WED|JAN|18 Europe and its culture
Over the past decade, the European Union has been experiencing a drawn-out crisis, politically as well as economically. In his lecture sociologist Pascal Gielen will argue that an important element is missing from the debate: culture. This is quite strange because the base on which we stand and on which Europe stands is nothing but culture. For example, faith in politics, like faith in the European currency is first en foremost a cultural issue. Democracy is a matter of political culture, just as good economic relationships are a matter of economic culture. Culture is a shared frame of reference and the only thing that can lend meaning to people’s lives and the societies in which they life. The European project will never succeed if it does not recognize culture as its main raison d’être.
Pascal Gielen is full professor of sociology of art and politics at the Antwerp Research Institute for the Arts (Antwerp University - Belgium). He leads the Culture Commons Quest Office. Gielen is also editor in-chief of the international book series Arts in Society. In 2016 he became laureate of the prestigious Odysseus grant for excellent international scientific research of the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders in Belgium. His research focuses on creative labour, the institutional context of the arts and on cultural politics. Gielen has published many books which are translated in English, Korean, Polish, Portugees, Russian, Spanish and Turkish.
While European integration was long considered to be primarily about economic and political cooperation, it is increasingly approached from a cultural angle. Culture has become a key instrument in trying to shift people’s national sentiments to a loyalty to the European community and in seeking agreement on how Europeans collectively remember their past and envision their future. This lecture zooms in on two cultural projects that reflect this ambition of European political and cultural bodies to strengthen the European Union’s legitimacy by anchoring “Europe” in a shared narrative: the House of European History, planned to open in Brussels in 2016, and the Via Regia, one of the trajectories promoted by the European Institute for Cultural Routes. The primary aim is to critically examine the role and function of narrative in both projects. “Europe,” after all is no more a story than it is a proper name denoting an economic, political or cultural entity. That European institutional bodies seek to fashion a narrative for Europe should, therefore, arouse our suspicion. And if we do cautiously agree to view Europe in narrative terms, we should do so by asking the questions that stories and storytelling evoke.
Dr. Astrid Van Weyenberg works at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) and is Lecturer in Literary Studies at the Film and Literary Studies Department. She is especially interested in the relation between literature and politics. At present, she is doing research on constructions of Europe as a narrative in European cultural projects. She seeks to analyze what stories of and for Europe cultural projects construct and what political implications a close reading of these stories reveals.
Lectures on Wednesday 18 January
7.30pm until 9.00pm