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The concept of modernity can be analysed from various points of view. A sociological perspective sees modernity as the historical era arising from feudal society’s profound transformation processes and that, starting with the Protestant Reformation, sees the emergence of the new bourgeoisie..

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Transnational migrations and global interdependence challenge the liberalism of western countries, which is becoming increasingly national and less universal.

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It is the philosophical and political concept that extends the ideas of citizenship and homeland to the whole world and to all humankind, opposing the particularity of nations and national states.

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While empathy breaks down the barriers of borders, ethnocentrism – the supposed superiority of one’s own cultural world – is addressed at strengthening them, and if possible, at raising new ones.

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The United Nations

The Organization of the United Nations is the largest international organisation and in fact includes almost all the states existing on the planet. There are currently 192 member states. The seat of the UN is in New York and the current Secretary General is the South Korean Ban Ki-Moon..

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A month of ideas.
Giancarlo Bosetti Editor-in-chief
Association for dialogue and intercultural understanding

Dialogue of Cultures


Intercultural dialogue: the potential of emerging leaders

Lorenzo Kihlgren Grandi

In the last few years many international organizations have been implementing youth empowerment activities as a tool to achieve their own strategic objectives. One of most structured efforts in this field is represented by the Arab-European Young Leaders Forum (AEYLF), created in 2009 by the League of Arab States in cooperation with the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of Austria. At the centre of this initiative are emerging leaders representing the civil society, the academia, the media as well as the social and creative economy, carefully selected on the basis of their remarkable achievements and their potential as “multipliers”.

First World War

Sarajevo 1914-2014, When Memory Divides

Rodolfo Toè

SARAJEVO – Nowadays the body of the young man, who, a century ago, ended the lives of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia sparking an escalation that was to result in World War I, lies in Ciglane, a suburb in central Sarajevo. The body lies in a small chapel with no markings, and is not even shown in tourist guides. The words on the grave written in Cyrillic read: “blessed is he who lives forever as he was not born in vain.”

Toleration dossier

For a Post-Sociological Analysis
of Political Life

Alain Touraine, EHESS Paris

1. We usually call historical rather than modern societies whose systems of social organization are mainly defined by the resources they use and by their social institutions, which shape these resources in line with key cultural orientations which are first of all social representations and modes of construction of human creation and freedom. Our societies are defined not only by their activities but, even more deeply, by their creations and value-oriented interpretations of their productions, included their own limits. These interpretations are both economically and organizationally situated and universalistic in their meaning: they are cultural constructions of human creativity and of its limits, in materially defined social situations. In the western world - and in other societies – we usually define material situation and the cultural pattern in which we have lived during the two past centuries as the industrial society, in which human creativity and freedom are represented by their capacity to increase the productivity of economic activities.

Toleration dossier

Discussing Toleration After Susan Mendus

Roberta Sala, University of Milan San Raffaele

In her paper entitled The changing face of toleration Susan Mendus critiques the idea of toleration as acknowledgement, which she calls “new toleration”, in opposition to the more classical notion of toleration as not interfering in what we consider an object of disapproval (be these decisions, actions or forms of behaviour). In particular “new toleration” is not, in her opinion, able to answer new questions posed by religious toleration. These are in truth ‘surprisingly’ new issues, when considering that until a decade ago they seemed definitively resolved

Toleration dossier

The Changing Face of Toleration

Susan Mendus, University of York

The topic of toleration has interested, indeed fascinated, me for nearly 30 years. Twenty-eight years ago, in 1985, I was appointed Morrell Fellow in Toleration at the University of York, and I have continued to work within the Morrell Centre ever since – first as a Research Fellow, then as Director of the Programme, and now as Morrell Professor Emerita. In short, the problem of toleration has occupied much of my working life. However, looking back on the past 30 years, it is interesting to note that the problem of toleration is not at all the same now as it was when I began studying it all those years ago, and my main focus this evening will be on ways in which the problem of toleration has changed and with the new challenges which toleration faces in the modern world. Let me begin, though, by saying something about the way in which the problem of toleration was understood when I first began studying it all those years ago.

Toleration dossier

Toleration and the Need for Historical Understanding in Philosophy

Mario Ricciardi, University of Milan

Towards to end of his life, Bernard Williams was eager to urge upon his readers the relevance of the historical dimension of philosophical understanding. In particular, if what is at stake is the clarification of a moral or a political concept, he claimed that philosophers need “what is unequivocally some kind of history”. Conceptual analysis on its own is insufficient because “the so called essence of a certain value (…) may be so schematic or indeterminate that it can be understood only by reference to particular historical formations. Nothing that has a history can be defined, as Nietzsche rightly said, and our virtues and our values certainly have a history”. It is difficult to think of a better example than toleration to vindicate Williams’s claim.

In depth

Virgin Homicides: The Matrix of Elliot Rodger’s Mass Murder in Santa Barbara

Roger Friedland

Elliot Rodger murdered six students at my university, UC Santa Barbara. Horror sometimes offers us a mirror. Looking at the pathological forces us to examine the normal. In our country, the normal means men’s guns and women’s bodies. The event again reminds us that the United States is great at mass murder, that we live in a freakish land where carrying semi-automatic weapons is a citizen’s right. At the memorial service, Richard Martinez, a victim’s father, asked us to rise and repeatedly shout out: “Not one more!!” The very day of the memorial a 21 year-old UCSB student was arrested for accidentally shooting his 9 mm. Glock pistol through the wall into the adjoining Isla Vista apartment. Police found seven firearms and a thousand rounds of ammunition.

In depth

The boundaries of culture

Gaetano Pentassuglia, University of Liverpool

How should cultural or religious factors affect the way in which we work within and across societies? This is too big a question for anyone to be able to provide anything other than models, empirical evidence or pointers that are tailored to time and space. But a stream of recent media headlines raises the issue in ways that expose at least specific cross-cutting tensions between cultural claims and the rights of individuals or entire groups.

In depth

Moroccan Democracy: Slow but Sure to Win the Race?

Mohammed Hashas

The gloomy path the so-called Arab Spring has taken in some countries affected by the revolts has furthered the idea that Morocco is an exception in an oasis of turmoil, insecurity, sectarianism and social disunity. While it is very true to say and also see special features of the country’s especially socio-cultural and political features that a far rich past has ingrained in its population, current Moroccan exceptionalism is, however, a double-edged argument in the sense that it can be a praise or a vilification. To understand this label of exceptionalism, a different question that is more direct can be posed: is Morocco democratizing? Or, how is Moroccan democracy?


Can European Islam Be Inspiring to the Arab World?

Mohammed Hashas, Luiss University

The question “can European Islam be inspiring to the Arab world?” may smell of pejorative Orientalism: Europe thinks for the Arab world even when it comes to religion! Yet, the intent (anniya in Arabic) is not that. The question aims at questioning the established dichotomy of “Islam vs. the West.” Comparing two geographies or two versions of religion in two different political entities is the aim here, though the title seems to compare a religious interpretation in a political geography “European Islam” with a another political geography “the Arab world.” By the Arab world here is meant “Arab Islam” – to avoid repeating “Islam” twice. Both Western Europe and the Arab world are heterogeneous and have different histories with religion and politics, and it is not acceptable to put them all in one basket through entities as the title above suggests. However, it is the links between these two geographies, polities, and histories that have encouraged posing the question for further reflections.

Intercultural dialogues

Foreigners in my class. On “cultural” pluralism in Italian (and other) schools

Davide Zoletto, University of Udine

This paper is an elaborated version of the contribution that David Zoletto, a Researcher at the Department of Human Sciences, University of Udine, presented on December 12, 2013 in Milan, for the last meeting of the series of conferences "Words and ideas for a plural world. An intercultural lexicon" sponsored by Reset-DoC and Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation. The 2014 edition of our Milan-dialogues, this year dedicated to the theme of "inclusive citizenship", begins April 17 with a lecture by Constitutional Court Judge Giuliano Amato on "A new season for citizenship in Europe."

Intercultural dialogues

How Religions View Food

Giovanni Filoramo, University of Turin

The subject I am about to address, specifically the relationship between food and religion, between nutrition and the attribution of values to eating rituals carried out by all religions, is a complex one presenting not just a few methodological problems of which it is worth analysing two in particular. The first is linked to the problem of comparison. What should one compare in the infinite landscape of these values? How should one compare the different food customs and ideologies that each tradition is obliged to develop? And, above all, with what objective, posing which questions would allow one to successfully select - within an immense mass of documentation that clearly cannot be checked by an individual specialist – all that will then allow one to observe these practices and feeding customs of specific religious traditions in a productive manner?

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