TITLE OF THE PUBLICATION
Intercultural mediation and the construction of dialogues in difference: some reflections
SURNAME AND NAME OF AUTHOR(S)
Casa-Nova, Maria José
Instituto de Educação, Universidade do Minho
PLACE AND DATE OF PUBLICATION
TYPE OF PUBLICATION
LANGUAGE OF THE DOCUMENT
LANGUAGE OF THE REVIEW
Integration of immigrants students
DESCRIPTION OF CONTENTS
This is a comment about the panel “Intercultural Mediation” related to the seminar “Intercultural mediation and the construction of dialogues in difference: some reflections”.
The author reflects from her experience as researcher of minority groups – specifically the social group of Portuguese gypsies – and also as researcher in the area of intercultural education. First, the author explains the concept of mediator, referring that the mediator is someone placed among or inside two (or more) different cultural systems or different approaches to the situation. When different social actors face unknown situations or situations they find difficult to interpret, they will search for their meaning from within their own repertoire of values, so that the situations may become intelligible, and, eventually, allow for dialogue. When this for a myriad of reasons does not happen, the interpretations that have been created may constitute a barrier to dialogue and thus trigger conflict.
Mediation will, in cases like this, allow us to solve the conflicts as well as prevent them. This system will give us also the capacity to anticipate, predict and reflect about the reality and the social contexts of action. Another important dimension touches upon the empowerment of the actors and the construction of their power. Empowerment has to promote learning processes to increase the self-resolution and self-preservation on the part of those that are ‘mediated’ so that they are enabled to develop skills to manage conflicts positively.
The researcher refers also to how she performs mediation by describing real situations in which she was called to help. One of the given examples is about a Portuguese gypsy group that, because of a council levy, is now finishing a rehousing process, which has scattered the members of that group across different social housing estates in Oporto. The rehousing project was neither an easy one nor conflict free. Unawareness or incomprehension of the linguistic codes and different interpretations on reality stand at the origin of parallel monologues between the dominant culture and the gipsy culture. Nevertheless, the researcher’s intervention as mediator in this “cultural translation” process allowed some families to comprehend the reality reading codes of the dominant culture actors. So, to act in situations like this the researcher recommends that readers have to know in order to understand, they have to understand in order to mediate, and they have to mediate in order to enable dialogue construction and a conflict free experience to achieve success in similar situations.
COMMENTS ON THIS PUBLICATION
The choice of this document lies in its relevance for people who work in school environments characterized by strong intercultural or multicultural aspects. It’s a fact that conflict between these two different cultural groups has been present since a long time ago in Portugal, either directly or through cultural and structural violence. This is a reality that has affected schools’ normal running.
Nowadays, with an increasingly global world, where the information society is a reality, it’s important to analyse the school and the relations developed there through novel eyes. The conflict, specifically the conflict in the school context, is an unavoidable reality which takes on a very sizeable position in the current Portuguese educational context. The school is an organization with specific purposes, and we can consider it a society prototype.
People with different experience, personality, values, perspectives, cultures and interests share the same space, coexist in an environment where the conflict is also manifested by their different relations. It is this context that should be brought to the attention of teachers and directors with a particular emphasis on the need for mediation in conflicts where a third part, impartial and neutral, helps the parts involved in the conflict to communicate, negotiate, and achieve commitments that please both parts in an effort to improve education quality and increase school success.
It is in the school that different forms of education family values, cultures, ethnicities, and religions meet. So it is an important part of the school’s social role to teach how to live in diverse group and among groups, mediating the several tense situations that may arise. By doing this, the school can use mediation as a strategy to creatively transform conflicts, facing them with an educative potential and of personal experience to solve current and future life problems of students.
Name of Compiler
Name of Institution
Instituto Politécnico de Castelo Branco
Role in the institution