KWI – Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (Kulturwissenschaftliches Intitut Essen, KWI)

Research areas

Project Intercultural Understanding in Schools in the Ruhr Region

Principal investigators: Apl. Prof. Dr. Ronald Kurt, PD Dr. Alfred Hirsch

Funded by: German Research Foundation (DFG)
Duration: 04/2007 - 08/2011

Project description:
Germany has a modern, multicultural society. The reaction of the German population to the opportunities and risks posed by cultural diversity are of crucial importance for the future of the nation. Politicians and the mass media generally perceive cultural diversity as a problem and an area of conflict. In the research project “Intercultural understanding in schools in the Ruhr region”, funded by the DFG, we propose a new way of thinking: Learning intercultural understanding from the youth in the Ruhr region.

In the Ruhr region the coexistence of several million people with different cultural backgrounds has given rise to practical forms of intercultural communication that work in everyday life. In particular, schools in the Ruhr region are places where interculturality is put into practice. This is the starting point for this cultural-sociological research project, which takes an empirical approach by taking pupils at the schools in the Ruhr region seriously, as ‘experts’ on intercultural understanding.

In the first research phase the pupils will begin by talking about their concept of their own and foreigners and their experiences, conflicts and relationships with members of other cultures in narrative interviews.

In the second phase the pupils will discuss the possibilities and limits of intercultural understanding in group debates, based on intercultural topics and ‘moral dilemmas’ derived from the interviews in the first phase of the project.

In the third phase they will then be given the opportunity to reflect on the intercultural world they live in and express this in an artistic way, under the guidance of art and applied drama teachers.

All of the scientifically and artistically relevant processes will be recorded audio-visually. To accompany this research project, the pupils involved will also participate in the making of a documentary.

Cooperation partners:

Yehudi Menuhin Foundation Germany: Cultural and education policy foundation
Günfer Cölgecen: Actress, theatre producer and applied drama teacher
Frida-Levy-Gesamtschule: Project partner school
GHS Ludgerusstraße: Project partner school
Ricarda-Huch-Gymnasium Gelsenkirchen: Project partner school

Project activities to date:

30 Oct. 2008
Podium discussion: "Von Jugendlichen interkulturelles Verstehen lernen?" (“Can we learn intercultural understanding from our youth?”)
Venue: KWI Essen

30 – 31 Oct. 2008
Conference: "Die Schule als Raum für interkulturelles Verstehen. Theoretische und methodische Zugänge." (“School as a place of intercultural understanding. Theoretical and methodical approaches.”)
Venue: KWI Essen

25 June 2009
Project report on Deutschlandfunk: "Jugendliche als Experten in Multikulti" (“Young people as experts in multicultural living.”)