Axes of Bias in Inter-Cultural Dialogue
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Part of Towards Transformative Conferencing and Dialogue: Collection of papers and notes, problems and possibilities on the new frontier of high-risk gatherings concerning social development (1991). Prepared in the process of envisaging the group dynamics of the World
Parliament of Relgions. Adapted from the work of W T Jones The Romantic Syndrome; toward a new methodology
in cultural anthropology and the history of ideas. Martinus Nijhof,
1. ORDER versus DISORDER
- 1a. Preference for order: Dialogue should be orderly, based on an ordered array
of cultural statements and arguments. Favoured by those defining the environment and
development in an orderly manner.
- 1b. Preference for disorder: Inter-cultural dialogue must necessarily be chaotic
and disorderly in order to be fruitful. Favoured by those cultures recognizing that they
are subject to more forces than can be rationally presented.
2. STATIC versus DYNAMIC
- 2a. Preference for static: Inter-cultural dialogue can be viewed as forming a
static, semi-permanent configuration of cultural positions. Favoured by agencies mandated
to respond to particular problems over an extended period of time.
- 2b. Preference for dynamic: Dialogue can only be understood as a dynamic,
shifting relationship between cultures. Favoured by those preoccupied by short-term
3. DISCRETE versus CONTINUOUS
- 3a. Preference for discrete: Cultures and issues are both viewed during dialogue
as distingished by clear boundaries. Favoured by those who need to distinguish and
- 3b. Preference for continuous: Cultures and issues are both viewed as forming a
continuous, possibly "seamless", field of tensions during dialogue. Possibly
favoured by those recognizing pervasive fields of tensions, conspiracy theories, and
4. EXTERNAL versus IDENTIFICATION
- 4a. Preference for external relationship to phenomena: Cultures and issues viewed
as externalities, namely objects of experience to be experienced from without during the
dialogue process. Basic to the strategic assumptions of many international programmes.
- 4b. Preference for identification with phenomena: Cultural issues can only be
genuinely comprehensible through an intitive identification with the experience they
constitute, especially during the dialogue process. Favoured by those whose views have
been strongly influenced by personal experience of suffering.
5. SHARPLY versus IMPLICITLY DEFINED
- 5a. Preference for sharply defined phenomena: Cultural issues viewed as directly
experiencable. Favoured by those responding to problems seen as concrete realities as
opposed to unreal abstractions.
- 5b. Preference for implictly defined phenomena: Cultural preoccupations viewed as
implying levels of significance greater than are immediately obvious. Favoured by those
who detect more fundamental problems in issues which may not otherwise appear problematic.
6. COMPREHENSIBLE versus INCOMPREHENSIBLE
- 6a. Preference for inherently comprehensible phenomena: Cultural preoccupations
viewed as comprehensible in terms of existing paradigms. Favoured by pragmatists working
in the light of long experience.
- 6b. Preference for inherently incomprehensible phenomena: Cultural preoccupations
calling for explanations in terms of other frames of reference. Favoured, notably, from
certain religious perspectives.
7. DUE versus SPONTANEOUS PROCESS
- 7a. Preference for due process: Inter-cultural dialogue should be governed by
pre-defined processes. Favoured by those cultures relying on well-developed procedures.
- 7b. Preference for spontaneous process: Inter-cultural dialogue viewed as most
fruitful when spontaneous processes emerge. Favoured by those who see chance and accident
to be significant.