Silk Road Rising's Multi Meets Poly: Multiculturalism and Polyculturalism Go on a First Date is an engaging and exciting video play that manages to present two complex ideas in a thoughtful, balanced, provocative way. It’s a terrific teaching tool and discussion-starter, managing to combine the theory, politics, intellectual debate, and real-world consequences surrounding the concepts of multiculturalism and polyculturalism in a way that is both accessible and nuanced, serious and humorous. We screened the 34-minute video and invited playwright Jamil Khoury and Professor of Anthropology Richard Shweder of the University of Chicago to engage in a discussion with our workshop audience of students, staff, and community members. The result was a lively and informed conversation that elicited multiple perspectives and some new insights—you couldn’t ask for a better way to frame such an urgent and timely topic.
Betty Farrell, Executive Director (2009 - 2015), Cultural Policy Center, Harris School of Public Policy, The University of Chicago
Silk Road Rising’s provocative film, Multi Meets Poly, wryly challenges staid concepts of diversity and invites college campuses to redefine conversations about cultural differences and pluralism. More importantly, it challenges colleges to reimagine their approach to multicultural education and the intentional creation of campus culture. Too often, “Diversity” encourages a culture of alienated “tolerance,” a term that implies imperialism and fosters isolation. Well-intended faculty and students politely refrain from genuine engagement with one another across varied identities and perspectives for fear of transgressing. As an unintended consequence, our campuses devolve into self-selected segregation. Polyculturalism, however, teaches us how to embrace and participate in difference as part of a polymorphous culture that moves fluidly and interactively within multiple cultures. It has the potential to deconstruct concepts such as “dominant” and “minority.” I recently taught a course on “Immigration, Assimilation, and Nationalism” framed in the theory and debate of Multi Meets Poly and can say that my students grappled authentically with the issues of boundaries, identities, and appropriation. They left the course significantly less fearful of Otherness and invigorated about the possibilities of a genuinely inclusive future.
Liz Carlin Metz is the Smith V. Brand Distinguished Professor of Theatre at Knox College (Galesburg, IL) and the Artistic Director of Vitalist Theatre (Chicago)
In his brilliant and engaging video play, Multi Meets Poly: Multiculturalism and Polyculturalism Go On a First Date, playwright Jamil Khoury crafts a fast paced “anything you say I can say better” (and meta-) verbal duel between she (Poly) and he (Multi) over the true meaning of multiculturalism. For Poly it means embracing cosmopolitanism and hybridity, and actively promoting the erosion of boundaries between groups, the dynamic and creative mixing up of marriages, neighborhoods, schools, professions, and even cuisines. For Multi it means in-group solidarity and the liberty of different peoples to maintain their borders and protect their unique ethnicity and distinct way of life by means of family life, separate schools, residential enclaves, and the policing of "authentic" cultural practices. The creative writer who produced this script is a matchmaker at heart who tries to arrange for Poly and Multi to embrace each other’s moral agenda. Watch this riveting dramatic dialogue and find out where they go on their next date, if there is a next date.
Richard A. Shweder is a cultural anthropologist and the Harold Higgins Swift Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Comparative Human Development at The University of Chicago
Jamil Khoury's Multi Meets Poly is the perfect piece for an engaging discussion with students on a college campus. The ideas of multiculturalism and polyculturalism can appear abstract and difficult to distinguish. Without a catalyst like this piece, it can be difficult to hold a lively, insightful discussion with students and the campus community. However, the personification of these two ideas makes them approachable and relatable. As an international education professional who thought I sided with one ideology over the other, I found that the debate between the two ideas pulled me back and forth, exactly as it should have. Khoury perfectly balances the two ideas, and the eloquence of the arguments they make is delightful. The script is brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this piece and can't wait to share it with others.
Joseph Frake, Assistant Director of International Student Recruitment & Services, Office of International Programs at Valparaiso University
Multi Meets Poly is crucial to our American political landscape for its nuance. In order to confront the over simplification and polarization of American two party politics, we must elevate our cultural understanding and communication skills. Multi Meets Poly is a fun, playful and profound exploration and explanation of the exact kind of dialogue we need to inject into our daily lives and community culture.
Brad Burgess, Artistic Director, The Living Theatre (New York City)