„Einheit in Vielfalt? Zum Miteinander in unserer Gesellschaft“ – “Unity in Diversity? On Togetherness in our Society“
The annual meeting of the Cusanuswerk (May 28-30, 2021) had to take place virtually this year – like the KAAD Annual Academy in April – due to the pandemic. A newly agreed cooperation between KAAD and its “sister organization” was therefore not yet possible in the face-to-face-mode. The fact that the Cusanuswerk annual conference was held in online mode however led to a very high number of registrations: over 1800 current scholar and alumni had registered. Among them were 18 scholar of KAAD part – a similar number of participants from the Cusanuswerk had taken part in the KAAD annual convention in April. Thematically, the Cusanuswerk conference overlapped with the one by KAAD: while at KAAD we discussed languages and identities, at Cusanuswerk the focus was on the “cohesion” of society.
Highlights of the conference were the live-streams, in which prominent speakers and panelists appeared: First, the sociologist Prof. Dr. Armin Nassehi from LMU Munich argued that too much cohesion in society is not necessarily good. According to him, what matters is “that we resolve conflicts in a civilized manner.” The retired German President Joachim Gauck on the other hand, investigated the question of how the virtue of tolerance makes peaceful coexistence possible in the first place. He based his speech on his book „Toleranz: einfach schwer” (“Tolerance: Simply Difficult”).
In the central panel discussion of the conference, the central concept of identity was heatedly discussed. The university chaplain and journalist P. Max Cappabianca OP, who is closely connected to both the Cusanuswerk and the KAAD through his work at KSG Berlin, took part in this podium. Furthermore, the well-known journalist and author Jan Fleischhauer was on the panel as well as Prof. Dr. Nicole Deitelhoff (spokesperson for the “Forschungsinstitut Gesellschaftlicher Zusammenhalt” – Research Institute for Social Cohesion).
This discussion was picked up again in the discussion forum “Identity: Potion of Life or Social Construct? Psychological and Socio-Political Considerations ”. It was one of eight parallel workshops to further diversify the thematic panorama. The preparation and moderation of this forum was the responsibility of Dr. Marko Kuhn, Head of the Africa Department at KAAD. He was glad to introduce Prof. Jürgen Straub, social psychologist at the University of Bochum, as the main speaker. As expected, the whole conference dealt intensively with the concept of “identity”, which is why Prof. Straub primarily developed a social-psychological theory of an identity between totality and dissociation. The socio-political relevance of such a tension was discussed through many contributions to the discussion and questions to the speaker.
This discussion forum received a special international / intercultural insight into questions of identity and identity politics through the statements of five KAAD scholars. They were from five different regions of the world: Georgia, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Lebanon and China. The reports included the peculiarities of the respective personal identity formation as well as the political strategies and conflicts in the five countries of origin of the speakers, which are mostly multi-ethnic and thus “multi-identitarian”. Through these contributions, the discussion of the Cusanuswerk conference, which was oriented towards German society, broadened its view through global component that showed how structurally similar identity politics can be – especially when the corresponding mechanisms are exploited by those in power and those who want to get into power.