Interculturally tinted glasses
The future belongs to the cities. And they are developing with a dynamic that demands new forms of conceptual handling. This is the basis of an EU funded international project by Kiel University.
It is actually all about looking beyond the boundaries of individual disciplines and encountering the growing diversity of cities from as many different perspectives as possible. Economic crises and the accompanying social cuts and fractures, political conflicts and growing cultural diversity as a result of, among other things, the immigration of people hoping for a safer and better life – these are the decisive trends that characterise urban dynamics, according to co-project manager Dr Corinna Hölzl. “We want to develop innovative approaches to enable our cities to react better to these dynamics”, explains the geographer.
This can mean a lot in practical terms, according to her colleague Dr Victor Ferretti from the Institute of Romance Studies: “What can a city do to counter the growing isolation of old people? And how can big cities react when heterogeneous complexity in language and culture results from immigration?
Even just these few examples demonstrate that intercultural skills can only be helpful in such situations. This is why Kiel University is working on the project not just for itself, but together with European partner universities Universidade de Santiago de Compostela and Université Paris 8, as well as Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires and Universidade Federal de Pernambuco in Brazilian Recife. The five universities provide expertise in social and cultural sciences as well as geography, and maintain various partnerships with regional city players in practice.
This is a decisive element of the focus of the project, which is aimed at Master’s degree students and graduates of subjects such as geography and romance languages, as well as social and cultural sciences. While in the first module the subject is taught at all five universities through a joint online lecture, at least six weeks of work experience abroad is scheduled for the winter semester 2016. This work experience can take place at city authorities, as well as at cultural establishments, social associations or businesses.
Case studies in which one and the same phenomenon is examined at the participating universities are also planned. “The possible topics, from protests against social cuts through to cultural initiatives, are almost endless”, stressed Corinna Hölzl. The aim is to create stimulus following the “good practice” model, according to which successful initiatives or projects can be transferred from one city to another city.
This should benefit both the people living in the cities and the participating students. “We want to facilitate participation in urban research that is interdisciplinary and based on professional fields”, said Victor Ferretti, who knows “that such practical experience can offer students direction in their search for a career path”.
The EU project is initially scheduled for two years. One of the highlights is a symposium next year in Paris, with external experts and around 70 students, including 18 from Kiel. Those responsible for the project at Kiel University hope that the project will not come to an end after two years. In fact, they hope to establish an international Master’s degree programme that provides a scientific view through interculturally tinted glasses for the long term.
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