Honors Dialogues of Civilizations

What Is a Dialogue of Civilizations?


Dialogues of Civilizations (DOCs) are short-term (4- to 6- week) faculty-designed and led programs that promote global engagement through an academic experience that integrates coursework, international travel, and cultural immersion. And, in the process, students earn credits for completing two 4-hour courses.

While Honors students can select from any of the 75+ Dialogues of Civilizations offered by Northeastern, every summer the University Honors Program offers its own exclusive set of Dialogues.

Honors Dialogues are characterized by three elements:

  • each is led by an Honors faculty member who eagerly shares his or her particular area of scholarship and expertise with students
  • each Honors DOC is designed around a particular theme or issue— and the international destinations that students travel to, and the people they are introduced to (e.g., guest lecturers, guides, Northeastern alumni), are carefully selected to bring these themes to life
  • each Honors DOC takes a rigorous, interdisciplinary approach to learning and includes an Honors Interdisciplinary Seminar (HONR 3309) as its cornerstone.

Honors students who successfully participate in an Honors-specific Dialogue of Civilizations will receive two (2) Honors courses towards their requirements for Honors Distinction.

Search for DOC Opportunities Today!

Summer 1 – Online!

Honors Storytelling, Landscape, and Contested Identities: Ireland and Northern Ireland

Honors Professor of the Practice Michael Patrick MacDonald

May 27 – June 28, 2020


  • Ireland’s Storytelling Culture – 41461 – HONR 3309 – 03- (Online) – Credits 4
    • NUpath: DD, IC
    • We will look at the role of storytelling in the development of voice, agency and community. We will do this by first observing storytelling efforts in Boston, aimed at helping people transform difficult lived experiences into their voice and agency as community leaders. From there we will virtually travel to Ireland to look at the role of storytelling there, from the ancient indigenous to contemporary Irish culture and society. By closely observing the ancient myths—as well as the story told in landscape, in stone structures, and in tribal social and spiritual practices—we will develop a lens for reading later historical events and cultural dynamics from colonization through the Easter Rising of 1916 (often called “the poets’ revolution”), partition, the Troubles, and the current “post-conflict” period. In this module we will encounter poets, artists, activists and revolutionaries who play a central role in the historic life of this island. And we will virtually meet today’s makers of culture and history, all of whom are steeped in the storytelling tradition of this place.This course will use Zoom to virtually bring students from Boston communities to Dublin, and onward to the ancient Northwest of Ireland, meeting many powerful voices along the way. We will end up in Derry as we finish Course One, finding ourselves at the outset of the 30-year conflict known as “The Troubles.”

      As we study the fraught political divisions forged by British colonization of this island, we will pay special attention to the narratives of all. We will do so with an eye for stories that exist at the intersection of justice and healing. We will get an in-depth look at what telling one’s story does for the individual telling it, as well for the community impacted by the telling. And we will look at the outward rippling effects that story can have on community change.

      In what way does personal testimony contribute to a “de-colonization” for a historically marginalized people, whose stories are often told or interpreted by those of more privilege and power? We will examine this question for the Irish and discuss some global (and Boston) parallels. We will look at both top-down “Master Narratives” as well as the notion of bottom-up “people’s history,” and the role of each in wither maintaining or challenging power.

  • Justice & Healing Thru Story – 41462 – HONR 3309 – 04- (Online) – Credits 4 
    • NUpath: SI, WI
    • Course Two will bring us from Derry to Belfast, North of Ireland, where we will study the larger history of “the Troubles,” and the competing narratives of both the war and the ongoingpeace process (recently complicated by Brexit). We will place emphasis not only on the war and its competing narratives between Loyalist paramilitaries and Republican paramilitaries but also on the role of the most significant player: the colonial British state. We will look at the period’s “Master Narrative” constructed by the British state, as well as counter narratives being told today by victims of British state collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries. We will virtually meet, and hear the stories of, major players in the republican movement, including 1981 hunger strikers, political representatives, and peace builders in the lead up to the 1994 Ceasefire and 1998 Good Friday Agreement. We will also virtually meet, and hear the stories of, Unionist (pro British Union) political representatives and community activists with Loyalist affiliation. We will examine the false narrative of the Troubles and the larger centuries-old struggle on this island as “a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics.” We will look at that multiplicity of identities and narratives (rather than the false binaries of Catholic-Protestant, Republican-Loyalist) and examine what purpose these simplified binary narratives might have served vis a vis power/hegemony and the role of the British state.

      Most crucial to the ongoing peace-building in the North of Ireland, we will hear the stories of victims and survivors of The Troubles and meet with activists and lawyers pursuing truth inquiries and advocating for a larger Truth and Reconciliation process that is both Independent and Internationally monitored.

      To balance the intensity of the narratives of the Troubles, we will explore Irish notions of craic (fun) and the role of the story (and humor!) in resilience from trauma. We will take well deserved virtual excursions from the ancient bog landscapes of the Gaeltacht West (Irish Gaelic speaking west of Ireland) to the spectacular Glens of Antrim, and to lush green hills and valleys of South Armagh. We will look at landscape as narrative (whether some of the actual landscape settings in the mythologies we will have learned in Course One, or in terms of our general “reading” of landscape and place for the semiotics of power, violence and healing). And we will explore the role of arts, culture and the native Irish language in the resilience and rebirth of a post-conflict North of Ireland

Summer 2 – Online!

Happiness and Sustainability in the Nordics: Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Norway and Iceland

Professor Yakov Bart, DMSB

The US Declaration of Independence affirms that every person has the right to “the pursuit of happiness,” and many other countries are monitoring the happiness of their citizens as a key parameter for progress. At the same time, sustainability has often been framed as implying a way of life that could compromise freedom of choice and constrain individual lifestyles. This notion implies that sustainable living and happiness are inherently incompatible: since people want healthy and safe environments for themselves and future generations, but at the same time do not want to compromise their quality of life, they face a difficult choice. How to resolve this dilemma? This Dialogue offers you an opportunity to explore this fundamental question by focusing on Northern Europe. While no Scandinavian country has ever appeared outside the top ten in the World Happiness Report, and many lead on sustainability measures, not all happy countries are alike. We will investigate the various ways by which companies and policymakers work to enable happiness while building a sustainable future.


The Camino Del Santiago

Led by Professor Liz Bucar, the Camino Del Santiago Dialogue was designed to have students learn about pilgrimage while simultaneously becoming actual pilgrims. Students completed the last 150 miles/240 km of the popular pilgrimage route in northern Spain known as “the Camino.” They walked for 11 days, spoke to pilgrims, saw relics, attended pilgrim masses, read scholarly articles, journaled, and met daily for class discussions. In the end, students not only learned about the act of pilgrimage, but also about themselves.

Human Rights Communications:

Part 1: Crimes against Humanity

Part 2: Humanity Against Crimes

Offered by Professor Michael Hoppmann, in this Twin-Dialogue, students metaphorically and literally followed the journey from the formative grounds of European fascism (Vienna) and Nazi propaganda and rhetoric (Munich), to modern reasoning (Brussels and Amsterdam) and Human Rights (The Hague). Students will come into close interaction with local experts and scholars on Human Rights, Argumentation, and Rhetoric. They will visit many of the key sites of Human Rights and Communication of the 20th and 21st century. Finally, they will bring some of the landmark trials and decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, the International Criminal Court and the Tribunal on Former Yugoslavia to life again, and critically question the reasoning they present.

Storytelling, Landscape, & Contested Identities in the North of Ireland  

Join award-winning author and Honors Professor-of-the-Practice, Michael Patrick MacDonald, for a trip through lush glens and along the rugged coastline of Ireland, North and South. This Dialogue will look at the role of storytelling in both the landscape and the contested identities of “Northern Ireland,” in particular. The Dialogue will be informed by an understanding of the social, political and geographic history of Ireland and the role of story in establishing political and social world-views in a colonized country.