Conversations with Thomas Hylland Eriksen on the challenges and rewards of diversity in education
Diversity was never a challenge as such for educational systems in the past, rather an obstacle to be overcome. In contemporary Western societies, the situation has recently changed, and cultural diversity within society is contested, but also widely considered a permanent condition. At the same time, conventional approaches to education are challenged by another potentially fragmenting force in the spread of electronic communication replacing traditional forms.
Three options are discussed in the lecture. First, traditional universalism is confronted with multiculturalism; Insistence on the uniformity and universality of a particular educational paradigm is compared with the view that the knowledge systems and methods of learning associated with different cultural groups ought to be treated in the same way. The third, preferred model, which attempts to strike a balance between the first two without succumbing to their obvious weaknesses, is described as pluralist universalism. Its universalism entails that it insists on a unitary view of knowledge and a democratic view of education: everyone should have the same opportunities. Its pluralism lies in its recognition of the fact that the world changes depending on where one sees it from, that there are no eternal absolutes and no privileged vantage-point. The challenge for this model consists in avoiding knowledge relativism and unintentional hegemony.
Thomas Hylland Eriksen
Author of Ethnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives
Thomas Hylland Eriksen (1962) is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo and PI of the ERC Advanced Grant project ‘Overheating’. The author of many books in different genres, his academic research, which began with fieldwork on identity and society in Mauritius in 1986, has largely concerned cultural dynamics and social identities in complex societies. His books in this field include Ethnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives (2010/1993) and Common Denominators: Ethnicity and the Politics of Compromise in Mauritius (1998).
He has also published works about globalization, e.g. Globalization: The Key Concepts (2014/2007), as well as basic textbooks in anthropology: Small Places, Large Issues (2014/1995), What is Anthropology? (2017/2004) and a book about public anthropology: Engaging Anthropology (2006). His latest book is an introduction to the anthropology of accelerated change: Overheating (Pluto Press 2016).
Kim C. D’Abreu
Principal Consultant for Diversity Dimensions Consulting
Kim C. D’Abreu serves as Principal Consultant for Diversity Dimensions Consulting, LLC. Ms. D’Abreu is an entrepreneurial and dynamic executive with 25 years of experience managing national, workforce diversity and inclusion programs. She is a thought leader within education, healthcare and non-profit sectors, with a reputation for managing the culture and complexities of environments. Ms. D’Abreu has effectively developed tools, strategies, and resources focused on climate and cultural competency as a means to promote success of women, racial and ethnic minorities and LGBT communities, and other marginalized groups.
Ms. D’Abreu was formerly the senior vice president for access, diversity and inclusion at the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). She designed strategies and programs to increase the cultural competency and diversity of students and faculty in dental education. Ms. D’Abreu obtained her B.S. from The Johns Hopkins University and M.P.H. from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Kim is a member of the International Coach Federation, Washington, DC chapter obtaining her Certificate in Leadership Coaching from Georgetown University.