A New Word Order - how language impacts culture

Yesterday I was delighted to connect with culture|futures member Mik.

Mik's Background is in journalism, music and culture and he worked at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation for several years... He then set up a production company, and armed with a video camera, set about making documentaries. He worked with Olaf on 6 huge "Images Of..." festivals in Denmark, kicking off with Images of Africa. Each festival hosted 1000s of events, and managed the press for these events.

Today Mik works with communication, setting up the bureau and magazine Cultures with some colleagues (inc. Ivan) and the "Danish Centre for Arts & InterCulture"

He understands how important language is in the evolution of culture. For example, the word "integration" in Denmark has been hijacked by right-wing political parties and has come to mean "assimilation" i.e. you should become the same as us, or you're not integrated...

To reclaim a positive approach, Mik and his colleagues have developed the word 'InterCulture' to describe people who are Danish, in that they may be born / brought up in the country, but whose lineage is from a 'different' (or as we say in UK, a 'diverse') ethnic background. 10% of the Danish population are 'intercultural' but this isn't reflected in the faces on TV or political office; Mik and his friends "wanted a fresh word" that didn't focus on a person's ethnicity or skin colour, but on the fact that someone from a non-Danish lineage brings different experiences and cultural backgrounds.

It is hoped that use of the word will spread indirectly and organically...

This is enormously inspiring for those of us who are looking for a new word for sustainability which has multiple meanings including "the capacity to endure" (yawn) which infers a limited paradigm of survival and is frankly, rather boring and uninspiring. Does anyone have any ideas for a new word?

See Mik's corner of cyberspace here.

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Comment by Juhi Shareef on December 8, 2009 at 11:20
Thanks, John! Conference is going really well. I will check out your dop and rot lady!

Comment by John Hartley on December 8, 2009 at 10:53
sounds like things are going well Juhi.
I'm really interested in this search for a new lexicon around these issues. I think this is one of the ways of growing 'that spiral of engagement'. In the last few decades the language of environmental awareness has been a mash up of science, 60s hippy consciousness and white middle class civic responsibility. All of which are fine of course, but still a very limiting 'register' (as linguists call it).
Where's the afro-carribean linguistic space? what of ayurvedic medicine and ecology - any input possible? I'm sure there is. Anthropologists observe that language is one of the classic 'boundary objects' within cross-cultural exchange, meaning it can both facilitate and problematise that exchange. Since the culture futures field of play and its hinterland are profoundly interdisciplinary and intercultural, we'd do well to support the emergence of smart language. Emergence is the key though, you can't force it, just help it along.
For my part I'm really taken with the concept of resilience, which is much more contextualised that sustainability. Hidegard Kurt does a good job of putting the boot into 'sustainability' - If we need it still. She observes (and I paraphrase, perhaps clumsily) that sustainability presumes permanence, and that we should learn to die. I think you can interpret that in a more cheery way than just drop and rot, but take a look at her publications.

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