Interculturalism in a Development Perspective: A Very Particular Universalism

Studenteropgave: Kandidatspeciale og HD afgangsprojekt

  • Jesper Søe Bergmann
4. semester, Udviklingsstudier, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
The purpose of this master thesis is to reflect on interculturalism in a development perspective from the discourse theoretical perspective of Laclau and Mouffe. This area of development studies has escaped critical investigation of why interculturalism is important to development, and how different social contexts influence the way interculturalism is understood in different societies. From this debate, the inherent incompatibility between universalism and particularism emerges and challenges the applicability of interculturalism in a development perspective.
The thesis seeks to contribute to a more elaborate discussion of the meaning or multiple meanings of intercultural development, to highlight the complex nature of international development. The objective of the thesis is to discuss: 1) the implications of introducing interculturalism in a development strategy that is based on universal principles, and 2) how to position the dividing line between cultural relativism and liberal universalism.
IBIS as a Danish‐based development NGO, cooperates with local organisations from different social groupings and cultures to promote equal access to education, influence and resources. The case of IBIS in Guatemala serves as a point of departure, and the analysis will be based on interviews with representatives of the indigenous peoples of Guatemala, IBIS in Denmark, and IBIS in Guatemala.
Through the use of post‐structuralist discourse theory it will be argued that interculturalism is a floating signifiers, which has been articulated with elements and floating signifiers from the discourse on universal human rights. Furthermore, I will be highlighted that people construct their own realities based on their own historical, cultural, natural, social, etc. context, and that these realities influence how people understand society. Finally, it will be discussed how the relation between humans, nature and the universe has an enormous influence on how people understand and articulate the exploitation of resources in relation to the economic system and development.
From an examination based on post‐structuralist discourse theory, the thesis will discuss the dilemma between universal human rights and the right to cultural diversity, and how IBIS tries to find this balance through intercultural development. The reason for the emergence of interculturalism is a significant shift in the development discourse, after decades of imposing ‘universal’ and ‘modern’ values to start embracing different social and cultural beliefs and values. This, however, has created new conflict areas of what to accept on the basis of respect for cultural diversity, and what not to accept. Based on the findings the thesis will argue that intercultural development can be understood as a depoliticised strategy to overcome conflicts in the name of ‘universal’ values, rather than to solve the underlying sources of the problems.
SpecialiseringsretningLatin American Studies
Udgivelsesdato1 apr. 2014
Antal sider81
ID: 196139648