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Commonwealth Intercultural Arts Network



Below are some thoughts from the CIAN fellows on interculturality:

Being intercultural is being two - the nature of the being is intersubjective, intercorporeal and inbetween. Using the metaphor of self as apple, and Other as orange, Helene Cixous suggests evocatively that being between two is a moment "to live the orange" (Cixous, 1994). She writes, "The orange is a moment. Not forgetting the orange is one thing. Recalling the orange is another thing. Rejoining it is another. At least three times are needed to in order to begin to understand the infinite immensity of the moment" (p. 88). Cixous asks under what conditions however may I live the orange and immediately draws attention to the political nature of being two in intercultural moments. Her work reminds us that to live the orange is a political act (p. 90) and her work calls us to the necessity of an ethical relation in being two. Questions of possibility, performativity, power and privilege are everywhere here and I wonder what intercultural pedagogy might become if we begin to think, live, feel, breathe and be the ethical and moral response-ability Cixous is gesturing towards?

Cixous, H. (1994). To live the orange. In S Sellers (Ed.), The Helene Cixous reader (pp. 81-92). London: Routledge Press.

Intercultural engagement is a possibility. Where we are addressed by another voice, our ideas and perceptions are enriched as new horizons open to us. Intercultural engagement seems to work best if we approach it as a conversation that is fluid and discursive, playful and dynamic. While essentialising something about an other always remains a danger, conversation with another continually surprises us as relationships shift and grow in ways not yet imagined.

One writer I have found most informative throughout my research has been Hans-Georg Gadamer. Ricoeur’s work on translation is also very interesting: ‘Without the test of the foreign, would we be sensitive to the strangeness of our own language?’

Ricoeur, Paul. 2006. On translation, trans. Eileen Brennan. London: Routledge. p. 29.

Rather than use the term ‘intercultural’, Martin Nakata, a Torres Strait Islander academic, prefers to refer to where two cultures meet as a cultural interface. For Nakata, the cultural interface is a place where all interested people can meet to create knowledge based on a melding of multiple standpoints. Martin Nakata explains intercultural engagement as: "a multi-layered and multi-dimensional space of dynamic relations constituted by the intersections of time, place, distance, different systems of thought, competing and contesting discourses within and between different knowledge traditions".

Nakata, Martin. 2007. Disciplining the savages: Savaging the disciplines (p. 10). Canberra, Australia: Aboriginal Studies Press.

Intercultural relationships have the potential to free us from the fears perpetuated by cultural domination. “Fear,” writes Bell Hooks, “is the primary force upholding structures of domination. It promotes the desire for separation, the desire not to be known. When we are taught that safety lies always with sameness, then difference, of any kind, will appear as a threat” (Hooks, 2000, p. 93). Intercultural relationships can allow us to move against these fears – against such cultural alienation and separation. For me, this movement towards cultural connection rather than separation is guided by an ethic of love. As Hooks explains: “The choice to love is a choice to connect – to find ourselves in the other” (p. 93). In the intercultural relationships we foster, this can involve embracing the dimensions of love in all that we do – “care, commitment, trust, responsibility, respect, and knowledge” (p. 94). When we do this, an ethic of love can act as a compass for how we engage and connect with people, places, arts practices and pedagogies. It becomes much more difficult for fear and cultural domination to exist when a love ethic prevails (p. 98).

Hooks, B. (2000). All about love: New visions. New York: Harper.

A dialogical perspective of interculturality interprets it as dynamic, vibrant and evolutionary, permitting outcomes that may be neither constructed nor planned. It demands an ‘open and respectful exchange of views between individuals and groups belonging to different cultures that leads to a deeper understanding of the other’ (Council of Europe 2003 Opatija Declaration). In interdisciplinary artistic contexts, interculturality desires and is nurtured by the contribution and possibilities of different forms of expression, generating unspoken, intuitive and embodied knowledge. An intercultural artistic engagement creates a space for imaginative response, for connection and experiential exchange. Intercultural dialogue is reliant on hermeneutics, which ‘clarify the conditions in which understanding takes place’ (Gadamer 1975: 263). For Gadamer, art has the ‘... ability to disrupt and challenge customary expectations ... [attributing] an ethical significance to art as being able to reveal the limitations of fixed cultural expectancy and to open the spectator towards the other and the different’ (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).