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Gender and Diversity Training

4th & 24th November 2016; 16th December 2016; 9th January 2017
Potsdam, Brandenburg

The Gender and Diversity Training offered an interactive learning environment. Different discussion formats, exercises and inputs enabled the engagement with challenging information and offered a space for reflection. Furthermore, it provided the opportunity to support the group process of the first cohort of doctoral fellows who had just started the RTG Minor Cosmopolitanisms’ program. The Gender and Diversity Training consisted of four five-hour workshop sessions (Friday 04/11/16, 10 am – 3 pm; Thursday 24/11/16, 2 pm – 7 pm; Friday 16/12/16, 10 am – 3 pm and Thursday 19/01/17, 2 pm – 7 pm).

Regarding content, the Gender and Diversity training focused on intersecting forms of structural oppression. As requested by the spokespersons and coordinators of the RTG Minor Cosmopolitanisms, ‘race’ and gender have been taken as foreground examples. But it was emphasized at all times that these categories cannot be dealt with in isolation as they intersect with many others such as (e.g.) age, ability and class.

The workshop offered insights into historically grown thinking patterns and focused specifically on the local context of Potsdam. In a walking tour through Park Sanssouci statues and other traces of colonialism were pointed out to elaborate which of the symbols that stand for the Prussian kings’ grandeur and glory also silently remind us of exploitation, occupation and racism. We emphasized the continuity of those earlier forms of oppression by making Potsdam’s contemporary postcolonial silence a topic for discussion and reflecting our (participants and trainers’) roles within local and global power structures. Starting from the local context of Potsdam, we moved on to tackle, more generally, contemporary structures – traditions, rules and norms – that demand reconsideration and that affect everybody’s everyday lives. In various exercises, we discussed and reflected upon the different levels of discrimination – the institutional, cultural and individual level, which are often strongly intertwined.

While critically reflecting long established, intersecting forms of structural discrimination and our own position(s) and responsibilities in relation to oppressive socio-political processes, we also invited proactive discussions and exchange of ideas for alternative ways of (inter)acting. We introduced various spheres of influence, spoke about allyship and concrete measures participants would like to implement in the coming months.

A central method of the Gender and Diversity Training was Mahloquet as a way of communicating. This method has been derived from a Jewish tradition of dialog and interpretation for the context of Social Justice work. It includes a dialogic way of speaking as well as an ethico-political attitude which is based on an appreciative and respectful manner of dealing with each other. The dialog serves to exchange stories, ideas, perspectives and interpretations to learn from each other and not to judge or evaluate each other. The dialog serves to learn and understand by actively listening to another person’s point of view. Thus, a dialogic encounter lays bare differences and does not always seek consensus, though approximation is possible.

The whole program of the Gender and Diversity Training had been designed to foster awareness, critique and self-assessment for the actions we take in the world. Participants were invited to share experiences and knowledge with each other to understand and analyze multiple forms of oppression. We ended the training with a creative ‘empowerment project’ which allowed participants to express what they learned, what had especially moved them during the training or what they wished to continue thinking about.