The world citizen, which American universities should produce, is characterized by three traits: Socratic self-examination, understanding of different cultures, and narrative imagination, the last of which encourages empathy for others. Nussbaum devotes a chapter to each trait. In "Citizens of the World," she describes with enthusiasm the Cultural Encounters program at St. Lawrence College.
The Cultural Encounters program is a model of responsible teaching in several areas of human diversity. By design, it encompasses not only the encounter with a foreign culture but also related issues of gender, ethnic and religious pluralism, and sexuality, presenting issues of American pluralism in relation to those of global cultural diversity. Its interdisciplinary character ensures that these issues will be faced from many interlocking perspectives, including those of literary study and anthropology, long prominent in multicultural teaching, but also those of economics, biology, philosophy, and foreign language teaching.
The process by which the faculty put together the program is fascinating, Most interesting to me is the faculty's preference for the term interculturalism to the terms multiculturalism and diversity, since the latter are associated with relativism and identity politics. Nussbaum writes,
Interculturalism, by contrast, connotes the sort of comparative searching that they have in mind, which, they argue, should prominently include the recognition of common human needs across cultures and of dissonance and critical dialogue within cultures. The interculturalist, they argue, has reason to reject the claim of identity politics that only members of a particular group have the ability to understand the perspective of that group. In fact, understanding is achieved in many different ways, and being born a member of a certain group is neither sufficient nor necessary. Knowledge is frequently enhanced by an awareness of difference (my italics).
The next three chapters of the book defend the place and importance of African American Studies, Women's Studies and the Study of Human Sexuality in American higher education. Throughout Nussbaum rejects identity politics, separatism, and relativism, and criticizes postmodernist thinking. She places these special interdisciplinary studies in the context of globalization, and shows how essential they are to relating ethically to others. I have much more to say, but will do so in another post.