Author: Guest Post

Cross cultural love and friendship stories help creativity

– by William Maddux and Andrew Hafenbranck, INSEAD The stamp in one’s passport doesn’t always define the distance one has travelled. For some professionals, an overseas stint is an opportunity to change not only their surroundings but also themselves – to become more broad-minded and creative people. Previous research suggests that expats who deeply engage with the local culture by mixing with locals and learning their language, for example, tend to become more creative and enjoy greater professional success after returning home than those who stick to expat enclaves. If what matters most for creative growth is the bridges you build between cultures, not the physical borders you cross, perhaps leaving home isn’t absolutely necessary. After all, globalisation has produced an unprecedented mingling of cultures and ethnicities, as is evident on the streets of nearly every major global city (much to the outrage of the far right). The chance to form cross-cultural bonds could be as close as the next street corner, or the next cubicle. Regardless of the surroundings, close personal relationships – including …

Caravaggio and Contemporary Art in London

by Maria Grazia Leonetti-Rodinò di Miglione The aim of the special event taking place on March 15th at the Italian Cultural Institute in London is to re-establish a long lost connection between art and solidarity. It is along the lines traced by an ancient collaboration between the neapolitan charitable Pio Monte della Misericordia of Naples and Caravaggio, the Italian master painter, that the connection is built. The Pio Monte della Misericordia is a charitable institution funded in 1602 with the aim to provide assistance, support and solidarity to the poor. Caravaggio was commissioned an art work, resulting in the stunning, inspiring and touching painting The Seven Acts of Mercy, currently on display in Naples on the Pio Monte della Misericordia’s church altar. 7 Opere PER la Misericordia is a unique project about solidarity and art and involves 33 international artists. Inspired  by Caravaggio’s The Seven Acts of Mercy, artists kindly and generously donated their art works to the Pio Monte della Misericordia: these works are now on display in London. It is the Italian Cultural Institute that …

‘Big, beautiful’ walls don’t stop migrants in the US or Europe

– by Anna Triandafyllidou, European University Institute Walls have a strong political connotation in post-war Europe. The most tragically famous was the Berlin wall built in 1961 to prevent citizens of the DDR (otherwise known as East Germany) from seeking refuge in the West. The fall of that wall in 1989 signalled the reunification not only of Germany but of the entire European continent, and the end of the Cold War. It also marked a European commitment to providing asylum to people fleeing from persecution. Unfortunately, history often repeats itself and citizens forget. Thus, walls and fences have been proliferating in Europe over the past 12 years as a response to migration flows. The most famous wall of them all. Roland Arhelger, CC BY-SA Fortress Europe It was as early as 1995 when the first project for building fences around the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the North African coast started. It was completed in 2000, three-quarters funded by the European Union for a total cost of €48 million. However, the continuing attempts by …

The Greek asylum crisis: moving beyond the blame game to a real solution

– Anna Triandafyllidou, European University Institute An unusual wave of cold weather in the first week of January 2017 exposed the stark deficiencies of Greece’s asylum seeker policy. Camps housing tens of thousands people seeking refuge from war were hit by snow and freezing rain, with residents exposed to sub-zero temperatures and arctic winds. The winter crisis made headlines worldwide. It left no doubt of the fact that ten months after the EU-Turkey agreement led to a stark decrease in migrant flows to the country, Greece is still struggling to cope with the asylum challenge. Substantial funding has been made available to deal with the migration emergency, both directly to relevant ministries and to international NGOs. According to a recent European Commission report, Greece has received €295 million out of a total of €861 million earmarked for the Europe-wide refugee crisis. Of this €295 million, at least half has been given directly to international organisations. But it’s not working. Greece’s impossible task Greece is currently facing a Sisyphean task. It must first provide appropriate first reception …

Authentic Liaisons: Creating Bridges across Cultures

Flying in to Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, Renan Bourdeau looked down at the endless stretches of desert below and wondered how people survived. As a communications company executive who specialised in writing country reports to promote national economies and attract foreign investors, Bourdeau was no stranger to exotic lands. Experienced as he was in working with different cultural approaches to business, he knew nothing of Mauritania, one of Africa’s poorest countries. According to his company’s guide book – a “bible” which contained details of its previous assignments in the region and the insights gained – the country was controlled by the Moors who held office in Nouakchott while their extended families lived a more nomadic way of life in the desert. Social customs to bridge cultural chasms The pace and style of business in the capital was based on Bedouin social courtesies and traditions which Bourdeau was keen to respect. Hospitality was a requirement of a decent Mauritanian and Bourdeau was prepared to indulge in a great deal of tea-drinking during the course of …

How to model our future cities?

The novel Frankenstein written by the English author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley describes the creation of a poor wretch. The premise is that a sum of organs could create a human being. Shelley wanted to write the best horror story and she succeeded. “Smart” buildings, “intelligent” transportation systems and “smart” airports are all isolated projects (managed by independent departments) which leverage the use of technology to create new urban value in a city being modernised and often called a “smart city”. Like Frankenstein, the sum of isolated “smart” urban projects creates a so-called “smart city”! A city is not a sum of things. Vibrant cities are a complex system of systems (and not a set of sets) which rely on economic, social and environmental interconnected values with the goal to support urban sustainability. In the history of ideas, Aristotle was probably the first to point out that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Blaise Pascal wrote in Pensées 72, “since everything then is cause and effect, dependent and supporting, mediate and immediate, …

Why the Intellectual Elite Can’t Learn Its Lesson?

History may show that the single biggest casualty of 2016 was the credibility of elites. The one-two punch of Brexit and Trump has left establishment media and politicians reeling, their prestige cast into doubt. Their obliviousness to the right-wing populist surge exposed the bubble that most elites live in. It’s clear that they’ve been speaking and listening to one another within that bubble for far too long. So what now? Since Donald J. Trump’s victory, we’ve seen a bevy of ostensibly soul-searching think pieces from elites attempting to pinpoint how they got it wrong. But even amid this seeming display of humility, a streak of superiority shows through. In The Washington Post, for example: “We wanted to believe… America was better than that. I can fault journalists for a lot of things, but I can’t fault us for that.” A British professor of politics was quoted in The New York Times, “It’s no longer ‘the economy, stupid’, it’s ‘identity, stupid’… Identity and cultural politics are even bigger determinants of people’s politics than we thought possible.” …