Love Me! Teach Me! Cross-Cultural Literacy in University Classrooms
Prof Alison Jones.
Dialogue, as a pedagogical ideal towards cross-cultural literacy, is contaminated with the very impulses it seeks to combat. Alison Jones maintains that unequally positioned ethnic groups come to cross-cultural dialogue in education with different, and incompatible, sets of interests. She maintains that calls for dialogue by the dominant white group are largely unconscious romantic desires for absolution and redemption – experienced when the other gives attention to dominant group assertions that ‘I want to understand’. Such an impetus can be read as imperialist, in that the imagined unity-through-dialogue requires the other to “love me! teach me!” and to open up their ‘territory’ of experience and belief to the scrutiny of the dominant group yet again.
In the interests of ‘cross-cultural literacy’ understood as competence in ‘reading’ the other , we suggest a possibility for cross-cultural work in classrooms. We focus both indigenous and white (‘coloniser’) students in New Zealand on moments in the groups’ mutual history - in the early engagements between Maori and Pakeha [white settlers] in Aotearoa/New Zealand in the early 1800s. Most of the engagements are reasonably well-known by New Zealanders, at least in the most general terms; the re-readings we offer are interpretations by Kuni Jenkins, a Maori academic, who, in reading the historical accounts with Alison Jones (a Pakeha colleague), and in the absence of written Maori interpretations of these moments, provides an indigenous view of the events described in the archival accounts of early Christian missionaries.
In doing this work, we attempt not only to impart the idea that stories told in historical texts are social and cultural constructions, but that they always have significant implications for today. That is, the texts and their readings provide the terms of contemporary possibilities for cross-cultural dialogue or ‘understanding’, and provide the possibilities for today’s relationships.
Prof Alison Jones (New Zealand)
School of Education
University of Auckland
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)