Eclectic Grounds

conflicts and conversation

Archive for the ‘Dialogue and Exchange’ Category

Are you a change agent?

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I am sure you are, as we all are most of the time. Change is a constant part of our lives, along with the messy conflicts and confusions that it often creates. For many of us, change is even more than that: we try to change structures of injustice or create innovations that touch upon the lives of others.

If you want to deal constructively with change then give this advice a thorough read:

The image is a slide of a fascinating slideshow by Victoria Pynchon based on a talk by Kenneth Cloke. I recommend you to click through the whole thing!

(Via MediationChannel)

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Ubuntu: A person is a person through other persons

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu explains the principles of the Southern African philosophy Ubuntu, which stresses community, consensus and the interconnectedness of people.

Via Institut für Friedenspädagogik

Idol TV Series in Afghanistan: Pop culture, social transformation & reappropriation

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Below, a short talk by Cynthia Schneider on the Afghan version of the “Idols” series. She demonstrates how the show has become a means of social change, especially for women, and how the content is culturally re-appropriated.

Also check out here a lengthier talk by Schneider on Western pop culture re-appropriation in the Middle East more generally. She discusses examples such as hip hop or the effects of the show 24 (select the video by Schneider and scroll to minute 30).

Martin Luther King’s words

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Jay Smooth put together some memorable Martin Luther King quotations:

(from IllDoctrine)

Update: On the same subject, I just came across an impressive illustration putting in today’s context what Dr. King and many others have fought for (talking about post-racial USA…):

Lest We Forget

By RJ Matson (via NoCaptionNeeded)

Cornel West: channeling the rage

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A short talk by the great Cornel West, Princeton professor and author of “Race Matters”, on his childhood and how he learned to channel his feelings of rage into a productive direction.

(via Situationist)

The minaret vote and public symbols of Islam in Europe: a sign of progress?

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Following the Swiss anti-minaret referendum, I quoted Tariq Ramadam who argues that the referendum reflects a rejection of public symbolics of Islam in Europe. The contested symbols, he says, are different in each European country but the mindset behind it is essentially the same.

Nilüfer Göle believes that these symbolic battles mark a new stage in the process of immigration to Europe:

Just like the other silent symbol, the veil, minarets reveal the presence of Muslims both pious and female in public life. This visibility certifies the presence of Muslims in European society and their desire to remain there, demanding freedom of conscience, freedom to practice their religion and also the freedom to dress according to their personal interpretation of their religion. Paradoxically, Islam becomes a political and cultural source for identifying immigrants, their quest for acknowledgment. They in turn manifest their particular citizenship within the European public arena. This visibility marks the end of a stage in the migratory phenomenon, that of integration, as well as experiences and ways of appropriating the public sphere in Europe. It is the difficulty in acknowledging this passage from foreigner to citizen that lies beneath the controversies surrounding Islam.

Might the Swiss minaret rows be seen in a positive light in the end? Is it the last mobilisation of the ignorant and fearful against a changing public sphere; one that accommodates Islam as a component of European civil society? Is it a futile attempt to undo the development of a more inclusive concept of citizenship? Let us hope for it.

How language shapes our mode of thinking

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At Edge, Lea Boroditzky makes the compelling case that the language we use effectively determines how we perceive the world around us. It’s a fascinating article with many  illuminating examples:

Instead of words like “right,” “left,” “forward,” and “back,” which, as commonly used in English, define space relative to an observer, the Kuuk Thaayorre, like many other Aboriginal groups, use cardinal-direction terms — north, south, east, and west — to define space. This is done at all scales, which means you have to say things like “There’s an ant on your southeast leg” or “Move the cup to the north northwest a little bit.” One obvious consequence of speaking such a language is that you have to stay oriented at all times, or else you cannot speak properly. […] Simply put, speakers of languages like Kuuk Thaayorre are much better than English speakers at staying oriented and keeping track of where they are, even in unfamiliar landscapes or inside unfamiliar buildings. What enables them — in fact, forces them — to do this is their language. Having their attention trained in this way equips them to perform navigational feats once thought beyond human capabilities.

Even what might be deemed frivolous aspects of language can have far-reaching subconscious effects on how we see the world. Take grammatical gender. […] In one study, we asked German and Spanish speakers to describe objects having opposite gender assignment in those two languages. The descriptions they gave differed in a way predicted by grammatical gender. For example, when asked to describe a “key” — a word that is masculine in German and feminine in Spanish — the German speakers were more likely to use words like “hard,” “heavy,” “jagged,” “metal,” “serrated,” and “useful,” whereas Spanish speakers were more likely to say “golden,” “intricate,” “little,” “lovely,” “shiny,” and “tiny.” To describe a “bridge,” which is feminine in German and masculine in Spanish, the German speakers said “beautiful,” “elegant,” “fragile,” “peaceful,” “pretty,” and “slender,” and the Spanish speakers said “big,” “dangerous,” “long,” “strong,” “sturdy,” and “towering.” This was true even though all testing was done in English, a language without grammatical gender. The same pattern of results also emerged in entirely nonlinguistic tasks (e.g., rating similarity between pictures).

Written by henrik

December 27, 2009 at 9:17 am