Holding spaces for difference and diversity
Embodying our values in our groups and organisations can involve facing deep challenges in relation to anti-oppression practices and honouring diversity. People facilitating group processes and holding spaces for others need additional support to explore and understand the dynamics involved, and to learn practices and approaches that can help our groups to meet these challenges in ways that are creative and empowering.
This is a week-long community of inquiry will support a deep reflective inquiry into diversity and inclusion in society. The gathering will strengthen our capacity to create social practices that honour diversity, embrace pluralism, and enable us to live creatively with difference, through a deepening our understanding of ‘othering’. And it will apply this learning spefifically to the role and responsibilites of trainers and facilitators.
The following text is from our Thinking Diversity Radically training. By the mid February it will be replaced by a text currently being drafted by the facilitation team.
‘Othering’ involves constructing identities and defining belonging and exclusion in terms of ‘us and them’. It is the patterning of identity that finds explicit expression in intolerance, racism, and xenophobia. It is both a psychological dynamic and set of social practices, and sits at the heart of ideological formation. Although its consequences can be harsh, its formation can be complex and subtle.
Through participatory and co-creative methodologies, the community of inquiry will explore:
• The root causes of ‘othering’
• How it shows up and shapes the intrapersonal, interpersonal and structural
• Ways of deepening our understanding and uncovering the process in ourselves, our groups and in society
• Effective methods for challenging and engaging with intolerance and prejudice – as well as ways to transform those tendencies
• Situate intolerance historically – understanding the conditions that give rise to it and how they can be changed
• How this learning can support the development of radical and pluralist democracy.
Intolerance, racism, and xenophobia are all back in the headlines. Of course, they never went away, but a constellation of socio-economic conditions is strengthening their hand along with the rise of the far right. It seems, as Zack Beauchamp,[i] writes, that ‘the battle between racist nationalism and liberal cosmopolitanism will be one of the defining ideological struggles of the 21st century.’
Anger over immigration and a toxic mix of racial and religious intolerance, combining with economic precarity are current sources of the far-right’s appeal. But the core tendencies are is nothing new. The tendency to construct identities and define belonging or exclusion in terms of ‘us and them’, is the patterning of identity that finds expression explicitly in far-right populism. This is the tendency often referred to as ‘othering’. It structures relations and oppression in terms of race, culture, sexuality, class, ethnicity and gender, amongst other diverse dimensions of human identity.
Understanding ‘othering’ as a psychological tendency, as a social practice, and its role in ideological formation, can support us to honour diversity, embrace multi-culturalism and pluralism, and live creatively with difference. It is important to be able to reflect on the ways it plays out in the construction of our own identities, in our own groups and organisations, as well as in society around us.
“Social groups and relations exist only by means of their symbolic differentiation from other[s], through exclusion from or opposition to certain conditions. This antagonistic differentiation supplies a fictive coherence and objectivity to social identity through the demarcation of a threatening ‘other’ often regarded as irrational, hostile or beyond reasonable comprehension (selfish capitalists, envious foreigners, cold-hearted bureaucracies, and so on), thus It promis[es] an illusion of fullness of identity once the antagonist has been overcome.”[ii] James Martin
In recent years there has been some excellent work done in the areas of ‘Power and Privilege’, ‘Diversity and Anti-Oppression’, or ‘decolonialism’. Related tools and methods have been used to uncover and transform prejudice and oppressive practices in many social change groups, organisations and communities. This inquiry seeks to draw on these fields and then drop into a yet deeper reflection on the core tendencies that undermine our capacity to truly honour diversity.
“It is part of our task as revolutionary people, people who want deep-rooted, radical change, to be as whole as it is possible for us to be. This can only be done if we face the reality of what oppression really means in our lives, not as abstract systems subject to analysis, but as an avalanche of traumas leaving a wake of devastation in the lives of real people who nevertheless remain human, unquenchable, complex and full of possibility.” —Aurora Morales
More details about this community of inquiry will be available soon.
[i] White Riot, Zack Beauchamp, Novemebr 4th 2016, Vox
[ii] James Martin (Goldsmiths University, London) Chantal Moufe: Hegemony, Radical Democracy, and the Political, p3, 2013.
Byron has a background in health and social care, community adult education, counselling and leadership development; and has spent the past 25 years supporting individuals, teams, communities and organisations build inclusive practices, systems and cultures. During that time he has supported the equality, diversity and inclusion work in many small, medium and large organisations; engaging with front-in workers and senior leaders and teams. His passion is supporting individuals, teams and organisations weave together different sources of knowledge, wisdom and practice to support collaborative learning, address sensitive issues and building inclusive practices and cultures. His current work involves supporting people involved in equality, diversity and inclusion develop a compassionate approach in their work, including self-care, engaging with difficulties, and compassionate action.
skills, insights, and practices for creating transformative teams and effective collaborations
reflection and practices for honouring diversity
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