The Institute for Intercultural Studies


IN THE FIELD: Applied Anthropology in the Middle East:
By Mary Catherine Bateson

In Oman, Dr. Bateson had traditional designs painted on her hands with henna to carry the interactive meaning of her gestures to the audience.
Henna Application

A Wandering Director

In 2008, Mary Catherine Bateson was invited to the Sultanate of Oman to give a plenary address at the annual conference of the Society on Organizational Learning. For Bateson this was a return to her intellectual roots as her earliest work was on the linguistics of Arabic and of the Arab poetic tradition, and she lived in Iran for several years prior to Mead's death and has written on Iranian culture. Bateson's topic was to be "Learning in a Cross-Cultural Context." Speaking to an international audience in the city of Muscat, she used the greeting conventions of Arabic, in which the courteous responses almost always differ from the initial greeting (e.g. one answer to "good morning" is to wish the other a "morning of light") to exemplify the importance of intercultural encounters in which learning is understood to move in both directions rather than as a one way street.

Applied Anthropology in the Middle East

IIS has recently supported several projects that entail a substantial base of research.

  • Arabic Great Books to Open Minds: One of the sources of bitterness and tension in the Middle East is the eclipse of past glories of Islamic civilization, which included speculative and open debate, and rich interaction with and tolerance for Christian and Jewish communities. This model was replaced by an emphasis on memorization and orthodoxy in the centers of learning, so that the skills of considering and discussing issues from different sides were no longer part of the curriculum. In 2008 and 2009, IIS gave grants to an organization called Touchstones which supports the teaching of discussion based on traditional (not imported) texts in many parts of the world, for a project developed by Arabist (and former Dean of Students at the American University of Beirut) Graham Leonard, to prepare teachers and materials to reintroduce discussion in Arabic language schooling. The program has now been adopted for schools in Jordan. Since teaching is primarily in classical Arabic throughout the Arab world and the texts are a common cultural heritage, the curriculum materials are readily adaptable in other countries.

  • Just Vision and Skillful Caring: These terms describe two other Institute grants that address the conflicts in the Middle East and their global ramifications.

    Just Vision is an organization that has been filming conversations with Israeli and Palestinian families that have lost sons or daughter to the conflict, developing materials to evoke empathy.

    The Institute also gave a grant in 2008 to Rita Carty of George Mason University School of Nursing and June Goodfield, a historian of biology, to chronicle a program that brought young men from Saudi Arabia to the GMU School of Nursing and to consider the factors that made this program successful while some Arabs who study abroad become radicalized or alienated from their home cultures.

  • Another grant is going to the Prince al-Waleed ibn Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding at Georgetown University to prepare curriculum materials for teachers to use to address the mounting prejudice against Islam in this country.

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    Thank you for your interest in the Institute for Intercultural Studies . We encourage you to use this website to connect to the many resources available to answer your inquiry about Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson and their intellectual legacy.  However, The Institute for Intercultural Studies, founded by Margaret Mead in 1944, has closed its doors as of December 31, 2009; no further contact information is available.  For contact about permissions please see the Publishing Permission or Literary Rights section of the website.

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