Participants of the Living Library in Stuttgart, 7.9.2017, Foto: ifa/Kuhnle

"The Living Library" took place: 7 September 2017, 3.00-8.00 pm at ifa-Library, Charlottenplatz 17, 70173 Stuttgart.

ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) e. V.

The ifa Library is the only research library worldwide specialized in German foreign cultural and educational policies and international cultural relations. Its collection currently consists of 430,000 books and 1,000 magazines. The library participates in national and international interlibrary loan services. Their spectrum ranges from cultural diplomacy and softpower to language policy and scientific relations to intercultural communication, national stereotypes and cultural regional geography.

"The Living Library" by Katharina Merz, Germany

The Living Library, initiated by Katharina Merz, allows people to experience diversity through dialogue. "Readers" can borrow and read a 'book'. The books, however, are real people who are in some way linked to ifa and the CrossCulture Programme. Along with their knowledge and stories, each of these "books" has its own (cultural) identity, so that the dialogue opens up new angles and perspectives. The Living Library is a unique opportunity to turn your view of the world on its head!

On site at the Living Library

Impressions of the "Living Library"

The Living "Books"

[Translate to English:] Ehsan Hosseinzadeh © ifa

In the course of his CrossCulture internship at DGB Rechtsschutz GmbH, the lawyer and journalist Ehsan Hosseinzadeh wants to amplify his know-how about the legal representation of human rights as well as labor rights. In 2015, he founded the Teheran based law firm Educated Lawyers International which supports national and international clients. Furthermore, he writes articles for various newspapers. Ehsan Hosseinzadeh likes to discuss about the current situation in Iran, the discrepancy between the attitude and values of the people and the Iranian Government and the mostly unintentional politicization of everyday life. Also, he enjoys talking about his work as a lawyer.

[Translate to English:] Wessal Youssef © ifa

The journalist Wessal Youssef will soon start her CrossCulture internship at Qantara.de – an online portal of Deutsche Welle – in Bonn. She’s looking forward to meeting people that live in Germany, getting into dialogue about her stay abroad and learning about different points of view. Also, she would like to record her stay and the encounters made abroad journalistically. Wessal Youssef enjoys talking about her leisure activities and her life, particularly about the experiences as a journalist in her homeland, the Palestinian Territories. Furthermore, she can report about Morocco which is where she’s working at the moment.

[Translate to English:] Amro Khallaf Alla © ifa

Amro Khallaf Alla, originally educated to be a geologist, is the managing director of the organization Abwab for youth development. He is greatly interested in renewable energies which is why he, among others, voluntarily funded the Sudanese Solar Energy Society. Amro Khallaf Alla will also do his CrossCulture internship in Germany in this field. Therefore, his goal is set: new impulses for his work in Sudan. Furthermore, he would like to talk about his life journey, his identity and visions for the future as a young Sudanese as well as about his home country Sudan. Of course, he is also looking forward to exchanging experiences about renewable energies!

[Translate to English:] Nour Eddin Bellahbib © ifa

Nour Eddine Bellahbib from Morocco has gained a lot of experience in the field of migration in the last couple of years. Ever since, he actively collaborates with different organizations and works as a programme coordinator and translator. He is very interested in how Germany deals with the recent flight and migration flows. In particular, he wants to know how migrants live on site. His goal is to establish a network with German non-governmental organizations. Furthermore, Nour Eddine Bellahbib likes to share his experiences gained within the work with refugees in North-East Morocco. He also enjoys talking about religious issues.

[Translate to English:] Zahra Amber © ifa

The designer Zahra Amber works for the Hashoo Foundation in Islamabad since 2016. There, she stands up for the social and economic emancipation of women of the ethnic group Kalasha based in the Hindu Kush region in Pakistan. She gives advice to women about design and working techniques in order to make traditional textile work commercially viable. "Fashion has no boundary", she says, and is looking forward to getting to know more about German history and culture. She particularly enjoys talking about the rich cultural heritage of her home country Pakistan and the path that lead her from her profession as a designer to her current work.

[Translate to English:] Lamiya Rzayeva © ifa

Lamiya Rzayeva is a social worker and the managing director of the Azerbaijan Social Work Public Union. She did research on the development of social work in South Caucasus. In this matter, she particularly cares about the role of social work within the work with refugees – a challenge currently faced by her home country Azerbaijan. The expectation regarding her CrossCulture internship in a shelter for refugees of the AWO in Bremen is to gain new impulses in order to initiate her own project in Azerbaijan after her return home. Furthermore, Lamiya Rzayeva enjoys talking about her research and the situation of civil society in Azerbaijan.

[Translate to English:] Sahar Abi-Rafeh © ifa

The lawyer Sahar Abi-Rafeh, voluntarily and professionally works for women’s rights in her home country Lebanon. In Germany, she would like to get to know different human rights organizations and gain more knowledge in order to apply it in her own projects with women in Lebanon. Therefore, she will be working at a women shelter of Caritas in Stuttgart. Sahar Abi-Rafeh enjoys talking about people’s situation in her country, particularly the situation of women and minorities such as LGBTS in Lebanese society.

[Translate to English:] Pia Uçar © ifa

The human rights activist Pia Uçar completed her CrossCulture internship in Pakistan in the field of women’s rights. Her goal was to look behind the image of Islamic Pakistan transmitted by the media in order to question her own preconceived ideas of the country. In Germany, Pia Uçar works within the working community of "Eine Welt Landesnetzwerke" (agl) as a federal coordinator of the field of global education, as well as an expert for Kenya at "peace brigades international" (pbi). Given her family-related connection, she likes to talk about Turkey just as about her former hosting country Pakistan. Furthermore, she is very interested in issues such as sustainability, global justice and the assumption of responsibility by society.

[Translate to English:] Harutyun Voskanyan © ifa

Harutyun Voskanyan works as a project assistant and researcher in the fields of peace work and conflict prevention. He wants to initiate change processes in his home country Armenia. In Germany, he wants to enrich his knowledge throughout his internships in the area of research at the peace academy in Rheinland-Pfalz and the field of mediation at inmedio in Berlin. He particularly enjoys talking about the history of his country as well as the ongoing social and political transformation processes in Armenia. As a scientist, Harutyun Voskanyan likes to discuss about the development of post-soviet countries.

About the Initiator

Katharina Merz, Foto: ifa/Kuhnle

Bringing people together has always been at the top of the list for Katharina Merz (Bonn). Before working intensively with international groups, the trained teacher was active in the areas of special needs and intercultural training for several years. During her CrossCulture scholarship in 2016, she had the exciting opportunity to be part of a women's community project in Egypt. When she first learned about the concept of the 'Living Library', she was thrilled. She loves to connect people and to create spaces for serious conversations.