CGHE Webinar 293

Defamiliarising the Colonial Imaginaries Embedded in Interculturality: Self-Other Dichotomy and the Buddhist Concept of Non-self

Date: Tuesday, 17 May 2022 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Location: Zoom webinar
Speaker(s):
  • Thushari Welikala, University of London

Event Materials

This event is now archived and we are pleased to provide the following event media and assets, along with the original event overview.

Active and meaningful engagement of people with multiple cultures – both animate and inanimate – is not a new phenomenon. People have always encountered and lived conflicting, complex and cooperative stories within and across cultures. Given this context, this conceptual paper critically explores the notion of ‘interculturality’, examining the embedded core values and the ways in which interculturality is articulated and performed within higher education. Drawing on how the notions of ‘Being’ ‘difference’ and ‘culture’ are conceptualised within interculturality, the paper argues that interculturality reflects colonial imaginary. How the non-white worlds are imagined and interpreted, meanings are ascribed through the creation of particular realities about being non-white and non-white Beings is recognised as colonial imaginary. Two main constructs of colonial imaginaries embedded in interculturality are identified: 1) imagined hierarchical bifurcation of Being as ‘self’ and ‘other’; and 2) enforced intransient oneness between Being and (cultural) spaces. Self-other dichotomy projects that human encounters are inherently difficult if not traumatic while the imagined oneness between Being and cultural spaces maintains that people from different cultural spaces inevitably represent different ways of Being. Such imaginaries help perpetuate colonial designs, based on vertical hierarchies between ‘self’ and ‘other’, leading to fractured disconnections among people within and across cultures.

Drawing on Theravada Buddhist concepts of Anathma (non-self) and Anikka (transience) this paper presents an alternative philosophical stance that can enable a perception of human encounters as part of authentic life worlds rather than a difficult enterprise that can only be undertaken through (intercultural) training.

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