There are many ways to perceive reality: Try to ‘see’ it through my eyes
Theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of the program
It is a rare opportunity in Greece today for groups of people that are ‘different’ form the majority or mainstream culture, whether in terms of appearance, cultural mores, beliefs, abilities or behavior, to be able to talk about themselves and the way they live, make sense of and perceive their lives. The stories, narratives, and accounts of these ‘diverse’ others are rarely heard. It is usually from ‘other’ sources that we draw information about these ‘different’ groups. These sources tend to mold and shape the images we share of all the ‘others’ that constitute our communities, and to speak for and of through master narratives. Master narratives are the stories found lying about in the dominant culture that serve as summaries of socially shared understandings (Nelson, 2001). Master narratives are often archetypal, consisting of stock plots and readily recognizable character types, and we use them not only to make sense of our experience (Nisbett & Ross, 1980) but also to justify what we do (MacIntyre, 1984).
As the repositories of common norms, master narratives exercise a certain authority over our identities and play a role in informing what we think of ourselves, the ‘others’ and our worlds. By ‘identity’ we mean the interaction of a person’s self-conception with how others conceive her. In other words, identities are understandings we have of ourselves and others, understandings that are influenced by the images that permeate within a community, images with their own inherent biases, stereotypes of what ‘others’ are or are supposed to be. Being that identities are dialogical (Bakhtin, 1929/1984), socially constructed and that master narratives tend to define, speak for and constrain certain ‘diverse’ peoples’ stories, and perhaps the scope of their actions, the narratives and stories of the groups in question need to be heard and constructed into counterstories. By telling their stories, being heard and repairing through narrative their positions the member(s) of the ‘other’ group(s) to have a say and to exercise their agency more freely.
Program goals and objectives
The program entitled “Intercultural Dialogues: Recording my Reality” seeks to provide opportunities for people belonging in ‘other groups’-that is people whose voices have been voiced-over by the master narratives that predominate the media and the culture at large- to put their own stories on record and to provide information on their lives, as well as their way of life. The program thus attempts to forge and promote understandings of such different stories, viewpoints, positioning, and perceptions of life and of conduct, in order to ultimately facilitate and promote intercultural communication. Via the development of a cluster of visual and narrative histories, anecdotes, and other narrative fragments these ‘others’ have begun weaving together conterstories—stories that resist given, voiced-over and perhaps ‘oppressive’ identities (compiled in the master narratives) and replace them with narratives that retell the story about the person or the group to which the person belongs in such a way as to make visible the morally relevant details that the master narratives suppressed (Nelson, 2001). If our subjectivity is the product of shifting voices, stories, and narratives that are in conversation, and if the self is performed as a dialogue of voices that debate and dispute the moral basis of the social order in which they find themselves positioned (Raggatt, 2007) it is crucial for personal and social reasons to have all stories told. The mere act of constructing a story that is voiced and heard may help alter the ‘diverse other’s’ perception of herself. Not having voice and not being heard are forms of oppression. Oppression often infiltrates a person’s consciousness, so that s/he comes to operate, from her own point of view, as her oppressors want her to, rating herself as they rate her. These counterstories can provide a significant form of personal understanding but also resistance to the dominant master narratives that sweep over our lives.