From dialogue to poly-logos

di Chiara Galbersanini

On 18-20 February the seminar “From dialogue to poly-logos- The Mediterranean and beyond. A relational path on identity, consent, collaboration” took place. It was organized by Sophia Global Studies (SGS) in collaboration with several entities and study centers that operate in the field of dialogue (the NetOne network, the publishing group Città Nuova, the international center of MPPU, the Dialop project, the Center for interreligious dialogue of the Focolare Movement, the international Center Giorgio la Pira, the Sophia Network for Eastern Europe, the Department of philosophy, human social sciences and education and the International Human Being Research Center of the University of Perugia).

The seminar precedes the meeting of bishops from the Mediterranean Churches and the Mediterranean mayors from 23 to 27 February in Florence. It stems from a journey that has begun about a year ago with professors from various disciplines (law, political science, theology, international relations, communication and pedagogy) and with professionals with experience of dialogue on several fronts, in order to debate and discuss the issue: «Which is the distinctive feature of dialogue, if one can define it? Is it a mode of the communicative action or does it imply something else? When can it be defined as a dynamic process capable of producing transforming effects? ». And still, «Does it suffice to speak of dialogue in a plural and complex world, or would it be more appropriate to speak of polylogue or poly-logos, a concept theorized by the sociologist Bauman, which highlights the different levels of both dialogue and the multiplicity of human truths? ».

The three days of debate and discussion provided theoretical sessions, case studies and round tables, with attendance of about seventy students, PhD candidates and professionals. The three main macro-areas of study have been: communicative dialogue, interreligious dialogue and political dialogue on a local and global scale. Round tables also involved international experts and professors as Prof. Fadi Chehadé, ICANN’s director, Vinu Aram, president of the Shanti Ashram Center, Prof. Russell Pearce at Fordham University of New York who is an expert of the dialogue between Israel and Palestine for an insight on Mediterranean and international contexts and Prof. Massimiliano Marianelli, full professor of philosophy in Perugia.

It emerged that often both in theoretical study and mostly in practice, one uses and refers to a weak conception of dialogue where dialogue is considered a pacific method to find a common ground, a sort of “lowest common denominator” to avoid conflict or hide it. Today, this “weak” conception of dialogue is insufficient and in crisis. We currently deal with areas that are often polarized from a social, communicative, political, anthropological and theological point of view. Nevertheless, although we are not always aware of it, we experience a strong complexity affecting phenomena both locally and globally, where the level of interconnexion is extremely high and diversity is involved. Complexity, multiplicity, plurality, diversity are the features of the world we live in.

The contribution and analysis of case studies (“Dialogic journalism” with the director of La Nazione Agnese Pini; “Project DIALOP- dialogue between Christians and European left wing movements” with the director Cornelia Hildebrand of the Foundation Rosa Luxemburg; “Wings of unity” with Prof. Mohammad Ali Shomali, director of the Islamic Centre of England) proved that the conflict of visions- per se- is not a insuperable obstacle to the understanding as long as it is the expression of a pluralism of ideas and practices. Indeed, multiple discourses are relational but often disjunctive realities of the contemporary world. The poly-logos is a “multi-dialogue” not only due to the plurality of players but also because of the richness of its contents, applicative areas and vast possibilities of its results. It is an exercise of multiplicity in search of a relational and planning cohesion.

The seminar concluded with the awareness that the path taken so far must continue to promote greater relational and planned cohesion in contemporary society, in its various levels of articulation (interpersonal, social, political, local, national, global). It also shall open further paths of study and sharing, imagining new areas of application, unprecedented models and scenarios of a multi-dialogic approach in social, theological, communicative and political action.