International Summer School 2015 on Pluralism, Development and Social Change

By Caroline Suransky, International Coordinator of the Summer School 

The Kosmopolis Platform of the University of Humanistic Studies (the Netherlands), in cooperation with PUSAD-Paramadina and the Center for Religious and Cross-Cultural Studies of Gadjah Mada University (Indonesia), the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice of the University of the Free State (South Africa), Azim Premji University (India) and HIVOS (Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries), has organized the 12th annual edition of the International Summer School on Pluralism, Development and Social Change in Puncak, Indonesia, from July 28 to August 13 2015. Previous summer schools took place in The Netherlands, India, Indonesia and South Africa.

The summer school consists of a 17 day full time program of lectures, excursions, seminars, literature study, discussion, guided individual – and small group work and assignments. In the 2015 summer school are twenty participants, who come from Indonesia, India, the Netherlands, Germany, South Africa and Kenya. All of them work in Civil Society Based organizations in the realm of Human Rights and Social Justice and/or are graduate students in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The staff of the summer school consists of an international group of academics and CSO-based professionals from Indonesia, the Netherlands, South Africa and India. The 2015  staff group includes: Zainal Abidin Bagir, Ihsan Ali-Fauzi, Jacky Manuputty, Syamsul Maarif, Sitharamam Kakarala, JC van der Merwe, Henk Manschot, and Caroline Suransky.

The summer school aims to: (1) bring together a diverse and international group of participants who are interested in social change and wish to enhance their critical understanding of social theory of change, practices of pluralism and the politics of difference at local and global levels; (2) intensify links between development practitioners and scholars in order to (1) enrich both their knowledge bases with new perspectives, insights and skills, and (2) stimulate the creation of international networks of civil society initiatives around issues of social change and pluralism; (3) facilitate international dialogue on theories and practices of pluralism and professional and personal experiences with cultural- and other forms of diversity and difference, leading to a critical international comparative analysis of pluralism approaches in various social, political, economic and ecological contexts; (4) integrate theoretical and practice-based knowledge of all participants and help them to translate it into new insights, strategies, policies and/or practices for pluralism; and (5) create a learning environment in which participants simultaneously learn about as well as simultaneously live with difference in a pluralist, international and intercultural setting. Critical reflexivity, reading and writing, dialogue, experiential learning, active participation and skills training are central to the program.

All participants will write a blog about their personal experiences on a particular day in summer school.  We hope that you will find their stories informative and that you enjoy reading them.

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Dr. Caroline Suransky works as lecturer in the Globalization and Dialogue Studies Department of the University of Humanistic Studies in the Netherlands and is a ‘visiting professor’ at the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice at the University of the Free State in South Africa. In collaboration with many universities and civil society based organizations in the Global South, Caroline has coordinated international summer schools since 2004. 

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Day 1: Images of Pluralism
We came together, from distinct directions. From the cold into the hot, from far to close, from the night into the day, from hours back to hours forward. We brought with us, our own background. Our nationalities, our local environment, our experiences, our knowledge, our talents, our thoughts, our feelings, our dreams and our worries. We came together and brought with us our personal and professional interest and affiliation with the issues of pluralism, development and social change. Read more

Day 2: Pluralism matters everywhere
The second day of summer school was on Wednesday, 29 July 2015. It started at 09h30 and the weather was humid and warm as usual. Caroline Suransky welcomed everyone and made comments by connecting the focus of the day to what had occurred in the first day. Since everyone had already introduced each other on the first day to the rest of the participants, the second day of summer school was informative and with more focus on major issues. Read more

Day 3: Religious freedom; from Theories to Practices
One of most fundamental issues of pluralism is religious pluralism. The 2015 International Summer School on Pluralism, Development, and Social Change places the issue as an important elaborated issue in the forum. The Day 3 program contained plentiful views and activities on this issue. Read more

Day 3: Religious diversity and political conflict
Today Dr. Zainal Bagir gave us overarching insights into some of the major issues of religion within Indonesian culture. I learned how religion, especially the two major ones, Islam and Christianity play a vital influence in how the political entities of Indonesia function. To me, this is quite alarming as in my country, South Africa, diversity of different religions is embraced and all forms of religion play a part in the pluralism of our nation. Read more

Day 4: Pluralism and Post Religious Peace Building
Day 4 at the summer school in Puncak, Indonesia dawned sunny and clear, only to betray us with a heavy downpour later. Well, you can trust to never trust the mountains with the weather! Meanwhile, at the summer school, we had quite an interesting day. The title of the post may have given away the agenda for the day – Pluralism and Peace Building post religious conflicts. Rev. Jacky Manuputty, a “peace provocateur” addressed us. Having worked at the grassroots level as a member of a local community to deal with the post religious conflicts in the Maluku islands of Indonesia, he is well experienced with the process and challenges of peace building. Read more

Day 5: Re-questioning Identity
Is it enough to be who you are? Or is there any room left to rethink who you are? The above two questions remained in my mind when I was heading to the dining hall. The class finished on time but my mind was still lingering. The topic of identity seems very personal to me because it deals with the particular unique experience of every person regarding their past, present and the future.Read more

Day 6: The Value of Recognition
After the fall of Suharto, Indonesia went through a period of transition, known as Reformasi (reform). During the years of Reformasi, electoral democracy, freedom of expression and human rights all advanced. But the price for more democracy and freedom was high. Because of the Asian currency crisis of 1997 Indonesia’s economy was savaged. Millions of Indonesians lost their jobs and prices were rising. At the time of the economic crisis the anti-government riots started. During the riots 1200 people were killed. Read more

Day 7: Reflections on Reconciliation
Reconciliation raises several questions, answers for which are not quite simple. First, what do we understand by the term reconciliation, is there a common understanding or is it still developing? Second, do we really need the process of reconciliation? What if the power relations of the parties involved in the reconciliation process are unequal and can the process of reconciliation be initiated without involving the aggrieved parties as it seems to be happening in the case of victims of Jakarta? What role does it play in Pluralism? Read more

Day 8: Excursion to Sarongge
The contrast between our first excursion to Jakarta and our second excursion to the tropical forrest of the National Parc Gunung Gede Pangrango couldn’t be any bigger. Today, at the first day of our two-day trip, we went to a village called Sarongge which is located at the foot of the National Parc Gunung Gede Pangrango. Here the Green Initiative Foundation is succcesfully running a reforestation project, in cooperation with the local community that lives around the forest. We spent the night camping in a small basecamp located in the tropical forest, halfway the mountain where we would do some trekking the next day.Read more

Day 9: Sarongge Excursion
I grew up in a city that had not yet witnessed urban “development”. I would cycle my way in and out of the myriad by-lanes to stores, the library, friends’ place and even to my dance classes. But this lifestyle started changing rather rapidly with the onset of vehicles, industries and one of the most compelling factors that changed it all was the transition in technology. From being an era just restricted to telephones, televisions and radio (to certain extent), time quickly whizzed by and we witnessed its metamorphosis to another with mobile phones, laptops, tablets and many swanky gadgets. Looking beyond these is what the Sarongge experience was to me. It made me realise the extent of my materialistic life. Read more

Day 10: Protest, Democracy and Social Change
Stiff and sore, the summer school participants and teachers spent the morning of day 10 recuperating after our hiking excursion. Most were also focused on preparing for the last lectures, whilst spending some time at the pool or stocking up on necessities at the nearby markets.Read more

Day 10: Counter Hegemony in the Arena of Democracy and Social Change
Amidst the very confusing contextual developments of democracy and social change in various parts of the world, it is necessary to develop a critical response, in particular, towards established opinions, thoughts, ideas, and even social and political systems. Moreover, democracy and social change hold some contradictions, ambiguities, paradoxes and double-standards. In this context, some experts offer sharp analytical tools to respond to the advancement of social change and democracy, and to challenge the threats in the public arena as well. Read more

Day 11: ‘Reclaiming’ democracy: Understanding the politics and ethics of contemporary protest movements
The twenty-first century was often referred to by scholars and activists as a century of movements, as it witnessed some of the most momentous uprisings in human history. By means of different movies and texts, prof. Ram Kakarala took us on a journey through the history of cyber-movements, new social movements, and counter-publics. Read more

Day 12: The “Design Your Own Workshop” Day!
No lessons today! This day is different from any other day, because we just completed our lessons yesterday! However, since we have to conduct a workshop about pluralism, development and social change in our community as an output of joining the 2015 Summer School, we have to plan and figure out of how our workshop will be in the future. That’s why we were gathering today for some brainstorming on workshop ideas by using posters as a media! Read more

Day 13: Indonesian diaries: The same day through different lenses
A day set to be different from all other summer school days. Preparations for the day began early in the week with the entire team looking forward to spend the free day at the Botanical gardens in Bogor and later shopping at the factory outlets and the ‘black market’.For me travelling in the ‘boys only’ car was exciting as loud music and dancing carried throughout the trip to the garden. Read more

Day 14: Memorable Quotes
It is the last Monday of the summer school. After today there will be only two more days to go. This day is designated for working in groups and preparing the presentations for the following two days. We are working in our teams, preparing our power point slides, choosing video’s we want to show and practicing the interactive parts of the presentations. Because everybody spends the biggest part of the day in their own groups, I choose to approach the content of my blog differently. Throughout the day and in the evening I will ask all the participants of the summer school for a quote that links to either the summer school itself or one of its main topics: social change, development and pluralism. The quote can be one by themselves, by others from the program, from the teachers or from someone else.Read more

Day 15: Group presentations day 1
This is the first day of our group presentations, but more on that soon. I start my day (as a few us do) as I have been doing for about a week, with a Yoga session with Eva. Fikri also joins us and a few others have joined us on other days. It lends propulsion to the rest of your day. Some others prefer swimming every morning and I am sure that’s as fulfilling. These are activities that have helped us get along with each other outside the classroom. By and large, we seem to be a fitness conscious bunch. I am, of course, a faker but I have avowed to continue Yoga back home.Read more

Day 16: Group presentations day 2
Both groups of Identity and Democracy had their presentations on Wednesday (12/08). The Identity group (Shreeradha, Haffiz, Busi, and Eva) particularly focused on the link between identity and consumerism. At the beginning, they invited all the classmates to declare what their single most important identity is. Some referred to one of the following five identity markers: social status, religion, country, gender or family. Others however didn’t pick one of these five. Read more

Day 17: Reflections On A Great Summer Experience
It seemed like years ago when we gathered at the garden with so much enthusiasm, anxiety and our hopes and fears on the upcoming 17 days ahead. Little did we know that we had just met as strangers only to depart today 17 days later at the exact same sport to pick a picture. The highlight of this exercise was how free people seemed today and their open mindness as they picked different pictures and shared their lesson learned. Some participants still chose the same picture but now had a different explanation of that particular same picture. I am thinking what has changed besides that Halil has not yet called his wife even to date… Well a few people decided to share their reflection on the summer and I came to conclude that summerschool was a great experience not just for learning but also to make new and forget lifelong bonds.Read more

‘Saying Goodbye’, by Carolina Suransky
The 12th annual summer school on Pluralism, Development and Social Change ended on Thursday the 13th of August 2015. On Friday the 14th most of us left. The summer school gives not only the participants much appreciated inspiration in their jobs as academics and/or activists, but also the staff. Every year, it is such a joy to spend approximately 3 weeks together and discuss all kinds of contemporary issues as well as developments in our working – and personal lives. Read more

Source: The University of Humanistic Studies