Multiculturalism is the official policy that countries adopt to legally protect racial, ethnic and cultural diversity. But multiculturalism is going awry in a world that encourages the free movement of capital across borders while guarding against the free movement of people who threaten our ‘manufactured’ multiculturalism. Intercultural dialogue, on the other hand, is a small but effective means to realise the power of multiculturalism. It doesn’t need governments to implement it. Intercultural dialogue can be initiated by anyone who believes in the spirit of multiculturalism, and anywhere
Even as globalisation erases the spatial and temporal constraints imposed by national boundaries, it chooses to do so only in the convenient spaces of call centres, malls and stock exchanges. The constraints remain vibrant and rejuvenated at the good old desk of the immigration counter, as this writer discovers
The fundamentalist strategy is to polarise opinion, so that the middle ground, where dialogue is possible, collapses. Intercultural dialogue cannot change the fundamentalist’s mindset, but it can strengthen the hand or augment the influence of the moderating voices in different societies, to help prevent the middle ground from shrinking further. The best opportunities for dialogue exist between individuals and groups in different societies that have analogous experiences which can be connected and crisscrossed through the arts or in other ways
After four major Hindu-Muslim riots, Ahmedabad is a divided city. There is a ‘Muslim Ahmedabad’ and a ‘Hindu Ahmedabad’. Except for Ram-Rahim Nagar, a slum where Hindus and Muslims have lived together and worked together to ensure that the riots leave them untouched. What is the secret of their success?
Development likes resolution and dislikes complexity. So, interventionists will not see the thousands of people who live together and jostle for air in a multicultural neighbourhood such as Shivajinagar in Bangalore as an intercultural success. They will see it as a tinderbox waiting to explode. For them, intercultural dialogue is a roundtable at which prominent secularists from different religions sit; in comparison, the everyday interaction of people in Shivajinagar is mere babble
Art has to represent the times that we live in, says Ratan Thiyam, renowned theatre exponent from Manipur, a state torn by strife. But art is not about pamphlets and judgments, he says, it is about going deeper and questioning why conflict is happening. For over 30 years, this is the way the Chorus Repertory Theatre has used theatre for the exchange of ideas
Between the homogenisation wrought by globalisation on the one hand and cultural nationalism on the other, we are witnessing more violent religious and ethnic conflict, more conservatism, more censorship. In short, shrinking spaces in which to think, read, write, and express ourselves artistically. In times of such siege, all significant art becomes offensive, striking against, opposing, revealing, resisting
At a time of growing polarisations in society on the basis of language, identity and borders, filmmaker Shabnam Virmani discovered Kabir, the 15th century saint-poet who seemed to combine perfectly the spiritual and the socio-political. She spent six years making four films and several recordings on Kabir, each one trying to find the space between the dualities of Hindu-Muslim, sacred-secular, classical and traditional, and East and West