Academic journal article Social Alternatives

Trying to Make 'Reality' Appear Different: Working with Drama in an Intercultural ESD Setting

Academic journal article Social Alternatives

Trying to Make 'Reality' Appear Different: Working with Drama in an Intercultural ESD Setting

Article excerpt

This paper will firstly sketch the key features of intercultural drama and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD); secondly critically reflect on current Higher Education Institution (HEI) discourse; the broad discrepancy between preferred visions for global learning for sustainable development and the rationale of self-realisation and commodification that seems to be the prevailing paradigm of European HEIs. Then the Interculturality and Sustainability network and the Gogol project which emerged from it in 2011 are introduced. The Gogol project, as an intercultural drama project, sets out to tackle issues of economic (un)sustainability. The concept of the project is presented and questions that have emerged in the planning of the project are shared.

In April 2009 at Daimler's general meeting, there was a heightened sense of reality. The Theater group, the Rimini Protokoll had simply reconfigured the gathering into a play, by buying shares and thereby obtained access for about two hundred spectators. The moment the Chairman Manfred Bisschoff during their greetings shouted to the audience This is no theater and no play!' Daimler had lost the definition of power. Everything seemed just as staged as it is in the theater, but also as it seems - at general meetings which, through a reverse Verfremdung1, became a spectacle in itself: what was visible was not staged reality, but staging of reality. In fact, it requires only a slight change in regards dimension, or in this case a change of reference, in order to make reality appear different (Welzer and Leggewie 2010: 187, my translation from Swedish).

In this passage we see the theatre group The Rimini Protokoll invert the logic of a set text, namely the Annual Genral Meeting. They expose the roles of the key players in this grand meeting so that we can all understand that the drama we can call life is regulated by what we consider normal. It is very interesting the way the theatre group The Rimini Protokoll plays with the norms and the expectations of what is considered normal. In this scene by reconfiguring shares to theatre tickets they open up the context to a totally different possible reading while exposing the power play for what it is: a grand act.

I describe my work as a playful invitation to reflect on what we consider normal. Following Rimini Protokolls lead I seek to develop contexts that problematise 'reality' and open all involved to understanding or reading the world via a variety of possible interpretations, perspectives, stories. In this paper I will share my story, my motives and rationale for my involvement in the Gogol project, an intercultural drama project tackling issues of economic (un)sustainability. I work at University West in Sweden and since 1999 my main focus has been on horizontal transformative learning using drama within a global context. This is an interest that is not conducted without tension in higher educational institutions (HEIs). There is a broad discrepancy between the preferred visions for global learning that sets out to promote more sustainable futures (Anderberg et al 2009), and the rationale of self-realisation and commodification that seems to be the prevailing paradigm of European HEIs (Bussey, 2010; Liedmann 2011; Nussbaum 2010). This paper will firstly sketch the key features of intercultural drama and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD); secondly critically reflect on current HEI discourse; and then move on to present the Interculturality and Sustainability network that tries to find playable spaces in-between and which sets the context for the Gogol project. This project would not exist, nor would it be able to function, without this global network.

Introducing ESD in Higher Education.

Within the field of ESD, a pedagogical program promoted by the UN, there has been a call to develop a transformative learning that develops an ability, referred to as Gestaltswitch, to 'switch back and forth between different mindsets' (Wals 2010b: 386). …

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