Intellectual Integrity and Cross-cultural Engagements: A Study-Abroad Program in Tunisia
Critical theory reminds us that not just hostile and indifferent encounters but also sympathetic and intellectually complacent engagements with other cultures (nowadays, Muslim and Arab cultures especially) can serve to intensify stereotypes. This presentation explores the intellectual tools needed by students and faculty to see more than themselves or more than merely negative mirror images of themselves in their engagements with cultures they identify as very different. To foreground approaches to cross-cultural engagements that counter instead of intensify stereotypes, I will discuss my experiences as a teacher of world literature and international business communication and the experiences of students from American colleges in a summer study-abroad program in Sfax, Tunisia. I will try, in short, to identify the smallest set of intellectual tools necessary for cultural engagements reflecting intellectual integrity. I frame my discussion in American pragmatism, postcolonial and critical theories, and my experiences as an Iranian immigrant living, working, and studying in the USA; as a co-director of a faculty learning community on the Middle East; and as a teacher in English studies. The presentation will offer photographs, journal entries (by my students, my colleagues, and me), interviews, and anecdotes from the study abroad program.
Keywords: Stereotyping, Cross-cultural Engagements, Postcolonial Theory, Critical Theory
Dr. Iraj Omidvar
Assistant Professor, Department of Humanities and Technical Communication, Southern Polytechnic State University