One of the larger goals of the initiative of which CIRHS is a part, is to bring the two continents and cultures — India and Europe — closer. They have much to learn from each other and to set right many wrongs they have committed in the past. The project IERDM turns this dream into a small and manageable project with palpable goals and a timeline. As part of introductory workshops under this project, CIRHS recently organised a series of interactive sessions on SDM Campus with a visiting psychology scholar and intern from Belgium, Ms. Anneleen Derde. Here is a brief report of these sessions.
…with students of SDM PU College
The English Department of the SDM PU College arranged for an interaction session to take place between Ms. Anneleen Derde and students of the SDM PU College. The session, as Ms. Seema Sooryanarayan, Head of the Department of English explained, was simply an opportunity “to learn about each other”. The session turned out to be a lively exchange with questions that ranged from understanding political issues about Belgium and the European Union, to laws like euthanasia and the educational systems of India and Belgium. Slated to end in one hour, the session had to be extended because the students continued to ask questions and the discussion was far too enthusiastic to be curbed!
While some questions invited consternation, like Anneleen’s “Do all of you have the same religion as your parents?”, which was a shocking idea to consider for the SDM PU students; others generated delight, like Anneleen’s description of how the French-speaking part of Belgium cannot speak Dutch and vice versa; while still others raised rather serious questions for consideration, like the law related to euthanasia in EU or the way God is envisioned in European culture.
The session was fresh and invigorating since the participants were open to each other’s questions and keen to generate some picture of the other’s culture without judgment or criticism.
As researchers who study cultural difference, it would seem obvious that we are excited by meeting people different from ourselves. Yet, the interaction session between Ms. Anneleen Derde and the SDM PU students served to show me how jaded I had become! Cultural difference can often become a matter of dry and cumbersome research questions rather than an exciting opportunity to see a different world. It is this latter perspective, that cultural difference gives us the opportunity to see a different world, that was evident in the way this interaction session went. The excitement and delight on both sides was obvious and contagious! The session, which was slated to end in one hour, continued for two since the students simply did not stop asking questions. Such sessions serve to rejuvenate people like me for whom cultural difference can often become a field for specialist investigations. Cultural difference is also just an opportunity to learn about each other – the simple and straightforward reason that this session was arranged. And such learning is both invigorating and fun!
(-By a teacher who was present during the session.)
…with the students of Postgraduate Department of Psychology
[more details soon]