Too often labelled as simply being French, Czech or Chinese, engineer or peasant, educated or illiterate, an individual is above all his/her own multi-faceted self, belonging to several communities and not just one. In a very free manner but enriched by countless references to cross-cultural literature, this book recounts the personal experiences of its two authors, one from the world of business and the other from the world of humanitarian aid. Together they explain the use made of the concepts of culture and identity, the diversity of the approaches to the treatment of differences, and the appropriateness of using, in preference to the latter word (and in the vein of philosopher François Jullien), écart culturel or “cultural gap”, which is closer to a human truth that does not easily adapt to artificial contradictions and classifications into cultural compartments. They also explore the contrasting notions of integration and assimilation, miscegenation and “creolisation”, the latter term, in their view, being the most promising for the future.
Questioning the great cultural challenges of our time, the authors suggest ways for a new cross-cultural awareness that is pragmatic and capable of adapting to the realities of a world that is constantly changing. They invite the reader to recognise the strength of genuine “identity tinkering” and, more importantly, to experience the cross-cultural exchange.
A doctor of sociology, Philippe Pierre was a human resources director for almost twenty years, whilst working as a teacher and associate researcher at the LSCI (CNRS [French National Centre for Scientific Research])
Michel Sauquet has spent more than forty years of his professional life in the field of international and cross-cultural cooperation at NGOs and foundations.
Translated from the French by Derek Scoins