By Cebelihle Sokhela* from South Africa
July 29, 2015
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.
Firstly, each group presented a reflection of pluralism practices that are prevalent in their countries. The Hivos group presentation highlighted that it continues engaging international NGO’s. They have experienced a shift which leads to more limited funding for the organisation. The Indian group followed by highlighting that the idea of development in their country continues to be contested. The agrarian sector is struggling and the government still grapples with land the legislature bill. Religion is another issue in India because of various religious, ideological fundamentalist movements. The country has experiences of state sponsored violence. The Netherlands group argued that even though the country is secular, religiosity still organises the public space to some extent. Immigration also has an effect on the country. South Africa highlighted that the country is faced with poverty, unemployment and inequality; and there is intimate partner violence and xenophobic attacks. The Institution for Reconciliation and Social Justice focusses on these problems
In the second part of the day, Caroline gave a lecture on Pluralism in a Global context and gave participants a few exercises in order to engage everyone because the slogan of the second day was that pluralism matters everywhere. Globalization is a concept which has various meanings for scholars because for one to explain the concept of what globalization means, depends on the perspective one holds. Caroline presented different perspectives which scholars have formulated to explain what globalization is, from perspectives of Liberalism, Marxism, Constructivism, Feminism, Postmodernism and Political Realism. After presenting these perspectives, the first exercise was about three different videos. The participants were asked to relate the videos to different conceptual perspectives. I commented on the videos by arguing that the first video can be viewed from a liberal perspective because the video presented some elements of free trade and freedom of communication in political, cultural and economic terms. The second video was about G8 summit; some people were protesting in different forms because they wanted to disturb the G8 summit. I argued that one can view this video by using an environmentalist perspective. The third video was about tribal land ownership and resources confiscation in colonial times in the Maori community in New Zealand. The video involved politics and the economy – hence I argued that I could view it from a Marxist perspective.
Caroline concluded the exercise by alluding to the fact that the different videos showed the fluidity of explaining globalization. When one discusses the concept of globalization, one must be mindful of the fact that there are different perspectives, which also have an overlap. The next exercise involved different definitions of pluralism. The participants partnered to choose their preferred definition and explain why. The conclusion from this exercise was that there is not one right definition, but a multiplicity of definitions, and that the context matters when one explains and tries to understand what is pluralism.
After that, an introductory context of Indonesia was presented by Ihsan Ali-Fauzi and Zainal Abidin Bagir. They explained some of the history of Indonesia and the important role that religion plays in the pluralism context of Indonesia.
In the last part of the day, the staff members of the summer school each presented their own thematic fields and focus areas. The participants have to choose which group they want to join. The topics which were introduced are: Identity, Sustainable Development, Reconciliation, Religion and Democracy and Social Change. It was highlighted that the five themes are all related and interconnected. In order for a better understanding of pluralism, development and social change (the main themes of the summer school) one need not to separate the themes to gain insight into the practices that make societies pluralistic.
*Cebelihle Sokhela has a BA degree in Sociology and Public Administration from the University of the Free State in South Africa and is currently employed as a facilitator in the Department of Sociology at the Qwa Qwa campus of University of the Free State. E-mail: Sokhelach@qwa.ufs.ac.za or firstname.lastname@example.org, Republic of South Africa