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Interculturality, Rationality and Dialogue

Religion in der Moderne

von Matthias Lutz-Bachmann,
Thomas M. Schmidt
und Michael Sievernich

RIM Band 23

Carlos Miguel

and Dialogue

In Search for
Intercultural Argumentative
for Latin America


A los pueblos originarios de Abya Yala, nuestra América.
Como el maíz menospreciados, rechazados como la quinua,
fuente de vida para el mundo.



Note on the Quotation of Sources in Spanish

List of Diagrams




The Argumentative Dimension of Intercultural Dialogue

1.1. Introduction
1.2. The Context for Dialogue
1.2.1. Between Inculturation and Dialogue: The Challenges of the Latin American Catholic Church The Commitment of the Church with Indigenous Peoples The Gospel and the Cultures
1.2.2. The Struggles for Recognition of Indigenous Peoples and the Emergence of Multicultural Models Indigenous Reconstructed Claims and Regained Rights Democratic Participation as Intercultural Deliberation Legal Pluralism and The Resolution of Intercultural Conflicts
1.3. The Borders of Dialogue
1.3.1. The Normative Base of Intercultural Dialogue
1.3.2. Grice’s Conversational Maxims Interculturally Examined
1.4. Difficulties for Establishing Intercultural Normative Criteria for Dialogue
1.4.1. The Objection of Incommensurability as Radical Relativism
1.4.2. The Objection of Normativity as Neo-Colonialism Interculturality as a Critique to Illegitimate Universalization Between Dialectical and Dialogical Dialogue
1.5. Conclusion: A first Insight into the Function and Shape of the Intercultural Normative Criteria for Dialogue


Heterogenic Rationalities

2.1. Introduction
2.2. Rationalities as Culturally Relative Types of Logic
2.2.1. Problems with the Hypothesis of Logical Relativism
2.3. Rationalities as Incompatible Worldviews
2.3.1. The Case of Andean Rationality
2.3.2. Criticisms of the Idea of Different ‘Conceptual Schemes’
2.4. Rationalities as Alternative Reasoning Patterns
2.4.1. Rival Explanatory Patterns Mythical Causality Non Causal Explanatory Principles
2.4.2. Competing Patterns of Justification: the Word of Origin as Primary Ground
2.5. Conclusion


Towards an Intercultural Reasonableness

3.1. Introduction
3.2. From an Intercultural Theory of Rationality to a Notion of Intercultural Reasonableness
3.3. Assessing Reasonableness Interculturally: The Pragma-Dialectical Model
3.3.1. Does the Pragma-Dialectical Approach offer an Interculturally Valid Model of Reasonableness? The Pragma-dialectical Reasonableness is Mono-cultural The Pragma-dialectical Reasonableness does not avoid Relativism A Critical Discussion does not fit the needs of Intercultural Dialogue
3.4. Rethinking Reasonableness Interculturally
3.4.1. Rationality and Reasonableness
3.4.2. Intercultural Reasonableness as Multi-logical Recognition and Interaction
3.4.3. Some Interculturally Unreasonable Moves in Dialogue Appeal to radical difference Illegitimate Universalization Fictitious consensus Argumentative violence
3.5. Conclusion



The Interconnection of Traditions I: An Interpretation of Intercultural Disagreements

4.1. Introduction
4.2. What is a Claim?
4.2.1. Claims as Complex Speech Acts
4.3. Types of Claims
4.3.1. Types of Conflicting Claims in Latin American Intercultural Dialogues
4.3.2. Habermas’ Argumentation Theory Interculturally Revisited
4.4. Types of Disagreements
4.5. Presuppositions of Disagreement


The Interconnection of Traditions II: Discursive Interpellation

5.1. Introduction
5.2. Challenge
5.3. Demand
5.4. Offering
5.5. ‘Oppression’ and ‘Shared Problems’ as Factors of Interdependence

Conclusion: Pluralistic Argumentation

1. The Justification of Argumentative Intercultural Criteria
2. The Process of Intercultural Dialogue in Latin America
3. The Outcome of Dialogue
4. The Limits of the Argumentative Dimension of Intercultural Dialogue

Appendix: List of Intercultural Argumentative Criteria



Research is always a collective activity. The commitment and support of many people have made this investigation possible. I want to express my thanks to the Katholischer Akademischer Ausländer-Dienst (KAAD), particularly to Dr. Thomas Krüggeler and Renate Flügel, for their support which has been always much more than financial. The KAAD granted me a PhD Scholarship that allowed me to conduct research in Frankfurt am Main for three years, but most importantly, they have offered me the opportunity to join a vibrant international community of scholars and friends committed to the search for a just future for the so-called developing countries, based on solidarity and self-awareness. The willingness of my Doktorvater, Prof. Dr. Thomas Schmidt, as well as his insights and comments have been decisive for my work. I highly appreciate the freedom he has given me to develop my intuitions and to follow my own path. The generosity of my wife Susana, who agreed to leave her career, friends and family and to move to Germany, and her loving companionship have provided me with the appropriate atmosphere for deep study and reflection. She has been my first partner in dialogue, always ready to discuss my ideas and to encourage me to think harder. In times of confusion and confrontation she has found the way to bring me back to my fundamental ideas, making me remember where I come from and in which behalf I want to speak. Oscar Ardila and Terence Holden proofread the manuscript. For their help I am also very grateful.


Note on the Quotation of Sources in Spanish

The author has translated all quotations from documents in Spanish for which there is no English translation available. To avoid repetition, this is only indicated in the footnotes by “cf.,” before the bibliographical information.

List of Diagrams

Diagram 1:

Arguments of “the Uwa Case”, Colombia, 90’s

Diagram 2:

The elements of intercultural disagreements

Diagram 3:

The structure of claims

Diagram 4:

The illocutionary dimension of claims

Diagram 5:


Diagram 6:

Factors of interdependence

Diagram 7:

Stages and dimensions of the practice of intercultural dialogue


This work is committed to a single question: What are the conditions for the possibility of intercultural dialogue in Latin America? This is a question that takes priority over the many issues raised in Latin America by the polyphony of voices, the conflict between different pictures of the world and the rivalry among life projects that struggle to reach social articulation in the midst of awfully asymmetric socio-political and cultural-epistemological conditions. Indeed, the need for intercultural dialogue is currently emphasized in almost every sphere from political philosophy to missiology and pedagogy; it is recommended as the appropriate means for conflict resolution, democratic deliberation and peaceful coexistence in our multicultural and pluriethnic societies; it is sometimes even regarded as the inescapable method for the social sciences as well as for the transformation of Latin American philosophy. However, even though this urgency for intercultural dialogue expresses a new awareness of the demands of interculturality, it is accompanied by a certain obscurity regarding the practice of dialogue. We need to enter into dialogue, but what does that mean?

Appealing to intercultural dialogue does not provide by itself the solution to the challenges of cultural and religious diversity. It may represent a gesture of good will and certainly points in the right direction, but such an appeal does not yet indicate how to make communication possible between members of heterogenic traditions, or what such communication means. Think for example of one of the following typical cases in which dialogue is suggested as the proper alternative: a legal dispute over the rights to territory between a multinational company that wants ‘to exploit natural resources for the sake of national progress’ and an indigenous community that opposes such attempt as ‘a sacrilege to Mother Earth and a threat to cosmic balance’; the conflict between a local court that sees lashing people as a violation of fundamental human rights and the indigenous authorities that order such traditional measure as a purifying thunder able to reestablish harmony in the community; the quarrel between an officer of the Education Ministry that claims there are fundamental and universal pieces of knowledge that all secondary students, regardless of their cultural affiliation, should learn, and the elders of an indigenous community that demand the right to educate their children according to their own cultural patterns and forms of knowledge; a Christian missionary that condemns the use of certain plant as demoniac, and a traditional indigenous healer that claims that such sacred plant is the book of knowledge given to his people by God. In such cases, how can the parties in dialogue consider, evaluate and (when necessary) make a decision on their claims, each of which makes sense according to a particular worldview and is appropriately justified according to the standards of its own reasoning pattern?

In our view, this question summarizes the problem of the conditions for the possibility of intercultural dialogue in Latin America. In such cases there is no common standard to proffer rational judgments and evaluate positions. The criteria of one system of argumentation cannot be imposed on the other without wronging those who argue according to it, that is, without depriving them of their own voice and way of seeing the world. That which counts as a good reason differs for each party and thus opting for one standard of evaluation and one type of argumentation implies already choosing a particular tradition. How can we then determine in dialogue which of the reasons presented to support the claim of each side is “better”, “more reasonable”, “preferable”, and the like? Intercultural dialogue has to face the challenge of granting every party the possibility to express itself in its own terms, but it also has to offer a procedure for the evaluation, coordination and mutual transformation of different projects of life in order to serve as a means for the construction of pluralistic societies. This implies that one of the major tasks of intercultural dialogue is mediating between rival positions by offering a way to resolve conflicts and to make decisions about incompatible claims. Which are the communicative criteria for such mediation, that is, for making a judgment over rival incommensurable claims?

This work attempts to offer an answer to this question. Succinctly presented, our argument runs as follows: In Chapter 1, based both on an initial approach to Latin American diversity and on a discussion of certain descriptive models of intercultural (and in particular interreligious) dialogue, we will suggest that intercultural dialogue implies an argumentative dimension. This means that a communicative practice, in order to be properly called dialogue, should involve a collaborative and reciprocal exchange of reasons by means of which the parties pursue a communicative goal. Such an exchange of reasons, in contrast with some other forms of non-binding intercultural communication (e.g. shared ritual and prayer, aesthetic forms of communication, informal conversation, academic symposiums, etc.), requires a set of normative criteria in order to be possible. These criteria should offer a way to consider, evaluate and judge rival positions, each of which is presented and justified according to heterogeneous forms of rationality. In the second part of the chapter, we will respond to two main objections against the possibility of finding appropriate intercultural criteria: the position that equates incommensurability with radical relativism and impossibility of communication; and the position that sees every attempt to establish normative criteria as suspicious of neo-colonialism.

In Chapter 2 we will then offer a consideration of the hypothesis that there are different types of rationality. After discussing two possible interpretations of the hypothesis (that it means logical relativism, and that it refers to different paradigms for representing the world and organizing reality) we will show that the best manner of understanding this heterogeneity is in terms of a diversity of patterns of explanation and justification of beliefs and actions; that is, as different methods to account for why things are as they are, as well as alternative ways of supporting claims, which evolve in the history of each tradition and are integral to their worldviews. Each pattern generates the conditions under which a proposition is a candidate for truth or falsehood,1 and produces its own standards to evaluate what counts as a good reason. In order to explore this hypothesis, we will present some patterns of explanation and justification that are frequently used in current indigenous discourses and which represent part of the cultural legacy and life project of indigenous peoples. We will maintain that the diversity of forms of rationality does not imply that rationalities are self-enclosed systems, but rather that they are in a process of mutual interaction through which they are affected and transformed. Such interaction cannot be identified with intercultural dialogue, since, on the one hand, it does not occur by means of pluralistic argumentative exchanges, and on the other, it often implies the marginalization of certain traditions.

Nonetheless, the state of mutual affectation between rival claims allows for developing normative argumentative criteria for dialogue that neither belong to only one tradition, nor are imposed on all. Moreover, this state of mutual interaction in which traditions are already immersed permits developing normative criteria that, contrary to what other theories of intercultural dialogue propose, do not rest on any supposedly common element shared by all (e.g. a universal form of rationality, some common moral values or principles, a notion of humanity, a common referent or reality, etc.). Rather they can be conceived as contextual and dialogical criteria. This means that they can be created to face particular contexts and problems to which dialogue has to respond; and that they may be derived from the very characteristics of dialogue as a particular form of communication suitable for the needs of a context.

In Chapter 3 we will develop an initial set of intercultural argumentative criteria based on the notion of intercultural reasonableness. These criteria allow us to identify some common argumentative moves (intercultural fallacies) that should be avoided and corrected, since they neither allow for the recognition of heterogenic positions in their own terms, nor grant them the opportunity to participate in dialogue. Accordingly, the criteria of intercultural reasonableness allow for a judgment over the way in which heterogenic reasons are used in dialogue and represent the conditions for a pluralistic model of argumentation; that is, an exchange of reasons in which it is both possible to use heterogenic forms of argumentation and to decide between them. However, even though these criteria represent a necessary condition for dialogue in Latin America, they are not yet sufficient.

In order to supplement them, Chapter 4 offers an analysis of the structure of the conflict between claims in Latin America. This analysis shows that on account of their conflicting claims, traditions are interconnected and interconnecting forces. The claims of one tradition are not neutral, unimportant to or unrelated with those of others, even if the ways in which the connections are established depend on the inner characteristics of each form of rationality and life project. Conflicting claims appeal to each other. This leads us to the notion of interpellation, which we develop in Chapter 5: when making their claims, traditions affect each other. This affectation, that is, what is done to others through what is claimed, can be analyzed at three clearly defined levels: in intercultural contexts rival claims (1) challenge each other, (2) demand something from the others, and (3) offer something to them. The way in which participants in dialogue respond to these three levels of interpellation can be evaluated by means of criteria that derive from the very state of conflictive interaction between traditions and make it possible to coordinate heterogenic reasons and actions. We will call these criteria openness, intercultural resonance, creative fidelity to a tradition, respect, solidarity, intercultural coherence and contextual relevance.

Finally, in the Conclusion, we will offer some reflections on how to justify our intercultural argumentative criteria and a few indications of their possible application. This will allow us to make some suggestions regarding the structure and process of intercultural dialogue as a poly-logical argumentative practice, as well as concerning its possible outcomes and limits. We hope this work can contribute to the clarification of some central theoretical problems of intercultural dialogue, and offer concrete insights for its practice in Latin America.

1 Ian Hacking, “Language, Truth and Reason”, in Rationality and Relativism, ed. Martin Hollis and Steven Lukes (Oxford: Blackwell, 1982), 48-66.


1. The Argumentative Dimension of Intercultural Dialogue

1.1. Introduction

The first difficulty one finds when asking about the conditions for the possibility of intercultural dialogue is that the word ‘dialogue’ is used in so many different senses that it is not always easy to know what is meant by it. The fact that this ambiguity was already noticed thirty years ago,1 and it has not been yet resolved after decades of work on the subject, indicates that the use of the word ‘dialogue’ responds to quite diverse practices, interests and cultural-theoretical backgrounds, which in turn aim to face the complexities and challenges that religious and cultural diversity raises in the contemporary world. The problem is, of course, that the diversity of models and projects of dialogue renders the term indiscernible from some much more general and imprecise notions such as ‘encounter’, ‘sharing’, ‘meeting’, ‘conversation’, ‘mutual transformation’, ‘interaction’ and so on. But even if dialogue entails some of these features, it cannot be simply identified with them. What are the defining characteristics of intercultural dialogue, those which differentiate it from other forms of communicative encounter?

In this chapter we will attempt a characterization of dialogue based both on a first approach to the Latin American context of diversity and on the analysis of some models of intercultural dialogue proposed, especially, in the literature about interreligious dialogue. While, it is the characteristics of concrete contexts of religious and cultural diversity that can offer the best point of departure in the search for the structure, principles and goals of dialogue; a close look into what can be considered the most prominent instance of intercultural dialogue, the dialogue between religious traditions, should make us aware of the thorniest difficulties and fundamental issues that must be considered in its definition. Accordingly, our approach will be both contextual and analytical. The main assumption of this chapter, which will have to wait until the next chapter for a detailed exploration and justification, is that no common standard of rationality can be presupposed as the normative basis for intercultural dialogue in Latin America. Here the partners in dialogue belong to heterogeneous cultural traditions, which involve not only rival life projects that struggle to reach historical articulation in the midst of strong epistemological, social and political asymmetries; but also diverse forms of rationality. That is, different forms of structuring reality as a meaningful world and (often) incompatible methods of explanation and justification of beliefs and actions. The participants in dialogue in Latin America have diverse worldviews and rely on heterogeneous principles to determine what counts as a good reason. Since the idea of heterogenic rationalities will only be developed in the next chapter, we should take it in this initial part of our work as a working hypothesis. Presupposing it, we shall suggest that if intercultural dialogue is to respond to the challenges raised by religious and cultural diversity, it has to offer a way of dealing with positions made according to heterogenic rationalities. This means that it has to offer a way to consider, analyze and evaluate rival (and sometimes incompatible) reasons and thus that it implies a fundamental argumentative dimension. This, on the one hand, situates intercultural dialogue in a very specific field of action: the exchange of reasons by means of which the participants pursue certain communicative goals; and on the other, indicates that dialogue has an essentially normative core: a set of criteria to determine what may count as a good reason when no common standard of rationality is available.

We shall proceed as follows. In the first section, an initial approach to Latin American religious and cultural diversity should throw light on the specific problems and challenges that intercultural dialogue should expect to face. This will help us to determine the tasks and goals of dialogue in this context, and also will provide a first sign of the need to understand intercultural dialogue as a normativity-based practice. This insight shall be reinforced in the second section, where we will tackle the issue of the delimitation of the notion of intercultural dialogue. A short exploration of some descriptive approaches to interreligious dialogue will show us why the normative point of view is necessary. From it intercultural dialogue is constructed as an argumentative practice. This consideration of dialogue as a reciprocal and collaborative exchange of heterogenic reasons directed towards a communicative goal will offer a first indication regarding the sort of normative criteria dialogue needs in order to accomplish its aims, but also will make clear the problems involved in finding such criteria. Accordingly, in the last section we will consider the main objections to the possibility of establishing intercultural argumentative criteria. On the one hand, we shall engage with the position that renders intercultural dialogue impossible, arguing that the incommensurability of heterogenic forms of rationality is insurmountable; and on the other, we shall face the charge that the search for intercultural normative criteria conceals a neo-colonialist agenda. We will conclude the chapter with some preliminary remarks about the shape and function of the normative argumentative criteria intercultural dialogue needs in order to become possible in Latin America.

1.2. The Context of Dialogue

We have suggested that the characteristics of concrete contexts of religious and cultural diversity offer the best point of departure in the search for the principles and models of dialogue. They determine both the problems it has to respond to and the tasks it should perform. These contexts of diversity however are not simply social facts but imply certain ways of understanding diversity, which in turn generate normative attitudes towards the other’s beliefs and life projects.2 Thus when we talk about a context of diversity we refer to a constellation of interpretations and historical tensions that tries to determine how we should understand and deal with the worldviews and life projects of different cultural and religious traditions. What are the defining characteristics of the Latin American context of diversity?

Unlike other latitudes, in Latin America diversity emerges today from inside of mainly Roman Catholic and European colonial contexts, product of a 500 years history of colonialism, evangelization and resistance. This has very especial connotations for the interpretative construction of Latin American diversity and the definition of the tasks of intercultural dialogue. Firstly, the encounter with the others has not taken on the character of a neutral intellectual contemplation of their heterogenic claims, made possible for example through the development of academic disciplines such as the History of Religions, which may have played an important role in the relativization of the Christian norm in the North Atlantic world.3 Neither is it a result of the massive migratory processes that formed the multicultural and cosmopolitan environment of the main cities in rich Western countries.4 The other in Latin America does not come from outside, but has been oppressed, neglected, in many cases eradicated and always has been repulsed beyond the borders of visibility and speech; and it is from those borders that today emerges as a difficult alterity. In this sense, what becomes evident in the contemporary situation is not a conflict between theoretical truth claims, already formulated in clear religious doctrines, but a complex series of struggles to have the right even to formulate any claim.

Secondly, the subjects of these struggles are the original peoples of the continent which afterwards came arbitrarily to be called America, as well as the descendants of the Africans brought as slaves, whose religious traditions, on the one hand, are not even considered part of the so-called ‘world religions’ (on which most authors committed to the study of diversity focus their attention) and whose forms of life were even thought of as lacking culture and existing outside of history.5 On the other hand, these religious traditions have either constituted “syncretic” Christian forms or are still regarded as objects of evangelization. Indeed the rule has been to consider the cultures and life projects of indigenous peoples as objects of enterprises such as “civilization” and “modernization”, when not of massive eradication. Thus, a great deal of what is seen as diversity here is a sort of internal heterogeneity within Christianity in non European settings and within the colonialist modern project; both of which in many senses conflict with indigenous life projects at the same time that they are appropriated and transformed by them. Or in other words, Latin American diversity represents the “underside of modernity”, arises from the “reverse of history” (as liberation theologians would say) and has produced its own form of Christianity, not always approved by the ecclesiastical hierarchy.

Thirdly, this internal heterogeneity is not a simple accepted fact, but a conflictive process characterized by the struggle for recognition of the religious, cultural and political rights of ethnic minorities. Indeed, the last decades have witnessed a renewal and reconstruction of indigenous life projects that through the struggle of different indigenous movements in Latin America have managed to transform the understanding of diversity in most countries. Some important results of this nascent process can be seen in the movements of constitutional reform in many Latin American States since the 1990’s. These movements have lead some to speak of an “emerging multicultural regional model”,6 characterized by the recognition of the pluricultural and multiethnic character of Latin American countries and the commitment to the acknowledgement and protection of the collective rights of indigenous peoples as fundamental rights. This implies the recognition of the right to territory, but also of the rights of indigenous peoples “to ≪traditional authorities≫ and to jurisdiction and the administration of justice according to ≪their own norms and procedures≫”.7 In practice, however, these rights are hardly respected and the acknowledgment of diversity generates a series of tensions and conflicts between the normative systems of indigenous peoples and those of the states not easily resolvable by legal means. On the one hand, the conditions for the participation in the construction of plural societies are not equally granted to all social actors. On the other, there is nothing like a neutral common ground on which differences can be negotiated. Economic, political and epistemological asymmetries, counting for different forms of what we could call intercultural injustice, constitute the actual ground on which the diverse traditions of Latin America stand.8

In order to see how these three characteristics determine the constellation of problems and challenges that intercultural dialogue is supposed to face, it is necessary to analyze in greater detail the ways in which diversity is constructed. A satisfactory analysis of this sort would of course demand a study on its own. Here we are able only to present schematically some of the main interpretative threads of the current fabric of Latin American diversity, focusing in particular on the way in which they determine the tasks of intercultural dialogue. We will study the way in which diversity and dialogue are understood in two discursive fields: on the one hand, the discourse of the Latin American Catholic Church, and on the other the normative context generated by the recognition of indigenous claims and its articulation in multicultural constitutions and legal pluralism. Even though these may seem to be two very different fields, a common tension between the acknowledgment of diversity and the claim to the universality of certain values and principles generates conflicts to which intercultural dialogue is expected to respond. In both cases, dialogue appears as a communicative praxis that should allow for the equal participation of diverse traditions in the construction of pluralistic societies, offering a way to resolve conflicts and to mediate between heterogeneous claims. Also in both cases the normative criteria for such tasks remains a contested issue still to be clarified.

1.2.1. Between Inculturation and Dialogue: The Challenges of the Latin American Catholic Church

The current task and self-understanding of the Catholic Church in Latin America is marked by a tension between two paradigms: the model of Inculturation and the model of interreligious and intercultural dialogue. While the former has aimed since the end of 1960’s to transform the colonial paradigm of mission, linked with “European expansion and the political and cultural subjection of Latin American peoples”,9 it is regarded as insufficient by the sectors of the Church which are most seriously committed to the cause of the poor and the defense and promotion of indigenous peoples. They call for a paradigm shift towards dialogue.10 The understanding of dialogue, however, is itself problematic. In the documents of the Latin American Bishops Conferences11 the awareness of the need for dialogue appears occasionally and is marked by the tension between the claim to universality of Catholicism and the commitment of the Church with the protection and promotion of cultural difference. On the one hand, it is regarded as an opportunity to generate a “shared commitment to the defense and promotion of fundamental rights (…) especially those of the needy, in order to build a new society, more just and free” (cf., DP 1119, SD 138), which also implies the coordination of actions towards the defense of nature (SD 138). In this connection, Aparecida offers some enlightening ideas regarding the aims and relevance of dialogue:

Interreligious dialogue, besides its theological character, has an especial significance in the construction of the new humanity: it opens unprecedented paths for Christian testimony, promotes the freedom and dignity of peoples, stimulates collaboration for common good, overcomes violence motivated by fundamentalist religious attitudes, [and] educates people for peace and coexistence (cf., DA 239).

On the other hand, this emerging model of interreligious dialogue, based on values such as humility and self-criticism on the part of the Church (DP 1118), and which demands a change in the attitude towards the non-Christian traditions in pursue of a shared work towards the common good (SD 138, DA 235), is obscured by the weight of the claim to universality of Roman Catholic values and principles, generating the tendency to turn dialogue into a means of evangelization (DP 457, 1097, DA 238), and thus into a form of acculturation. Let us briefly explore the two poles of this tension. The Commitment of the Church with Indigenous Peoples

In Latin America the other emerges firstly12 as the poor. In Church’s documents this emergence adopts two forms: the optimistic corroboration of the irruption of the poor as new social actors in history (DP 234, DA 75), and the prophetic denunciation of the marginalized position into which these actors, particularly indigenous and Afro-American groups, are forced. Here we find one of the most significant insights of the Church regarding the possibilities of interreligious and intercultural dialogue in the continent: minorities and folk cultures coexist in unequal conditions with respect to globalized culture (DA 57), and thus, “although there is no other region with so many factors for unity as Latin America (…), it is a broken unity, crossed by deep dominations and contradictions, yet unable to incorporate in itself ≪all the bloods≫ and overcome the division of strident inequalities and many forms of marginalization” (cf., DA 527). The other has been placed in the margins of humanity just because she is different.

This means that marginalization is not a single process. On the economic level, it implies that ethnic groups live in conditions of inhuman poverty. Indeed the indigenous peoples are regarded as “the poorest of the poor” (cf., DP 34). But their misery, far from being a natural fact, is the product of unjust social and political structures (DP 30), and therefore constitutes, in the Church’s eyes, a social sin (DP 28). On the cultural level, ethnic identity becomes a factor for social subordination through a process of “systematic concealing of the values, history, culture and religious expressions” (cf., DA 96) of those who are different. On the social level, natives and Afro-Americans are the “voiceless” (cf., DP 24), forgotten and ignored (SD 137). They suffer from racial and cultural discrimination (SD 168, 179, 251), their dignity is permanently violated (SD 179) and their customs and traditions are treated disrespectfully (SD 5).13 On the political level, these communities lack the full acknowledgement of their citizenship, and thus their civil rights are not easily granted. In concrete, they are not guaranteed the “rights to the land, to their own organizations and cultural experiences, which assure that they can live according to their identity, with their own language and ancestral costumes, and can meet in full equality all the peoples of the Earth” (cf., SD 251). This many-sided picture of the link between alterity and marginalization is summarized in this perturbing diagnosis that challenges the possibility of dialogue in this continent: “today the indigenous peoples and the Afro-Americans are threatened in their physical, cultural and spiritual existence; in their forms of life; in their identities; in their diversity; in their territory and projects” (cf., DA 90). Accordingly, the very possibility of having a partner in dialogue is at stake.

Responding to this situation, the Church has made a commitment to the defense and promotion of indigenous cultures. In this commitment, which implies four elements, intercultural dialogue is supposed to play an important role. The first element is the support of the Church in the struggle for the acknowledgement and respect of indigenous peoples’ collective rights. This derives indeed from fidelity to the Gospel, leading towards solidarity with those who are the object of injustice in the form of ethnic and cultural discrimination (SD 5);14 and implies the battle against marginalization at different levels: (a) the defense of the right to their territories (SD 175-177), from which they are constantly expelled and to which their cultures and forms of life are inseparably linked (SD 4). (b) The fight against racial and cultural discrimination (SD 168), which involves the commitment to treat ethnic minorities in equality of terms with respect to the other members of society, and the recognition of their right to have their own culture, identity, language and forms of social organization (SD 251). (c) The consequent strengthening of indigenous forms of identity (DA 530), as a requisite for the granting of their full citizenship, which implies a process of de-colonizing the mentality of the majority society, the recuperation of historical memory and the creation of spaces for intercultural exchange (DA 96). (d) The promotion and support of the initiatives of a proper education for indigenous peoples, both bilingual and designed according to their own interest and values (SD 251); which also includes the education of indigenous priests and members of religious orders (DA 325). And (e) the opposition against the notion and praxis of “development” based on alien terms and models as well as against the politics that attempt to suppress, isolate or violently assimilate aboriginal cultures (SD 251).

This leads towards the second element, the defense and promotion of indigenous values and forms of life. Indeed, the documents of Santo Domingo and Aparecida abound in explicit acknowledgments of the richness of indigenous traditions, particularly with regards to the three following aspects: (a) the indigenous respectful form of relationship with Nature (SD 22, 172, DA 56, 472), characterized by a deep knowledge of it (SD 169), from which a change of mentality regarding the use and tenancy of the land can be promoted (176). (b) The indigenous communitarian form of life, characterized by values like “humility, modesty and solidarity” (cf., SD 22), as well as “the sacred character of human life, a high estimation of family and the coresponsibility in shared work” (cf., SD 17, DA 93). And (c) the spiritual dimension of indigenous life that “opens them to the action of God” (cf., DA 92), and prepares them to receive the Gospel (SD 17, DA 4).

Now the commitment of the Church in this area extends from the defense of “the cultural values of all peoples, especially those of the oppressed, helpless and marginalized, due to the devastating force of the structures of sin present in modern society” (cf., SD 243), to the promotion of those values as alternatives and answers to the anti-values of globalized culture (DA 57). This implies that the Church must contribute to the establishment of a dialogue both between indigenous traditions and the majority society that allows them to participate in the construction of alternative social projects, and between these traditions and that of the Church, in whose life indigenous peoples should be allowed to participate in accordance with their own worldviews (DA 94).

Striving to make this intercultural re-construction of the life of the Church and of Latin American societies possible constitutes the third element of the commitment of the Church. It is seen as a “kairós” to go deeper into the meaning of the meeting between Christianity and the indigenous worlds, to include them into Catholicity with their particular modes of being, and to “live a new Pentecost” (cf., DA 91). It is very significant that Aparecida, for the first time, acknowledges that indigenous peoples are, above all, “different others” (cf., DA 89), and in some sections the document seems to make its own some fundamental meanings and elements of indigenous worldviews, such as the notion of the land as “mother earth, source of aliment, shared home and altar for human sharing” (cf., DA 125, 472). In fact, this aspect of the commitment of the Church to indigenous peoples may really lead it to “enrich itself with new expressions and values, in such a way that it can manifest and celebrate in ever deepening fashion the mystery of Christ, as well as facilitate the unity between faith and life, and contribute to a not merely geographically but also culturally fuller catholicity” (cf., DA 479).

However, the commitment of the Church to indigenous peoples becomes ambiguous, as a result of the final element of its commitment: the Church’s missionary enterprise compelling it to uphold its norm as the universal principle to judge and “purify” indigenous cultures, in a way that controls and, as it were, administers their heterogeneity. Thus, “the acknowledgement of their values does not exempt us from announcing that ≪Christ is the only Savior of humanity, the only one who can reveal God and lead to God≫” (cf., SD 22).15 In this connection, indigenous values are interpreted as “seeds of the Word” which can only reach plenitude through the explicit acceptance of Christian faith (SD 2, DA),16 and thus their force to really enrich Catholicism and offer alternatives for the construction of society as “different others” becomes weakened. In order to better understand this ambiguity and the effects it has on the possibility of intercultural and interreligious dialogue it is necessary to consider with some detail the model of Inculturation, which continues determining the current self-understanding of the task of the Church in Latin America. The Gospel and the Cultures

Finding an appropriate way of understanding the relationship between the Christian claim to universal truth and the analogous claims of other traditions represents one of the main challenges religious diversity raises for Christian theology and pastoral action. The major current interpretation of this relationship, which plays an important role in the Documents of the Latin American Bishops’ Conferences, affirms that the Gospel does not oppose any culture but rather enlivens and purifies them (SD 20, 230). It means that when the Gospel, in the evangelization process, meets other cultures, it does not deprive them of their essential elements, nor forces them to adopt alien forms. On the contrary, “it can incarnate itself in all of them to introduce into their history the Kingdom of God” (cf., DP 237). This is the very definition of the project of Inculturation that guides the missionary task of the Church.

What does this incarnation of the Gospel in other cultures mean and how is it possible according to the documents of the Latin American Church? The idea of the incarnation of the Gospel in the cultures has diverse meanings and is not easy to summarize. It implies both the active task of the church as historical institution in the world –i.e. evangelization as its central mission (SD 30, 230, VA 3)– and the autonomous and mysterious action of God in the history of different peoples. On the one hand, as affirmed by the II Vatican Council, “God, revealing Himself to His people to the extent of a full manifestation of Himself in His Incarnate Son, has spoken according to the culture proper to each epoch” (Gaudium et Spes 58). On the other, the Church, in accordance to that divine action, “when it proclaims the Gospel and the peoples accept the faith, incarnates itself in them and assumes their cultures. In this way, it does not identifies itself with them, but establishes an intimate connection with them” (cf., DP 400). Thus it appears a rather problematic relationship between the Church and the many cultures. Its main characteristic is the tension between the universality of Christianity and the particularity of every culture, which leads to the subordination of every tradition to the Christian norm, and at the same time to the concealment of the cultural commitments of Roman Catholicism. This tension can be presented as follows. While full revelation of God implies the incarnation of Christ in a particular historical and cultural setting, and therefore the Gospel is just possible in and through the language, symbols and mentality of that setting; the Church claims that it “is not bound exclusively and indissolubly to any race or nation, any particular way of life or any customary way of life recent or ancient” (Gaudium et Spes 58). The apparent contradiction is resolved appealing to a universal core, a center of eternal truth, which does not belong itself exclusively to any particular culture, but makes all of them possible. This universal truth is Jesus Christ himself, who at the same time that offers an inexhaustible richness that cannot be exhausted by any culture (SD 24), constitutes the content of evangelization (SD 27).

But this solution only reinforces the tension: While it is accepted that due to the “creative, providential and saving presence of God that accompanied the life of these peoples” (cf., SD 16), the message of the Gospel was already present in every Culture before evangelization; the fullness of revelation is given only through the Church as a total and communicable truth (DP 202). As a consequence, on the one hand, all that in other cultures differs from the Christian norm is false and wrong; and on the other, what they may have of valuable and good is so just inasmuch as it is a “seed of the Word” (cf., DP 401); that is, an imperfect, unconscious and often corrupted form of Christian divine truth, in need of the historical process of evangelization in order to be purified and to reach its full realization (DP 407). In this way, the trans-cultural core claimed by Christianity simultaneously penetrates into cultures from outside (the missionary enterprise) and pushes up from within (the seeds of the Word already acting in them). It establishes the norm for the appreciation and evaluation of the differences and similarities between cultures and, in one word, it provides the principle to judge diversity (DA 95). As a consequence, it is hard to see how “overcoming differences, faith does not damage but respect them” (cf., SD 3).17 In fact, the evident result of this understanding of Christian universality is that the others become, to use Rahner’s famous expression, anonymous Christians.18 It implies affirming something along the lines of the following: non Christian traditions suffer a sort of delusion and ultimately ignore themselves, because even when they may have reached true insights into reality, lived according to morally correct values, and developed some forms of relationship with the divine, all that is merely a pale reflection of the fullness of truth that can be only realized through the explicit acceptance of the Christian norm. Furthermore, their achievements are seen as an unconscious search after Christ (SD19, DA 477), as the Church understands him. Everything that differs from its teaching must consequently be purified and transformed, in a sense that implies more than the struggle to build a just society. This, of course, implies a subtle form of cultural colonialism. Even if some range of internal diversity is permitted, this diversity is subsumed into a supposedly higher view and reordered according to its principles.

The attitude of the Church towards ‘folk religiosity’ (religiosidad popular) in Latin America offers an instructive instance of this problem. This phenomenon occupies a central place in the reflection of the Bishops’ Conferences, which define it as “the form or cultural existence adopted by religion in a particular people” (cf., DP 444). The Bishops view folk religiosity with pride and consider it a privileged instance of unity in diversity. To express this idea they use the metaphor of a great mosaic in which the different religious and cultural forms of expressions are ordered in connection with a unique center, that of Catholicism, which confers their meaning and regulates their interactions (DA).20 As we already indicated, what can be considered true and worthy in all these diverse manifestations depends on this center, and what differs from it, must be purified (DP 457). Insofar as folk religiosity is a result of evangelization (DM 2) and of the meeting between Christianity and indigenous cultures (DA 264), and thus it is already a form of Inculturation of the Gospel (SD 36, 247), the plurality it entails is constantly immunized from its possible radical heterogeneity, that is, from whatever may lay beyond the Christian center. In other words, folk religiosity is so constructed as to allow some room for diversity, whilst it nonetheless finds its scope limited according to norms defined by the Church.

In this sense, it has a positive face that must be promoted and protected (DA 258) and a dangerous side that must be directed and controlled (DP 453). The former is constituted by the stock of values and popular wisdom it represents (DM 2, DP 448), which is seen as the great treasure of the Catholic Church in Latin America (SD 247, DA 7). The other side of folk religiosity entails a danger that must be contained and controlled. Their expressions may be deformed and mixed. This, especially due to the influence of what is regarded as the negative elements of the ancestral religious heritage of indigenous peoples, such as “superstition, magic, fatalism, idolatry of power, fetishism and ritualism” (cf., DP 456, DM 4). But also due to a lack of religious education that may allow for syncretic or reductive reinterpretations of faith (DP 456). Consequently, folk piety and culture must be permanently evangelized (DP 457), reinterpreted (DP 469) and purified from its limitations (SD 36). This produces an ambiguity in the conception of diversity: it must be controlled in order to be protected from the tendency towards heterogeneity constitutive of its internal non-Catholic roots. In other words, it is a sort of kept-in-balance diversity, an immunized diversity, whose defining element is not alterity but the sameness operated by the Christian norm. Consequently, the other is neither really recognized in all her originality and difference, nor given the right to really express her views and participate in conditions of equality in the construction of the life of the Church and society. As the indigenous catholic priest Eleazar Lopez points out, this understanding of diversity generates a sort of bi-religiosity:

Indigenous peoples go the Church and pray to Christ, but with the same devotion go the hills, to the caves, to the springs and to other sacred places to beg for the help of the Owner of Life who lives in those places. In praxis, we live not only a double economy, but also a double culture and a double religion (…) Therefore, we live a sort of schizophrenia due to a double love that we are unable to reconcile in our hearts.21

The transition towards a paradigm based on intercultural dialogue is often suggested as the best solution to the tensions and ambiguities of the model of Inculturation. As we mentioned, it should make possible the equal participation of indigenous peoples as they are both in the intercultural transformation of the Church and the construction of pluralistic societies. The main characteristic of this model, it is claimed, is that it is polycentric.22 This means that in dialogue no tradition can claim that its normative core is the only or best possible one, but that all can participate in their own terms, according to their worldviews and forms of life. But, in order to really include and produce communication between different and sometimes incompatible sets of principles, notions, practices and values, this new model requires a way of evaluating positions when conflicts appear and decisions need to be made. Otherwise there would be no way to avoid the proclamation of one unique normative core as the only possible one, or to coordinate rival positions for the intercultural reconstruction of the Church and society. As we will emphasize and explain in the next section, in order to be possible intercultural dialogue needs to be based on normative criteria that neither represent the values of only one tradition, nor are totally exterior to all. This need for a normative element derives also from the way in which diversity is constructed in the second discursive field we are going to consider here.

1.2.2. The Struggles for Recognition of Indigenous Peoples and the Emergence of Multicultural Models

The second discursive field in which intercultural dialogue is often invoked as the appropriate model to face the complexities of diversity is the political and juridical arena of the multicultural Latin American countries. This arena is determined by a series of state reform processes carried out in many Latin American countries in the last decades, which include, on the one hand, processes of constitutional reform by means of which indigenous peoples collective rights, territories and cultures are acknowledged; and on the other, the emergence of a new international legal order (ratified by most governments) regarding indigenous’ rights, represented by agreements such as the ILO Convention 169, the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the so-called Agenda 21.23 While these processes are a result, at least partially, of the struggles for recognition of indigenous movements, they also respond to other factors such as the “democratic transition”, a series of structural adjustments, the transitions towards neoliberalism and the search for new bases for legitimation in many countries.24 Here we just want to schematically present the way in which diversity is constructed in this discursive field as well as the tasks and challenges that are assigned to intercultural dialogue. In order to do so, we will first briefly present the way in which the current indigenous movements reconstruct their life projects to formulate their claims, and then the tensions that in the Latin American multicultural countries call for a dialogical mediation. Here also, like in the last case, these tensions imply a conflict between the duty to protect and promote cultural difference and the need to maintain a universal core of values and principles in order to warrant state’s sovereignty and national unity.25 Indigenous Reconstructed Claims and Regained Rights

The last decades of the twentieth century witnessed the raising of new indigenous movements that reached global dimensions. Rather than a defense of frozen traditions, this implied a process of “ethnic reorganization”26 and the formulation of a series of challenges and criticisms to the cultural, economic and political projects of the majority society. While indigenous peoples ground their claims through a reference to their traditions, in particular to their myths, the Law of Origin (ley de origen), the wisdom of the elders and the knowledge inscribed in their traditional practices and forms of life, these elements are reinterpreted in face of new situations, challenges and actors. Thus, “drawing on their own history and reflecting upon it, and making use of the symbolic capital thus constituted, the identity politics of indigenous peoples and their criticism of the cultures, societies and institutions they confront are forged in interaction with their present environment”.27 In this process of reconfiguration of their life projects something like a global contemporary indigenous discourse has emerged in spite of the great diversity of indigenous peoples, languages and cultures.28 The three main features of this discourse are the demand for territory, the demand for autonomy or self-determination and the demand to have the right to live according to the principles and values of their own culture.

Territory, autonomy and culture are the main elements of most contemporary indigenous life projects. The three are interdependent. Beyond the simple demand to the ownership of a certain piece of land, the claim to territory is a complex claim that links symbolic, economical and political elements. The territory, which is always a “sacred territory”, is considered to be the “essence of life and culture”. In this sense, it cannot be reduced to the geopolitical space of an indigenous reservation (reserva) assigned by the law of majority society to a people. On the contrary, both the notion and scope of territory are founded on the myth of origin of each people. On the one hand, it is the place from and in which a people was born and the space in which the ancestors continue to live. In the Declaration of Kari-oca (Brazil, 1992), the first international declaration made by representatives of many different indigenous peoples of the world, they expressed:

From the smallest to the greatest living being, from the four directions, from the air, the earth and the mountains, the Creator situates us, the indigenous peoples, on our Mother Earth. The footsteps of our ancestors are forever engraved in our territories (…) We cannot be removed from our territories. We are linked to them through the cycle of life (…) We, the indigenous peoples, walk to the future in the footprints of our ancestors.29

On the other hand, the territory is considered the world given to a people, as a task and a responsibility, to be protected, conserved and kept in balance by leaving according to the law of origin. Indeed, the territory is itself the incarnation of this natural, cosmic law. Thus, it is indissolubly linked with a form of life and a series of practices of traditional knowledge regarding the use of the elements that are present in it. For this reason, in face of the economic interest of the majority society in exploiting “natural recourses”, territorial demands imply a claim both to the right of administering and deciding on the use of such “resources” and to the intellectual property of their knowledge.30

The consequence of this complex claim to territory is that the other two elements of the current global indigenous discourse (i.e. self-determination and culture), can only be realized in relation to a sacred territory. The claim to autonomy implies also various elements, among which the most important is the right to practice their own forms of political organization and legal administration. Particularly significant are the rights to have their own legal institutions and practices and their own modes of understanding and practicing justice, which are grounded on notions hardly reconcilable with the basic notions and values of western political and legal theory. The group as the primordial bearer of fundamental rights rather than the individual, the priority of collective property over private individual property, a conception of justice as the reestablishment of harmony rather than as the punishment of the offender, and a view of law as a cosmic order instead of as a human contract, are some significant features of indigenous legal systems.31

Finally, the right to live according to their own culture, beyond the freedom to have the usual elements ascribed to the notion of culture such as language, religion and dress, involves the acknowledgment of what some indigenous groups call their “own thought” (pensamiento propio). This includes the constellation of symbols and principles of interpretation of the world that are established by myth and are reinforced by the practices informed by the traditional knowledge of each people, such as traditional medicine, ritual agriculture and use of sacred plants. In this sense, recovering the worldview (cosmovisión) of each people, as well as the traditional practices of knowledge, are considered primordial tasks in the formulation and realization of indigenous life projects. This, of course, has implications for the conception and practice of the basic service programs the State is supposed to offer to guarantee the “fundamental rights” of people. Indeed, part of the claim to live according to their own culture implies that indigenous peoples should be given a proper kind of intercultural education, which differs from the models, contents and methods of the official educational programs; as well as interculturally legitimate health programs, able to include their own systems of traditional medicine. In the same direction, the claim to the own culture usually entails the proposal of projects of alternative development, which normally oppose the project of neoliberal globalization and in general the capitalist model of development, based on the voracious exploitation of nature, pollutant industrial production, unlimited growth and intemperate consumption.

This oversimplified description of the current claims of indigenous peoples, even though does not allow to see the many differences in interpretation of these three elements, provides a first picture of diversity in Latin American multicultural countries. The struggles for recognition of indigenous peoples imply much more than a claim to certain life conditions and the satisfaction of “basic needs” equally understood by all the members of society. Rather, as we will have the opportunity to see in depth in subsequent chapters, it implies a much more fundamental claim regarding the possibility of defining what counts as real and important, of interpreting the world and human life according to diverging principles and values, and of participating in the construction of alternatives of future which go in a different direction from the project of majority society. In this sense, it has been consistently pointed out that indigenous life projects challenge the assumption that cultural and social development are a unique process, whose stages could be identified in the history of all peoples. Rather than representing different steeps in a single universal historical process, indigenous life projects represent alternative ways in which history can be constructed. This, evidently, raises a challenge to notions such as “progress”, “development”, “civilization” and “modernization”, which constitute ideals and values of the Western modern project of life; and has led to talk about the presence of “alternative modernities” in Latin America.32

In one word, acknowledging the multicultural and pluriethnic character of the continent implies accepting the right of different peoples to carry out their life projects, each of which are rooted in a different worldview and entail diverse normative systems, as well as to participate in the construction of pluralistic societies. This, of course, represents a paradigm shift with respect to the previous political models, based in segregation and evangelization during colonial times, forced integration during the early republican days, and then on assimilationism and developmentalism which strived to absorb the difference by means of “modernization”. Moreover, multiculturalist reforms in Latin America “entail a significant departure from the accustomed model of the nation-state and the forms of economic and political regulation and the notions of democracy and citizenship predicated upon this model”.33 However, the acknowledgement of cultural diversity is in practice not only blocked by the spread phenomenon of marginalization, which as we saw in the previous subsection constitutes the actual ground on which different traditions encounter each other; it also has to face a series of theoretical problems and procedural inadequacies. Among them, two issues are particularly relevant for our reflection, since intercultural dialogue is frequently suggested as an appropriate means of coming to terms with them. One is the issue of how to make real participation of different cultural traditions in the construction of society possible; that is participation in the democratic process of deliberation and decision-making; and the other is how to regulate the relationships between different normative systems that are recognized as having equal rights. Democratic Participation as Intercultural Deliberation

Although there is probably no other word on which the current discourse of democratization in Latin America emphasizes more than ‘participation’, there is no consensus regarding the meaning of the term and the procedures for its practice. This situation responds of course to the confrontation between different political and economical interests and models of democracy. One the one hand, participation is interpreted either as helping to implement polices decided and designed from above, or simply as informing the concerned groups about the decisions taken by certain officers. This understanding is progressively coming to be seen as too reductive and as out of step with the multiculturalist reforms of many states. For this reason, on the other hand, multiculturalists see democratic participation as the bases of a profound change and a new social pact able to include previously marginalized social groups.34 In this sense, participation would allow for social inclusion, new types of relationships between cultural groups and the affirmation of new rights.35 It would mean granting different cultural traditions and social groups the right to contribute, from their own perspectives, to the reconstruction of society. Thus, the central feature of participation would be a pluralistic process of deliberation and decision-making.

A current example of such democratic process of intercultural deliberation is offered by the so-called right to consultation of indigenous peoples (consulta previa). It was established by the ILO Convention 169 as

The fundamental right of indigenous peoples to decide over their own priorities regarding the process of development, considering the way in which this process affects their lives, beliefs, institutions and spiritual wellbeing. It implies the right to their territories and to control their own social, economical and cultural development, as well as the right to participate in the formulation, application and evaluation of the national programs that may affect them.36

The issue of how to interpret and put into practice this right has generated intense discussion and some legal regulations in different countries. Certainly, the most promising interpretation of the consultation sees it as a dialogical process in which each party would present its claims and reasons and then, after considering each party’s argumentation, a reasonable decision could be made. But intercultural deliberation is not a simple task. Beyond the problem of establishing the appropriate socio-political conditions that would permit the participation of marginalized groups in a dialogue (avoiding manipulation, constriction, deceitful actions and the like), we have the problem of the deliberation procedure itself. Unlike a deliberative process that occurs between members of the same culture, in intercultural deliberation each party presents his reasons according to his own worldview. This implies that the arguments of the parties may not rest on the same premises, because each responds to a different conception of the world, but also that the principles and values each party uses to justify its own reasons and to evaluate those of the other may diverge. How can then people belonging to different worldviews make a decision on rival projects if they do not share the same matrix of understanding of the world, nor a common standard of justification? Requiring all the parties to use a single language and form of justification, which would be representative of the worldview of only one side, would certainly deny the intention of truly acknowledging cultural diversity. As we will see, no argumentative system or worldview may raise a claim to exclusiveness without begging the question. Or, to put it otherwise, no group of normative principles may claim neutrality because none is independent from the standards, conditions and values of a particular tradition. In this connection, if intercultural dialogue is to offer an adequate procedure for intercultural deliberation, it has to offer a way of including different values, principles of interpretation, languages and systems of argumentation in a communicative process that is able to evaluate them without privileging any tradition. And this demands a clear communicative mechanism whose principles and criteria have not been specified so far. Legal Pluralism and the Resolution of Intercultural Conflicts

The recognition and respect of diverse traditional legal systems generates the challenge of mediating between the rules, principles and values of indigenous law and the rules, principles and values of modern western society on which the legal system of the nation rests. This implies the double task of coordinating different legal systems and determining the limits of the various jurisdictions. The challenge here is how to warrant the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples while establishing an appropriate mechanism of intercultural conflict-resolution; that is, how to coordinate the relationship between normative systems without imposing the principles of one over the rest. The Colombian case is here paradigmatic, given that pluralism has been raised to a constitutional principle. Daniel Bonilla has shown that at the heart of the 1991 Colombian constitution lies a tension between unity and cultural diversity that hinders the legal development and appropriate application of minority rights. According to him, this tension implies two conflicts between different groups of values. On the one hand, there is a conflict between liberal values (particularly the Enlightenment’s idea of human dignity) and the constitutional acknowledgment of the validity of the diverse moral and political systems of cultural minorities, which may conflict with the supposedly universal values and fundamental rights of liberal tradition. On the other, there is the conflict between the right to self-determination of minorities and the principle of the legal and political unity of the state, which traditionally has meant that there is only one valid legal system and one homogenous and centralized political structure.37

As a result of this tension, Bonilla argues that in practice, when it comes to solving conflicts between rival normative systems, the principle of cultural diversity has been canceled by the priority given to the principle of national unity. This can be seen in the verdicts of the Constitutional Court, the institution responsible for settling multicultural legal disputes. Even thought this Court has made a great effort to seriously take into account and respect the perspective of indigenous peoples, it always ends up by giving priority to liberal values. This can be seen in the doctrine of the hierarchy of values, elaborated throughout the years by the Constitutional Court in order to resolve the question of the limits of the self-determination of indigenous peoples. To what extent can the indigenous peoples practice their own forms of justice? What is the limit of their autonomy? The Court’s answer rests on a basic postulate: to maximize the autonomy of indigenous legal systems and to minimize restrictions on them, applying only those restrictions that are necessary to protect higher values.38 At first, in a sentence of 1994, these higher values were plainly identified with human rights, arguing that all peoples of the world universally accepted them. Then, after a move towards the acknowledgment of the cultural relativity of human rights, the Court limited the higher order values to certain constitutional rights which have precedence over the principle of cultural diversity: the right to life, the prohibition of slavery and the prohibition of torture.39 But, even though the Constitutional Court has strived to find a path between universalism and cultural relativism, aiming to respect and protect cultural difference, some authors argue that “so far it has not been possible to conceive a formula that allows for a true legal pluralism, since [the Constitutional Court] has imposed on indigenous peoples the obligation to respect principles created by Western culture”.40

The best solution, it is usually claimed, is to be found in intercultural dialogue. It should help to coordinate different normative systems, to reach an agreement upon the appropriate limits of indigenous legal systems, to resolve conflicts by means of argumentation, to elaborate new intercultural normative standards acceptable to the parties and in a word, to make possible the peaceful and just coexistence of different cultural traditions without imposing a single project of life or worldview.41 But how can dialogue fulfill these tasks? Indeed, invoking intercultural dialogue as a solution is not the end of the matter. On the contrary, as in the previous case, it is when we opt for dialogue that the most difficult problems appear, because intercultural dialogue is not something that just happens every time that people belonging to diverse traditions meet. It is neither a natural process, nor a type of communicative encounter whose definition we know a priori. While it may be true that the different life projects that struggle to find historical realization in the midst of unequal conditions are already in mutual contact and interaction, this is, that they are permanently transformed and redefined in the encounter with others, such encounters generally do not occur in a way that allows for the equal participation of heterogenic traditions in the construction of pluralistic societies. Cultural homogenization, the expansion of the project of society and humanity of a hegemonic tradition, the extinction of cultural diversity and the concealment of alternative forms of constructing life are often the results of the encounter. In this regard, as we already noted, dialogue is only possible if it can provide a communicative mechanism, a regulated structure, able to engage diverse projects, granting each one the possibility of presenting their claims and projects in their own terms, whilst also being able to coordinate heterogenic reasons and to judge them. Without a normative structure dialogue is unable to offer an appropriate procedure for intercultural deliberation and conflict resolution.

1.3. The Borders of Dialogue

The previous analysis indicates that intercultural dialogue in Latin America means far more than a neutral and friendly exchange of views on the nature of reality and the meaning of human life. Intercultural conflicts are far from being simple differences of opinion on a matter that could be resolved by appealing to a neutral mechanism. On the contrary, they imply the confrontation of competing projects of human life and society that claim the right to be historically realized. Thus, the aim of intercultural communication has to include the coordination of these heterogenic projects and the actions grounded on them for the construction of pluralistic societies; that is societies in which every project is given a place and can fairly interact with others. Thus, the need for normative criteria to evaluate and discern among the positions presented in dialogue derives from the particular context of diversity to which dialogue is expected to respond. We need then to clarify its argumentative dimension. Because in the present context of diversity “a rhetorical order must be installed to ensure a fair and productive debate over what shape the brave new ‘society’ would eventually take and how legal cases or ethical issues could be debated and adjudicated cross-culturally”.42 The question now is whether a model of intercultural dialogue able to meet this challenge is readily available, or more precisely, whether the models of dialogue on which we count provide an appropriate argumentative procedure to consider, evaluate and decide over heterogenic reasons.

To answer this question, it may be useful to focus on what can be considered the most prominent instance of intercultural dialogue: the dialogue between religious traditions. Indeed, no other instance of intercultural dialogue is so pertinent for our Latin American context, in which diverse cultural traditions involve heterogenic worldviews and groups of normative ethical and political principles. As in the case of dialogue between the so-called world religions, here we find that the parties belong to all-encompassing types of discourse which, on the one hand, determine what counts as real and provide meaning to most aspects of existence, and on the other, organize human life according to certain principles and values. Like the great world religions, the traditions that need to be coordinated through dialogue in Latin America generate different (and rival) pictures of the world, forms of life and projects of human realization. In this sense, even if among the participants in dialogue we find traditions that appeal to secular principles and notions, the fact that their traditions provide a comprehensive worldview and life project that conflict with others allows us to understand this sort of encounter as a form inter-paradigmatic dialogue (just like inter-religious dialogue). Consequently, we can reformulate our previous question as: Do the models of interreligious dialogue, as they have been practiced and theorized so far, make clear how the argumentative dimension of intercultural communication works?

The first point to notice is that although the literature abounds in characterizations and typologies of interreligious dialogue, most of the studies in the last three decades are mainly descriptive. Accordingly, they classify actual instances of dialogue, offering a picture rich in distinctions and nuances; they characterize some communicative practices in terms of the common features they exhibit; they identify some possible and desirable goals for dialogue, as well as its possible topics and even some of its epistemological and ethical presuppositions; but they cannot tell us what to do with conflicting claims justified by heterogenic systems of argumentation. In a word, even though descriptive approaches to dialogue are useful, they need to be supplemented by a normative approach able to clarify its argumentative structure. Let us see.

Since the late 1960’s a fourfold classification of interreligious dialogue has become recurrent in most typologies. Eric Sharpe, for example, proposes a distinction between four modes of dialogue according to its objectives: (a) Discursive Dialogue, motivated by a ...

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