For 2017, we will organise six rows of workshops with different groups, including refugees and locals where we will discuss the ideas, perspectives and values that constitute European culture and identity. These themes fit within the bigger themes of social and political diversity – that is to say pluralism – and feature democracy, freedom (religious freedom, freedom of choice, freedom of association), individual autonomy, emancipation, tolerance, identity, gender and equality, homosexuality as well as mutual fears between refugees and locals.
In our workshops, participants are treated as equal citizens where together we think seriously about what our society should look like. We do not simply teach participants what the values and laws in Germany and other European countries are, we discuss and justify these social and political realities. Our role as we see it is to utilise our academic backgrounds to complement the work of integration in Brandenburg. As a social and political scientists, our strength is to work with refugees and local people to construct an argument for an equitable, emancipated, free civil society. It is only by approaching these conversations in this respectful way that one can expect the participants not only to know the values and laws but also to be convinced and act in accordance with them.
In our workshops, we aim to make clear how ideas like democracy, freedom, tolerance and emancipation hang together and support one another and ultimately based on our understanding of what it means to be a human being and what it means to live in a decent society. Our workshops are based around asking questions and insisting on logical consistency from participants; we do not take a confrontational approach. In a deliberation, we begin with abstract, normative ideas such as freedom, tolerance and democracy, and then translate the insights that we have developed together into concrete subjects such as forced marriage, headscarves, or equality. Because these are closely contingent “essentially contested concepts”, a discussion about the characteristics of a democracy goes beyond itself to discussions about concepts such as freedom, equality or tolerance. We use quotes, theses, pictures and short documentary films to inspire talks and overcome language problems. Participants should feel respected and safe, above all, they should feel taken seriously. We therefore avoid direct comparisons between countries and cultures, and show, among other things, historical developments (for example, how did the ideas about equality in Germany develop in the last century?). Our ultimate aim is to show and learn together that it is possible, useful and enlightening to discuss with other citizens fundamental values, ideas and perspectives. The workshops are an experience in tolerance, reflection, social and political participation, which will hopefully pave the way for further deliberative exchanges.
We apply the rich empirical research on deliberation to our thinking on this project. In addition, we build on the experiences and competences that we have developed in 2016 in Brandenburg and Berlin with deliberative projects.
This project was made possible by the generous support of the Brandenburg ministry for education, youth and sport through the integration commissioner (Integrationsbeauftragte des Landes Brandenburg (Ministerium für Arbeit, Soziales, Gesundheit, Frauen und Familie).
A flyer outlining the project is available here: Workshop flyers