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Managing cultural diversity

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I look around and see unfamiliar people. These people are my classmates for the next two years. They are all very different and very similar. In terms of differences they came from different countries, have different accent, they are younger or older, with or without work experience. They are also very similar. They all are friendly, openminded, eager to learn from faculty and each other. They share basic values, they are polite and cautious. Many of them expecting to build not just network but friendship. They all are individuals by mixing this differences and similarities related to their cultural background. You have immediate notion that it is the way it suppose to be in every class room, in every community, everywhere. Nobody seems struggling to overcome their fear, distrust to each other or self-restrictions. Everyone is smiling. I feel safe among my classmates. I felt so safe that I immediately had got this wrong sense that what we had seen on video is totally out of date. That such conflicts are no longer relevant for intellectual surrounding. That some imagined Charlie can’t say go back to your country if you disagree with our system. Or imagined Katia can’t blame everyone for being incorrect or pointless. And I was sure that if I meet some Marico and Ming today they both will be whether totally comfortable or at least receive some very thoughtful assistant. I had strong believe that the worldwide integration of resent decades has an impact on how people from different cultures perceive each other. Not everywhere of course, but among educated people.

However, nobody from my class had agreed with me that this video from the early 80’s had lost its topicality. So, it is a very wrong notion that there is anything in our modern world that had become better and not worth. Specially in terms of globalization and identity. Ted Cantle would probably support this view. In his article ‘Interculturalism as a new narrative for the era of globalization and super-diversity’ (2013), he points out that ‘whilst it is clear that most people are now exposed to diversity in all aspects of their daily lives – either in our local communities, schools and workplaces, or indirectly through television, social networks and other media – there appears to be something of a ‘paradox of diversity’. The more diverse societies have become and the more people have exposed to difference, the more they seem to retreat into their own identity, embrace identity politics and support separatist ideologies’. (Cantle, 2011, 2013). To support this point of view he refers to the existing data, that ‘the world seems more prone to ethnic and faith conflict with over 70 per cent of conflicts having an ethnic or faith dimension’ (Baldwin et al. , 2007). Author points out that ‘there are indications of a rising number of divisions and more ardent separatist movements, where people no longer feel able to even share the same land or government’. According his calculation, around 20 nations have been created in recent years, and there are around twenty secessionist movements in Europe alone, with Scotland and Catalonia being the most notable’. Author concluded, that where we might have expected more collaboration across borders and the separate identities of regions and states to give way to common or globalized identities, the opposite seems to be true.

This particular part of his article gave me a lot to think about and conclude that if someone has illusion about our diverse world I can point out this horrifying data related to xenophobia and intolerance. Going back to pre World War II history and remember how different nationalities were mixed inside, for example, Austro-Hungarian Empire. What was happening is that the Czechs hated the Romanians, and the Romanians did not tolerate the Poles, and the Austrians hated them all together and how from this part of the Austrians came out those who considered themselves to be Germans, and others who considered themselves to be Austrians hated Germans and so on. We know what happened in the end. We know a specific person who had grown up in such an environment and how he could easily light a flame of mutual hatred. Conflicts on national grounds had to go away in the past out of respect to the millions killed during World War II, but they exist and prevail over all other conflicts. It is very hard to understand. : Ted Cantle, ‘Interculturalism as a new narrative for the era of globalisation and super-diversity’, 2013 ] But let me come back to the reading. Interestingly enough the sequences of the process of globalization suggested by Manuel Castells. He claims that Involvement of nation-states in a globalized world is not possible without liberalization, deregulation and removal frontiers which only can be made by state itself. ‘To a certain extent, all states have been the main agents of liberalization and globalization; and in doing so, they somewhat distanced themselves from what was their historical basis of representation and political legitimization’ (Manuel Castells, 2006). Author disagrees that multinational companies are the ‘globalisers’ and claims that the ‘globalisers have been the nation-states, which have liberalized and deregulated, while there was the technological structure to develop that globalization’. And they did it because they wanted to be a part of this global network since beyond this global network are no development and growth, and there is no wealth. It could mean that by encouraging globalization a nation-state should have been prepared for not only economic, but also social and political consequences of worldwide integration. Of course, no county wants to be marginal unless we talk about North Korea or Turkmenistan, but by opening borders to international financial flows country should expect a flow of diversity.

Castells claims, that ‘in the face of this broader diversity and changing patterns of identity, governmental responses have been ambivalent’. They tried to reinforce their attitude to national identity through ‘teaching of national history and promoting national citizenship and identity’. But according to Costells it only reinforces a fear of ‘others’ by keeping the pretence of the integrity of national borders and governance, and by attempting to deny the interdependence brought by globalization. It also reinforce the concept of multiculturalism, which has positioned identity as static and bounded which is now believed to be outdated. What we see around that for many people, identity is ‘transitory and in many cases gained’ (Costells). The growth of mixed race or intermarriage across national, faith and other boundaries, means that ‘you can’t put me in a box’ (Fanshawe and Sriskandarajah, 2011) is a reality for many people. We turned into era of super diversity where people no longer easily identify themselves with one particular identity. Appealing to generally accepted categories such as a ‘single mother’, ‘black’, ‘gay’, ‘disabled’ and so on no longer give us answers to the questions about who they are, what they need, with whom they identify themselves, what services they need from the state. This approach does not work well for growing amount of people who stay beyond or go across this standard classifications. Nevertheless, society and the state continue to treat ethnic identities as if they were completely static and meaningful (Fanshawe and Sriskandarajah, 2010 p11). From Costells’s article we also learned the point of view of American political scientist Robert Putnam who claim that in the short run immigration and ethnic diversity ‘challenge social solidarity and inhibit social capital’ but in the long run ‘successful immigrant societies create new forms of social solidarity and dampen the negative effects of diversity by constructing new, more encompassing identities’.

Do these successful immigrant societies exist? Examples given only to ‘failed’ countries. It remained unclear to me why Canadian multiculturalism is not considered to be a success. Or if it successful why multiculturalism is so outdated and needs to be replaced with interculturalism? Or if Canadian approach called ‘progressive multiculturalism’ recognized as success then why interculturalism is better and where is the actual example of this? Which country deal with diversity better of all? Who will become an example for this conflict-filled world? Part IIComing back to my class. We had today our first cultural disagreement which I want to share as it could contribute to the class program. One of my classmate is preparing for her first meeting with her adviser. He suggested to meet at Costa coffee which is popular coffee place right across the School. Now I am starting to quote my classmates without their names:Bangladeshi woman: Please don’t laugh. So where are you meeting your advisers? “Professor W” is my adviser and he said he would meet me in Costa which is great but I was wondering what’s the decorum here. Do I pay? Do I offer to pay? I know it sounds very stupid, but things are very different in Asia. So asking you peeps beforehand. Brazilian man: I don’t know the protocolRomanian man: I would not think that he will want you to payPakistani man: Maybe offer to pay but don’t insistRomanian man: Most probably and I am just giving my opinion, you will separately pay your bills…but If you ask me, Professor will pay. Because he is a nice guy. And also you being a student, and him a professor. It’s easy to figure out who has more moneyBrazilian man: That makes senseBangladeshi woman: I am fine with literally anything, I just don’t want to offend him in anyway. in Asia, if I offer to pay in front of a teacher it would be bad manner. Always the elders payBrazilian man: Let him make the move first. If he pays just his, you pay yours. If he pays everything, even better

Georgian man: I am sure that he will not consider your offer as a bad manner, but more polite and kind for you to offer to pay for the bill. But still, he will pay the billHungarian man: I can totally understand your conundrum, there’s one thing that’s definetly not gonna happen, you won’t pay for his coffee. It might happen that he tells you to put your wallet away when you reach for it to pay for yourself (that’s what always happens with me, whether at university or European parliament when I meet with older/more important people) or he might let you pay for yourself, but definitely not for hisBangladeshi woman: Great, that was helpful. I will offer to pay my own, will act depending on his reaction. Hungarian man: Ah and yea, you know, this is a safe space, it’s totally okay to even ask him what’s the etiquette. I’m pretty sure he’s aware that there are cultural differences in the worldRussian woman: I would come a bit earlier and order coffee-to-go, pay right away and then occupy a table. When he comes he only have to figure out for himselfHungarian man: (maybe other europeans will disagree but I would almost consider rude what ‘russian woman’ says, you are supposed to wait for each other, especially since you are meeting at a neutral place, not your own office or something. But it’s definitely not a huge deal, like if you really really want to get rid of the payment problem, sure do it. )Russian woman: But! I would not allow any professor pay for my coffee. Hey, we should suggest this topic to our cultural diversity class :))The EndI agreed with my classmates to share it with you so I did it. I hope you find it interesting. And I would be very interested to know the right answer to this situation. I would like to conclude that I found fascinating the requiring collection of reading. I have been going back and forth between Castells and Cantle for the last two weeks acquiring a lot of new concepts and points of view. Thank you for your very interesting course and chance to think about important and very uptodate topic.

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