Polish-German Launch Event
German-Polish Launch in Slubice – 27th of January 2011
On the occasion of the launch of the European wide project ACCEPT Pluralism, the Viadrina University in Frankfurt (Oder) together with the Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu in Poznan held a common
Polish-German event on the 27 January 2011 from 13:00 to 15:00 at the Loggia of the Collegium Polonicum in Slubice
The issue of tolerance has become a key issue in current European societies. But it has been also contested because it implies power relations between those who tolerate (and who define the limits of tolerance) and those who are tolerated. During the event Prof. Michal Buchowksi and Prof. Werner Schiffauer informed about the critical discussion of the concept of tolerance as well as on the implications this has for the research on tolerance.
The launching event of the research project ACCEPT PLURALISM has been especially addressing journalists, practitioners as well as politicians and interested scientists. The event aimed at both presenting the current phase and condition of the project in both Germany and Poland and receiving feedback from people working on related issues (what are the most important questions for them within the field of (non-) acceptance of minority groups in both countries).
There has been a simultaneous translation between German and Polish.
The Polish and German research teams held a common launch event for the ACCEPT Pluralism project and their respective work in Poland and Germany at the Polish-German border at the Collegium Polonicum in Slubice.
In the beginning of the event the president of the Collegium Polonicum Dr. Krzysztof Wojciechowski welcomed the guests – mainly journalists, NGO activists and academics in German, which was – like all the other statements and the discussion – simultaneously translated.
He pointed out, that the Collegium Polonicum and Slubice were ideal places to talk about the issues of the project, tolerance and acceptance and referred to a time in the beginning of the Collegium, when German students wanted to end the gender segregation in the students’ accomodation, while many Poles thought, it would be a sign of tolerance of the Germans towards Polish culture to respect the gender segregation. In practice this issue had been resolved by keeping up the segregated registration for different accomodation of men and women, while in practice they could live together if they wished so.
With this example Dr. Wojciechowski pointed to important aspects of the practice of (in-) tolerance, which is very often not clearly defineable. Two opposing views of one issue both claimed tolerance towards their own perception, which had in practice finally been solved by acting out one of the two ‚in silence’.
Prof Werner Schiffauer from the Europe University Viadrina and head of the German research team of ACCEPT Pluralism used this practical example of balancing out different views on tolerance for going deeper into the theoretical concepts of tolerance, especially the social effects of the discourse on tolerance. In his speech on “Tolerance as a Power Relationship” Schiffauer pointed to the unequal distribution of power between those, that grant tolerance and those, to whom tolerance is granted or denied. He among others pointed to the fact, that the definition of certain ethnic, cultural or religious groups as ‘tolerant’ or ‘intolerant’ in discourse already draws a line between those, that should be tolerated themselves and those, that cannot claim tolerance for themselves. Schiffauer mainly referred to the discourse about Muslims and Muslim religious practices today in Germany.
Prof. Michal Buchowski from the Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu and head of the Polish research team continued with a speech on the „Construction of the Other“ in which he pointed to the long European history of constructing its own identity and understanding of itself through differentiation from ‘other’ cultures, mainly the ‘Orient’, which had been described in detail by Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism’, but is regaining strong relevance again today in Europe. Muslims are however not the only group suffering from this ‘othering process’, and thus Buchowski described in more detail the way, how Roma are until today seen and treated in Poland, where owners of clubs and other places perceive it as absolutely normal to generally keep Roma from entering, and justified this with their stereotypes about Roma, which they perceived as ‘the truth’ and not a question of tolerance or intolerance.
Concerning the understanding of tolerance Buchowski explained, that the historical self-perception of many Poles as tolerant, which is hardly ever questioned, lies at the bottom of current intolerant behaviour towards minorities.
After the speeches on concepts and practices of tolerance, Katarzyna Chlewińska and Nina Mühe presented the outline and the planned output of the ACCEPT Pluralism project and described the research work, that is planned for Germany and Poland in the following months.
Following the presentations the participants engaged in a lively and interesting discussion both concerning the academic work and the practical possibilities to support more tolerance in the two societies. Some discussants especially stressed their expectance of practical contribution of the research project for their everyday work against intolerance.
Many participants also expressed their contentment with the ACCEPT Pluralism project taking up these important issues and their willingness to further take part in the research process through other events and discussions.
13:00-13:15 Opening and welcoming
(Dr. Krzysztof Wojciechowski, Director of Collegium Polonicum)
13:15-13:30 “Tolerance as Power Relationship”
(Short lecture, Prof. Werner Schiffauer)
13:30-13:45 “Making the Other”
(Short lecture,Prof. Michał Buchowski)
13:45-14:00 Tolerance as Practice in Germany and Poland
(Presentation of the Project, Katarzyna Chlewińska and Nina Mühe)
14:30-15:00 Small reception and Conversations