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Official picture provided by Fred Dervin

Fred Dervin is Professor of Multicultural Education at the University of Helsinki (Finland). Dervin also holds several professorships in Canada, Luxembourg and Malaysia. In May 2014 he was appointed Distinguished Professor at Baoji University of Arts and Sciences (China). Prof. Dervin specializes in intercultural education, the sociology of multiculturalism and student and academic mobility. Dervin has widely published in international journals on identity, the ‘intercultural’ and mobility/migration. He has published over 20 books: Politics of Interculturality (co-edited with Anne Lavanchy and Anahy Gajardo, Newcastle: CSP, 2011), Impostures Interculturelles (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2012) and Linguistics for Intercultural Education (co-edited with Tony Liddicoat, New York: Benjamins). He is the series editor of Education beyond borders (Peter Lang)Nordic Studies on Diversity in Education (with Kulbrandstad and Ragnarsdóttir; CSP) and Post-intercultural communication and education (CSP). His website:


Media experience: TV, radio

Languages: English, French, Swedish, Finnish (spoken: intermediate) and German (spoken: intermediate)




Fred Dervin has been active in the field of intercultural/transcultural understanding for nearly two decades. Born in a multicultural family himself, he learnt to problematize and deal with cultural and linguistic diversity at a young age. Dervin’s interdisciplinary publications aim at redefining the role of interculturality in our societies through education. He believes that it is essential to be clear about how one defines the notion – as well as other similar terms such as multicultural, transcultural, global, etc. – in order to be able to enter into dialogue with other researchers, practitioners and the general public. Dervin has embraced controversial positions to defend a perspective that critically reassesses basic concepts such as culture, identity and community but also immigrants. He has also taken very clear positions in his publications about certain biases and ‘myths’ used when one deals with intercultural encounters: the over-reliance on difference (while ignoring potential similarities), individual approaches to misunderstanding or non-understanding (instead of examining relationships), and hierarchies between insiders and outsiders (misuse and abuse of the label of immigrant in many countries). He has also called for taking systematically into account the influence of language on transcultural understanding. His main objective is to help those whose voices are rarely heard in discussions of intercultural understanding in order for them to feel empowered and respected for their ‘diverse diversities’ rather than being forced into the ‘straightjacket’ of a single identity. Dervin’s discussions of the notions of origins and the contradictions of hospitality (see Derrida’s hostipitality) have influenced current discussions on internationalization and immigration in e.g. the Nordic countries and Malaysia. Dervin’s work has been influential in many fields of research and practice: (teacher) education, linguistics, communication studies and sociology, amongst others. His work is also increasingly quoted in Chinese studies as Dervin has examined the way the Chinese and Chinese culture have been discussed stereotypically in ‘Western’ research and offered alternative views and methods. Dervin is also personally involved in transcultural understanding through his teaching, plenary talks and international projects around the world. He believes that his role as a researcher, practitioner and public figure is to question easy formulas, reductive categories and to question different kinds of privilege in order to promote further intercultural understanding. His publications raise moral issues that are needed against a kind of counter-productive ‘interculturally correctness’. Dervin insists in his publications that researchers and practitioners take on reflexive positions in order to avoid treating the ‘other’ (i.e. research participants who tend to be considered as others in our societies) unfairly, ridding them of their agency. His current position is in teacher education in Finland. This has been a wonderful context, allowing him to spread his ideas amongst young people in Finland and elsewhere but also amongst teachers and teacher educators. In 2014, he published a book in Finnish, summarizing his main ideas, which has been quite popular with the teaching profession.


Listen to Fred Dervin:

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In French:

FT, DèL Fred Dervin on monikulttuurisen kasvatuksen professori ja soveltavan kielitieteen dosentti Helsingin yliopistossa, kulttuurienvälisen viestinnän ja kasvatuksen dosentti Turun yliopistossa sekä sosiologian dosentti (erikoisalana monikulttuurisuus) Itä-Suomen yliopistossa. Hän on lisäksi teologian ja uskontotieteen Associate Professor Montrealin yliopistossa Kanadassa. Dervin on valmistunut filosofian tohtoriksi Sorbonnen yliopistosta ja Turun yliopistosta. Hän on suorittanut myös Post Graduate Certicate of Education –tutkinnon Canterburyn yliopistossa Isossa-Britanniassa. Dervin on julkaissut useita kansainvälisiä tutkimuksia kulttuurienvälisyydestä erilaisissa konteksteissa: akateeminen liikkuvuus, kielten opetus ja oppiminen, siirtolaisuus, uudet teknologiat. Dervin nostaa tutkimuksissaan esille uusia näkökulmia kulttuurienvälisyyteen ja haastaa käsityksen ’toiseudesta’ pysyvänä ja muuttumattomana. Dervinin tutkimusta ja opetusta on inspiroinut hänen laaja, omakohtainen kansainvälinen kokemuksensa: hän on asunut ja opettanut useissa eri maissa (Iso-Britannia, Kiina (Hong Kong), Ranska, Islanti, Ruotsi ja Suomi). (LUE Kohti kasvatuksellista monimuotoisuutta?)

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Summary of Dervin’s work by Raquel Benmergui


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