here are some inspiring words:


EIL

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge –
That myth is more potent than history,
I believe that dreams are more powerful than facts –
That hope always triumphs over experience –
That laughter is the only cure for grief.
And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

Robert Fulghum from http://www.robertfulghum.com/

The following is part of an interesting webpage that you can read by clicking on: Envisioning

If you like audio files, here is one from a long discussion about the Maire Dugan’s dialogue and envisioning workshops. Most involved people of different cultures and/or races, although the techniques apply in many other situations as well.

http://www.beyondintractability.org/sound-intro/dugan-m-2-dialogue.m3u

Safe travelles!

Oscar

GLL – Gender in population education

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: on Gender in Population Education

TOPICS: local global learning, feminism, empowerment, Popular Education

Step 4 – Part 2: Adult education/learning in civil society organisations and social movements

Keywords: feminism, gender, popular education, women, civil society, democracy, oppression,

Link to blog

Link to forum

Reading

Walters, S.& Manicom, L.(1996) Introduction, in Walters, S.& Manicom, L. (eds) Gender in Popular Education: Methods for Empowerment, Cape Town: CACE Publications and Zed Books

  • What are the key elements of feminist popular education?

In Walters and manicom’s words, “feminist popular education developed in the early 1980s as a critique of the male-biased popular education that was dominant in social movements.” (p.5)

The authors cite the grammar used in related studies, which includes terms such as ‘popular education’, ‘community education’, ‘radical adult education’, ‘education for change’, ‘people’s education’, ‘liberatory’ or ‘emancipatory education’, ‘transformative education’ and ‘education for empowerment’. (p.2)

They also offer a definition that stresses the two intertwined dimensions of feminist populat education -– pedagogic and political

They see feminist popular education as “a participatory, democratic, non-hierarchical pedagogy which encourages creative thinking that breaks through embedded formats of learning. It valorizes local knowledge, working collectively towards producing knowledge, the principle of starting from where people are situated, and working to develop a broader understanding of structures and how these can be transformed. It strives to foster both personal and social empowerment. Feminist popular education obviously focuses particularly on the conditions and positions of women and the renegotiation of gender relations; but, given that gender is a social category, referring to the historically and culturally defined constructs of masculinity and femininity, feminist popular education must simultaneously engage with the ways in which the social categories of race, ethnicity, culture, age, social class, sexuality and physical ability are implicated in constructions of gender.” (p.5) They also define feminist popular education as “the struggle against gender oppression. But, since gender has been understood increasingly as constructed in relation to race, class and so on, feminist popular education has been working to integrate all aspects of power inequalities structured along social identities.” (p.6)

The bottom line seems to remain the support to “the struggles of women in oppressed communities.” (p.6)

The preceeding comprehensive paragraph expresses the complexity of relevant discourses, and the difficulties that may emerge when we try to address those issues. From my understanding of the reading, I believe that feminist popular education is primarily concerned with building “solidarity between women around the world” (p.1) That can be achieved through a serendipetous educational development based on participative, collective, non-dogmatic self-reflection aimed at the production of new knowledge. (p.12) That would also entail “deconstructing and constructing gender.” (p. 2)

For such educational approach to succeed, some key elements need to be in place. “Feminist popular education is embedded with social activism and democratic organizations of civil society working for material and substantive transformation of women’s lives and conditions. (…)Questions of state and civil society, their complex integration and their career shifting formations globally, as well as critical examinations of ‘the market’, are thus central preoccupations for feminist popular education.” (p.2)

One key element in such thinking is experience. “Women’s experience is seen as the point of departure for feminist popular education.” (p.10) Pre-existing experiences closely interact with processes of experience building. (p.12) Experience, as explained later, is also seen as an overarching element in feminist popular education.

  • What are the relationships between the learning (or educational) practices, the organizational strategies and dynamics, and the macro and micro political contexts?

Walters and Manicom recognize how “new economic conditions emerging over the last two decades have exacerbated the economic problems of most women in all these situations.” (p.7)

In this globalized context, “it is the gendered aspects of these global economic processes that often provide the focus for feminist popular education and organization.” (p.7) That lead to “the growth of international feminism and global feminist networks” (p.7)

One issue is “the the local applicability of feminist ideas originating in Western Europe and North America.” (p.7)

At the local level, feminist pedagogy is pursuing a model of empowerment through training aimed at the development of “poverty alleviation strategies such as micro-enterprises, income-generating and credit schemes (…) oriented towards sustainable development.” (p.8)

This also entails working with differences, which requires the development of a kind of sensitive, self-reflective educational apptroach that “has the potential to be very generative and catalysing of learning and transformation.” (p.13)

While analyzing feminist popular education, the authors identified a set of themes that constitute the basis for effective work.

THEMES

Starting from where women are

Feelings and emotions

Body-work

Spirituality

Cotidiano, meaning the daily occupantions in every woman’s life, which can be as intrinsically political, and as integrated with broader social relations and hierarchies of oppression.” (p.10) That’s why it is important to develop a notion of empowerment to gain “more decision-making capacity, to deepen(ing) an understanding of the relations configuring one’s life and to control(ling) conditions affecting one’s life.” (p.12)

All these elements are interlinked through women’s experiences, and one cannot detatch the private, personal experience from its political and social dimension.

  • Why are there commonalities in popular education practices across such diverse local settings?

I believe that the key elements of feminist popular education imply a common cause that transcends class and political borders, as explained in the first part of this post. I hope to gain more insights into this particular aspect through our discussion.

Oscar

>>>>>DISCUSSION<<<<<<

Marie   wrote:

Considered from that point of view, grounding social transformation in individual identity change is key. But, everyone’s identity must transform.  Even the faciliator’s.  Even the oppressors’.  How one is to connect all these diversities into one cooperative collective is a long range goal of popular education that I seldom hear articulated. It comes back to those 2 questions:  “who is the subject” and” what is the goal?”

Hi Marie,

It’s 1 am in sleepy, noisy Seattle, but I want to write two lines to comment on your last post.

The last paragraph reminds me of the TRC (Truth and reconciliation Commission) approach, as experimented for example in post-apartheid South Africa. The TRC entails the seeds for conflict transformation as explored by Paul Lederach. Transforming is not providing an alternative; it is to allow the emergence of something new from the alchemy of prio-existing conditions that have ceased to be of value.

Oscar

RESOURCES:

http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/transformation/

This is a comprehensive article in which lederach explores the four dimensions of conflict and injustice:

  1. the personal,
  2. the relational,
  3. the structural, and
  4. the cultural.

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

ARTICLE SUMMARY

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.

COMMENTS

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.

Diversity

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 http://www.euroalter.com/about-logo/ and http://www.euroalter.com/about/ . 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.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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: http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/jbmurray/research/jbm_ayacucho.pdf

DISCUSSION

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MARIE WROTE:

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.

Oscar

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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.

kathy

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.

Oscar

SOURCES CITED IN THIS POST:

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 http://youth-partnership.coe.int/youth-partnership/documents/Publications/Coyote/13/Coyote13.pdf

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.

Oscar

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