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Kosmopolis Institute Publications Day 17: Interview & The Pluralism Effect

Day 17: Interview & The Pluralism Effect

Today began early with an interview for the UFS website, where the lady who interviewed Frank, Vineeta, Dewi, Ambar, Vicky and me asked us how we liked Soweto, what we thought of South Africa and whether we would come back again. Nice, polite questions followed by a photo shoot, which appeared on the front page of the magazine today. Please do have a look at the photo shoot.

This nice and easy interview was followed by an intense session on the Pluralism Effect – where we examined different approaches to ‘pluralism’ – and the relevance of universal values to the concept. We reflected on ‘what would you consider as an everyday experience of pluralism in your work or a home’ – and each response highlighted a point of tension (sexism, heternormativity, etc.) While the session threw up a wide range of issues and thought provoking discussion points, what stood out for me is that pluralism is not so ‘nice’ and nor is it an easy cup of tea. In fact, it is hugely messy – and has led to bitter conflicts between human beings, whether it is the Danish cartoon controversy, the Khap Panchayats in India seeking amendments in marriage laws, the issue of Islam vs. feminism, the ban on the head scarf and so on. The fact that issues of pluralism and diversity have taken over most debates questions the potential of universal values to address conflicts.

But somehow our plural group manages to remain friendly and there have been no conflicts between any of us (or none that I know of). Perhaps our interaction is still at a superficial level as we haven’t been exposed to any tense situation? The only (very) slight disagreement I have had so far was for 2 minutes with Glancina (who is very nice) at the apartheid museum, where she and I both wanted a ‘non-white’ pass. That is significant because clearly race is still important in our heads – although we maybe consciously working towards eliminating the importance of race. Is there any identified universal value that can help us change our mindsets?

To conclude - a random note on all the knitting that has been taking place: Patriarchy is not really about gender norms – but more about absolute control over women’s lives and decisions. 

Gayatri Sharma