The Young Scholars on the Silk Roads interview series seeks to empower young people, by giving youth a platform from which to transmit their voices. Via this series young scholars hailing from different countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia will be interviewed to share their research and reflections on the ancient Silk Roads.
Grzegorz Stec – Greg is a passionate scholar of international politics focusing on Sino-European relations, which he studied in his native Krakow, Oxford, and Beijing. He has spent over half a decade living in Asia, where he has studied, worked, and co-founded a consulting company relating to the Silk Roads, which produces podcasts, reports, and guides among others.
What do the Silk Roads mean to you and do you think they still hold value today?
Greg: For me, the Silk Roads refer to a network of historical trade routes that spanned across Eurasia. The key component that remains relevant today is the fact that the Silk Roads connected groups of people that were even more culturally distant from one another than it is the case today. Still they were able to pursue fruitful, albeit not always frictionless exchange of goods and ideas.
This concept holds great relevance nowadays as we see the world becoming increasingly multipolar. The idea of the Silk Roads keeps coming back in initiatives launched by many countries and organizations. I think that the Silk Roads hold value and should be promoted as a symbol of exchange, connectivity and accepting one’s differences.
In what ways have you previously contributed to the wider dialogue concerning the Silk Roads?
Yes, I co-founded a consulting company helping to explain the differences between the political, economic and social systems of countries along the Silk Roads. The basis for starting the company was a realization that Silk Roads countries’ discourses on the same contemporary topics are very disconnected from one another.
The key reason behind this is that people interact with different content coming from their distinct cultural or political bubbles. To address that we launched a bilingual podcast focused on the Silk Roads and made efforts to have audiences from different cultures and countries interact with the same content where possible.
Wow – very impressive that you co-founded a company in a foreign country. How did you go about creating podcasts that appealed to both Asian and Western minds and businesses?
Thanks. Well, when it comes to the content itself different audiences are interested in fairly similar topics; however, the major task is to keep your message approachable for both sides, which requires not only using their respective languages, but understanding both concepts and backgrounds. If you keep your message balanced you are able to connect with both sides and help them interact with the same content. Importantly, your credibility relies upon remaining mindful of the background of all of your readers, listeners or clients.
I’m interested in the podcasts you mentioned earlier. It’s interesting to think that podcasts are almost a modern form of intangible cultural heritage, in so far as they incorporate oral traditions and expressions. Which podcasts did you find resonated with listeners most strongly?
The podcasts that resonated the most with the audience were those that featured personal stories or helped to explain cultural differences owing to the unique experience of the guests.
This series is really about getting young people more involved in activities related to the Silk Roads. Do you have any suggestions here?
I think that youth should participate in exchanges related to cultural programmes similar to Erasmus and Erasmus Mundi programmes. Organic interactions between young people coming from different backgrounds are a great way to create cultural empathy among people.
I couldn't agree more. What about ways in which youth can contribute more to the UNESCO Silk Roads Online Platform?
One way is that young people can share their personal observations about countries along the Silk Road by sharing photographic or written insights on social media, for instance using Instagram hashtags. The most interesting of these materials could be then be shared by the UNESCO Silk Roads Online Platform. That would also create more dialogue between young people and the Platform itself.