Self, Craft, World: Intercultural Understanding for Visual Artists, Writers and Educators.

MassArt, Engaging Pedagogy Incubator, January 2018

Grub Street Writing Center, December, 2018/August 2020


Difference is that raw and powerful connection out of which our personal power is forged.

                                                                                                                         Audre Lorde

What is intercultural understanding and why should it matter to writers, artists, and educators? 

This workshop will delve into the lived implications of this question within the context of a creative writing workshop, classroom & studio critique.

In 2017 I designed the framework of Intercultural Understanding (IU) as the defining pedagogy in my classes at MassArt. IU draws from my social positioning as a non-US born and non-US citizen, white identified woman educator, and my scholarship at the intersection of postcolonial and diaspora studies, cross-cultural pedagogy, and transnational literature. 

My definition of Intercultural Understanding is:


An orientation to any encounter across differences in which all parties involved recognize each other’s complexities, specificity, and ultimately dignity. Intercultural Understanding names both the quality of this orientation and the process of cultivating it.

In this workshop we will discuss IU as a pedagogy framework and set of tools to help us:

  • Recognize and mobilize the identities that are always already present in any learning environment: the identities of the teacher & the students/writers, the identities of the authors we read, the identity and values of the institution we work in. 


  • Center around a “difference-based understanding of identity”, starting with the differences within ourselves. Regardless of our social, cultural, racial, gendered, backgrounds each of us carries and embodies a number of differences, often contextual - yet never neutral - and open to multiple “readings” depending on contexts ( and contexts are not neutral).

  • Check-in with our motivation to expand the range of voices, narratives and experiences represented in our curriculum (why teaching for IU?), and how IU looks in our selection of authors and texts.


  • Critically analyze concepts/beliefs like “authenticity,” “relatability,” “opacity,” vs “hyper-visibility,” “universal vs. granular,” when workshopping and reading texts. How do these concepts/beliefs show up in our students’ writing? How can we respond to them critically and responsively?


  • Reflect on the kinds of learning experiences we facilitate in our in-person and virtual writing workshops (from ice-breakers to writing assignments). How do we teach for IU? “Understanding” denotes the spectrum of intellectual, self-reflective, somatic, empathetic, and collaborative modes of engagement with others – be these others literary texts, individuals, stories, experiences, and worldviews.


  • Practice Intercultural communication: from how we offer culturally responsive feedback, to how to foster student engagement across differences, from how and when to invite vulnerability in our classes, to how to expand our own “tolerance for ambiguity” (Gloria Anzaldua) and not-knowing. Reflect on the value of teachers as dynamic bridges between students, text and its author, teacher and students, and students and students.


Participants are invited to share one example of a piece of writing or discussion that you found particularly interculturally challenging in your classes. Examples from virtual classes are particularly welcome.

Intercultural Understanding: Teaching Writing Across Differences




Participants' Comments

"Thank you, Marika, for the perfect conversation to transition from this wild ride of a summer into the new academic year. My brain is swirling right now in all the best ways as I process and brainstorm how to incorporate all you shared into my curriculum".

" I work with the teen classes at Grub Street, and everything you shared is so vital and I have been reflecting a lot on your exercises and all the notes I took during the session. Many thanks again for your generosity of time and knowledge!"

"Marika! Just a small note of gratitude for an enormously smart, engaging, compassionate, and helpful session today. I come from a studio art background (in addition to a writing/MFA background), and see so many ways the traditional studio critique and workshop model overlap.  (The clips from that RISD short!!!) Now that I'm on the other side as an instructor, it's so energizing to think about (and implement!) new ways of supporting and reconfiguring those models to benefit all students, to engage with art and to develop artists."

©2019 by Marika Preziuso. Uprooted Transplanted.