Gabriel Marcel, Availability, and ‘Belonging’ in Higher Education

David Locke, Edge Hill University

This work in progress paper looks to explore notions of belonging in Higher Education through the lens of Gabriel Marcel’s understanding of availability in drawing distinctions between a superficial and richer concept of belonging.

Born in France in 1889, Gabriel Marcel wrote extensively on the human condition, societal influence and the role of relationships and dialogue in development of the self. A key concept within his work that Marcel explores at length is that of ‘availability’, or in the original French ‘Disponibilité’. Marcel presents availability as a spiritual and emotional openness to others, wherein they are comfortable expressing themselves authentically and in doing so allow for a sharing of knowledge and understanding of each party. This paper looks to consider how this concept of availability may be explored in the context of Higher Education to conceive of ways in which students and staff may bolster their sense of belonging in ways that allow for authentic and passionate engagement with those around them. Of particular interest will be the factors that might currently limit such expression, as well as how these might be overcome.

Improving Cultural Connections through the Philosophies of the ‘Other’  

Thushari Welikala, St George’s University of London

The universities across the world serve increasingly diverse student populations who will work in complex, pluricultural societies. Intercultural education plays a central role in developing graduates who are capable of navigating these culturally diverse societies as successful and productive citizens. However, the current practices embedded within intercultural education within the university context, especially in the Global North, do not effectively contribute to enhancing cross- cultural awareness and intercultural capabilities of future graduates. Despite the increasing interest and the growth in the development of policies aimed at improving intercultural practices, intercultural education continues to be shaped by monocultural (Anglo-centric) values and knowledges (Welikala, 2021). The conceptualisation of the idea of ‘culture’ the intercultural competency frameworks and the vast majority of the scholarly arguments on intercultural education are informed by coloniality (the ongoing power structures, values and knowledge hierarchies that are shaped and informed by colonisation) and imperialistic views about the cultural Other and the Other cultures. This paper focuses on developing an argument for decolonising the intercultural project within higher education by disrupting the dominant, Anglo-centric, monocultural approach to intercultural education.