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C2C Digital Magazine (Fall 2021 / Winter 2022)

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Book review: Harnessing intercultural education for a more inclusive world

By Shalin Hai-Jew, Kansas State University


Intercultural Education:  Critical Perspectives, Pedagogical Challenges and Promising Practices
Cinzia Pica-Smith, Carmen N. Veloria, and Rina Manuela Contini, Co-Editors
Nova Science Publishers
341 pp.

It is said that when human beings are under pressure, their more general ties to society start to break, and people perhaps become more tribal.  This pattern has held in the time of the SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19 pandemic, at least in some parts of the world.  Social distancing and political strife have become part of the U.S. landscape, perhaps even prior to the pandemic.  How far can interculturalism go in enabling people to “live together in diversity” (in the words of Marco Antonsich, of Loughborough University)?  What messaging can enable people to be more understanding of others, even beyond their own settled senses of the world?  In a complex world, with different human geographies, how can people get along and co-exist peaceably, without excessive impinging on each other? 

Cinzia Pica-Smith, Carmen N. Veloria, and Rina Manuela Contini’s edited collection Intercultural Education:  Critical Perspectives, Pedagogical Challenges and Promising Practices (2020) offers some practical ways to create and support intercultural education. 


Maurizio Ambrosini’s “Intercultural Education” (Foreword) depicts the current moment as one full of social strife, with anti-immigration issues roiling the past several decades.  He has observed how “Western societies have been struggling to find new and effective ways to ‘manage’ ethnic, cultural and religious diversities related to immigration and the formation of immigrant minority groups, especially those coming from the Global South” (p. ix).  The anti-immigrant opinions have affected how potential receiving societies treat immigrants.  Asylum seekers are losing some of their standing when applying for entry to a country (p. ix); fences and border walls impede asylum seekers’ journeys (p. ix); internal borders have arisen and affected the treatment of migrants’ cultural peculiar features and demands of recognition” (p. x).  Historically, Western societies have used various strategies:  assimilation, multiculturalism, melting pot, “civic integration,” and other approaches.  What has come to the forefront now, at least among the intelligentsia, is interculturalism, with emphasis on “dialogue, reciprocal knowledge, mutual understanding, and not on the defence of cultural traditions and the formation of strong immigrant communities” (p. x).  This is a change from the focus on “sharing values, in principle enshrined in national constitutions or fundamental laws of hosting societies” (p. x).   

In Europe even as transnational and national discourses have been around “a more assertive affirmation of national values and language,” the focus is on civic integration, which involves “language tests at various steps of immigrants’ ventures (before the arrival, at the moment of applying for long-residence permits, and in order to acquire national citizenship); integration agreements to sign as a compulsory condition to settle in the new country; less funding for immigrant associations working to preserve the ancestral heritage or to pass the homeland’s language for the children raised in hosting countries” (Ambrosini, 2020, p. x).  Perhaps there is toleration instead of welcome.  

The critique against interculturalism (“as a rhetoric, a new narrative, or a new myth”) is that it misrepresents multiculturalism and ultimately serves “the cultural domination of the (white) majority of receiving Western societies.  Its connections with civic integration and neo-assimilationist policies have also been the object of criticism” (Ambrosini, 2020, pp. x - xi). This is even as interculturalism is being taken up in education.  The text then explores intercultural education as a fraught space and is perhaps required reading for the present social moment.  

Social winds of strife

Cinzia Pica-Smith, Carmen N. Veloria, and Rina Manuela Contini, in the “Preface,” suggest that interculturalism without a critique element is perhaps insufficient for more effectively combating far right messaging and racist ideas, such as those in the service of a nativist “White Europe.” Agitators have been promoting “racist propaganda new in form but not in content or strategy” (p. xiii) to foment fear.  There are dynamics of “othering, belonging, and deserving” in the modern debates and are “old narratives and old stratagems to alienate individuals” to support “racist, classist, anti-immigration legislation and policy” (Elving, 2019, as cited in Pica-Smith, Veloria, & Contini, 2020, p. xiii).  There are endeavors towards more socially unjust societies and less social integration of peoples.  

A central criticism of interculturalism without a critique element is that current issues are seen in an ahistorical way, without consideration of power relations and how power is deployed. The co-editors write:  

We noted the framework does not pay attention to issues of power (and asymmetries of power), which we argued was of the utmost importance especially in the European context…with its history of colonization and empire-building.  We analyzed intergroup contact and dialogue towards prejudice reduction, ‘valuing diversity’ and harmonious intercultural relationships as problematic and simplistic goals, for example.  Intergroup dialogue towards the goal of social cohesion is a cornerstone of both interculturalism and intercultural education.  Yet, we noted that void of an analysis of power, ‘dialogue,’ becomes dangerous and nothing more than conflict management between groups (where dominant voices set the stage, agenda, and norms for the dialogue).  Ultimately, we concluded that education for social justice and social change cannot happen in the absence of criticality.  (Pica-Smith, Veloria, & Contini, 2020, p. xiv)

Interculturalism is associated with neoliberal ideology but “not the critical pedagogy needed in an increasingly complex, inequitable, and diverse society” (Pica-Smith, Veloria, & Contini, 2020, p. xiv).  The works in the collection address various locales:  “France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, and the United States…Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Mauritius, Peru and Yugoslavia” (p. xiv).  Some works address the issues of indigenous peoples.  Some works focus also on “localized alliances, epistemologies, pedagogy, multi-sector collaborations, and language policies” (p. xiv).  This collection focuses on both the theory but also the application and practice from the ideas.  

Multiculturalism vs. interculturalism:  Both needed

The co-editors open with an interview with Tariq Modood, a foremost scholar on multiculturalism and sociologist, in Tariq Modood, Rina Manuela Contini, and Cinzia Pica-Smith’s “The Multiculturalism-Interculturalism Debate: An Interview with Tariq Modood” (Ch. 1).  This work considers the implications of particular approaches to thinking about how to help people live in each other’s company in complex societies.  This work points to the importance of the “nation state’s responsibilities to accommodate and balance the needs and rights of the ‘majority’ and ‘minority’” (p. 4) in both aspirational and practical senses.  The theoretical framing of multiculturalism vs. interculturalism may justify particular policies with dissimilar results. Modood suggests that interculturalism has shortcomings as compared to multiculturalism.  He asserts that interculturalists do not sufficiently acknowledge that multiculturalists do highlight the importance of dialogue between various people groups.  Each approach may contribute to social betterment:  “Multiculturalism can contribute by focusing on macro politics, national citizenship, and equality.  In a complementary manner interculturalism can contribute by focusing on smaller scale dialogue and interaction at the micro level” (Modood, as cited in Modood, Contini, & Pica-Smith, 2020, p. 5).  

He responds in the Q&A at one point:  “The difference is that unlike liberals and interculturalists, multiculturalists argue that individual rights are by themselves not enough to bring about, to ensure, equality in the context of groups, in the context of multicultural heterogeneity, so sometimes groups need to be given various exemptions from laws” and gives as an example a Sikh in Britain or Canada who may wear a turban in lieu of some other headwear required as part of a uniform (Modood, Contini, & Pica-Smith, 2020, p. 7).  Group accommodations are necessary for more socially just societies (p. 7).  Further, focusing on global citizenship alone may be insufficient since people live in spaces of national citizenship.  Racialized identities may create realities of second- and third- class experiences, where individuals and groups do not have respectful recognition in the public sphere and are stigmatized and disadvantaged and excluded.  

Interculturality from the Peruvian educational experience

Laura Alicia Valdiviezo’s “Interculturality against the Mirror:  A Critique from the Peruvian Experience” (Ch. 2) uses as its main study the practice of Intercultural Bilingual Education (IBE) to enable access to quality education through “indigenous languages, knowledges and cultural practices” (p. 19), through the practice of cultural pluralism among indigenous population learners.  This practice of intercultural education has been instantiated into Peruvian law for the indigenous setting and plurilingual education.   An informing principle is that “linguistic, ethnic and cultural diversity” are “sources of national wealth across nations” (López & Küper, 2002; UNESCO, 2008, as cited in Valdiviezo, 2020, p. 20).  In healthy democracies, immigration should not be considered a threat; however, in the present moment, this is a fraught period of “discriminatory and essentialist ideologies” (p. 20).  In Peru, intercultural education is part of social activism and a tradition of critique; it “embraces diversity, challenges the status quo—together with any regime of power—and promotes transformation towards social justice” (p. 21).  Peru has a culturally, ethnically, and linguistically diverse population.   The author describes interculturality as still enabling major inequities to continue in Peruvian society.  

The sole location of interculturality within already minoritized groups detaches the inequities faced by these sectors from the rest of society, as if the rest of society had no connection, no role and thus no responsibility concerning societal inequity.  Therefore, in spite of a change in discourse and some institutional efforts to address grave inequities, the implementation of intercultural education continues to minoritize the sectors (it) is supposed to prioritize. (Valdiviezo, 2020, p. 21)  

One negative is that some of the education may glorify “the cultural north (the United States and Europe)” and simultaneously lessen the value of indigenous experiences (p. 24).  Such programs may enable the hosting of “coexisting contradictory perspectives within the same pedagogical space where, on one hand Indigenous language and culture are further minoritized and, on the other hand, classroom teaching and learning explicitly value and include Indigenous cultural and linguistic practices” (p. 23).  One way to not perpetuate inequalities is to infuse the learning with an increased and accurate sense of history, social relationships, economic issues, and political ones, in a more reflective way—so as not to perpetuate a history of exclusion.  This work concludes with an encouraging sense of the potential for education:  

Teachers, students, and communities are affirming diversity and, we should not underestimate that they have an important role—which deserves recognition—in the creation of a democratic and more just society.  With all its complexities and contradictions, the classroom remains the space where change can and is taking place.   (Valdiviezo, 2020, p. 25)  

Recognizing each other (with mutual dignity)

Humans recognize each other through the provision of love, rights, respect, and social esteem, and these are core human needs. Paola Dusi’s “At the Core of Intercultural Education:  Recognition” (Ch. 3) touches on a core issue related to how people best live in society with each other, with self-respect and other-respect, with people expressing their full selves.  Just the awareness of diversity is insufficient for creating an egalitarian society:  “Diversity, in its various manifestations, is understood simultaneously as both an inherent aspect of human existence and a boundary or blind alley:  a vaguely formed justification for denying, dominating or exploiting the other” (Dusi, 2020, p. 34).  The researcher describes systematic bias:    

The ‘different’ other is beset, on one side, by the epistemic violence of colonialism and, on the other, by the socio-economic and legal violence of neo-liberalism.  In the neo-liberal model, with its focus on productivity—and reinforcing anonymous forms of power—educational processes are considered purely in terms of what such spaces can contribute to the market, to economic development…Responsibility for the lack of access, for a growing number of people, to resources—including education and training—and the decision-making processes that determine the political direction of the community, is laid at the feet of individual people and groups.  (Dusi, 2020, p. 34)  

Recognition of others is seen as operant in at least three contexts:  “ontology” or identity construction through social interactions, the “ethical” or inherent worth of others, and the “political-legal” or recognition “in the socio-economic and political arena” (Dusi, 2020, p. 35).  Forms of disrespect include “humiliation and contempt,” which leads the injured to a sense of injustice (p. 41) in some, the negating of self in others.  Dysfunctional or manipulative relationships, “indifference, denigration and rejection” (p. 42), relational violence, micro-aggressions (p. 50), and other mistreatments are signs of disrespect and squelching others opportunities for self-realization.  Schools as a critical space where many spend many hours has been a “mixed bag” of recognition and denial of recognition (p. 48).  

Many engage in efforts to “domesticate diversity to make it harmless, to neutralize that which might destabilize our world, our sense of order, our identity” by devaluating others and their differences (Dusi, 2020, p. 51).  To advance from such a state, people need to be able to see the social dynamics (whether the participants are sufficiently socially aware or not) and make necessary changes.  If people can engage in “recognizing relationships,” people can learn to relate and recognize not based on “ethnicity or status (i.e. ‘power’) to one based on the right of each and every individual to be regarded and accepted for what they actually are, a right that would be embodied in daily action and revealed in our capacity to make the –still foreign—‘other’ visible once more” (p. 54).    

Intercultural education in Greece

From journalistic coverage, Greece has been portrayed as a “barrier country” against migrants seeking to enter Europe through the southern route.  It turns out that Greece has been a receiving hub for immigrants since the 1990s, according to Panagiota Sotiropoulou’s “Intercultural Education Initiatives in Greece:  A Critical Perspective” (Ch. 4).  The idea of “Greekness” tends to be “vastly ethnocentric and xenophobic” (Chalari & Georgas, 2016, as cited in Sotiropoulou, 2020, p. 61).  Systemically, “…while intercultural educational policy initiatives in Greece may seem pluralistic on paper, in practice they are rather more assimilatory, (re)producing dominant, monocultural understandings of national identity and belonging” (p. 61).  Such social reproduction does not enable the populace to engage a multicultural presence of each other or enable achievement of social justice.  Meanwhile, Greece has evolved from an emigration to an immigration country, a shift from a majority heading out to a majority heading in (p. 63).  Migrants in Greece “are ‘singled out,’ perceived as incompatible with the ‘Greek norm,’ as they are not of Greek descent, they do not speak the Greek language and are largely associated with the Muslim faith” (p. 65).  There are counter-productive and anti-social narratives of migrants threatening the Greek national identity, amidst the turmoils in North Africa. Another challenge involves religious instruction focusing on “the centrality of Christian Orthodox religion for the Greek society, while omitting the study of other religions” (Efstathiou, et al., 2008, as cited in Sotiropoulou, 2020, p. 64).  This work offers summaries of the applied reception classes for migrants, tutorial ones, and others. There are courses that adhere to the Cross-Thematic Curriculum Framework for Compulsory Education, which guarantees equal learning opportunities for all students.  There are efforts towards enhancing students’ cultural and linguistic self-identities (p. 76).  

Shifting the Global North – Global South axis

Why does academic transference often move from the Global North to the Global South, instead of the other direction, asks Martha Montero-Sieburth’s “Turning Intercultural Education Upside Down:  Deconstructing its Global North to Global South Perspective” (Ch. 5).  This work takes practices and learning of intercultural education from the GS and captures what may be useful for practice in the GN, with the author’s experiences in “Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico in Latin America and Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands in Western Europe” (p. 93).  The GS itself benefits from “moving away from the instrumentalization of intercultural education found in the Global North by recognizing and embracing the value of ethnographic research, critical intercultural education pedagogy and multicultural grass roots educational practices” (p. 93).  This latter approach enables the contextualizing of knowledge in a historical context.  One observation:  “By now the second and third generation children of migrants in Europe have acquired hybrid identities and thus the notion of creolization, mestizaje, blending, characterized in Latin American can be explored and acknowledged in many aspects of European intercultural education” (p. 116).  

Creole / Kreol in education in Mauritius

Elsa Wiehe “The Struggle for Creole in Education in Mauritius: Toward a Decolonial Interculturality” (Ch. 6) engages a case-based approach to the promotion of the option of Mauritian Creole (Kreol) learning in compulsory education in schools.   This is seen as a claiming of a fraught colonial history of violence from European colonialists (first the Dutch in 1638, then the French in 1715, and then the British in 1810), who all enslaved natives and others brought from abroad.  Kreol is “not just as a neutral medium of communication, but as a reparational engagement with Mauritius’ colonial past” (p. 125) and a form of decolonization and a form of “self-inscription” (p. 140) against potential internalized colonization (p. 145).  Wiehe writes:  

In Mauritius, as in other postcolonial creolophone contexts, the Mauritian Kreol language was born out of an intercultural encounter that forced enslaved peoples to give up their native languages in a process of racist and exploitative cultural and linguistic silencing. (p. 126) 

Kreol is spoken as a mother tongue (vs. a patois) for many, but it was not taught in schools formally until recently in 2012.   This work was informed by the researcher’s positionality as a “Franco-Mauritian who grew up speaking French and English at home and Kreol in day-to-day life outside of the house” (Wiehe, 2020, p. 127).  She writes: 

With textbooks and testing in English, elementary students in Mauritius also take French as a required subject and they have the option of electing heritage languages that are known locally as oriental languages (Tamil, Marathi, Urdu, Telegu, Hindi, Hakka, Mandarin, Arabic).  After years of struggle, in January 2012, Kreol was also introduced as an elective heritage language. (p. 132). 

There can be nuanced understandings of which languages are taught and how in the classroom. The author writes:  “With textbooks in English driving the goals of the curriculum, and Kreol used only in the last instance, children are denied the right to use higher order thought and active learning because so much instructional time is spent on repeating key English vocabulary for basic second language acquisition.  When Kreol is used as a last resort, a deficit perspective on student learning is perpetuated, as if their efforts for learning in the foreign languages were fruitless and the teacher had no other alternative but to use Kreol, after the more desirable languages of English and French” (p. 134).  How the Mauritian Creole Language (MCI) is positioned in the learning has social implications.  Some argue that Kreol should be taught alongside other “dominant” languages.  

This case posits that the Mauritian theorizations of interculturality, or interculturalidad, may serve as a “paradigmatic theory, a broad mode of thinking that encompasses an ethos, logos, and pathos about the world” as contrasted against “Latin American versions of interculturality that are drawn from a coloniality lens” (p. 134).  This work highlights the importance of academia for advancing humanity, even as many see academics as too passive and theoretical.  This work also provides a sense of history through the eyes of human opportunism and exploitation of others through colonialism.  

Challenging the “Trail of Tears” narratives

Angela Bermudez and Alan Stoskopf’s “The Normalization of Political Violence in American History Textbooks:  Interrogating the ‘Trail of Tears’ Narrative” (Ch. 7) involves how the Trail of Tears of the 1930s is framed in four U.S. history textbooks. They define the seminal event: 

The Trail of Tears was a process of forced migration in which close to 100,000 Indigenous people of five Indian nations (Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Seminole Nations) were uprooted from their homelands in the southeastern United States during the first half of the 19th century and displaced to current Oklahoma territory. (p. 163). 

The idea is that how something is remembered and portrayed informs how people respond to that history and to issues in the contemporaneous moment.  The researchers apply an intercultural lens to provide various points of view of that historical moment.  Intercultural history education has as a part of its stated goal of promoting open and inclusive societies and people acquiring intercultural competencies.  There has to be a balance between getting along and critique: 

The challenge that emerges is that if the goals of intercultural education over-privilege social cohesion, trust building and forward-looking orientations, this may lead to deterring a critical look to the past; it may demand that differences, inequalities and violence (past and present) are relegated or overlooked, out of concern that this may reignite old animosities, encourage resentment and disunity, or perpetuate polarization.   (p. 155)

How should competing interests be balanced?  Some guidelines for history education suggest that it should acknowledge “existing diversity” and be inclusive of various cultures (Bermudez & Stoskopf, 2020, p. 156).  Based on particular principles, history education should treat history as an “open narrative” instead of a “closed positivistic discipline”; it should use “diverse and contradictory sources” to show events from different perspectives; it should encourage “rational and peaceful” debate of issues, and ultimately help learners “understand the nature and mechanisms of conflicts and ways of tackling them” (Council of Europe / CoE, 2018, as cited in Bermudez & Stoskopf, 2020, p. 157).  An important lesson towards valuing cultural diversity involves knowing what historical processes lead to the destruction of such diversity in order to take steps to not repeat such actions (p. 158).  

This research study harnesses discursive categories of “narrative framing, positioning, and stance” (Bermudez & Stoskopf, 2020, p. 162), which they operationalize with particular questions and focuses.  They summarize some of the rich research about this event and showed how the forced displacement “involved different forms of physical, psychological and cultural violence” (p. 165).  They suggest that this event was possible due in part to a lack of knowledge of or empathy with indigenous peoples.  They write of the lack of informed textbooks about the indigenous peoples prior to the forced migrations:  

Textbooks relate very little of indigenous cultural worlds before or during the forced migrations, as almost all descriptions of indigenous inhabitants’ activities refer to their responses to European American actions.  In addition, no substantial distinctions are made between the cultures of the Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Seminole people. These shallow and undifferentiated representations of indigenous perspectives provide little depth or texture and impede grasping the wide scope and the gravity of violence inflicted on their cultural worlds.  Disregarding the spiritual connection that indigenous people had to their homeland, the particular forms of communal decision-making, or the ecology of their economy, minimize the destructive effects European American encroachments and displacements had on their lives.  A better sense of their cultures is necessary to understand both the value of what existed, and the dramatic meaning and impact of European Americans’ encroachment upon Native Americans’ homelands.  Lacking this context, the accounts of how Indian nations accommodated in the face of white expansion shed a sort of benevolent light on a culturally violent process. (p. 168)  

While the textbooks showed the suffering of the forced migrations on the Indian nations, “there is no suggestion that these events had any important impact on the political culture or moral fabric of American society then or today” (p. 169).  The narratives showed “a simple, one-sided story of the forced migration that normalizes and justifies the violence inherent to it” (p. 170).  As with other writings of history, the published works seem to suggest some inevitability to the events, as if the forces of history impelled the actions.  The researchers here assert that history education can be simultaneously “multicultural education” (p. 175) and can create “space for ethical reflection about the (violent) past” (p. 176).  Perhaps today’s many peoples may think deeply before deploying state violence or violence of any kind.  

Intercultural education in fresh post-conflict societies

How can history education deal with post-conflict societies, with strong feelings on every side?  Rodoljub Jovanović’s “Intercultural Education in Post-Conflict Societies:  Historical Narratives of the Breakup of Yugoslavia in Serbian High School History Textbooks” (Ch. 8) describes efforts in an EU candidate country to “alleviate the challenges resulting from violent conflicts” (p. 183).  This work posits that nation-states have the interests of encouraging patriotism and loyalty on the one hand but also needed to promote understanding of others and other points of view.  Both impetuses may be in conflict.  The author writes:  “During the violent conflict there is even stronger pressure for the educational system to support promotion of national identity and it often continues after the conflict has formally ended” (p. 187).  This work uses discourse analysis of textbook accounts to see how modern-day youth in Serbia learn about the breakup of Yugoslavia in “the biggest armed conflict in Europe since the end of the World War II” and with more than 100,000 victims (p. 188).  The reasons for the breakup are disputed among scholars.  

Violent conflict has been a continuing pattern in human civilization.  This is especially so for Europe, which has been no stranger to wars, two world ones and smaller ones.  Humanity has turned to violence to solve disagreements, at the macro, meso, and micro levels.  People have apparently defined in-groups and out-groups in ways to understand the world.  

This work is based on the “ethos of conflict” based on six selected features from an established model: “unity, justness of one’s own goals, security, delegitimization of the opponent, victimization (by the opponent), and patriotism” (Bar-Tal, 1998, 2013, as cited in Jovanović, 2020, p. 191).  Various aspects of these variables contribute to the exercise of violence as a tool of the state and its polity.  If intercultural education aims to change macro-level societal-level beliefs and enable deconfliction, against many deeply held beliefs, then these may be target variables.   

This work then involves a discourse analysis of textbook to understand something of the thinking around the historical events and attributions of causation.  The research questions read:  “In what ways do Serbian high-school history textbook narratives represent the violence inherent to the Yugoslav breakup? To what extent do these representations of violence transmit societal beliefs of an ethos of conflict (Bar-Tal, 2013)?” (p. 195) What challenges are there for the intercultural educational framework in post-conflict societies, more broadly speaking?   

Different socio-cultural groups create their own narratives of the past, and dominant groups have the power to tell their own self-dealing self-justificatory senses of the world.  While it is beyond the purview of the research work and this review to hash out the actual history, there are some insights that generalize.  The studied textbooks showed violence as occurring “in a vacuum” without links to the “complex network of political, social or economic factors that trigger and sustain violence” (Jovanović, 2020, p. 200). Victims are mentioned by number, but only some tell the story in a way in which readers can empathize with the losses.  The role of ethnicity also informs some of the telling: 

When the texts involve the perpetrator and/or a victim they follow a specific pattern. Specifically, perpetrators are identified mostly when they are Croat, Bosniak or Albanian and the victims mostly when they are Serbs. This creates a disproportionate account of the violence that took place.  In this way violent acts committed by Serbian side come across as stories of violence with no hurt and hurt with no blame thus delegitimizing others and victimizing Serbian ethnic group. (Jovanović, 2020, pp. 208 – 209). 

Complex and violent historical events tend to result in long-term negative effects for the surviving societies.  The social breakages take a long time to heal, if they do heal.  The author writes: “It seems unlikely that learning about the break-up of Yugoslavia from these textbooks would help students ‘learn history as an open narrative’ and ‘have better understanding … of the contemporary world'” per the goals of the Council of Europe, 2018, p. 22, as cited in Jovanović, 2020, p. 209).  Often, textbooks focus more on “the formation of national identity…than…students’ critical thinking skills” (p. 210).  There is importance in social organization as well as peace-building, even if the interests may be split.  

Decolonizing education globally?

Sometimes, collaborative works across cultural spaces reveal rich transcultural research insights not available otherwise; sometimes, the reflective insights may be “meta” and reveal research insights about transcultural collaboration.  In Chiara Carbone and Huia Jahnke’s “De-Colonizing the Academy:  Challenges, Tensions and Collaborations” (Ch. 9), the coauthors hail from Italy and New Zealand respectively.  Together, they created a program to enable more collaborative research.  

This work opens with the observation that the educational academy and its bureaucratic structures affect who connects and also what findings may emerge from the research:  

The colonial and racist shadows embedded in bureaucratic language and neoliberal protocols, as well as a Eurocentric legacy within the academy ultimately determines which educational institutions are most aligned, and thus enter into partnerships.  Vestiges of colonial and racist shadows are cast by New Right politics of power by dominant groups who decide what counts as official knowledge of the academy and on what basis, and in the process assume the right to decide the purpose of education in their own best interests. The result is differential cultural, economic and political power witnessed in educational policy and practice that legitimizes the knowledge of powerful groups… (Carbone & Jahnke, 2020, pp. 218-219)  

The work begins with a narration by Carbone as a non-Māori researcher, the evolution of the realization that a collaboration with a local researcher would be more powerful, and then the building of a professional relationship between the two. Together, they engage various bureaucratic structures in higher education to enable more cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary connections between their respective institutions of higher education for doctoral learning.  

Preventing anti-migrant intolerance in French schools

Societies working to integrate newcomers benefit if they can reduce xenophobia (dislike of those from other countries) and racial intolerance.  Researchers conducted a quantitative study of 1,843 participants from middle and high school students in France, in Alessandro Bergamaschi and Catherine Blaya’s “The French Case:  Teacher Initiatives in a Difficult Context for Education to Prevent Intolerance in a Multiethnic Context” (Ch. 10).  One key finding is the criticality of leadership or teacher practice on student behaviors, in engaging constructively with immigrants.  Specifically, there is the finding that “the more students perceived that teachers paid attention to issues of racism, discrimination, and social justice in the lessons and in the classroom, the more attitudes of both blatant and subtle racism dropped” (p. 241).  This is in a context where “young people are among the most intolerant” (p. 242).  

One challenge to how a country integrates newcomers involves the sense of national identity and culture, such as what it means to be French.  Equality between peoples is a national value in France, but the practices may not align with the principles. A common approach of French teachers is based on “the republican identity, ultimately fostering a relationship to cultural diversity informed by ‘indifference to differences’" (Bourdieu, 1966, as cited in Bergamaschi & Blaya, 2020, p. 245).  

This study was launched to see if teachers “broached the theme of racism and discrimination in class” and also “if the matter of traditions and customs of persons from foreign countries was discussed in class” (Bergamaschi & Blaya, 2020, p. 247).  This study used the Pettigrew and Meertens’ Blatant and Subtle Prejudice Scale (1995, 1997) as a measure.  The researchers observed that “the blatant racism is less intense than the subtle one” (p. 248).  

For attitudes of blatant racism…, we see that expressions of overt racism are more pronounced among boys than among girls…for students of majority origin compared to those of minority origin…and for students whose parents have low and medium levels of education compared to those whose parents have higher education.  Then, blatant intolerance is inversely proportional to the heterogeneity of intergroup contacts…  In other words, blatant intolerance is more common in dominant majority environments.  For level of education, middle school students stand out for more blatant attitudes compared to high school students…  Finally, fewer foreign students in the school is positively related to more pronounced attitudes of overt racism…  Adding the variable on teachers’ actions improves the model’s predictability…  The more teachers address issues related to racism, discrimination and traditions and customs of minority persons, the more blatant prejudice drops. (p. 249) [The ellipses in the quoted paragraph are mostly p-values.]  

Xenophobia and racism are retrograde, and they do not promote human advancement in pluralistic societies (and a pluralistic world).  Helping people engage in constructive intercultural dialogue is critical for social advances.  

Passing down of ethnomedicine knowledge in Peru’s forest communities

How do people arrive at truth?  What are seen as legitimate ways to learn about the world and to be in it?  Adine Gavazzi and Anna Siri’s “Power or Truth?  The Role of Ancestral Knowledge in Contemporary Intercultural Transmission of Ethnomedicine among Forest Communities of Peru” (Ch. 11) describes some of the central thinking of the Muchik of Chaparri and the Asháninka of Mayantuyacu, of the Peruvian indigenous community.  With core values of “well-being and good health” at the center of educational process of Peruvian indigenous communities (p. 259), the pursuit of Truth is based on the land and ancestral knowledge, and forms a basis for “a new bicognitive methodology really effective in the field” (p. 259).  

The worldview of traditional societies springs from a different perspective.  For example, forest, desert, and mountain people—neither urban nor rural—do not see nature as detached from the rest of the biosphere.  To the contrary, they conceive a complex biotic network in which they partake. Their storytelling is the one generated by natural forces and is translated into analytical deductions and social actions in the territory.  Among other activities, the values of well-being and good health are at the core of the educational process of indigenous communities.  Often scaled as a fractal version of the harmonic rules of the cosmos, the norms of the natural landscape reflect and connect the organization of human communities (Gavazzi, 2010, as cited in Gavazzi & Siri, 2020, p. 262)  

Ethno-medical knowledge is used to “secure health and improve social and cultural sustainable development” (Gavazzi & Siri, 2020, p. 263) for Peru’s forest people.  The coauthors write:  

In the regeneration of a tangible context in Chaparri, the notion of forest as a healing intangible heritage is in close contact with the vast tradition of ethnomedicine in the region, which connects agroforestry activity with a relevant urban medicine market of harvested and cultivated plants, as well as with remedies.  The community and the traditional healers become guardians of the knowledge of the forests and their curative properties, maintaining an ancestral vision integrated of the landscape. (p. 265)  

This work emphasizes the importance of learning how people groups arrive at truth and to perhaps use those methods for further learning.  

Intergroup dialogue for social self-awareness and informed engagement

Nina Tissi-Gassoway’s “Intergroup Dialogue:  A Promising Pedagogy for Critical Engagement across Race and Sexuality” (Ch. 12) proposes the power of intergroup dialogue (IGD) in the higher education space.  This work involves review of some number of studies about IGD, ranging from large-scale to smaller scale works.  First, what is IGD?  IGD is “a unique, critical-dialogic pedagogical model that brings together participants from different social identity groups to engage in a facilitated process that blends content knowledge with experiential activities” (p. 271).  Based on the systematic review, IGD is an effective model for intercultural education frameworks, and it helps students acquire the skills to attain “a nuanced understanding of their social identities,” form a “desire for building cross-race relationships,” and promote social change (p. 271).  Different studies found variance in the experiences of those with marginalized identities vs. those with dominant identities.  Some studies found increased social connections between the dialogue participants.  Some participants formed increased skills at making allies with the majority group, as a form of social survival.  Ultimately, there are benefits to holding intra- and inter-group dialogues in the higher education space.  

Restorative education

Some 3.6% of the world population migrates annually, and many of these include children.  Carmen N. Veloria, Anna Bussu, and Marit D. Murry’s “The Transformative Possibilities of Restorative Approaches to Education” (Ch. 13) explores ways to create a welcoming school culture that can help the youth restore themselves after experiences of disruption in a supportive academic community.  This work asks the question of how to “foster cooperation and support the development of students’ life skills” (p. 297) to help them adapt. They describe the StudyCircle Model of Restorative Communication (SCM), a holistic approach that uses “peer mentoring, restorative practices…and teacher-as-learning facilitator and coach stance” (p. 297). The Restorative Communication Model is comprised of the cognitive area, a social-relational area, and an emotional area, all of which contribute to the development of the learner (p. 307).  


Intercultural Education:  Critical Perspectives, Pedagogical Challenges and Promising Practices, edited by Cinzia Pica-Smith, Carmen N. Veloria, and Rina Manuela Contini, provides a strong international sense of how interculturality manifests in different educational contexts.  The efforts at promoting intercultural understandings stands to benefit humanity by ensuring less social strife and perhaps enabling increased opportunities for all.  This work captures well the combination of points of view from different points-of-view and spaces.

About the Author

Shalin Hai-Jew works as an instructional designer / researcher at Kansas State University.  She is working on multiple book projects.  Her email is 

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