Ars Erotica Foundation was involved in a two-year Grundtvig project (www.bodyproject.eu) funded by the European Commission under the Lifelong Learning Programme. The BODY project had the overall aim to explore how our perception of the body and body-related themes such as health, disease, gender, age, sexuality and disability is influenced by cultural differences and on the same affects our intercultural communication.
Partner organizations in this project have been involved in research and training activities in the intersection of cultural diversity and body (Elan Interculturel) gender (MHTConsult, CESIE, Elan Interculturel, Ars Erotica Foundation), disability (KVG), and sexuality (Ars Erotica Foundation, CESIE, KVG.). It is our common observation both in research and training that factors related to the body and gender become ‘sensitive zones’ in cultural contact zones. Yet the resources available – both theoretical and practical – are rather scarce. Engagement in an applied research on cultural differences in gender, body and sexuality and the translation of the results into applicable training materials and trainings is in line with our strategic objectives.
Our goal was to provide exemplary knowledge and experience on how professionals can handle cultural differences linked to the body in an appreciative and respectful way. It may apply to adult teachers and trainers as well as counselors, integration workers, health workers, social workers, job consultants, sexual supervisors, disability consultants and other frontline staff all over Europe. Based on the specific method of Critical Incidents proposed by Margalit Cohen-Emerique, the partners in the BODY project have collected and analysed a large number of concrete examples of how professionals in many different contexts have experienced and handled “culture shock” in reference to cultural perceptions of the body and body-related themes such as disability and sexuality etc. We also identified a wide range of examples that illustrate how people around Europe through professional cultural encounters have developed best practices to accommodate cultural differences in body language and body image. The best practices all operate in the intersection between culture and body where intercultural empathy and respect have overcome the communication challenges and barriers that traditionally are known to be linked to the specific communication of the body.
Within the project two pilot trainings were held in Budapest and the final international training in July 2013. Adult trainers learned to construct more inclusive and efficient trainings on issues related to the human body, health, sexuality, interculturality, thereby offering pathways for developing civic, social and intercultural competences and developing attitudes and skills concerning health, body and sexuality. Innovations of the training: application of scientific theories and approaches, training construction based on participation of target group. The manual including training materials, case studies, Critcal Incidents from 5 participant countries and theoretical background articles and the anthology is available at bodyproject in English, Italian, Hungarian, French, Danish and Dutch.
You can read my article from the BODY anthology: Introduction to the intercultural approach of sexuality.