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Aminata Touré and Aladin El-Mafaalani at the conference week: "We are all sitting at one big table"

2021-03-01 The conference week for the approximately 1500 first-semester students ended on Friday. Aminata Touré, vice-president of the Schleswig-Holstein state parliament, and the sociologist and author Aladin El-Mafaalani spoke in the last keynote of the week about what a diverse open society and its culture of debate can look like. Due to the Covid-19-pandemic, all events took place digitally.

Aminata Touré and Aladin El-Mafaalani were connected via livestream. ©Leuphana/Marvin Sokolis
Aminata Touré and Aladin El-Mafaalani were connected via livestream.

"Think of the open society as one big table where everyone sits together. In the past, only old, white men sat there. Now society has become much more diverse. Now there are more people sitting there who want a piece of the pie. But with more people come more questions: Is this even the right cake recipe? Is the seating arrangement correct? Is the food culture what we want it to be?" With this metaphor, Aladin El-Mafaalani gets right into the topic of the keynote: Who owns the city? Aminata Touré sits at such tables a lot, especially in her function as a member of the state parliament for Bündnis 90/Die Grünen: "I imagine that as many people should sit at this table as society is diverse." 

But can a society in rural regions be as diverse as in big cities? "It is actually the case that big cities tend to be more open. They only exist at all because migration has taken place", says El-Mafaalani. An opening up of society as a whole always takes place first in the conurbations, i.e. in the big cities. It becomes problematic when a rural region participates neither in the openness nor in the economic development. "Then the closure movement becomes strong," says the sociologist. This is understood to mean, for example, an increased tendency towards right-wing populism or religious fundamentalism. El-Mafaalani has already published several books on the topics of integration and education, in which he addresses the concepts of "open society" and "closure movement".

It is precisely because of these dynamics that it is important for Aminata Touré to do politics in Schleswig-Holstein: "People here ask themselves the same questions as in more urban areas. It's worth living here, this is my home and I want to shape this home with all the diversity we have." Spaces where people with experiences of discrimination can feel safe are also important. "The majority of the society often can't even imagine that. But always having to fit in or being perceived as weird and threatening changes how you move in society. We have to discuss that", says Touré. 

At this year's conference week, Aminata Touré and Aladin El-Mafaalani were among many other prominent guests who engaged in exciting discussions with the students. With the evening discussions in the Utopia Studio, honorary professors Maja Göpel and Richard David Precht kicked off the Utopia Conference, which is scheduled to take place in Lüneburg from 24 to 27 August.