Topic 5 Imagining a World of the Future

Les Back and Shamser Sinha (2016) tell us that Ivan Illich’s initial formulation of conviviality emphasises tools. By talking about tools, this gives a way out  ’out of either reducing conviviality to a sense of‘ identity’, or claiming a kind of underlying ‘cultural ecology’ that  structures and therefore explains convivial life’. In their ethnographic study they paid careful attention to the experiences of young migrants in order to ‘find the capabilities and resources that enabled them to live, make space to live within a city that remains divided by racism’. In one of our policy workshops, one of our participants said ‘curiosity is a protective factor against extremism’. Fostering curiosity is surely the task of education!

Back and Sinha say “The first tool we want to foreground is the fostering of an attentiveness to the life of multiculture. What we see in the young lives of all of the people we have worked with is a capacity to listen to, read and be surprised by London’s complex cultural landscape. They are curious about their social worlds and, as we have already noted, sometimes come to see it with the enchanted eye of a tourist. This kind of attentiveness to everyday multicultural life stands in stark contrast to what Noble calls perceptively ‘panicked multi-culturalism’(2009).

In the local context the terms of belonging can be redrawn as a result producing a kind of ‘neighbourhood nationalism’ that shifts partially the terms of inclusion (see Back1996). It is within the spaces of everyday life that prosaic negotiations with difference through intimate proximity take place and are often compulsory and necessary. These are best characterised as ‘micro-publics’ including workplace, schools, hospitals, colleges, youth centres, sports clubs and other contact zones of association including public transport” (2016: 533).

The key learning that they share is the following.

  • Tools of conviviality shape micro-publics rather than the other ways around. The social ecology of multiculture [..] provides the staging of a micro-public – where profound proximity and encounter take place – convivial life is fashioned through these capabilities that are used to make a convivial life’.
  • Intolerance of intolerance means not putting hate in your heart
  • Worldiness: It’s important to widen one’s map of the world.


  • What tools of conviviality do you have available to you, and which would you invent?
  • How do you resist putting hate in your heart?
  • How will you widen your map of the world?

Back, L. & Sinha, S. (2016) ‘Multicultural Conviviality in the Midst of Racism’s Ruins’, Journal of Intercultural Studies, (37)5, pp. 517-532.