How to challenge a culturalization of human existence? Promoting interculturalism and ethical thinking in education 


  • Frédérique Brossard Børhaug



What if culture appears to be a universal solution – and problem – to all human encounters in the multicultural school? When teachers explain the problems encountered by minority pupils simply by reference to their cultural (religious) backgrounds, one faces the danger of culturalization where the other’s difference is explained only by his/her ethnicity. Culturalization is highly problematic because it emphasizes stereotyped inter-group differences and by doing so erases intra-group and inter-individual differences. The article argues that culture is fundamental in human existence, but it should not be an ambiguous dimension if the school seeks to help the learner get a stronger capacity of voice and aspiration. In order to challenge culturalization of human existence, it is crucial for education to promote the paradigm of interculturalism. Such a paradigm requires educators to acknowledge multiple forms of identity belongings for the individual and to resist the interpretation of culture as common sense. Education becomes intercultural and provides liberating categorizations for the individual when it acknowledges the true value of chosen cultural affiliations and individual aspirations. Nonetheless, promoting interculturalism might not be sufficient. Facing the potential danger of culturalization, we also need to foster ethics in education, in order to deconstruct the categories of cultural identity and belonging. Drawing on the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas (1905-1995) the article argues that loving the other implies the act of loving the other person as a brother and as a stranger. Responsibility understood as an ethical responsibility opens up the community’s traditional structures and promotes a politics of ethical difference. Justice, thus, is not only about how well rights and duties are enforced, but also a matter of the other’s right to be other. Difference as a category is in other words not cultural but refers to the fundamental uniqueness of each subject, defined as both a concrete and irreplaceable human being. Although Levinasian ethics is demanding and does not provide any concrete guidance to educators, it adds a necessary dimension of definition and justification to our responsibility towards the other beyond any categorization. Consequently, a pedagogy of ethical disruption and the event of ethical subjectivity is made possible through the exploration of intercultural education.




How to Cite

Brossard Børhaug, F. (2016). How to challenge a culturalization of human existence? Promoting interculturalism and ethical thinking in education . FLEKS - Scandinavian Journal of Intercultural Theory and Practice, 3(1).



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