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close this bookThe Self and the Other: Sustainability and Self-Empowerment (WB, 1996, 76 p.)
close this folderCulture and development
close this folderPanel discussion
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentApproaching the issue of religion
View the documentPsychoanalysis in Eastern Europe
View the documentWomen in Egypt: Education and modernity
View the documentBrazil and Guatemala: The culture of violence and the culture of hope
View the documentDiscussion


A discussion chaired by Afaf Mahfouz followed the presentations of the panel.

Henri Parens, Jefferson Medical College

We in developmental psychoanalysis know that the existence of the self and the other are intimately interwoven. We cannot have the self without the other. The reason the other has become so important has in large part to do with colonialism.

I would like to direct this comment to Hoda El-Sadda. It is very touching and meaningful that you in the South became the other, not yourselves, as a result of the colonial experience. Outside the context of colonialism we would explain this phenomenon as identifying with the other. If the other is strong or has an element of power over us, we identify with that other. This process is inherent in the parent-child relationship. The child needs to identify with the parent, or the other, and the development of the self is intimately tied to that identification. This type of identification takes place under a variety of conditions and can include identification with an aggressor, a situation in which the victim becomes like the aggressor.

John Kafka

I would like to clarify what I meant by the egosyntonicity of lying when I was referring to people in Eastern Europe who survived only by lying was so much a part of the culture that these people could live only by lying Some families managed to speak the truth in their homes, where a lot could be said, but it was very dangerous to do so.

Even today in Eastern Europe the boundaries of the situations in which people have to lie and those in which they can afford not to lie are in flux. We encounter this situation wherever people are emerging from a culture of suppression. They hunger to be able to talk freely without checking if there is a microphone hidden under the couch.

Mohamed Arkoun

All ideologies develop a special vision of the past to fit the identity of each social group, community, or nation. For this reason national religious historiographies are suspect and have to be looked at critically. Political and religious orthodoxies are constructed through time to support the "glory of the nation" against "enemies," or the "true religion" against "heresies." Orthodoxies such as these represent collective lies.

Nagat EI-Sanabary, Gender Ed Consulting Services

I appreciated and related to Hoda ElSadda's comments about the education system in Egypt. I also attended an Egyptian school but unlike her I went to an Arabic public school. I was also a student in the English department at Cairo University. I did not have a problem with the syllabus. I did extremely well in Shakespeare and in all the other subjects I studied, and they fascinated me. However, I felt alienated from my Oxford-educated Egyptian professors and their condescending attitude toward the students. They presumed that we understood the cultural context of the literature we were reading, thus adding to the alienation of the students who had been educated in Egyptian Arabic schools.

Education in developing countries has created two cultures. There are people in these societies who have no way of relating to one another because minority elite groups are trying to impose their realities on the masses, while the masses are worried about their daily lives, their basic survival needs.

Today the elite in a number of countries have a problem with their own cultural identities, as they identify more with Western culture than with their own cultures, but many are unaware that they have this problem.

Hoda El-Sadda

Mohamed Arkoun said that the way we retell history is a problem. The exclusion of women and other groups is an issue. There is an attempt to marginalize women's voices. At least one of the things that can be done is to begin a process of inclusion.

The feminist movement in Egypt was allied with the national movement for liberation. Feminists in Egypt gained their strength through their alliance with the liberation movement. The assumption that there was a distinction between the two movements is false.

Education in developing countries has created two cultures. Minority elite groups are trying to impose their realities on the masses, while the masses are worried about their basic survival needs - Nagat El-Sanabary

People often identify with those who have more power. However, if that power is not shared with them or does not benefit them, they may become frustrated, hostile, and violent - Gloria J. Davis

Gloria J. Davis, World Bank

Culture and perception are linked. Culture is a life-simplification process. People cannot deal with all the complex information they receive, so behavior is culturally patterned and the patterns that emerge are largely unconscious. As psychologists and anthropologists we understand that people often identify with those who have more power. However, if that power is not shared with them or does not benefit them, they may become frustrated, hostile, and violent. They may become angry and rebel. We saw this in the video "The South Slope of Liberty."

As an applied anthropologist I ask: Given our understanding of culture and psychology, what would we do differently to change the way we carry out the development process? We have not had enough time at this seminar to reach a consensus on which principles should guide us. But in light of your understanding of behavior, I invite all of you in psychoanalysis and other disciplines to advise us at the World Bank concerning the changes that should be made in the development process.

Afaf Mahfourz

This is what we are planning to do, even though the challenge is great because the holistic approach is always complex and difficult. Today we can only take one small introductory step. Then it is up to you at the World Bank to decide if you want to continue down this road with us. I think it would be useful to do so.

Bahgat Elnadi

The need to preserve cultural identity is being used by politicians in developing countries as a reason for refusing to carry out democratic change. A kind of cultural fundamentalism is growing in many countries today. In the name of cultural identity the supporters of this cultural fundamentalism refuse to promote any kind of change in their cultures and are therefore enhancing the power of religious fundamentalists. We must use the concept of cultural identity with great care.