Vai alla Homepage del Portale di Ateneo Curriculum Global cultures Second cycle degree/Two year Master in History and Oriental Studies


Gustavo Gozzi (University of Bologna)

from 27 March 2023 at 17:00 to 30 March 2023 at 18:45

Aula Specola - In presence event

In order to understand the current questions of multiculturalism it is necessary to adopt a historical perspective that lets us understand in which way the Western civilisation has faced and interpreted other different civilisations: these are the fundamental questions of “colonial encounter” and colonial legacy”.

Consequently the Seminar will start by analysing the origin of colonialism in XVI century and its affirmation during the 19th century. In this frame it will be possibile to consider the “colonial legacy” in the process of Europes building and in the current African and Euro-Mediterranean relations.

Questions that will be addressed also include: decolonization and Europe as a “civil power” which has been keeping the people of the Mediterranean’s southern shore in a state of dependence by making its aid conditional on their adoption of Western-style forms of democratic government and human rights protection.

In this context issues will be introduced about the meanings and different interpretations of human rights, particularly the concept of human rights in Islam, multiculturalism, cultural relativism, integration, justice.

The program of the Seminar will consider the following topics:

  1. Investigating the origin of colonialism and the interpretation of the “Otherness”The colonial legacy: the ideology of “Eurafrica”.
  2. The current theories of human rights. Human rights and dignity. Islam, human rights and democracy.
  3. The theories of multiculturalism; Multiculturalism and integration; Multiculturalism and migrant people; Multiculturalism and feminism.Theories on cultural relativism.
  4. The current debates about justice.

The starting point of the Seminar goes back to the first half of sixteenth century, that is to the beginning of the Western idea of colonization, that proclaimed that there was only one way to civilization, that is the Western one. There was no idea of the possibility of other ways to civilization different from the Western one.

During the Thirties of the last century the Eurafrican project proclaimed the theory of the complementarity of the civilised Europe with the “backward” Africa rich of raw materials.


The current debates about human rights regard some fundamental questions: human rights and dignity; universalism or relativism of human rights; Western and non-Western concepts of human rights; human rights and globalisation.

The natural law conception of rights was at the ground of UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. In the process of drafting this document, however, there emerged some deep disagreements with some of the exponents of the Islamic world. Moreover it is important to point out that the process of secularisation was the fundamental moment in the constitutional history of Western countries. This process didn’t occur in Islam. Is Islam compatible with democracy?


The theories on multiculturalism refer to those societies where there are stable cultural communities that are able to perpetuate themselves. First of all multiculturalism declares that the guarantee of individual rights depends on a full membership in a respected cultural group with cultural rights. Secondly multiculturalism emphasizes the belief in a value pluralism without any hierarchy, and in the validity of the diverse values embodied in the practices of different groups. But it is necessary to consider the limits of the acceptance of practices that are in contrast with the principles of the constitutional order that is the ground of the coexistence of the different cultural communities. Thirdly the customs and practices of the different groups should be recognized in the law of the State. Moreover it is important to analyse the relation between multiculturalism and the integration of migrant people.  At last it is necessary to point out the paradox of multiculturalism: it means a plurality of cultures, but it must be grounded on only one culture, the culture of "mutual recognition”. And one more question: is multiculturalism bad for women? (Susan Moller Okin).

The relativism goes back to Protagora's doctrine, that we mainly know through the criticism expressed by Plato and Aristoteles. The meaning of relativism  about values can refer either to the relationships between values and social practices, or to the different kinds of cultural realities (actions, histories, institutions, practices and so on). To this meaning of relativism belongs also the relativism as the philosophy of the constitutional multicultural democracy.


The questions of justice will be considered according to some perspectives: justice and globalisation; justice and equality; justice as fairness; justice and peoples' law.

The analysis of two books by A. Sen will be very significant: Inequality reexamined (1992) and The Idea of Justice (2009).

Very important will also be the analysis of Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Epistemologies of the South. Justice against epistemicide, London, Boulder, 2014 and his main thesis, according to which there is no global justice without global cognitive justice.