IOur intercultural work is branded under the theme 'beWEGen' - Keep Moving. Looking through an intercultural lens and working with multi-perspective and multi-dimensional views will always be an integral part of any education programme the Hermann Gmeiner Academy is responsible for.
The German term 'beWEGen' includes the word for ‘path’ in capitals, and means ‘to move, or be moved’. It also stands for ‘moving away’, which is equivalent to the Latin term 'migrare' = to wander or migrate. These plays on words are indicative of our approach to interculturalism, which involves taking a look at the rich nature of diversity. When trying to define the term ‘interculturalism’ it is best to start with the easy part: ‘inter’ means 'in between'. But what does 'culture' mean? Academics have conflicting definitions of the term 'culture'.
For us, culture stands for human achievements. How this culture is experienced depends on the individual. Cultures do not have a standardised structure, they are heterogeneous. Culture is something we learn, it is not defined in our genes. It prescribes socially binding norms and rules which are intended to facilitate the individual’s integration into a defined social group. Different people will always interpret and modify cultural parameters in their own way.
What means culture?
Accordingly, our focus is on diversity – rather than on narrow-mindedness. We dissociate ourselves from approaches that focus on national borders (us as Austrians, the Germans, the Russians, the Chinese, etc.). We do not assume that everyone living in a particular country is the same. National borders are categories that have been established by human beings. A categorisation according to nationality alone is far too limited. However, individuals can equally well have unifying or divisive experiences along other (border) lines. They may, for instance, be excluded or treated as privileged on the basis of their gender, a disability, their sexual orientation, or profession/unemployment.
To take an example, it may well be that a snowboarder from the Czech Republic and another from Italy, who both snowboard down a virgin slope for the first time, have more in common than a 48-year-old primary school teacher from the ski resort and a 48-year-old ski lift attendant who have grown up in the same place and now work there.
Foto: W. Gleirscher
We can only create a basis for intercultural encounter if we are aware that it is impossible to know every detail about another person or to completely understand him or her.