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A Conceptual Approach

The idea of inter-culturality emerged as a concern for and the questioning of the awareness of diversity in ways of living, communicating, and thinking.

Inter-culturality is a contested, misunderstood concept currently (2005 – 2010) used in few ethics goals; its definition in this paper is the result of constant reflection on experiences in work and life. Making an attempt at its definition, we could say that inter-culturality is the interaction between two or more cultures to communicate and share their ways of being in their social and natural lives. In this interaction, the challenge is that neither is above the other, taking supremacy and demonstrating economic, political, social, or biological dominance; this natural, basic tendency of humanity to want to oppress others is the greatest challenge.

In a typical relationship between cultures, one hopes that the people come together to express values of respect, tolerance, and dialogue towards both profound and superficial differences they encounter. The challenge is the necessary exchange of knowledge, skills, and values between each culture to achieve the enrichment of all. It should however be noted that the term enrichment should also be debated.

When one refers to the term, inter-culturality, the idea immediately arises that it is only a relationship between cultures. It is rather an exchange of ideas, abilities, and ways of being between also man and woman, child and adult, MASist and neo-libertarian, capitalist and communist, businessman and farmer, and you and I.

Related to the term, ‘inter-culturality’, is another called ‘diversity’ whose meaning refers to the variety, multiplicity, and plurality in all that constitutes the person, environment and social, religious, spiritual, and cosmological spheres.

These concepts are not extraordinary. There are other even more complex concepts that should be discusse, without necessarily coming to an agreement, such as language and cultural characters, codes, dialect varieties, and other unique linguistics, that serve as the means of communication.

In the process of inter-culturalization, one can observe various forms of interactions including the intercultural asymmetry between dominator and dominated groups, and depending on the cultures, that coexistence can result in true co-living or true conflict. All of these interactions depend on what underlying values the relationship is based on.

The topic of rules is not exclusive from the discussion of the term, inter-culturality, and it can be understood as a legal-political environment, that enables those from different areas to live democratically, in which human values are the essential foundation of governments and states, leadership tends to be understanding, and dynamic participation is one of the most important mechanisms for co-living, and is the organization in which between parties skills in conflict resolution are means for agreeing and disagreeing.

Interculturality is truly the best manner for building democratic systems with true representation. Through it, inclusion of differences exist allowing open debating and deliberating; in which minorities are not only a number or conglomerate of people, that are excluded for being different, but rather are taken into account. Ethics will play such a crucial and determinate role and reduce the differences of the power in relation to the weak 1.


Since the nineties, Latin America and in particular, the Andean region, has received great attention for its ethnic-cultural diversity. It has resulted in legal recognitions and brought attention to the growing need to promote positive interactions between different cultural groups in order to confront discrimination, racism, and exclusion, to make citizens aware of differences and able to work together for the development of their country and the construction of a just, equitable, equal, and plural society. Inter-culturality is a part of this effort.

As a concept and practice, process and project, inter-culturality means, in the most general sense, the contact and exchange between cultures in equitable terms and conditions of equality. Such contact and exchange should not be understood simply in ethnic terms, but also in terms of on-going relationships, communication, and learning, between distinct people, groups, understandings, values, traditions, logics, and rationalities, oriented to generate, construct, and favor mutual respect and full development of the abilities of individuals and collectives over cultural and social differences. As such, inter-culturality attempts to break the historic hegemony of having dominate and subordinate cultures and through this, reinvigorate traditionally excluded identities to build, both in daily life and social institutions, a co-existence of respect and legitimacy among all groups of society.

Inter-culturality is not a description of a given, achieved reality nor is it a nearly ‘natural’ attribute of societies or cultures (Guerrero, 1999). Rather, it is a process and continuous activity. Inter-culturality should be understood more as an action verb rather than a noun; as a task for all of society and not only the Indigenous and Afro-descendent sectors. As such, inter-culturality has a critical and central role in all social institutions of reconstructing, step by step, societies, structures, systems, and processes (social, political, legal, and epistemic). It operates between all relationships, attitudes, values, practices, knowledge and understandings based on respect, equality, and the recognition of differences and democratic co-living.

Frequently, the terms, multi/pluri- and inter-culturality are used as synonyms. Therefore, a first necessary step is to clarify the meaning of inter-culturality and distinguish it from other terms.

Multi/pluri- and inter-culturality refers to cultural diversity. However, it suggests different ways of conceptualizing this diversity and developing policies and practices related to it in organizations and institutions in society and the state itself. Consider these differences.

Inter-culturality is mainly a descriptive term. Basically, it refers to the multiplicity of cultures existing in a determined space (local, regional, national, or international) without necessarily having interactions. It has the most meaning in the context of western countries such as the United States, where national minorities (African and indigenous descendants) co-exist with various immigrant groups and with ‘involuntary minorities’ whose presence is associated with colonial or imperial expansion of the United States; this is the reality of Puerto Ricans, chicanos, and Caucasians, all of which are decedents of other countries, principally Europe. This is also very relevant to Europe where immigration has recently increased 2.


1 Camacho Prado, Silvia. Saberes y Conocimientos de las 36 Naciones del Estado Plurinacional.La Paz: UMSA; 2010 p.9

2 Fernández Osco, Marcelo. Pluriversidad: rostros de; la interculturalidad; La Paz: COOPI; 2009 p. 41

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