Distnguished Lecture Series on Rethinking Intercultural Dialogue

Jointly organised by the Leventis Dialogue Chair, University of Nicosia and the Cyprus Centre of the Internaional Peace Research Insitute, Oslo (PRIO)


In the aftermath of the launch of ‘The Clash of Civilisations’ thesis by Samuel Huntington and the wake of rising violence associated with ethno-religious fundamentalism, the United Nations declared 2001 the Year of ‘Dialogue Among Civilisations’. This inaugurated numerous high-profile meetings under UN auspices bringing together leaders, scholars, and intellectuals and high expectations with regard to cross-civilisational tolerance and understanding around the globe. More recently, the Alliance of Civilisations was launched and a UN High Representative appointed to promote the Alliance ‘as a credible and viable’ alternative to intercultural tension and conflict.

The distinguished lecture series will address the reasons why the expected outcome of the civilisational dialogue appears not to have been met by the reality on the ground, looking beyond the safe explanation of the difficulties of the post-9/11 political atmosphere. It will also concern itself with the extent to which intercultural dialogue may be redefined and revivified.

Specifically, it will focus on the following questions, which are of course not exhaustive:

  • What is the current status of intercultural dialogue, including achievements, failures, missed opportunities, etc?
  • To what extent has the process been exclusive, focusing primarily on dialogue among big/global civilisations at the expense of smaller/less global civilisations, but also hybrid and syncretistic cultures?
  • Even within the established parameters, how far has the process of participation been democratic (who has been invited, excluded and why)?
  • Can inter-civilisational dialogue succeed without intra-civilisational dialogue and, if not, has the latter been addressed sufficiently?
  • How far has intercultural dialogue been delegated to or appropriated by the state and other power institutions and consequently co-opted by their priorities and agendas?
  • To what extent has the ‘dialogue’ managed to move beyond mutual monologues and into reflexive discourse, bringing about new understandings of the Other but also of the Self?
  • Can the Alliance of Civilisations be a credible and viable mechanism to address current challenges? 

 Where appropriate the lecture will be followed by a workshop discussing the lecture as well other relevant published work of the invited speaker.

Project Leaders: Costas M. Constantinou and Farid Mirbagheri