University – in – Différance

Laboratory of the Artes Liberales Faculty,  the University of Warsaw

by Zoja Morochojewa and Anna Wróbel, Engl. transl. by Nadezda Aydaeva. December, 2014. 


The  University of  Warsaw as a comfortable study place for students from non Western countries, with a focus on Asian regions


The recent years have been encountering the increasing flow of discussions on the clash of Western and other civilizations’ values. New civilizational ideologies have been developed  as a foundation for building blocks of states on the ground of shared values (e.g., Eurasian, European, Atlantic). Old assumptions about social life related to specifics and  values of some cultures (Asian values, World muslim civilization) have been revitalizing.

Due to the growing number of migrants the border between civilizations is no longer outside   the European communities but inside them. Civilizational differences tend to be more  obvious in economics,  politics, everyday life and space. Intercultural contacts promise to be more intensive,  expanded and obvious. Due to growing political and economic importance of the Asian continent we face the fact  of the emergence of other than Western world centers. The process of intercultural interactions will inevitably be very complicated.

We think the coordination of university education and academic mobility in such a complicated situation can play a specific role. Universities are indeed one of the places to stand aside from conflicts being able to build grounds for mutual intercivilizational understanding.

Why UW?

The majority of the foreign students at the  University of Warsaw  come from countries of other than Western civilization. They are from Asia and the regions on the borderland between the West and other civilizations (Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasus). Meanwhile they  have been taught educational programmes being oriented for students  from Poland (the Poles and those socialized in Polish culture).

The University education is organized on the foundation of the Western paradigm causing the Eurocentric way of thinking and developing the forms of education  grounded on these relations. These  characteristics are the consequences of the linear paradigm of time and space understanding in the classic model of substance.  Guided by these assumptions we assume that the  University of Warsaw as a European institution seems to be not a very comfortable place for representatives of non-Western civilizations, mostly because of the impeded intercultural communication.  The majority of the University courses are given   in Polish and are primarily oriented to Poland’s needs and  European Union’s perspective as well.

This orientation is not sufficient any more in the situation of the globalizing world. This project supposes the possibility to develop the education coordination model in the perspective of intercivilizational communication. The project aims at developing  the up-to-date education model of intercivilizational cooperation at the University. According to Jacques  Derrida’s concept the model is named “University – in – Différance”.

University – in – Différance

              Différance is a French term coined by Jacques Derrida, deliberately homophonous with the word “différence”.

              Différance plays    on the fact that the French word différer means both “to defer” and “to differ.”

University – in – Différance is a model of intercivilizational  communication on the basis of deconstruction in the perspective of a dialogue. The issue is to arrange conditions for the process of intercivilizational communication being opened to other modes of thinking, other logics in addition to the Western ways of thinking.  In our model intercivilizational communication is not grounded on the similarity principle but on the diversity (différance).

With instruments of cultural anthropology and social studies we arrange conditions for representatives of diverse civilizations, for a guest/alien and a host/self to interact .

The objective is to shift communication from civilizational to intercivilizational mode. A dialogue between actors  emerges  as a prove of discovering the common ground in the intercivilizational channel. We focus on such  assumptions as time and space as well as those ones related to notions of personality, patterns of social relations, ethical and moral issues.

We are searching for ‘problem zones’ related to cultural diversity, stereotypes and differences in thinking. Each of the counterparts in this process has an opportunity to go out of the borders of his/her socio-cultural world and  the deconstruction process opens the chance to come to  the intercivilizational communication code.

At the point when it is possible to overcome the conditions of someone’s own civilization and make a relative coming out of its limits, a site for a dialogue is being built in the interaction process. The matter is that the condition of nobody dominating the other is only possible in the situation of multiple contexts and in this case the actors are equal.

Due to its relative nature we refer to the language of postmodernism as we think this language  is open to codes of other worlds  (including in the Eastern one) . It is the very same approach which has challenged the problems of colonialism, orientalism and questioned the issue how to speak to ‘silent worlds’.

The project objectives:

1.To develop University – in – Différance, an up-to-date education model of intercivilizational interaction at the University of Warsaw.  University – in – Différance is a model of intercivilizational communication on the basis of deconstruction in the perspective of a dialogue.

2.To analyze intercivilizational academic mobility at the UW; try to develop a new  formula for students/ academics/researchers exchange  from diverse civilizations differing in organizational and working experiences at academic institutions.

3.To analyze the aspect of intercivilizational exchanges in the Bologna system created for cooperation of Western universities; search for the opportunities of using the system in the intercivilizational context.

The Project Outcomes

In the end the programme will help to attract attention of students from enlarging number of new cultural and civilizational  worlds. The case with Artes Liberales Faculty shows that a good and well developed programme for foreign students promotes the inflow of foreign students.

The programme will enhance the quality and efficiency of the international academic mobility  management at the University of  Warsaw and promote more efficient financial policy in this sphere. It will improve coordination between various UW centers for foreign students.

The growing flow of students will lead to increase  in Pollonicum activities and stimulate the UW to fight for the market of adaptation services until recently  being provided  by other science centers (mainly by Łódź, Rzeszów, Wrocław, Kraków).

The programme plans to increase the University activity in the international cooperation net.  We suppose  the UW is likely not as prestigious as Western universities for foreign students. Building of its own exclusive image is the chance to become a mediator between diverse civilizational worlds and provide specialized  education programmes for people from other cultures and civilizations.

Our programme promotes the perspectives for changing the University of Warsaw as the national institution to a global one, thus introducing the UW into the extremely different context. We hope to develop the programme of openness representing Poland all over the world.

The long term effect is that the UW will be more open to ideas from non- Western civilizations. We believe the Western science at the UW can acquire  knowledge and notions from non-Western civilizations. We  hope the dialogic atmosphere we want to create in our programme will help promote new science knowledge and innovative thinking.

The programme will outcome in new and more efficient ways of interaction with  students from diverse civilizations (Western and non-Western). The programme plans to analyze multiple case studies at the University. The results of the analyses can be used and disseminated in the education courses, in classes and after classes meetings.

Participation of the Polish students will result in a more productive cooperation and communication with foreign students. Polish students will obtain intercultural skills being very useful for their successful future. By this we do not mean only a better understanding of the world and increasing of the horisonts, but mastering of practical skills of living in the world where intercultural relations have been distributing wider and farther.

The project will promote better understanding of at the UW foreigners’ needs and problems. Deep interviews with foreigners being taken at the university give us directions for research issues. These interviews make us think of cultural diversities (and of cultural shock sometimes) as of non temporary or  casual phenomena.  Foreigners are used to say they have experienced them during the whole length of their stay and in all the spheres of everyday life. These differences impact substantially the way and degree of their knowledge  learning (or not learning) at the UW, their efficiency of staying at the University and quality of their cooperation with the University.[symposium-lounge]

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