07 SES 04 C, Literatur and Intercultural Education
Journeys We Make is an educational project which uses fictional and mythic storytelling to develop intercultural communication and understanding in secondary schools. Its conceptual framework departs from an understanding of intercultural education as the development of “an attitude of mind, an orientation that pervades thinking and permeates the curriculum” (Short, 2009, p. 2). It also embraces an understanding of culture as “collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another" (Hofstede, 1991, p.5), and assets of particular (collective) “ways of living and being in the world that are designs for acting, believing, and valuing” (Short, ibid). Therefore, sharing of culture is an essential element of identity, the expression of belonging and of collectively differing from a (common) Other (Wetherell, 2007).
Acknowledging that individuals experience such collective differing and identification with several groups, we understand intercultural communication not only as the communication between representatives of cultures, but also as the negotiation of cultures as these are experienced by the same individuals. Interculturalism, therefore, is a creative act, involving the synthesis of something new at the crossover zone between individuals’ multiple narratives. As such it is both an internal and external experience, tangled closely with identity. It is the process that supports individuals to critically, consciously and safely engage with such communication, in a process that allows individuals to take ownership of and become writers of their own story (Jesson and Newman, 2004).
Within formal education, intercultural education can include dialogue between pupils and teachers whose disparate cultures of origin negotiate to create the culture of a single, multicultural school, as well as the internalisation of this dialogue by the members of the school community as they become consciously multicultural citizens.
Our way of doing so was by engaging students with stories. Heinemeyer’s practice research across a variety of contexts (2018) has explored the potential of stories to act as a framework for indirect dialogue across social divides. As Reason and Hawkins (1988) demonstrate, enquiry and negotiation through story may be fruitful even in situations where overt propositional dialogue is problematic or controversial, because of narrative’s ability to encompass complexities of context and the coexistence of contradictory truths.
Initially our target group was vulnerable groups who have had significant, often traumatic experiences of migration or conflict between home cultures and cultural context, which we could reasonably assume to have had a significant impact on their identity development (Lilgendahl, 2015: 493). We aimed to support students in taking ownership of the identities and narratives that relate to them, firstly by helping them to acknowledge the existing narratives and then empowering them to change and exercise agency on their vulnerability.
Yet Kakos’ previous (Kakos & Ploner, 2016) and ongoing research suggests that a key impact of these migration experiences on recently arrived students has been in defining how they are perceived by others, e.g. as refugees or migrants. Many of these young people expressed the wish to be identified in relation to their current interests, assets and experiences of adolescence, rather than a traumatic but brief episode in their past. As Freire (1972:93) reminds us, any educational or political action programme which fails to respect the particular worldview held by the participants involved constitutes cultural invasion. Moreover, our understanding of intercultural learning as a negotiation between cultures and individuals called for a creative dialogue between the knowledge, experience and values of young people of different backgrounds. Our focus therefore moved from the ‘problems’ experienced by particular young people, to the ‘journeys’ travelled by all the young people present – however they wished to interpret that term.
Our starting point was Homer’s Odyssey, easily recognisable, and already the shared property of many cultures. This was the common canvas on which students were invited to draw their own stories, emotions, and opinions. The characters in the story were personas that students were invited to inhabit, attribute meaning and safely express themselves. An additional reason for choosing the Odyssey was that it is a story of both migratory and developmental journeys, and thus would not force a focus on difficult experiences of migration. We held day-long workshops with mixed-age groups of pupils from both migrant and diverse British backgrounds in each school. Each day began with a detailed oral retelling of a selected section of the Odyssey, incorporating physical expression to aid the comprehension of those pupils for whom English was a recently acquired language. The subsequent workshop structure allowed students to explore moments or characters that interested them through different artforms (drama, animation and poetry), and ultimately to retell aspects of the story, projecting their own experiences onto existing moments or characters, and creating their own stories. The story thus acted as a Freirian ‘generative theme’ (Freire 2008), whose pedagogical power, according to Arizpe et al, lies in ‘its ability to engage students in educational material that reflects their lived experience. When combined with arresting visual or mental imagery, a theme opens up more easily to those who have not lived through that particular experience and encourages empathy and understanding for those who have’ (2014: 306). A further dimension of intercultural learning was broached when the students from the different participating schools subsequently gathered in a city centre arts venue, overcoming considerable anxiety about the encounter, to present the ‘discoveries’ which each had made within the story, and reflect on the process through drama and discussion.
In this presentation we will draw on the resulting proliferation of poetry, filmmaking and storytelling by students to illustrate how cultural assets, experiences, beliefs and values were brought into dialogue through this creative process. This intercultural negotiation mirrored the original development of the Odyssey itself: the students added their own layer to the long process of accretion which has established the myth’s place as a discursive tool within culture and discourse. We will also discuss the ways it was harnessed by school staff as a focus for ongoing discussion of difficult topics, and our observations as to how shared ownership of the Odyssey created a safe common territory for students from different areas of the city to meet as ‘already-initiates’. As we embark on a longer-term project to develop this approach through collaborative action research with teachers and trainee teachers in a network of schools, we propose that mythic storytelling suggests an alternative ‘track’ for dialogue on controversial or polarising themes which are otherwise difficult to broach honestly, safely and productively within the school environment.
Arizpe E., Bagelman C., Devlin A.M., Farrell M. & McAdam J.E. (2014) ‘Visualizing intercultural literacy: engaging critically with diversity and migration in the classroom through an image-based approach’, Language and Intercultural Communication 14:3, 304-321. Freire, P (1972) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Harmondsworth: Penguin Freire, P. (2008). Education for critical consciousness. London: Continuum. Heinemeyer, C. (2018) 'Adventures in storyhacking: facilitating indirect inter-community dialogue through storytelling'. Teaching Artist Journal 16:3-4. Hofstede, G. (1991). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind. London: McGraw-Hill.Jesson, J and Newman, M (2004) Radical adult education and learning, in Foley, G (ed) Understanding Adult Education and Training. New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. Kakos, M. & Ploner, J. (2016) (Im)mobility and hard to reach communities: The practice of citizenship Education, IN: M. Kakos, C. Muller-Hofstede and A. Ross (Eds) Beyond Us versus Them: Citizenship Education with Hard to Reach Learners in Europe, Bonn: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung. Lilgendahl, J.P. (2015) The dynamic role of identity process in personal development. Theories, Pattersn, new directions, In: McLean, K. & Syed, M. (Eds) The Oxford Handbook of Identity Development, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 490-507 Reason, P. and Hawkins, P. (1988) ‘Storytelling as Inquiry’. In Reason, P. (ed.) Human Inquiry in Action: Developments in New Paradigm Research. London: Sage Publications, pp.79-101. Short, K.G. (2009). Critically reading the word and the world. Bookbird, (2), 1–10. doi:10.1353/bkb.0.0160 Whetherell, M. (2007) Community Cohesion and Identity: Dilemmas and Challenges, In: M. Wetherell, M. Lafleche and R. Barkeley, (Eds), Identity, Ethici Diversity and Community Cohesion, London: Sage
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.