Cal Tzedek: on "dialogue"

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

on "dialogue"

The economist Amartya Sen spoke at Berkeley today. His comments largely focused upon the problems of the construct of the 'clash of civilizations' which has become one of the dominant frames for understanding difference in the contemporary world. Among his comments was a critique of programs of "Dialogue," especially such programs that seek to attain cultural understanding between Muslims and another group. The main difficulty with such programs, as I understood his argument, was that they set up a framework for dialogue in which individuals have a place to participate only through an identity that is seen to represent a discrete and unitary 'civilization.' A somewhat similar argument is made by Sara Helman, in her article "Monologic Results of Dialogue: Jewish-Palestinian Encounter Groups as Sites of Essentialization" (Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power , 9: 327-354, 2002). Definitely food for thought.


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