Cultures & Co-Existence

ISHA Spring 2002

The spur to the ISHA topic for Spring 2002 was the awful tragedy of September 11th, 2001, and the many issues it raised. Yet, while like many others, we felt drawn to face the sudden shock of the present, we also wanted to range widely in our thoughts and investigation of some of its underlying themes. Prospective participants were asked to consider a range of questions, among them the following:  What are the problems and complications involved in the co-existence of various cultures, both across and within, national or geographic boundaries? Are there, or have there been, successful models for co-existence? 

From a positive angle we might ask how (and why) peoples of different cultural, religious and national identities have co-existed with one another, or at least worked out some kind of accommodation. Or, what of more asymmetrical relationships between superordinate and subordinate peoples in states, nations, and empires? What might we learn from recent examples of conflict and (sometimes) reconciliation, whether in Bosnia, Rwanda, South Africa or the Middle East? What are the preconditions for co-existence, or the catalysts of conflict?

If cultural difference has been a topic for politics, geography and history, it certainly has been so in the arts and literature as well. How have art and literature worked with cultural difference? Do the arts merely reproduce difference in some ideological way, or do they hold out hope for cultural fusion and transformation? What are the ‘border crossings’ of culture? What exactly do the ‘culture wars’ mean? What might constitute cultural peace?

‘Cultures and Co-Existence’ is a topic that can be approached from many different directions, and our call for applications resulted in a wide set of stimulating reponses, drawn variously from the disciplines of anthropology, psychology, music, communication, history, literary theory, and linguistics. Here is a list of participants in the seminar, with a short description of their projects. Please feel free to contact them.


Audrey Altstadt
Department of History
‘Culture Wars in Soviet Azerbaijan’.

Julie Hemment
Department of Anthropology
‘Globalization, Civil Society, and Women’s Activism in Post-Socialist Russia’. 

Lisa Henderson
Department of Communication
‘Dorothy Allison and the Cultural Production of Class Belonging and Identification’. 

R. Radhakrishan
Department of English
‘Co-Existing in the Hy-phen.’ 

Emanuel Rubin
Judaic and Near Eastern Studies Department
‘Trope, Tajwid, and Cantus Planus: Musical Evidence for the Interaction of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity in the Middle Ages’. 

Elisabeth Selkirk 
Department of Linguistics
‘Language, Identity and Culture in the USA’.

Ervin Staub 
Department of Psychology
‘Basic Needs, Cultural Beliefs: Co-Existence and the Origins of Terror’.