Pushing at the limits : reconstructing cross-cultural exchange in education
Cross-cultural exchange between individuals, both through face-to-face encounter and, more recently, electronic media, has been widely promoted as a means of educating against prejudice. Through the integration of structured field study, practical experience, educational and social theory, and contemporary philosophy, this thesis challenges the very foundations upon which such initiatives are built, and develops an alternative basis from which to approach cross-cultural exchange. An exploration of social categorisation posits the foundations of prejudice in essentialist conceptualisations, whether under the umbrella of universalism or relativism. The historical propensity for antiracist and multicultural education to reify group difference and reinforce such essentialist conceptualisations of identity thus presents an interesting conundrum. The fact that similar tendencies are noted in contemporary practice, educational resources, and official guidance, gives this more than an academic interest. Despite the apparent advantages of abandoning essentialist categorisations, studies of communication and identity formation reveal contradictory evidence - the need to locate others socially and to predict their behaviour accordingly, both in face-to-face and electronic communication. Thus, the challenge for educators is to develop innovative pedagogical approaches that translate contemporary, non-essentialist, understandings of group categorisation into workable practices to overcome inequality. While, within such a programme, cross-cultural exchange might be seen to have a valuable role to play alongside structural reform, it is clear that alone it cannot provide a panacea for prejudice. In the light of the above, the thesis addresses guidance for good practice in crosscultural exchange, and the related complexity of programme evaluation, alongside the training of future facilitators of such projects. A particular emphasis is placed upon the use of participatory arts and the unique tools this medium can bring to inclusive, cross-cultural collaboration. The thesis demonstrates, that cross-cultural exchange has the potential to provide valuable and significant learning experiences, some of which have previously been given little recognition.