Perception and Intercultural Consciousness: Developing an Eye for Otherness

To have an eye for something is to be “particularly perceptive or discriminating in a certain discipline or activity….” Having an eye for otherness is being particularly perceptive about the how we create otherness in the construction of ourselves, and how we then relate to that necessary distinction. This course will define the theory and practice of intercultural communication in a way that is inclusive of all the dynamic forms of cultural diversity. And then it will show how perceiving otherness is the key to developing intercultural consciousness – the proper goal of all intercultural/DEI education and training.

This is the core course of the IDRAcademy curriculum. This course, or an equivalent course taught by Dr. Bennett elsewhere, is a prerequisite for most other IDRAcademy courses.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn a brief history of traditional and scientific knowledge paradigms, enabling an understanding of both the lure of current approaches to “otherness” and the necessity of using a new paradigm to address that issue in the future.
  • Recognize how perceptual constructivism addresses the limitations of traditional psychological and pedagogical models of intercultural competence
  • Explore how intercultural consciousness guides action toward inclusion, equity, and social justice.
  • Understand how changes in the perception of otherness fuel movement through the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity
  • Learn the three principles of constructivist-based intercultural education and how they translate into specific training topics and methods
  • Identify appropriate methods of assessment of constructivist intercultural training



Most approaches to intercultural development have emerged from a post-modern, or relativist paradigm. In addition to making the crucial assumption of cultural relativity, a post-modern paradigm rejects claims of objectivity and criticizes the use of power in the service of dominant worldviews. Now, in an ironic turn of events, some wielders of dominant power are using post-modernism to justify “alternative facts” and the violent imposition of them on others.

To avoid enabling this abuse of relativism and to adapt to current social conditions, intercultural education and training needs to adopt a more constructivist set of assumptions. For instance, culture should not be considered as something people have, but as something people do. Intercultural communication should not be about understanding difference so much as creating new forms of meaning. And intercultural competence should not be a set of traits; it should be the exercise of a particular form of consciousness.

This course will present a coherent set of assumptions and techniques that underlie a consciousness that is suited to living with otherness in multicultural societies, and it will show how constructivist intercultural education and training can generate and intentional evolution towards that consciousness in both academic and organizational contexts.

Intended for:

Intercultural educators and trainers (including those who already use the IDI or other DMIS-based measurements); administrators of intercultural development and DEI programs in educational, corporate, and agency contexts; and others who want to add broad-application intercultural development to their personal and professional repertoire.


Venue & Cost

The course will be held at IDRInstitute office in Milan, Viale Zara 58.  Cost is € 1200 (10% discounts for SIETAR, IAIR, FORUMEA, IAIE, and AFS members OR 15% discount for taking also the Embodied Culture: Discovering the Feeling of Self and Other in Cultural Context). Cost will include materials, coffe breaks, lunch each full day and one group dinner. Course begins at 9 am on Wednesday, May 3rd and ends on Friday, May 5th at 5 pm (3 full days). For this course we recommend arriving the day before and leaving the day after the course.


Dr. Milton Bennett is a senior faculty member of IDRAcademy and an adjunct member of the Faculty of Sociology at University of Milano Bicocca. During nearly two decades at the University of Minnesota Minneapolis and Portland State University, he facilitated and administered the “Intercultural Communication Workshop” (ICW), which is one of the first, most sophisticated, and most validated intercultural training programs in the field. His well-known constructivist model of intercultural development (DMIS) is partially derived from the ICW experience, and it continues to inform training design and assessment to this day. In the following two decades Dr. Bennett designed and conducted intercultural training for global business and international/multicultural education in the USA, Western and Central Europe, and Asia. He has been on the executive development faculties of the Stockholm School of Business, Tuck/Dartmouth School of Business, Motorola University, Boeing Leadership Center, Eni University, and currently, the Global Leadership Program.

In addition to his updated text, Basic Concepts of Intercultural Communication: Paradigms, Principles, & Practices (Intercultural Press), Dr. Bennett has contributed several articles to The Handbook of Intercultural Training, 3rd Edition (Sage) and 4th Edition (Cambridge), Multicultural America (Sage), The International Encyclopedia of Intercultural Communication (Wiley), and the Cambridge Handbook of Intercultural Communication. He also has recently authored chapters on the topics of Hate (The Psychology of Hate Crimes and Domestic Terrorism: Praeger) and Suppression of Consciousness (Indoctrination to Hate: Praeger). His educational background includes studies in physics and literature for a BA from Stanford University, an MA in psycholinguistics from San Francisco State University, and a Ph.D. in Intercultural Communication and Sociology from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.