Watene, Krushil (2017). 'Intercultural conversations and the capability approach' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


Although remaining frequently implicit, intercultural conversations, understood as gatherings of (more or less) representative speakers from diverse cultural traditions with the aim of identifying common grounds, norms and basic notions, are at the core of international conferences and conceptions of justice (Rawls’ “original position”, for instance). Also the CA, as a purportedly universal approach, only recently begun to include necessarily intercultural deliberations in order to, for example, draw up broadly shared lists of capabilities without paternalism (Davis and Wells 2016).

Yet since the 1980s, the philosophical sub-discipline of “intercultural philosophy” has been particularly engaged in exploring common grounds and methods for organizing intercultural conversations. In particular, Intercultural Philosophy emerged in ongoing conversations between Germany (e.g. Kimmerle 2002; Paul 2008; Elberfeld 2004), Netherlands (e.g. Mall 1992), Austria (Wimmer 1990; 2004a; 2004b), México (e.g. Dussel 2000; Raúl Fornet-Betancourt 1994; Raul Fornet-Betancourt 2015), Argentina, India (Nosco 2007; Elberfeld 2004; Panikkar 1997), China and Japan (e.g. Elberfeld 1999; Roetz 1992). More recently it also included contributions from and about Islamic (e.g. Hondrich 2004; Al-Azmeh 1996), Andean (Estermann 1999; Estermann 2012a; Waldmüller 2014; Mujica 2014) and African philosophy (e.g. Hallen 2002; Graness and Kresse 1997; Graness 2015; Mbiti 1969), regarding itself as “most effective way to overcome stereotypes, racism and cultural arrogance” (Paul 2008). Being a prolific field, it has produced its own channels of publications, conferences and networks (e.g. Other than just comparatively assembling and sharing knowledge about non-Western philosophical traditions, its purpose is to elaborate normative guidelines of a higher ethical recognition, seen as being the shard result of truly global-intercultural deliberation. In this sense, it contributes to overcoming the ethnocentrism of Western philosophy and science, including the foundations of the CA.

But how might these intercultural conversations with and about the capability approach take place? What opportunities and challenges for intercultural conversations exist within the capability approach? In what ways can intercultural engagement enrich the capability approach? This panel provides a starting point for this discussion, canvassing concepts and ideas from a diverse range of cultural perspective and bringing these ideas into conversation with the capability approach.

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