Pat Connects

Pat Mitchell, President & CEO, The Paley Center for Media

July 25, 2011

Embracing otherness: notes on curating for TEDGlobal

by Pat Mitchell

Elizabeth Lesser, author and cofounder of the Omega Institute, gave an inspiring talk at TEDWomen last December in which she urged all of us to "take 'the other' to lunch." In essence, she was arguing against the polarization that has become such a hallmark of contemporary American culture. She said, "I'm deeply disturbed by the ways in which all of our cultures are demonizing the Other by the voice we're giving to the most divisive among us" (watch this TEDTALK below).

I thought of Elizabeth's insight as I prepared for my session at TEDGlobal in Edinburgh. The theme was EMBRACING OTHERNESS. My curatorial challenge was to find speakers who could talk about "otherness" from many different points of view. I wanted our session to give the TEDGlobal audience, and all the millions who would view the talks online as they got posted on TED.com, as many different ways of understanding and embracing otherness as possible in 90 minutes. I believe we came close to this goal with the gifts of speakers from five different countries with five very different perspectives. I'll be writing a bit about each of them in the coming days, but first a word about the concept itself.

It's my feeling that most of us, at one time or another, has felt like the "other"…the one who didn't fit in, who looked  differently, talked differently, worshipped or believed differently. Of course the inverse is also true, though rarely discussed: most of us have, at some point, "otherized" someone or a group of people around us.

Otherizing exists in nearly every community and culture, and has massive implications. Focusing on the differences that divide us from one another in a community can set the kinds of tensions in play that ultimately lead to war, acts of terrorism, revolution, and transformative social change. Sometimes the differences that makes someone the "other" are as basic as skin color; sometimes we "otherize" out of misunderstanding or stereotyping or politics. 

And sometimes, as I found out while curating and listening in this session, the "other" is within us. Embracing that otherness can be a potent, internal struggle, one of the most important and difficult journeys of many of our lives. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for glimpses into some of these moving stories and insights. 

tags: TEDGlobal, otherness

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Pat Connects

Pat Mitchell, President & CEO, The Paley Center for Media

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Since assuming her current role as president and chief executive officer of The Paley Center for Media (formerly The Museum of Television & Radio) in March 2006, Pat Mitchell has guided the thirty-four-year old institution through an exciting rebranding effort and strengthened its public and industry programs by analyzing and interpreting the immense changes in the media landscape. Under her leadership, the Paley Center has become a major convener for media leaders and enthusiasts, continuing to offer its unrivaled collection of radio, television, and advertising content as a lens for exploring the powerful impact of media on our lives, culture, and society. Pat Mitchell was named to Newsweek's 2011 list of 150 Women Who Shake the World.

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