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Literature 2. Building Europe

Chris Shore also wrote an entire book about he cultural politics of European integration in 2000. It is called ‘Building Europe’.

This book is a study of 8 years about the role of culture in the integration project of the European Union.
In his book he asks three questions. 1. What role does ‘ culture’ play in the proces of European integration and how are EU policy-professionals using this concept in their efforts to create a more coherent sense of identity and belonging among European citizens? 2. Can conditions be  created to facilitate the transferal of popular loyalty and sovereignty from the nation-states to supranational institutions, as theories of integration claim. 3. What are the implications of this project for state-formation in Europe, or for the prospect of creating a more unified ‘nation-state of Europe?’

He argues in the first chapter that the politicisation of culture in the EU arises from the attempt by European elites to solve the EU’s chronic problem of legitimacy. In virtually all political systems, particularly democratic ones, culture is a fundamental bedrock upon which political legitimacy is established.  Europe does not have a cultural tradition like this. For this reason, the EU has set the goal to construct a shared European culture. But can love for Europe as a home country be engineerd? And what does citizenship mean in a multi-cultural, transnational and post-welfare state Europe?

Here, I will only discuss the first three chapters since they are the most relevant for my thesis.

In 1992. Anthony Smith has argued that most previous pan-national movements failed to achieve their political goal of unification largely because of deficiencies in the cultural field, which in turn stemmed from the poor state of their communication technologies. But, as Shore argues, given the nature of mass-communication today the opportunities of for superseding the nation-state and creating cultural pan-nationalism in Europe are immeasurably greater than in the past. (p.17) Today 11 years later, the communication technologies have become even better, allowing citizens of Europe and other countries to look at millions of cultural objects from their home. Europeana is a first attempt to bring all of Europe’s heritage together and to show the objects in a European context. In another chapter of my thesis I will discuss how Europeana attempts to do this and if this is successful.

Still, as Smith argues, despite the new possibilities of communication technologies that any attempt to create a supra-national community in Europe is unlikely to succeed on the social and cultural level:

Of course, one can forge supra-national institutions and create economic and political unions, as Bismarck did for the German states. but this frequently cited parallel contains an obvious flaw. Language and historical memories, as well as myths of ethnic descent, united the population of the German states; the same factors divided the people of Europe. (Smith 1992b: 8 )

In Smiths opinion, ‘national’ identity derives from a deep-rooted sense of ethnic community whereas ‘European identity’ appears as a relatively superficial and ineffectual force: a utopian dream of intellectuals and idealists with little chance of mobilizing mass consciousness.
The construction of a European identity is indeed partially artificial. However, in an ever more globalizing world where the European Union is visible on a daily basis (example of passports, license plates, Schengen and the Euro), it appears that people feel more time ‘European’ than in 1992, according to the Eurobarometer.

The Eurobarometer is a a research that the European Union conducts bi-annual. It asks several questions to citizens of each EU country related to the European Union. One of the questions in the research is:

Do you ever think of yourself as not only (nationality), but also European? Does this happen often, sometimes or never?

The Eurobarometer shows that in general, people less often selected ‘never’ and more ‘sometimes’. ‘Often’ has stayed practically the same. So, slowly more European citizens are actually feeling some sense of a European identity next to their own national identity. However, as Shore has noted in his other text from 1992, ‘feeling European’ is one thing, identifying with the EU institution is quite another.

The European Union suffers from an image of a immense bureaucratic and slow institutions (this, while in fact less officials work for the EU than in the city of Berlin source!). It is seen as a selective band of insiders (Santer, 1995: 4). This reflects in the low turnout at EU elections which has fallen from 61 percent in 1979, to under 50 percent in 1999, 43% in 2009. This reflects that electors remain largely indifferent or hostile to the EU. (note: big differences between countries have to be taken into account. In Belgium for example, more than 90% of all people voted.)

despite four decades of institutional attempts to build Europe at the level of popular consciousness, the ‘people of Europe’ have simply not embraced the ‘European idea’ in the way that was hoped for or predicted by people who thought that an economic en political Europe, would automatically lead to a ‘people’s Europe’.
Now, what are the strategies of the EU to overcome this problem and to promote  and construct European citizenship. To answer this question, we first need to find out how the concepts of ‘culture’, is represented in official EU discourses.

In EU discourses on European culture, culture is typically defined as the ‘cultural sector’ in terms of art, heritage, information, education, audio-visual production and sport. This is where the EU focuses on by organizing European sporting events, teaching children in school more about the union, and a focus on cultural shared heritage in the form of Europeana. When promoting this kind of culture, decisions of what to include and what to exclude are unavoidable. Or as Jordan and Weedon (1995: 4) put it:

Whose culture shall be the official one and whose shall be subordinated? What culture shall be regarded as worthy of display and which shall be hidden? Whose history shall be remembered and whose forgotten? What images of social life shall be projected and which shall be marginalized? What voices shall be heard and what silenced? Who is representing whom and on what basis?

In the Europeana project, each country, aggregator and institution decides for itself what to include in Europeana and what not. This means that when heritage of a certain time period or ethnic group is not digitized and added to Europeana, it simply does not exist in the European culture. At the moment Europeana does not have a clear policy for this. In this research I take a closer look at six EU countries contributing to Europeana to find out what they are contributing and why. In order to do this I first describe a small history about the country to explain its current ethnic groups and its relation towards the European Union. Here, statistics of the Europebarometer will be used. After this, I will research the relation of the country to Europeana regarding the amount of objects it contributes and the amount of money. Secondly, I take a further look on what kind of material is added to Europeana. Is a certain museum for example for more contributing than others? Or is the heritage of the European nation divided equally (probably not) and what does this mean for the imaging of the country in relation to a European context?

By making a comparative analysis of six European countries I want to give a current overview of the impact of Europeana and provide recommendations for further developments. Also, I take a look on how Europeana presents the material. The Europeana project is of an unprecedented size and brings European heritage together on a large scale. This creates several new opportunities to present the data and to put it in a new, European, context.

Here is something to notice when discussing Benedicts Anderson ‘Imagined Communities’
The EU is one of the largest and most important imagined and most important new imagined communities to have emerged in the post-colonial era: an entity staffed by a unique transnational and supposedly ‘supranational’ administrative elite. (p. 33). The absence of popular feeling of belonging to the ‘European construction’, like the absence of a sense of common historical experience or shared memory, remains a crucial factor in explaining the difficulty of integrating Europeans.

Chapter 2: Creating the people’s Europe: symbols, history and invented traditions.

In this chapter, Shore focuses on the construction of a ‘European history’, and what one might call, following Hobsbawm and Ranger (1983), the ‘invention of European tradition’. Invented traditions , in the strict sense, refer to practices ‘which seek to inculcate certain values and norms of behaviour’ by implying ‘continuity with the past'(1983: 1. However, as Foster reminds us (1991: 241), ‘the past’- like social memory- ‘is a construction, actively invented and reinvented’.With the use of culture and Europeana, the EU wants to construct a new European past where all European citizens are part of and who share a common European heritage.

The quote from the Maastricht treaty in the previous post from article 128 is dicussed here. How does one celebrate Europe’s cultural diversity while at the same time ‘bringing the common cultural heritage to the fore’? And whose definition of that common cultural heritage prevails? If national diversity is celebrated, it is always within a context that emphasises the way these national specificities fit into the overall European picture. Thus, as a EU pamphlet describes it: ‘the city of Venice, the paintings of Rembrandt, the music of Beethoven or the plays of Shakespeare are an integral part of a common cultural heritage and are regarded as common property by the citizens of Europe’. (Borchardt 1995: 73) National cultural icons are thus appropriated, re-interpreted and then offered up as indices of a unitary ‘European’ history. (p. 54)

 Chapter 3 is about European citizenship which I will not elaborate much about in my thesis. Shore’s main conclusion is that the way the EU wants to construct citizenship has much similarities with how nation states are often constructed. See Delanty for more about this.

Categories: Literature
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