Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Monday, February 28, 2011

Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue Between Cultures

The Anna Lindh Euro-Med Foundation is a relatively new organization (founded in 2005) that seeks to promote dialogue and cultural understanding between European and Mediterranean countries.  They have recently published this study, Euromed Intercultural Trends 2010.  A downloadable version of the report is available in both French and English.  The main site itself is available in Arabic, English and French.

The report takes a hard look at some tough subjects:  mutual perceptions, the role of religion, mobility, raising children, identity, the media, technology, and national culture.  The poll data are interesting but what I appreciated most are the articles written by people who are trying to work through some of these issues in their own lives.   Many of the authors are academics but the topics they talk about are not theoretical.  Depending on your background, you may find some of the interpretations and ideas a bit disturbing.  I personally think that is a good thing.  A multi-cultural dialogue is nothing if it does not provoke you into examining other ideas and perceptions even when it is psychologically difficult.

Professor Bachira Khader, in the introduction to his article, "A Nomadic Approach to Cultural Dialogue" writes:
Let us start with some facts: the Mediterranean is neither barrier nor borders, being at the same time the link and the centre.  Arabs call it the 'White Sea of the Centre' in that it unites more than it separates.  A sea rich in fertile memories, source of multiple identities, cradle of monotheist religions, and grave of pretentious empires who have dared claim making it their 'eternal sea'.
Such is the vocation of the Mediterranean, as is its peculiarity, constantly pulled apart between its existence, sense and power.  Being a cast of models aspiring towards universality, conjugating the synthesis of faith and reason, it has been – since Antiquity – the cradle of and yet innovating thought, blending philosophical wisdom, metaphysical interrogation and the art of living. This is the very vocation of the Mediterranean that is threatened by 'identity delirium' of some and 'killing sprees' of others. Ideological opposition follows intellectual confrontation:  in the past, monotheist religions and religious cores, colons and colonized populations and, today, the confrontation between 'identity' and 'otherness'. These numerous traumatizing polarities explain why cultural dialogue in the Mediterranean is so seriously affected and even broken.  Such a bitter conclusion is indeed painful for a man like me, bridging over the two shores.

No comments: