Interculturality – Concept, principles, importance and examples

We explain what interculturality is, its principles, examples and why it is important. Also, what is multiculturalism?

Interculturality is a phenomenon typical of today’s globalized world.

What is interculturality?

Interculturality is the social, cultural and communicative phenomenon in which two or more cultures or, rather, representatives of different specific cultural identities, relate on an equal footing, without any point of view prevailing over the others or being considered “normal”. This type of relationship favors dialogue and understanding, integration and enrichment of cultures.

Although culture has always been a field of frequent exchanges, crossbreeds and hybridizations, the concept of interculturality is typical of modern times. Today, globalization and digital commerce have brought people from very distant geographies and cultures into contact, and migration is a daily phenomenon. For this reason, the idea of ​​interculturality is in contact with other similar ones, such as those of diversity, plurality and multiculturalism.

However, the horizontal dialogue posed by interculturality has not been exactly common in human history. Economic empires, cultural hegemony and colonialism are a legacy that is difficult to reconcile with the idea that, deep down, cultures are all the same, without some being more advanced than others, or some better than others, but rather it depends on the point of view (that is to say, of the own cultural frame) of who thinks.

Principles of interculturality

The principles of interculturality can be summarized as follows:

  • There are no better cultures than others, nor more advanced, but all are equally worthy and deserving of respect. Therefore, the only way to understand a culture is to interpret it from your own criteria.
  • Cultures are enriched by contact with others: the greatest manifestations of cultural richness and variety are associated with migration, integration, hybridization and miscegenation.

There are three recognizable types of interculturality:

  • Relational interculturality, when it has to do with contact between cultures, that is, egalitarian coexistence between people of different cultural backgrounds.
  • Functional interculturality, when it has to do with the inclusion of traditionally marginalized groups in the economic, cultural, social and political apparatus of the nation, through equalizing mechanisms, such as positive discrimination.
  • Critical interculturality, when it has to do with the promotion of a critical debate regarding the relations between cultures, to illuminate and question the historical, colonial and racial inequalities between the different cultures, fostering a high-level cultural dialogue.

Importance of interculturality

Interculturality is vital in times of massive migration and cultural plurality, such as those of globalization. It is basically a question of proposing instruments for rethink traditional social, political and economic dynamics, in which a cultural group exercised hegemony over the others.

In this sense, the concept of interculturality is more useful than that of multiculturalism or pluralism, which simply diagnoses the presence of sociocultural elements other than traditional ones in a community.

Examples of interculturality

interculturality examples
Valuing cultural traditions from the institutions favors interculturality.

Examples of intercultural relationships today are:

  • The dynamics of international student exchange and promoting the learning of other languages ​​(and with them, other cultures).
  • The promotion of a global culture through initiatives such as the Unesco World Heritage Site and other similar institutions.
  • The academic reassessment of cultural and social traditions formerly scorned for belonging to “barbarian” or “backward” peoples.
  • Hybridization of markets typical of economic globalization.

Interculturality and multiculturalism

The concepts of interculturality and multiculturalism have many points of similarity, referring to the coexistence in human communities of people with different cultural backgrounds. Nevertheless, multiculturalism is content to point out and value cultural plurality, often ignoring the political and historical links that exist between cultures, and that are largely responsible for the place that each one traditionally occupies.

Instead, interculturality normally proposes an egalitarian valuation, that is, political-social of relations between cultures, emphasizing synergy and points of contact, hybridization and mutual enrichment between them.