Journal of Intercultural Communication, 21(3): 55-69

Intercultural Living Together, the Integration and Recognition of Self and Other: Applied Intercultural Ethics

Charles Biradzem Dine

University of Montréal, Canada



Rising global multidimensional migration has altered human/cultural interaction where one now needs to welcome another and the other needs to be welcome. Notwithstanding the intensified interaction, the resulting intercultural paradigm encounters myriad dehumanizing, alienating and subjugating challenges. While juxtaposing Europe’s and Quebec’s intercultural experiences, this article examines these challenges as fallouts of the difficulties or the unwillingness to complement the integration and recognition of self and other in fostering interactive intercultural communication to achieve intercultural living together. It underscores the exploitation of a pragmatic aptitude toward applied intercultural ethics – otherwise known as practical wisdom – to enhance deliberative reciprocity and motivate introversive and extroversive enhancements of the transition from simple living together to intercultural living together.

Keywords: applied intercultural ethics, deliberative reciprocity, integration, recognition, intercultural communication, intercultural living together.

1. Introduction: Rationale

The world has come to an era attributed by oneness (UNESCO 2013, 2009; Stenou 2002) galvanized by rampant transnational and multidirectional migration (Dasli 2017). Given that people move together with various tenets of their culture, all parts of the world – towns and cities (White 2017a), as well as countries and continents (Leeds-Hurwitz & Stenou 2013)—have become clusters of cultural traits. Consequently, issues concerning cultural diversity, multiculturalism and interculturalism are attracting much attention and instigating multidisciplinary discourses.

Nevertheless, establishing interactive intercultural communication to foster living together amidst cultural diversity still worries (Rachida 2017). The ideological slogan “global village” is placing all the peoples of the world at the same interactive opportunity or risk (Gojkov-Rajić & Prtljaga 2013). This is the reason UNESCO saw it necessary to admonish pluralistic societies to foster an intercultural lifestyle. UNESCO declared (Article 2; Stenou 2002: 4):

In our increasingly diverse societies, it is essential to ensure harmonious interaction among people and groups with plural, varied and dynamic cultural identities as well as their willingness to live together. Policies for the inclusion and participation of all citizens are guarantees of social cohesion, the vitality of civil society and peace.

This cultural knitting has convinced many people to believe that it is only through culture that we know a culture (Saillant, Kilani & Bideau 2011). As a consequence, descriptive terms like “interculturality”, “intercultural” and “interculturalism” are simultaneously emerging (White & Emongo 2014).

Paraphrasing Rocher and White (2014), the anthropologist Bob White clarified that while “interculturality” may refer to the social reality of contact/interactive communication between people of different cultural origins, “intercultural” refers to the concept incubating the philosophy that eases interaction between differences, and “interculturalism” is an interactive model of managing diversity as opposed to multiculturalism (White 2016). According to philosopher Charles Taylor (2012), the simple identification of traits indicating the coexistence of more than one culture in a particular area may be simply referred to as multiculturalism. But the development of socio-political interaction that may as well engender socio-economic interactions among cultures – envisaging a wider social coherence – warrants “interculturalism”.

Though interculturalism and living together can operate in parallel, they are treated here from their convergent perspective. Nonetheless, the concept “living together” still lacks satisfactory comprehension and appreciation despite its mounting importance. In 2018, the conference of the International Observatory of Mayors on Living Together attempted a comprehensive clarification. They elucidated the scenario of living together – though looking at it from the perspective of a city – as “a dynamic process involving various stakeholders in order to foster inclusion and a sense of safety and belonging” (ICCAR/OIMVe 2019: 4). To them, “living together means recognizing all forms of diversity, fighting against discrimination and working to facilitate peaceful co-existence among society’s members”. To implement the spirit of living together, “local stakeholders must work together to identify values that contribute to positive interactions and social cohesion”.

Emerging from the convergence of interculturalism and living together, the term “intercultural” conveys a presumption that the value of the union of cultural traits to human existence is principally its ability to justify beliefs and interests through interactive communication. The vision emanating from this article is the demonstrated proficiency of the complementarity of integration and recognition in fortifying social cohesion and cultural interaction in intercultural living together – as opposed to other, illiberal forms of living together.

While living together simply recognizes diversity and differences, intercultural integrates them. Intercultural living together is thus understood as a sociocultural setup in which all forms of cultural differences are recognized and integrated into a whole, with all members fighting all acts of discrimination and working together through dialogue to enhance social cohesion and deliberative interaction. This article aims to use this innovative vision to inspire intercultural stakeholders by stirring their emotions and actions. By “stakeholders”, I mean the ensemble of all individuals, groups and organizations that are socially or financially enhancing or otherwise influencing intercultural living together.

This is vital because, despite the increased rate of migration that clearly necessitates intercultural living together across the world, enormous alienating and subjugating challenges still bourgeon, provoking disdain and discomfort. One can vividly recall various rigmaroles and disagreements on immigration policies among the European states (Wilson 2014), within the Quebec vs. Canada intercultural disaccords (White 2016, Taylor 2012), and through a series of intercultural squabbles in sub-Saharan Africa (Oduaran & Nenty 2008). Since these challenges actively intensify, one cannot hesitate to ask: in this culturally diversified world, how can integration and recognition be called upon simultaneously to upgrade the concept of living together from a simple socio-political ideology into a convincing intercultural reality one can refer to as intercultural living together?

2. Objective and reflection vector: Research delimitation

This work reflects the ethico-anthropological appreciation of the profitability of complementing integration and recognition in animating intercultural living together in an era of dense migration. Migrants always emigrate from a sociocultural context or setting and immigrate into another. It is thus a fair thing to say that migration has brought about a rapid evolution of the global cultural blend necessitating an uneasy interculturalism.

On this premise, the article emphasizes the need to overhaul completely cultural interactive policies, thereby demonstrating the necessity of amending human integration/recognition methodology. It underscores that, despite the cultural metamorphosis induced on migrants by the coming together of cultures, some intrinsically enshrined pre-migration ways of life, values, beliefs and practices always retain their uniqueness. This is where recognition gains credit as the acknowledgment and acceptance of the differences and diversity of identities (Taylor 2012) while integrating and incorporating them.

The article gives a peculiar orientation to the concept of intercultural living together as a post-migration configuration of a blend of pre-migration experiences and ways of life. It demonstrates that the greatest setback to intercultural living together comes from the fear of people to relinquish aspects of their cultural identity for the new and unknown – even for the better. As Bob White (2016) said – highlighting the view of François Laplantine (2014) – while the minority group fears melting into the majority, the majority fears losing its privileges; and they each have the fear of not existing as before. Consequently, it becomes extremely difficult to determine the space needed within the sociocultural circle for the unknown.

This work aims at clarifying the doubts of many people who are still asking what is the degree of sameness that is indispensable to create and maintain intercultural cohesion in multicultural societies (Graber 2006, Wilson 2014). Using a systematic review to substantiate experience, the article approaches its objective by delving into the practical difficulty of inter-complementing the integration and recognition of self and other. This vision validates the necessity for a paradigmatic exploitation of insight from applied intercultural ethics that mandates the cultivation of practical wisdom through deliberative reciprocity (Cortina & García-Marzá 2017).

Deliberative reciprocity is not introduced into the discourse on intercultural living together only to stimulate intercultural competence, but also, mainly, to enhance cohesion between integration and recognition. Through deliberative reciprocity, one peacefully amalgamates egoism and altruism using intercultural dialogue (Ferri 2018). This helps avoid extremism that may instead arouse resentment, which is counterproductive to establishing effective intercultural living together (Wilson 2014). When participating parties in interculturalism recognize and integrate with each other envisaging intercultural living together, they should learn to distinguish, yet correlate, political and personal integration and recognition.

This article is inspired by the interactive experience within the Quebec society developed with a pragmatist’s epistemology vis-à-vis the scenario lived across Europe. The accumulated realities of daily interactions with dense sociocultural diversity raised the question of the interaction between “I” and “you” in a scenario of living together. It became necessary to understand how intercultural communication could unite integration and recognition to facilitate the cultural interaction that renders living together intercultural.

Using insight from pragmatically applied intercultural ethics, the interactive communication between “I” and “you” in living together is elucidated within the ethos of intercultural interaction between self and other. While the other is found in “you”, it is equally found in “I” as part of the self (Ricœur 2015, 1990). This analysis is substantiated within the pragmatist’s theory expressing how interculturalism prevails independently of one’s ideas, though one grasps and manages it with use of those ideas (Bourgeault, Dingwall & De Vries 2010).

Intercultural living together demands excellent management of both introversive and extroversive deliberative reciprocity with practical wisdom emanating from the expertise of applied intercultural ethics (Cortina & García-Marzá 2017). This article clarifies that:

3. From Multi- to interculture: An evolutionary paradigm

As global demographic composition and interaction are rapidly evolving in the 21st Century, so are many other social components of daily life. Consequentially, difficulties compromising on differences for the sake of intercultural living together are mounting (Stenou 2002). Against this setback, I am of the view that there should be intensive intercultural education for all stakeholders: a type of education as provided in this article that inspires minds and stirs emotions by activating actions with convincing concepts that appeal to and motivate intercultural awareness (Huber 2012).

One must acknowledge that many intercultural challenges emanate from human inability to say with sureness what one refers to by “culture” (UNESCO 2013). Culture is an interdisciplinary concept capable of satisfying multidimensional aspirations depending on interest and location (Joy 2011). It finds a multiplicity of definitions that may all be right in one way or the other. Limited by space, I cannot offer a catalogue of definitions here. Nevertheless, it is necessary to say that the concept of culture commonly encompasses a “set of signs by which the members of a given society recognize … one another, while distinguishing them from people not belonging to that society” (Huber 2012: 20).

Kroeber and Kluckhohn (1952) note that many societies, especially European ones, had for long been enticed by the ancient notion of culture that practically links it to civilization. They write that this notion of culture was used during colonization until it was renounced by sociology, then anthropology, in North America.

The socio-anthropological perspective on culture has remained a “set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of a society or social group, encompassing all the ways of being in that society, at a minimum, including art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions, and beliefs” (UNESCO 2013: 10). “Culture” refers to the ensemble of those particular values, practices, beliefs, attitudes, and language of a people that distinguish them from other people of other backgrounds (Idang 2015).

The Lévi-Straussian school of thought looks at culture as that human predisposition that manifests its modalities differently in any human society (Saillant, Kilani & Bideau 2011). It goes to say that a culture displays, in one way or the other, the intrinsic components of their life. Raimon Panikkar, as quoted by White (2017b: 29), looked at the concept of culture as that charming, intrinsic, intra-human characteristic that he expressed in the form of a question: “what is there in Man which makes him irreducible to unity and yet unable to renounce the quest for it?”

While intellectuals grapple with defining culture, people are living their cultures. As people migrate, cultural tenets and traits are interacting. Though the issue of migration dates far back into history, it was not until the 1960s and ‘70s that multiculturalism was given a wider, intensive consideration thanks to work in North America (Taylor 2012, Barrett 2013). The peculiarity of that era to the issue of multiculturalism is simply that it witnessed seemingly rapid and significant developments in the ways pluralistic societies could tackle the reality of “living with difference” (Meer & Modood 2012: 859). In other words, this period signaled the dawn of the reign of interculturalism.

With the intensification of interculturalism, understanding of cultural diversity evolved from being a simple political ideology (Meer & Modood 2012) to a social reality with all its challenges. While Quebec claimed pioneer leadership in this evolution (Rachida 2017), many immigration-oriented societies were caught off-guard. There was a necessity for cultural diversity to be recognized officially as an indispensable social reality. UNESCO stepped in with the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity in 2001 (Stenou 2002). Even then, most European countries equated recognition to tolerance and overshadowed it with disguised assimilation. They distorted immigration policies, claiming that tolerance had lost credibility in contemporary multiculturalism, then developed dehumanizing attitudes toward immigrants (Wilson 2014).

The majority of societies still desire to experience the “inter-” within multiculture. Frustration confronts them when this desire is associated principally with conviviality. Conviviality alone cannot take one out of multiculturalism into interculturalism because conviviality may only satisfy recognition, without integration. Borrowing the words of Paul Gilroy, Linda Lapina (2016: 34) defined conviviality as “a social pattern in which different metropolitan groups dwell in close proximity, but where their racial, linguistic and religious particularities do not – as the logic of ethnic absolutism suggests they must – add up to discontinuities of experience or insuperable problems of communication”.

One would do better to complement conviviality with convivencia so as to inspire the spirit of integration. Convivencia emphasizes intensive interactive communication based on practice, negotiation and achievement, which may include not only “happy togetherness” but also friction and conflict (Wise & Noble 2016: 425). This explains why many international organizations encourage societies to step beyond multicultural approaches characterized by mere coexistence of fragmented cultural tenets into adopting an intercultural approach based on the interaction of cultural traits (Leeds-Hurwitz & Stenou 2013, Council of Europe 2008).

Considering the confusion over what should be classified cultural in others with how it should be considered, many are asking if interculturalism is indeed the updated version of multiculturalism (Wilson 2014). This point encourages recapitulation of the salient nuances that make interculturalism a closer-to-perfect scenario for intercultural living together compared to multiculturalism. Interculturalism is something greater than coexistence; it is more geared towards interaction and dialogue than multiculturalism; it is less “groupist” and more yielding to synthesis, more committed to a stronger sense of the whole in terms of such things as societal cohesion and national citizenship. Where multiculturalism may be illiberal and relativist, interculturalism is more likely to give room to criticism of illiberal cultural practices, as part of the process of intercultural dialogue (Wilson 2014, Meer & Modood 2012).

Pluralistic oneness and living together are intrinsic natural human realities. Raimon Panikkar referred to that natural reality in humans as the original pluralism (White 2016). As long as people’s cultural peculiarities remain part of their cultural identity (Idang 2015, UNESCO 2013), intercultural living together remains indispensable and will always require a well-reasoned combination of integration and recognition. That said, the original pluralism needs the rationality of applied intercultural ethics to assume an intercultural order. That notwithstanding, the greatest difficulty may be to determine how and to what extent to recognize difference – by whom and for whom?

These ethical impasses may be practically handled with applied intercultural ethics through deliberative reciprocity (Cortina & García-Marzá 2017). For stakeholders to manage this situation successfully, they should be informed of the capacity to compromise on differences through contextualized intercultural dialogue (Hoffmaster 2018). That is, they should be able to accept difference, bring differences together, and use local disposition to harmonize differences to establish a perfect intercultural living together. This competence or insight is central to intercultural living together because:

These are the magical “three Ds” (White, Gratton & Rocher 2015) of intercultural living together. Diversity and dialogue are positive values encouraged by intercultural communication, while discrimination is the vice to be discouraged.

It goes without saying that, to convert the vision of living together from a mere political slogan or ideology into practical reality, proper intercultural communication must be fostered to bond recognition to acceptance and integration to inclusion. It is at this point that the expertise of applied intercultural ethics plays the pragmatic role in helping cultural pluralism (living together) to become properly intercultural (Rondeau 2013).

This expertise should never be confused with the simple explanation of ethical principles or the philosophical analysis of ethics. It should always be treated as an acquired aptitude. Above all, applied intercultural ethics should always strive to go contextual (Hoffmaster 2018), adjudicating and striking a balance, subscribing neither to subjugation nor alienation (Bourgeault, Dingwall & De Vries 2010).

4. Intercultural living together challenges: Intercultural policy framework

Ancient history talks of the Tower of Babel that marked the beginning of cultural diversity. It was believed that humanity, before then, had but one language, one speech and one ambition: to reach heaven. Yet as recently as only 500 years ago, human beings spoke 14,000 languages of which less than 7,000 now remain, with 40% of the world’s population speaking one of eight main languages (Deardorff 2011, 2009).

In the 21st Century, the top feature of the socio-anthropological landscape is intensified migration. This is why White (2017a) refers to this century as the century of migration. With aid of an advanced global communication system born of rapid techno-scientific development, the reality of the intercultural intensifies interdependence, though it often engenders tension living together with differences (Gojkov-Rajić & Prtljaga 2013).

People have to live with these differences. Despite the prediction of further reductions in global cultural differences as people become more and more amalgamated, the possibility of ever having a world of one people with one language is not eminent (Deardorff 2009). People can only strive to happily “live together with difference”. Conspicuous interactions have produced a mixed global society – not only in terms of skin color but all cultural traits. Humanity is faced with a common global platform with a certain degree of dynamism: the globalization of the world’s economy, the workforce necessitating an interdependent lifestyle, a rapid increase in labor and professional mobility, and the expansion of the scope of migration and global citizenship (Huber 2012).

The non-resilient backlash of the European “zero-tolerance” policies (Wilson 2014: 853) gradually enticed them to adopt the policy of assimilation. However, Quebec – despite some trans-partisan inconsistencies – resorted to a certain intercultural setup situated between the French assimilation-based “civic integration” and the Anglo-Saxon fragmented multiculturalism (Rachida 2017). They intensified development of intercultural communication to manage differences and conquer the emerging challenges of living together. The concept of living together could be taken to mean the harmonious cohabitation that permits emergence of a common society of people from different backgrounds sharing the same territory: “«vivre-ensemble» pourrait être défini comme une cohabitation harmonieuse qui permet l'émergence d'un projet de société commun entre personnes d'origines diverses qui partagent un même territoire” (White 2016: 58)

For a society to upgrade cultural cohabitation to intercultural living together, numerous sectors – e.g., the educational sector, sociocultural sector, and socio-political sector (Huber 2012) – require intensive intercultural readjustments to become intercultural themselves. In the educational sector, at least one of the top-ranking Anglo-Saxon and Francophone Universities is found in Quebec. Intercultural efforts must be built on the practicality of interactive intercultural communication and dialogue, the absence of which favors exclusion (White, Gratton, & Rocher 2015). All intercultural efforts should gear towards creating a new space that facilitates inclusion of individuals from different backgrounds.

Any contemporary government needs to sit up, get into its files and create a significant intercultural policy framework to guide inclusion and discourage discrimination. Of course, one must acknowledge the enormous difficulties inherent to outlining and respecting the principles guiding management of intercultural policies (White 2017a). This is why stakeholders in intercultural societies always take a practical approach to their intercultural policy, with reservations and taking discretions.

Whatever effort it takes, an intercultural policy framework is indispensable to averting intercultural challenges and establishing successful intercultural living together. Such a framework is a collection of codes defining (White 2017a)…

The proclamation of integration, and the recognition of the “king poles” rendering living together intercultural, are not automatically proactive. It is prudent to acknowledge that intercultural living together is a continuous evolutionary process characterized by countless ups and downs alongside benefits and setbacks posing challenges (Rachida 2017).

Intercultural stakeholders at all levels must acknowledge their responsibilities preaching modalities of recognition to supplement and enforce efforts toward “living with difference” (Meer & Modood 2012: 859). There is no doubt that the concept of intercultural is varyingly defined and lived in different societies. It simultaneously depicts a social reality, a political theory or ideology, and a traditional line of thought (White, Gratton & Rocher 2015).

Intercultural integration – an act of making others part of oneself and one’s daily successes – is guided by proactive frameworks on effective, inclusive protection against discrimination; economic inclusion with equal opportunities; common social provisions like health and education; recognition and awareness of diversity; and full participation in community upkeep (Watt 2006).

The Council of Europe (2013) has conceived intercultural integration as a political framework produced for realization of coherence, equality and development within a multicultural society. They have emphasized that it should be built on principles of equality, dignity, and respect for all citizens as subjects of law, liberty and responsibility, who are governed by the conviction of an inclusive, open-minded spirit towards all differences.

In the context of Quebec, intercultural integration emphasizes, among other points, incorporation into a society in which French is the common language of public life, while recognizing other languages as an asset; respect for democratic society where participation by and the positive contribution of all are respected and promoted; respect for a pluralistic society open to contributions allowable within the limits imposed by fundamental democratic values; and need for inter-community exchange (McAndrew 2007).

Intercultural flexibility in Quebec, compared to many European countries, has roots in global immigration history. According to Charles Taylor (2012), heavy immigration into most European states came later than in North America. While Europeans concentrated on protecting their patrimony from intercultural disorientation, Quebec concentrated on valorizing intercultural integration as a means of upgrading Canadian multiculturalism, which only acknowledged recognition. Thus, Quebec combined recognition and integration into interculturalism as a lifestyle recognizing differences and diversity.

According to Quebec’s framework that facilitates intercultural living together, while the other is integrated into a society where French is a common language facilitating intercultural communication and interaction, the self recognizes other languages (difference) to enrich intercultural living together. To bring intercultural order, Quebec’s intercultural living together is framed by common, fundamental democratic values (McAndrew 2007). Applied intercultural ethics enforces ethical order in intercultural societies through both asymmetric and symmetric cordiality.

Asymmetric cordiality binds the citizenry with the other – the administration/authority/government – by obligation but not as master. Symmetric cordiality animates “living with difference” with the other: one’s co-citizens (Ferri 2018). These two forms of cordiality animate reciprocal responsibilities to recognize and integrate differences. This is why Quebec adopted the middle position between civic integration – understood as disguised assimilation – and fragmented multiculturalism (Rachida 2017). That said, Quebec is far from interculturally perfect due to less-than-sufficient deliberative reciprocity, permitting some conceptual discrepancies to challenge the striving for intercultural inclusion.

In the midst of challenges that complicate intercultural inclusion, many question the practical difference between integration and assimilation. This confusion, especially among European states, stems from the French policy of civic integration understood as disguised assimilation, with the common observation that “when in Rome, do as the Romans do, or suffer the consequences” (Watt 2006: 158).

Worst of all, when “recognition” is equated to “tolerance”, it is detested, and resistance mounts. However, detesting “tolerance” is no surprise, though. Tolerance as a social ideal, figures a citizenry necessarily leashed against the pull of its own instincts; it embodies a fear of citizen sentiments and energies, which it implicitly casts as inherently xenophobic, racist, or otherwise socially hostile and in need of restraint. In its bid to keep us from acting out our dislikes and diffidence, the ubiquitous call for tolerance today casts… difference rather than sameness as the source and site of our enmity.

That said, tolerance is not a useless concept in intercultural communication. It is to be appreciated for its capacity to permit difference. As Novikova and Novikov (2013: 625) note:

One of the most important factors of the intercultural ¬communication and adaptation is tolerance. In the modern Western psychology… tolerance is considered from different points of view:

Each of all the parties in any intercultural circle needs to tolerate the other (difference) to achieve coexistence (White 2017a). UNESCO clarified discrepancies surrounding tolerance:

Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication, and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference.… Tolerance is not concession, condescension or indulgence.

It is enough to believe that tolerance, like recognition, has an important role to play in constructing an agreeable situation of intercultural living together. Like recognition, it appeases disdain with acceptance.

Nonetheless, whether we call it tolerance or recognition, as long as fear still deters cordial cohabitation between egoism and altruism, this evolutionary ambition to enrich Living Together with intercultural realities will ever remain timid and problematic. As aforementioned, we know that various intercultural circles are almost always incapacitated by fear, especially when it turns into “the fear that they will change us”.

It is indispensable to apply the pragmatic aptitude of applied intercultural ethics to balance the integration and recognition of self and other so as to dissipate fear, facilitate intercultural communication, and establish an ethical intercultural order.

5. Applied intercultural ethics and intercultural living together: The ethical framework of self and other

An ethical framework is particularly relevant in an intercultural society where respect and trustworthiness are important to fostering cohesiveness among cultures and maintaining peace. Applied intercultural ethics often goes contextual. It embraces an intercultural pragmatist’s theory that holds that the intercultural prevails independently of one’s ideas about it though one grasps it with the use of ideas. Its values depend not only on the real or ideal world, but also on its ability to justify beliefs and interests within the prevailing context (Bourgeault, Dingwall & De Vries 2010).

Since pragmatic theories tend to be sensitive to context detecting and covering the lacunae of policy framework, they promote a down-to-earth type of solution finding through use of deliberative reciprocity. Where policy framework is prejudiced or otherwise stereotypically legislative, deliberative reciprocity brings in public opinion. When public management demands excellence, it is not enough to avoid waywardness, since the law alone is insufficient. One needs to fashion and follow an ethos based on values, principles and virtues, not merely follow laws (Cortina & García-Marzá 2017).

Though laws are highly important in intercultural societies, principles of applied intercultural ethics are substantiated, enriched, moderated, specified and evaluated only in light of the context in which they are being practiced, not by application of laws (Motilal 2010). This is where applied intercultural ethics demonstrates its capability in establishing unity by handicapping any fragmenting of ethics as fed by fear.

The rational combination of integration and recognition leading to effective intercultural living together is facilitated by the rationale of cultural competences (White 2017b). Applied intercultural ethics enhances intercultural competence to recognize and valorize differences for contextual reasons. It is true that the merging of cultures has both advantages and disadvantages; but a healthy human capital depends on contextualized intercultural communication and competence. If intercultural competence becomes mere rhetoric, the results may instead be systemic discrimination (Rachida 2017).

To avoid such eventuality, applied intercultural ethics enforces relational ethics with the logic of belonging. This intensifies commitment to cultivate positive interrelationships that activate fundamental intercultural theories (White 2017a). In that spirit, everybody sees the necessity to put in place a deliberative ethics through intercultural dialogue (Rachida 2017) to infuse vital intercultural characteristics into living together. This helps applied intercultural ethics balance the interrelationship between self and other and give constructive orientation to polemics surrounding difference.

According to Levinas and his school of thought, applied intercultural ethics goes hand-in-glove with intercultural communication. This union demystifies the conflict between the perceived, imagined and observed at the macro level with economic and political systems, and at the micro level with regulation of self/other interaction – an ethos that is (Ferri 2018: 57):

…A comportment in which the other, who is strange and indifferent to you, who belongs neither to the order of your interest nor to your affection, at the same time matters to you. A relation of another order than that of knowledge, in which the object is given value only by knowing it, which passes for the only relations with beings. Can one be for an I without being reduced to an object of pure knowledge? Placed in an ethical relation, the other man remains other.

With this orientation, the proper deliberative reciprocity comes into play for each party in intercultural interaction. They must acknowledge that, just as their own cultural traits are important, so are those of others. Since intercultural activities often go contextual, most of the components of any intercultural setting bear the views of the society in question. They are substantiated by local intercultural policies, politics and frameworks (Wilson 2014, White 2017a). That said, there had been calls and efforts to come up with inclusive global intercultural policies (Graber 2006, UNESCO 2013).

If any intercultural policy is to be practiced without risk of becoming a banner for hypocrisy, it must recognize diversity, profess to fight discrimination, and create space for dialogue (White 2017a). On this premise, one may establish the collaborative temple of integration and recognition. Absence of the one makes the other obsolete or abusive. In the absence of recognition, integration becomes disguised assimilation, following in the footsteps of French civic integration (Watt 2006: 158) with its principle of non-differentiation (Wilson 2014: 854). In the absence of integration, recognition turns into the fragmented policies of Anglo-Saxon-style multiculturalism (Rachida 2017). In the struggle to balance this situation, applied intercultural ethics created a pragmatic intercultural paradigm (Bourgeault, Dingwall & De Vries 2010) by blending integration as incorporation and recognition as acceptance: the acceptance and incorporation of diversity.

More often than not, this inspiring intercultural paradigm is hampered by conflicts of interest and sentiments resulting from differences in human character. There are always people carried away by fear of the unknown: some who simply are difficult to deal with because they are always in discord, some who are always in need of extensive or repeated explanations to be convinced, and some who categorically renounce all attempts at interculturalism to ignite opposing politics (Rachida 2017). When these personality traits come together, the result is phobia and rejection. When the supporting politics become inhuman, the dehumanizing and alienating or subjugating policies reign. Things too often go too wrong when intercultural cohesion is attempted, as H.E. Wilson (2014: 857) insinuated, on some…

…Taken-for-granted values of equality and cultural valence and is further presumed to be sufficiently secure so as to provide the moral equivalent of a stable starting point for political reflection … [It] marks a de-emphasis of material deprivation and socio-economic marginalization … [only] concentrating on inter-community relationships.

It stands out clearly that successful intercultural living together must be addressed ethically with mutual intercultural communication and understanding that trigger evidence-based consciousness of intercultural responsibility in the citizenry.

It remains worth asking whether decision-making in intercultural circles is determined by autonomous transcendental imminence or heteronomous contingence. Since intercultural emphasizes both “inter-” and “cultural”, heteronomous and autonomous affections are simultaneously called to action. When the emphasis is on the “inter-”. the relationship is “ethical, rational, open ended and heteronomous”; When it is on “cultural”, the relationship is “ontological, autonomous and guided by the necessity of the self to determine outcomes through the use of cultural categorization of the other” (Ferri 2018: 63).

This is why, at times, the place of knowledge or competence is primordial in applied intercultural ethics. It provides the autonomous consciousness of the self and the heterological knowledge of the other, intensifying integration and recognition and leading to conscious interactive communication. In light of Paul Ricœur’s paradigm of interactive ethics, it displays the interaction between self and other as a two-fold ethical consciousness exercised with use of practical wisdom. This consciousness first manifests itself internally within the “I”, which is made up of the self and the other, then shifts towards the external other who is co-citizen or neighbor (Ricœur 2015, 1990).

The processes of integration and recognition systematically plays out within each actor – be it a moral or personal actor – then among actors. As it is for the immigrant, so it is for the indigenous citizen: one must recognize (accept) and integrate (incorporate) the new other in the “I” that is characterized by the most recent intercultural changes. The “I” submits itself to accept and incorporate the other who is characterized by difference.

Interaction between individuals (symmetric relations) is guaranteed by the asymmetric relations that define the responsibility individuals establish with the authority. The authority has the responsibility to balance the social, political and economic playing field for all actors. In return, the authority demands respect for the patrimonial structure that unites intercultural living together.

Complex interaction is realized through deliberative reciprocity (Cortina & García-Marzá 2017) with insight from applied intercultural ethics (Perkins 2006). When the dexterities of communicative ethics (Habermas 1990) are judiciously exploited, applied intercultural ethics successfully manages fear, discord, hatred and misunderstanding, leading to comprehension, acceptance and inclusion (Rachida 2017). In the case of Quebec, patrimony is safeguarded through the French language and rights assured by the acceptance and inclusion of differences within an intercultural society framed by common democratic values (McAndrew 2007).

Applied intercultural ethics valorizes recognition in establishing intercultural living together. It uses its deliberative wisdom to generate consciousness that fuses the differences. While recognition creates room for simple acceptance with its policy of “let us live together”, applied intercultural ethics takes actors further by giving them convincing reasons to live together. When intercultural actors use intercultural communication to manage deliberative reciprocity (Cortina & García-Marzá 2017), they rise beyond simple acceptance of differences to see differences as necessary complements to their subsistence.

The other becomes as necessary to socio-anthropological accomplishments as the self. At that point, applied intercultural ethics in the form of intercultural communication becomes mode, motif and motive (Motilal 2010) of intercultural living together. It is worth noting that intercultural communication is not only verbal, but physically and emotionally interactive.

6. Discussion and conclusion

The realization of intercultural living together is one of the most complex contemporary social phenomena, one that necessitates emphasis on the importance of intercultural communication. The perpetual call to institute intercultural living together in multicultural societies is no longer a simple socio-political ideology but a socio-anthropological reality. That said, given the intercultural dexterity it requires, even societies that have been in the process of creating it much longer still seem to be as confused as newcomers.

No society can convincingly and without self-contradiction claim to have achieved prototypical intercultural success as was posited of Quebec by the Taylor-Bouchard Commission (Rachida 2017, White & Emongo 2014). For all the centrality of integration in a proper intercultural setup, its operational phase still baffles many for lack of enough experience in intercultural communication and comprehension. Many societies still go about integration either with reservations like most European states (Wilson 2014) or with a mix of anxiety and pride like Quebec (Taylor 2012).

What makes intercultural integration more daring is intercultural communication that is exercised through intercultural dialogue. Such intercultural communication facilitates (Wilson 2014: 859)…

…An open and respectful exchange of views between individuals and groups with different ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds and heritage, on the basis of mutual understanding and respect. It requires the freedom and ability to express oneself, as well as the willingness and capacity to listen to the views of others.

There is no gainsaying that intercultural communication remains a tool par excellence to establish successful intercultural living together by complementing integration with incorporating and recognition with accepting. This complementarity helps balance self and other, facilitate a cohabitation of egoism and altruism, and avert cultural extremism.

One is tempted to believe with Levinas that the self always exists in the ontological realm until it comes into heterogeneous relationship with the other and acquires ethical significance. One might believe with him that, in intercultural setups, one witnesses “full self-consciousness affirming itself as absolute being, and confirming itself as an I that, through all possible differences, is identified as master of its own nature as well as of the universe and able to illuminate the darkest recesses of resistance to its powers” (Ferri 2018: 64).

Intercultural confrontations often result in confusion as each intercultural partner has an internal self and other to confront before confronting the external other. Successful intercultural integration demands the cultivation of intercultural competence. This competence turns on three main points: awareness of the presence of the self and other; understanding of the differences between them; and appreciation of common grounds, similitudes and mutual benefits (Deardorff 2009). These characteristics help foster openness to others along with understanding and respect for cultural traits diverging from one’s own, listening to and interaction with others amidst differences, having sufficient self-awareness and awareness of others, and developing clear intercultural communication that facilitates intercultural flexibility (Barrett 2011). If these are absent from any intercultural circle, integration becomes political ideology and intercultural is relegated to simple moral judgments of good or bad (Ferri 2018) – which can only turn society into an abyss of phobia and hatred, making intercultural living together a scenario to be dreaded.

About the author

Charles Biradzem Dine is a PhD candidate in applied human sciences at the University of Montreal, Canada. He holds a BA in philosophy, a master’s in philosophy of ethics and a maîtrise in applied ethics. His research works are often interdisciplinary, inclining towards applied ethics, cultural diversity, and human wellbeing. He is a student member of the Laboratoire de Recherche en Relations Interculturelles at the University of Montreal and of the Groupe de recherche Ethos at the Université du Québec à Rimouski.


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