Digital Provocations

ETHER is building a shared understanding of what encounters with difference mean in different spaces and practices of social life. The Digital Provocations on this page were created by ETHER seminar speakers as a response to three seminar themes: “The Art of Seeing and Hearing the Other”, “The Ethical Drama of Encountering the Other” and “Creating a Culture of Encountering the Other”. They engage with research, arts practice or public engagement activity and provoke us to rethink the way we do things: how we use language to build relationships, who we label as ‘other’, how we listen to strangers, how we make space for meaningful encounters, how we represent ethically, why discomfort might be necessary, how we embody solidarity. We invite you to contribute to this growing knowledge base.

Dagmar Dyck - See Me, Know Me, Believe in Me: The Art of Offering Reciprocal Time (tā) and Space (vā)

Whilst much progress has been achieved within our New Zealand educational landscape the story of marginalisation and racial inequities continue to persist for our Māori and Pasifika learners. Rather than focus on the negative narrative my provocation will focus on the awareness that visual arts education is a powerful platform for Pasifika learners to embrace success as Pasifika and for the need to support culturally sustaining teaching practices. The subject of my video will delve into strategies used to connect and engage with my learners on an authentic and meaningful level.

Sophie Herxheimer - Listening and Drawing with Strangers

I will talk about, and show, how I collect stories by listening and drawing with strangers. Since 2004, I have been building up a massive collection of ink drawings made one by one and one to one, in collaboration with members of community groups and the general public, on different themes. How this began, what it does and where it has led me will be the subject of my video provocation.

Adam Jaffer - Curating World Cultures

Focusing on the ‘A City and Its Welcome’ exhibition as well as my work at other museums, I will discuss the challenges and opportunities of working with different communities when creating exhibitions and gallery displays. Dealing with topics such as ‘Faith’, ‘Migration’ and ‘Colonial History’ I will outline the processes involved in the curatorial process and some issues of balancing different interests and presenting diverse histories.

Helen Finch - Encountering the Same Other: Witnessing, Silence and Co-Witnessing in the Aftermath of the Shoah

In this provocation, I will briefly read from two literary works by survivors of the Shoah, Ruth Klüger and Edgar Hilsenrath. Both use grotesque exaggeration and political vehemence to imagine the encounter with their German persecutors and with the next generations of Germans. I will ask: why and how do these literary fantasies of revenge and anger break with norms of Holocaust fiction that assume some kind of uplifting ending and reconciliatory message? Can a violent literary fantasy facilitate in-person encounters?

Thea Pitman - Intercultural Encounters and Indigenous Curatorial Agency

My current research focuses on a 2018 arts-based project that aimed to create a positive space for intercultural exchange and the lessening of prejudice on all sides between Indigenous peoples and ‘mainstream’ non-Indigenous society in Brazil. Arte Eletrônica Indígena promoted the cocreation of electronic art between Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants and subsequently brought that co-created ‘indigenous electronic art’ to the Modern Art Museum in Salvador da Bahia for an exhibition. I am interested in the ways that the Indigenous partners in the project exercised curatorial agency during their time at the museum to effect a temporary decolonisation of the gallery space. My provocation will take the form of a screening of the short research video – Occupy MAM! (7:30 mins) – that I made to illustrate my findings regarding Indigenous curatorial agency during the exhibition of the Arte Eletrônica Indígena project.

Parinita Shetty - Marginally Fannish: Diverse and Intersectional Perspectives in Fan Podcasts

For my PhD project, I created a fan podcast called Marginally Fannish. My co-participants and I explored various aspects of intersectionality in some of our favourite media texts and their fandoms. Together, we inhabited a range of identities across national, racial, economic, religious, gender, sexuality, ability, and age spectrums. I will discuss examples of conversations which exposed our different, sometimes conflicting, opinions. In one, my dominant culture blind-spots came to the fore while chatting with queer and disabled co-participants. In another, I, as an atheist, was able to participate with two religious co-participants through the framework of science fiction, fantasy, and fandom, which allowed us to draw parallels between our differing priorities and experiences. And in yet another, my co-participant and I had very different answers to the question of whether you can separate art from the artist, in light of the revelation that the author of our favourite book series held problematic views. The diversity in perspectives allowed us to explore the complexities and nuances of the intersectional themes we were discussing. In this provocation, I want to focus on listening to the Other, which uses a framework that I unexpectedly ended up exploring: “a methodology of discomfort” (Burdick and Sandlin, 2010). In many contexts, I belonged to the dominant culture. While discussing marginalised cultures, I was frequently self-conscious about my ignorance and was forced to grow comfortable with being uncomfortable. This not-knowing allows me to seek more information and stories. This not-knowing is quite liberating.

Lara Stephanie Krause - Difference as Cutting Together-Apart: Productive Racialization in Germany

My video takes viewers into the alliances that BLM words and slogans make with Black and White Germans. Assembling our voices from interviews and online content around particular protest posters instantiates difference as cutting together-apart. Through this lens, the increased production of racial difference, i.e. the Black-White racialization of German society, emerges not as worrisome but as potentially productive of new ways of Seeing and Hearing the Other.

A production of productive difference seems under way in Germany. Black Lives Matter (BLM) has become visible in the country and new word-body-assemblages shape the spatial repertoire (Pennycook & Otsuji, 2015) around White-on-Black racism in on- and offline spaces. Protest slogans like “I understand that I will never understand however I stand”; “White silence is violence” and “Deutschland du hast ein Rassismus Problem” are held up on posters, uttered and posted. Rather than focusing on what these slogans mean or index (Nakassis, 2018), I’m interested in how they are becoming-with young Germans. How do these words make kin with us (Haraway, 2016) in a time where rewor(l)ding is an urgent matter of care (De La Cadena & Blaser, 2018)? Using online pictures, videos and experimental interviews where White and Black participants – including myself – make alliances with protest slogans, I ask: How are German race relations currently (re)shaped – or: how are they cut together-apart (Barad, 2007, 2014) – and what new futures emerge? I conceptualize difference as processual and practiced. Difference is cutting together-apart – the ongoing reconfiguration of boundaries where divisions are also always connections. For example, cutting apart means the production of actually perceived difference between Whiteness and Blackness of Germans, but this difference also cuts us together via a now shared racialization of our words and bodies. ‘Why are you so Black?’ is countered with ‘Why are you so White?’ (GermanDream, 2020).

Stephanie Kent - Sitting With Strange

My research involves intercultural communication and ethics in interpreted interaction, a striking accompaniment to ETHER’s motivations. A presentation of my dissertation findings to the Interpret America conference in 2013, The Real Value of Interpreting, summarizes how skillful participation in interpreted interaction can provide human beings with transferable communication skills for encountering and engaging difference in resilient and socially just ways.

This spring, undergraduate students under my supervision in a sign language interpreter education program in the United States will convene focus groups for Deaf and non-deaf “Hearing” academics to talk together about ethical intercultural communication within the constrained communication condition of not sharing the same language (pending IRB approval, in process). Unlike most interpreting research, the research gaze will be upon the dynamics of participant interaction rather than linguistics. The goal is to “produce knowledge about unfamiliar context-bound uses of language” with attention to social and cultural meanings of these uses, an approach known as cultural pragmatics (following Boromisza-Habashi 2020, p. xii). Generally, we will look for relational and phatic aspects of communication (moreso than explicit information transfer) to see what we can learn about communication skills that generate meaningful interactions. Specifically, we’ll watch for evidence of participant co-alignment with each other rather than with the interpreter(s).

Sarah-Jane Mason - Lacuna Festivals' Engagement with Difference

Lacuna Festivals (we/our) was founded in Lanzarote in 2019 as a festival run by and for practising contemporary artists. The ethos of the festival is that there is an intrinsic value in art that transcends differences and goes beyond its perceived monetary worth. The principle of equal opportunities for artists regardless of differentials is one our core beliefs and it is this founding principle that ensures encounters with the other are simply part and parcel of the festival experience. In the context of the festival, difference, or otherness, relates to differentials of any kind, whether delineated and defined by systemic or rational principles or arbitrary ideas. In my provocation, I talk about how artistic processes and practices support the idea of engaging with difference.


Joke Dewilde and Ingrid Rodrick Beiler - When We See What Kind of Language, “Someone is Going to Jail”

We knew we were doing something wrong when our potential participants reacted to our consent form as if it were a summons from secret police. We eventually realized that we were dealing not only with differences of language and educational background but of biography and memory.

Thandanani (Thanda) Gumede - Music as a Conduit for Encounters

I have particular interest in the connections between Language, Culture and Education that are inherent in traditional African music and demonstrate how I extrapolate from that triad as I navigate working in classical and contemporary settings in the U.K. Additionally, I also explore the role of music in facilitating encounters between different social classes and races” with a brief reflection of South Africa during segregation.

Elisabetta Adami - Objects as Signs

In this provocation I present a couple of examples of meaning making towards perceived others done by using objects as resources of communication. These examples of communication beyond language with perceived others lead me to ask questions on appropriation, on what defines successful communication, and on what is intercultural. I do not provide answers. Rather, I try to show how, by looking at instances of communication beyond language, we might be able to uncover meaning-making principles practices with perceived others that help us dismantle ideas of ‘intercultural’ as hinged on national or ethnic criteria and, possibly, redefine ‘otherness’ in more dynamic, relational, situated and emerging ways.

Mohasin Ahmed - Mojxmma: A Space where Dance and Music Celebrates the "Other"

I show a short video to demonstrate how I found liberation through creating a safe nightlife space; Mojxmma. This club night differs from traditional clubbing spaces in Scotland as it was created with the intention to attract those who feel unwelcome in normal public spaces, and focused on creating a sense of freedom and joy.

People who belong to LGBTQI+ and BPOC communities often have to hide who they are and mask their true self to feel acceptance in society. However, music and movement are often used as an act of resistance to facilitate self-expression and radical self-love. Nightlife has played an important factor in the development of meaningful relationships and finding community for marginalised groups.

In this provocation I discuss and show the media which has inspired me, and demonstrate how community and self-acceptance can flourish when individuals are given the opportunity to express themselves through music and dance in a safe space.

Nadra Assaf & Heather Harrington - Unraveling Embodied Terrains Through Virtual Reality

In this digital provocation, Assaf and Harrington address their work and highlight the manner in which they communicate and perform together while existing thousands of miles apart.

On January 14th 2016, Assaf (Lebanon) and Harrington (USA) embarked on a collaboration that led to the exchange of 35,500 written words centered around a woman’s body and how it is treated in society. They searched their bodies for memories, excavated them, and brought them to life. They were able to witness and reframe these memories into a new, shared movement language. Their collaborative movement created empathy, bonding, and understanding on a deeper level than their written correspondences. Through their use of research and virtual connection Assaf and Harrington have continued to create work that speaks against the violence that hauntingly remains embodied in female bodies across the globe.

Adrian Blackledge & Angela Creese - The Drama of Encountering the Other

This presentation focuses on ethnographic research in an advice service in a Chinese community centre. Over four months interactions between advice workers and their clients were documented as field notes and audio-recordings. Advice workers moved in and out of translation zones, mediating for whoever came through the office door, not only translating between languages, but also interpreting the bureaucratic discourse of institutions, regulations, systems, and processes. Their role as translators stretched far beyond the transfer of meanings from one language to another. They were legal advisors, counsellors, advocates, mediators, and much more. In addition, interactions between advisors were recorded in the cracks and seams of everyday life, including during tea breaks, and in quiet moments at work.

Rather than representing the advice session through conventional academic writing, we create the scene in dramatic dialogue in which translation, interpretation, and mediation are at the forefront of the encounter. Advice workers are revealed as anonymous heroes of communication, making sense of the world for their clients, and keeping the superdiverse city moving.

Gail Boldt & Joe Valente - Non-Representational Re-Search and A-Signifying Semiotics

How can ethico-aesthetic practices of knowing-thinking-feeling make empirically visible the lived, affective qualities of our oft-imperceptible relational ways of knowing and being/becoming? How can attending to the affective, a-signifying, and a-modal help us to consider the ways re-searching shapes and is shaped by our sense of self with others? How can exploring affective, a-signifying, and a-modal realms of sensation and experience through ethico-aesthetic practices open up new possibilities for making sense or sense-making that allows for perceiving ourselves as intra-acting with the relational in-between of human and more-than-human bodies?

In our performance-presentation, we are less interested in producing formal knowledge. Instead we are attempting to “make sense” or rather to be “sense-making” in, through, and with our recent experimentations with the “performative-we” of our deaf/non-deaf becomings (Boldt & Valente, 2021). We aim to offer an example of empirical research that expands beyond scientific-rationalist fixations on realism and representation and that explores worldings beyond the linguistic and knowable in potentializing ethico-aesthetic practices of relating with Other(s).

Kate Fellows - ‘Hi, my name’s Kate, what’s your name?’: Meeting People as Individuals

How can cultural organisations create a space where we can meet people as individuals, and celebrate difference for shared learning? What happens when it goes horribly wrong? What questions should we ask ourselves and what should our guiding principles be? Using Careers for All (meaningful work experience for individuals living with additional needs) and other examples from learning programmes at Leeds Museums and Galleries, we will explore the process of othering, engaging with difference and how we can do that honestly and for the benefit of everyone.

Nadine Aisha Jassat - Writing from the In-between

Nadine Aisha Jassat is a writer and poet who writes in the spaces of the inbetween: between cultures, countries, and in many ways between the self, too. This liminality is often reflected not just in the content of her writing, but also in the form it takes, whether structurally or in genre: with her prose straddling the bridge between autofiction and memoir, and her poetry focused on telling a story through spoken word, while also telling its own tale through its form on the page. Writing from the in-between, from a position of differences and dualities present within one person, one self, offers the chance for the creation of something new – for defining the self by and for oneself, where differences dissolve into whole. In the form of a reading, and the sharing of film poetry made the author, Nadine will explore how she navigates this space of ‘in-between’ in her work, building her own bridge and situating herself firmly on it: calling wherever her feet rest home.

Nigel Rapport - Cosmopolitan Politesse: Loving Speech in the Good Society

Cosmopolitan politesse is an interactional code by which one addresses the common humanity and the distinct individuality of those one interacts with but classifies them in no more specific fashion. One presumes that in social interaction one is engaging with an individual human Other—‘Anyone’—rather than with a representative of some more substantive class: ‘a woman’, ‘a Scot’, ‘a Jew’, someone ‘working class’, ‘heterosexual’, or ‘pious’, and so on.

It is an ontological reality that a human being, Anyone, possesses an intrinsic identity by virtue of their unique and finite embodiment, giving rise to personal worldviews and life-projects. Cosmopolitan politesse seeks to accommodate the reality of human individuality and give it its proper recognition and respect, and so emancipate Anyone socially from the condition of being made subject to the arbitrary constructions, the ‘fictions’, of merely cultural, symbolic classes and categories.

The argument is made by reference to Immanuel Kant’s vision of the ‘cosmopolitan’, Iris Murdoch’s vision of a ‘good society’, Emanuel Levinas’s vision of the ‘radical otherness’ of individual being, and Luce Irigaray’s vision of ‘loving speech’.

Rae Si'ilata - Othering Monolingualism: The Pasifika Early Literacy Project

Encountering the ‘other’ is a persistent theme in educational research and practice that positions people who may be distant from dominant cultural norms as different, often in pathologizing ways. As a Māori/Fijian academic working in schools with teachers of Pacific learners, it is crucial to provide ‘dominant culture’ teachers with opportunities to unpack their preconceived notions of the diversities of Pacific ways of knowing and being. In this sense, encountering the ‘other’ entails teachers seeing themselves as ‘other’. When teachers see themselves through the eyes of children and families whose linguistic and cultural resources are different to those valued in educational settings, deficit assumptions are surfaced and disrupted, and transformational change begins to occur. In the Pasifika Early Literacy Project, we normalise bilingual and multilingual language and literacy practices, positioning monolingualism as “other”. Through this approach, the linguistic resources and embodied cultural literacies of Pacific children, families, and teachers are positioned as central to notions of success. ‘Encountering the other’ in multilingual/multicultural contexts entails the teacher understanding how the child and the child’s family might encounter the teacher as ‘other’.

Quentin Williams - They Bodied that Different English in Difference

In this provocation, I am interested in re-introducing a cultural studies understanding of difference mediated through genre and intertextuality. In other words, difference will be defined as the embodied representation of relationality in difference, that is to say, it will be taken to be a notion that reveal how multilingual speakers embody relations of difference as in difference, arrived at out of conjecturedetermination and contradictions of language in practice and performance, and not necessarily in that order. Specifically, I illustrate this provocation of difference with an embodied performance of parody by a emerging R&B and pop group in Cape Town. I pay particular attention to how this group’s parodic performance of a Beyonce Knowles song, published on YouTube, can be understood as an in difference performance and a parodic unsettling of hegemonic linguistic ears of genre authentic loyalists and critics. At the end of my presentation, I’ll outline a few threads to advance in our study of difference today.

Jonathan Dove - Shortcomings

A new piece of music often begins with an encounter: someone has a dream, a hope, a wish, they want a composer to bring something new into the world, and the composer has to listen and imagine what they might be trying to hear.  A few years ago, I was asked to write a lament for the refugees who have died crossing the Mediterranean.  I suggested that, instead, I tell the story of just one refugee who survived the Mediterranean crossing. As someone used to listening, and often thought of as sensitive, it was sobering to confront the shortcomings of my imagination. In my provocation I describe this experience.

Louise Dearden - Storytelling as a Space of Encountering the Other

My PhD project is a phenomenological study that details the genesis of the relationship between myself, a language teacher/researcher and Henry, an ESOL student from Iran. The research was conducted in an Adult Education institute over a period of 9 months. The data gathered within this period comprise an abundance of fieldnotes, recordings and images taken from a series of situated encounters in different contexts within the institute: classroom activities, interviews, informal chats and an artistic workshop. Any one of the student participants in the class could have been the focus of my study, but there was something about my encounters with Henry that awakened a curiosity. He has aspirations of attending university to complete a PhD in aerospace engineering; he already has an MSc in the same field, which he gained in Iran. Despite this ambition, he appears disengaged in class. Yet he purposefully seeks out opportunities to engage with me on a one-to one basis. These encounters are characterised by a telling of stories; Henry tells, I listen.

This provocation focuses on the analysis chapter of my project, which is simply entitled ‘The Novel’. There are 3 episodes to this novel: The Lorry, The Story, The Pandemic. In this presentation I read an excerpt from the beginning of ‘The Story’, a tale which unravels on several levels. The impetus was a story-telling project organised by the institute called My Voice. The expectation was that each ESOL student would record or write a personal story and some of these would be chosen for inclusion on the website. Based on our informal chats which he peppers with stories, I thought Henry might relish this story-telling challenge. But there are 3 things you might need to know about Henry before you read my provocation:

He came to the UK by boat.

He can’t swim.

He did his very best to avoid this story-telling task to the bitter end.

Storytelling as a space of encountering the Other

Awad Ibrahim - Dialogue, Hospitality and Difference


Maya Youssef - Creating a Culture of Encountering the Other

The qanun, a 78- stringed plucked zither, is often spoken of as the piano of the Arab world. My provocation is a composition titled ‘Lullaby: A Promise of a Rainbow’; a track commissioned by Opera North as part of my new album ‘Finding Home’. In this track, the qanun meets a string quartet from Opera North’s orchestra to create a sonic translation of an image of a Syrian mother I saw last year: the mother was escaping an explosion with her baby very close in her arms, leaving everything behind. As she was escaping, she was singing to her baby. The mother was creating her own bubble of hope around her child. There was the promise of a rainbow.

Charles Forsdick - The Case of Travel Writing

My contribution is a provocation on travel writing and ethics, looking at the form as a site in which difference is encountered, domesticated and on occasion maintained. Since writing a PhD on travel writing and exoticism, my research has been concerned with the ethics and aesthetics of encountering the other. I am interested in the creative practices that emerge from the meeting of linguistic and cultural differences, and have worked in particular on bilingual and multilingual poetics. I have also written about the dynamics of power evident in the contact zones between cultures and focus on the ethical questions to which encounters in these spaces give rise. 

Khadijah Ibrahim - My Body is a Protest for Change

An installation of black art/artists in the landscape. Its reasoning is based on the idea of stillness and observation of buildings and bodies/marginalised artists not given access to buildings to show/display/ perform work that is viewed as valuable. There is whole silence around space, Landscape and building/art institution and marginalized communities of artists.

My body is a protest for change is the art of silence/ the art of being present, the art of creating work that not only perceives the struggle of a people and /or the ancestors on whose backs we stand (it is also the joy of creating and being an artist) . When we en/act silence, we hear the voices that speak of oppression, we hear the sermons of loss, we hear the eulogy/elegies/in the moment of stillness. ‘The artist duty is to reflect the times’ Nina Simone

Gehan Selim - Architecture and Spatial Memory in Post-Conflict Urbanism

This provocation explores the condition of shared living in divided and segregated contexts and looks at how people perceive their cities and urban life, and what determines their use of space and attitudes toward the public, shared, and integrated spaces of the city? This condition determines how patterns and attitudes change with time and in light of social and cultural demography changes. It also develops a discussion of the complexity of the spatial manifestation of conditions of post-conflict urban segregation and how the notion of “shareness” has been at the centre of changing living patterns.

Irene Heidt - The Politics and Ethics of Teaching Multilingual Students in German Citizenship Education

Today’s increasingly heterogeneous classrooms in terms of culture, language, and religion have largely challenged (language) teachers’ professional identity which has made a transition from a ‘neutral technician’ to a ‘transformative intellectual’ (Guilherme, 2002), to a ‘go-between’ (Kramsch, 2004), to a ‘moral agent’ (Kubanyiova & Crookes, 2016), to a ‘multilingual instructor’ (Kramsch & Zhang, 2018). All these conceptualizations of today’s teaching profession prompt for a more critical, political and ethical knowledge-base and disposition on teachers’ part than just factual and objective knowledge. By drawing on a longitudinal ethnographic study conducted over fifteen months (May 2016 – July 2017) in a civics class at a secondary school in Berlin, Germany, this presentation examines how Mrs. Ahmadi, born in Germany to parents who migrated from the Middle East, approaches the contentious topic of homosexuality in Islam with her ninth grade Muslim students. Through an ecologically oriented discourse analysis (Kramsch & Whiteside, 2008) of classroom interactions and teacher interviews, the study illustrates how Mrs. Ahmadi charges a difficult teaching moment with her subjectivity and historicity in an effort to establish a relationship of trust to her students while, at the same time, making her students realize how their embodied religious truths increasingly clash with the secular liberal-humanist morality as privileged by the German educational system (Bildung). Ultimately, the presentation addresses the necessity of teachers’ “identity-relevant vision” (Kubanyiova & Crooks, 2016) to create a culture of encountering the ‘other’ in today’s increasingly multilingual and multicultural classrooms.

Tracey Costley and Colin Reilly - Coming to Terms with Not Knowing: Honesty, Accountability and Welcoming Others in Ethnography

In this provocation, Tracey reflects on uses of language in ethnography. After many years of thinking of herself as someone who does ethnographic work, she has recently begun to reflect more on, and hold herself to account for, the ways in which she has engaged with language and multilingualism within her research. Although her research has often focused on multilingual practices, her own research practices have been largely monolingual.  In this provocation she and Colin share their experiences of how they have engaged with researching multilingually, reflecting on how their methodological training and linguistic profiles have shaped and influenced the work they have done, and what these have helped or hindered them in doing.

Amber Galloway-Gallego - Proactive Sign Language Access: Looking Through the Lens of an Interpreter’s Journey with Communication Access in the Entertainment World

Amber draws from her own personal perspective and through lived experiences, she shows the development of ASL music interpretation over the last few years and the impact it has been having on sign language music interpreting not only in the States but all over the world.

Anna Frances Douglas - Playing Together

Anna will reflect on the importance of physical space, student multi-sensory relationality and proximity in developing a studio-centred, collaborative (teacher/student) learning environment. Her first year project (Togetherness) was designed to encourage fine art students to model innovative methods of responding to uncertainty, and engagement and relating to ‘the other’, as well as to experience and validate their own embodied  experiences and knowledges creatively together.

Whilst not disputing the alternative forms of interaction that the digital affords, she will put forward that face-to-face sensory and embodied-aware teaching is fundamental to supporting the diversity of our students’ life worlds and their future creative potential.