Difference is that raw and powerful connection out of which our personal power is forged.
- Audre Lorde
I offer both individual consulting and group workshops on Intercultural Understanding for educators, professionals, and creatives.
In 2017 I designed the framework of Intercultural Understanding (IU) as the defining pedagogy in my literature and writing classes at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. IU draws from my lived experience navigating cultural, ethnic and generational differences, 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 studies, and transnational literature.
IU also responds to years of observing the relationship between visual artists and their work in a critique setting, and teaching (as well as participating as a student poet) in creative writing workshops. It is my conviction that these dynamic relationships and the work itself - be it writing or visual production - benefit hugely from the practice of intercultural understanding and communication
My definition of Intercultural Understanding is:
A set of tools, skills, and dispositions to produce and facilitate encounters across differences in which all parties are committed to recognizing each other’s complexities, specificity, and ultimately dignity. Intercultural Understanding names both the quality of this orientation to differences and the process of cultivating it in specific contexts and spaces.
An example of IU workshops for educators and its goals:
Recognize and activate the identities that are always already present in any creative and educational environment: the identities of the teacher & the students/artist, the identities of the authors we read, the identity and values of the institution we work in, the various identities embedded in the creative work we want to make.
Honor and understand the differences within ourselves. Regardless of our social, cultural, racial, gendered, backgrounds each of us carries and embodies a number of differences, often contextual and thus, 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 and in our body of work ( why considering IU in the first place?), and how IU looks in our classrooms, studio, and writing practice.
Examine concepts like “authenticity,” “relatability,” “opacity,” vs “hyper-visibility,” “universal vs. granular,” when workshopping texts and critiquing an art piece. How do these concepts and the beliefs and values they carry show up in our consciousness? How can we engage with them critically and responsively?
Reflect on the kinds of learning experiences we facilitate in our in-person and virtual classes, critiques and 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.
Intercultural Understanding Workshop
Grub Street Writing Center, Boston
December 2018 & August, 2020.
Video & 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."
Culturally Responsive Consulting
I went to one of Marika’s classes a little over a year ago and immediately knew I wanted to continue working with her. After reaching out to her, we have been meeting monthly ever since. I really like and appreciate Marika’s style. She is genuine, warm, compassionate, and really knows what she is doing. I always look forward to my sessions with Marika and have recommended her to many of my friends and clients. As a licensed mental health counselor, even though I have my own therapist, I think that my sessions with Marika are very therapeutic, because they offer me a safe place to explore my thoughts and feelings. As an immigrant I feel completely understood by her and supported by her material and feedback. As a human being, I feel seen by her. Through our work together, she has given me the confidence to think of myself as a writer and to take care of my creativity so my creativity takes care of me. I also value her flexibility and how she always checks in asking me what I need from our session. I am so glad I went to her workshop a year ago, and I know I have a lot to learn from her and everything she has to offer.
D.O. psychotherapist, 1/11/21