Van verleden naar toekomst: Democratie, diversiteit en cultureel erfgoed-in-wording

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From Past to Future. Democracy, Diversity and Cultural Heritage-in-the-making[1]

The central ambition of the Horizon 2020 call REFLECTIVE-2-2015: Emergence and Transmission of European Culture Heritage and Europeanisation, was to explore the potential of (immaterial) cultural heritage in overcoming the current EU crisis. In our research, we develop a critical analysis of the role of cultural heritage transmission in the creation of a common European identity. We focus on the European crisis as a crisis of democracy, that is, a crisis where Europe as a democratic ‘project’ has come under pressure and where Europe’s democratic future is therefore at stake.

Thus we ask in what ways and to what extent (immaterial) cultural heritage can contribute to organising, promoting and fostering support for Europe’s democratic project amongst its citizens, and how it can strengthen identification with the democratic values of liberty, equality and solidarity. Rather than to take up these questions only with reference to the past, we ask what it might mean to engage in making the heritage of Europe’s democratic future. We explore how (immaterial) cultural heritage can engage with this ambition.

Based on the assumption that art is an important resource for questions of heritage-making, we specifically focus on how contemporary art and artistic research can be involved in making heritage for Europe’s democratic future.

Since the 1990s an increasing wave of challenging art events has occurred that shows significant similarities with anthropology and ethnography in its theorisations of cultural difference, identification and representational practices (Rutten, Soetaert & Van Dienderen 2013). At the same time, there has been a growing interest from anthropology for contemporary art that started from a problematisation of the different possible ways to communicate ethnographic findings and insights. This interest has been referred to as the ‘sensory turn’ in anthropology and ethnographic research and is exemplified by anthropologists who are collaborating with artists, by artists who are creating projects generating anthropological insights, and by art projects that are produced as outcomes of ethnographic research (see ibid.).

As Marcus and Meyers (1995, p. 1) predicted: “Art has come to occupy a space long associated with anthropology, becoming one of the main sites for tracking, representing, and performing the effects of difference in contemporary life”. In our research, we engage with the ethnographic turn in art by asking questions such as: What does it imply to create art in an age of plurality and diversity? How can art become a space for exploring the effects of difference in contemporary life? How can art create a different ‘language’ and ‘imagery’ to problematize cultural differences and to thematise European identity from a democratic perspective? We focus on artists who engage critically with questions of identity, difference, plurality and democracy in their work, exploring the potential of art to engage in the making of heritage for Europe’s democratic future.

  1. Rutten, K. en Biesta, G.J.J. (2015). From Past to Future. Democracy, Diversity and Cultural Heritage-in-the-making [Van verleden naar toekomst. Democratie, diversiteit en cultureel erfgoed-in-wording.]. Volkskunde, 3: 439-456.