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Since the second half of the last century, culture has experienced a profound mutation, through which its position and role in social dynamics have been transformed to constitute an essential basis of today’s society. Cultural digitization and globalization have radically altered the cultural ecosystem and intensified the relationship between cultural identity, cultural heritage and cultural expression. This transformation has occurred both within the professional cultural sector as well as in society as a whole.

The CulturalBase. Social Platform on Cultural Heritage and European Identities project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme, aims to identify and analyse the main current debates and controversies as regards culture, in particular in relation to cultural heritage and European identities from a double standpoint, namely, an analytical as well as a public policy perspective. To carry out this work, three axes have been prioritised: cultural memory, cultural inclusion and cultural creativity.

The present policy brief addresses the Cultural inclusion axis, i.e. the way in which museums have traditionally functioned as spaces that tend to work against contemporary social and political concerns for cultural diversity and inclusion, and how these often highly conservative institutions may still have the potential to disengage the heritage they preserve and interpret from its often “essentialised” association with the notions of identity and inheritance. Museums are not the only institutions entrusted with preserving and interpreting material and immaterial heritage, but have a unique power to construct and endorse dominant social and cultural narratives. The key issues, principles and practices explored in this brief as well as the suggested recommendations are relevant to other institutional contexts (e.g. libraries, archives, historical sites) which aim to create shared (physical and virtual) spaces where meaningful interaction takes place and all participants, recognised as being equal, are offered genuine opportunities for self-representation and collaborative meaning-making.

Evidence and analysis

“Fortress Heritage”?

Many European museums were founded in order to represent and validate national, local or group identities, as well as to celebrate mainstream values, through the heritage they preserve. This “historical” mission still largely underlies the narrative and messages conveyed by museums across Europe.

Furthermore, because of its close connection with the notion of “inheritance”, heritage seems to refer to something that is attained once and for all by birthright, rather than developed by individuals throughout their lifetime; a perception that has informed the views of many policy makers and museum professionals, but also underpinned broader public understandings of heritage.

In fact, supporting a view of the world which is predominantly based on identity fault lines is ultimately leading “us” to deny the right of “the others” to take part in the European way of life, not only in the economic and social, but also in the cultural sphere (“European cultural heritage as European property”, or in any case as a “privilege of the few”, see Kouki 2016). That is why, in François Matarasso’s words, “it is time that governments, agencies concerned with heritage, cultural bodies and artists, among others, began to rethink how heritage is imagined, defined and interpreted. Otherwise, and notwithstanding the rising calls for immigrants to “integrate” better or adopt largely unspecified European cultural values, it is difficult to see how to avoid, intentionally or unintentionally, creating divisions within society […] between those who belong and those who do not, those who can speak and those who cannot” (Matarasso 2004).

Rethinking heritage from a participatory, dialogical, intercultural perspective is an important pursuit, holding the potential to impact all European citizens, whether “old” or “new”. Museums as intercultural spaces can function not only to promote the cultural rights of migrant communities, but also to nurture in all individuals those attitudes, behaviours and skills (including cognitive mobility, the ability to question one’s own points of view and to challenge stereotypes, the awareness of one’s own multiple identities) which are indispensable in a world of increasing contact and interaction between culturally different views and practices.

In the light of these reflections, the key question is: in an increasingly “plural” Europe, how can museums become places where not only the understanding of heritage is deepened (which is all too often connected with concerns of enhancing “heritage literacy” and filling “cultural deficits”), but also where participative, cross-cultural and creative encounters can take place, and where new knowledge systems, relationships and interpretive communities can be initiated?

Museum policy approaches to address the growing diversity of European societies

In the past ten years, especially starting from the preparation of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue in 2008 (for which a survey was commissioned to the ERICarts Institute by the European Commission DG Education and Culture, see ERICarts 2008), countless surveys, reports, papers, guidelines, databases have been produced, and working groups / consultation platforms created, in order to explore the ways in which cultural institutions are addressing the growing diversity of European societies, and therefore to identify key challenges and implications for future work.

Based on this wealth of evidence, three prevailing policy approaches have been identified in the museum domain, which may be briefly described as follows:

  • encouraging an increased understanding and greater recognition of “other” cultures, which have traditionally been misrepresented or made invisible in European museums (“showcasing difference”); although this approach may take very different forms, what often distinguishes it is not so much a will to encourage attendance and participation on the part of migrant communities, as to promote a “knowledge-oriented multiculturalism” directed principally at an autochthonous audience;
  • integrating “new citizens” within mainstream culture, by helping them to learn more about a country’s history, language, values and traditions (“heritage literacy”); in the best of cases, these initiatives are rooted in communities’ needs and expectations, rather than driven by curatorial and institutional interests, or transitory political and social agendas; in the worst, they are informed by a patronising attitude;
  • promoting cultural self-awareness in migrant communities through “culturally specific” programming: alongside initiatives such as exhibitions and events drawing on “ethnographic” collections, intended to redress the under- or misrepresentation of specific minority groups, and developed in close cooperation with them (as opposed to the “showcasing difference” approach described above), there has been a growing interest in collections or programmes that reflect the cultural heterogeneity of a region or city’s population and those which explore topics (such as the history of immigration, colonialism and slavery) that enable diverse cultures to be represented.

The ERICarts survey found that these approaches, as different as they may be, often have some key features in common (ERICarts 2008, Bodo 2012):

  • they tend to be underlined by a static, essentialist notion of heritage, which is primarily seen as a “closed” system, a received patrimony to safeguard and transmit;
  • they generally avoid cross-cultural interaction, and build programmes/activities which are targeted either to “migrants” or to a “native” audience (in other words, also audiences are “essentialised”);
  • even where interaction between different groups is encouraged, the main aim is to promote mutual knowledge and respect, rather than to initiate new knowledge systems, relationships, interpretive communities;
  • they are generally reluctant to identify tensions and conflicts which may be dealt with in order to change attitudes and behaviours (quite predictably, it is much more reassuring for museums to exclusively embrace the rhetoric of “diversity as a richness”);
  • more in general, they conceive intercultural dialogue as a goal or pre-determined outcome, rather than as an interactive process which is ingrained in a museum’s practice.

These reflections are obviously not meant to suggest that the policy approaches outlined above are to be discredited or abandoned; on the contrary, they all have a vital role to play, from supporting a multicultural base, to compensating the past misrepresentation of “other” cultures in museums and other heritage institutions; from recognising museums as “social agents” addressing the issue of migrants’ and refugees’ cultural rights, to helping individuals and groups maintaining a vital link with tradition, whether it be in the form of “cultural specific programming”, migration museums or “migration heritage” interpretive practices.

What the ERICarts study rather wished to argue – and remains to date a crucial issue, whose potential is still largely untapped – is that these approaches would find a new, fuller legitimacy in so far as they are seen to be part of a process/journey which is ultimately aimed at allowing individuals to cross the boundaries of “belonging”, and to reshape cultural participation and self-representation on their own terms, rather than being pigeon-holed as “minority groups”.

The challenge, in other words, is to:

  • go beyond policies targeting individuals and groups according to their racial origin and ethnicity, working on identity as “the start rather than the end of the conversation” (Khan 2010) – or, in other words, addressing needs, not backgrounds;
  • facilitate new connections between people and objects, thereby generating new, inclusive meanings/narratives around collections – which means going beyond the static notion of “heritage”, and exploring new interpretation strategies and methodologies;
  • and (ultimately) reshape heritage as a shared space of social and cultural interaction, rather than as a mark of distinction.

Museums as “intercultural spaces”: exploring new paradigms

In the light of these reflections, it is not hard to see how substantial a change is required in most museums’ policies and working practices.

Drawing on the experience of ground-breaking practices in Italian museums – systematically documented in “Patrimonio e Intercultura”,[1] a platform launched in 2007 – there seem to be three key preconditions for reinterpreting heritage in a truly intercultural perspective, i.e. shifting the focus:

From heritage as “substance” (or conservation) …

a closed system, the “neutral remains of the past” (Matarasso 2004): static, consolidated, “of outstanding universal value” (UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, 1972) – an inheritance  to safeguard and transmit

… to heritage as “process” (or conversation)

a cultural wealth, both material and immaterial, that should not only be preserved and passed on to the next generation, but also renegotiated, reconstructed in its meanings, constantly questioned and rediscovered by individuals who breathe new life into it – a resource to trigger reflection, new insights, self-questioning, interaction, recognition, representation and self-representation, personal growth, community cohesion.

From the museum as a place of conservation …

the only authority entrusted with the interpretation of collections and with the preservation of their integrity, both physical and scientific

… to the museum as a place of interaction and collaborative meaning-making

an open, “relational” institution consulting and actively involving diverse audiences, encouraging multiple visions and interpretations, welcoming new voices and narratives.

From intercultural education as “didactic of difference” …

“the other” as an object of knowledge, “cultures” as static and self-contained organisms – emphasis on the knowledge of cultural diversities

… to intercultural education as a transformative practice

“the other” as an individual with whom to engage in a real relationship – emphasis on interaction, exchange, challenging one’s own cultural assumptions, initiating new knowledge systems and awareness.

This shift in focus is clearly visible in a number of experimental strands of practice which need not be understood as separate approaches – each one guided by its own rationale and methodology – but rather as virtuous practices intersecting, nurturing and cross-fertilising one another:

  • training and actively involving museum mediators with an immigrant background in the planning of narrative trails, collaborative exhibitions etc. with a view to exploring a more dialogical, multi-vocal interpretation of collections (both “European” and “extra-European”);
  • engaging mixed groups (“native” and with a migrant background) in the development of new narratives around collections through storytelling, theatre techniques and other unconventional mediation methodologies, starting from the premise that project participants can provide a significant contribution to the knowledge, understanding and interpretation of museum objects, and help overcome the museum’s self-referential language, often elitist and based on scientific expertise only;
  • promoting a gradual acquaintance between audiences and collections, by initiating a dialogue between museum objects and “objects of affection”, and creating a shared heritage of stories and life experiences of individuals (not only project participants, but also museum staff, educators and mediators) with different cultural and social backgrounds;
  • encouraging the symbolic adoption of museum objects as a means of building new bridges, creating a new “resonance”, revealing unexpected links between artefacts and people;
  • promoting the interaction between project participants and contemporary artists in order to develop new perspectives on the notions of heritage or identity, and to experiment with unconventional interpretation and relational methodologies, mediated through contemporary art languages.

All of these experimental strands share a commitment to encourage individuals (whether they be museum operators, mediators with a migrant background or “simple” project participants) to choose the heritage/objects with which they want to engage in a dialogue without necessarily having to wear the “uniform of culture”, and therefore to explore heritage – its contemporary value and relevance – from unusual perspectives, acknowledge its different layers of meaning, appreciate its potential “resonance” with personal life experiences (rather than just “cultural backgrounds”).

[1] “Patrimonio e Intercultura”/“Heritage and Interculture” is an online resource promoted by Milan-based Fondazione ISMU – Initiatives and Studies on Multiethnicity. Over the years, it has become a unique observatory of heritage education projects in an intercultural perspective, with no parallel in other European countries. Along with the website, and in close connection with it, the “Heritage and Interculture” programme also includes training courses, publications and toolkits, seminars and conferences, joint planning and running of intercultural projects in partnership with museum institutions.

Policy Implications and Recommendations

Based on the analysis presented so far, a series of recommendations are provided aimed at a range of policy-makers at European, national, regional and local levels.

  1. Greater focus should be placed on exploring those strategies and programmes which, at least in the past decade, have  been aimed at creating “shared spaces” (see experimental strands of practice above) where individuals are finally allowed to cross the boundaries of belonging and are offered genuine opportunities for self-representation and collaborative meaning-making. Such strategies and programmes are, in fact, far less visible and investigated than the more “traditional” policy approaches to promoting cultural inclusion for the increasingly diverse population living in Europe; and yet, they have shown a tremendous potential in terms of creating a more dialogical understanding of heritage, as well as more cohesive and diverse interpretive communities.

1.a. We recommend the development and maintenance of a European online facility (website) for the systematic gathering, archiving, sharing and disseminating of innovative intercultural museum practices across EU Member States; this would be not only a first step towards sharing expertise and knowledge at a European level, avoid fragmentation and duplication of projects, stimulate new initiatives; it could provide a shared framework for reporting on such practices, which would strengthen our understanding of what works in specific contexts, and enable more realistic assessments and appropriate comparisons between policies and programmes across Europe.

1.b. This online facility should place a particular emphasis on the evaluation of such strategies and programmes, not only to reflect on what works, what does not work, what are the short/medium/long term impacts of such practices, and to expand their scope and transferability, but also as a strategic asset for policy: more specific and longitudinal research designs are needed to gather the sorts of “hard” evidence politicians and policymakers require.

  1. More in general, greater focus should be placed on research, information sharing and evaluation of existing policies, practices and tools: “the majority […] remain unknown to most citizens, including experts and academics in countries across the EU”, whereas “we need to make the most of existing and finished projects and find new ways to link them and disseminate their findings” (CulturalBase Consortium 2016).

We recommend to single out projects/programmes which have proved to be particularly effective in developing tools for museums (and other heritage institutions) to manage institutional progression and change in dealing with diverse audiences,[1] and identify possible funding resources to provide support for “spin-offs” of these projects, so that they may be tested, implemented and “owned” by as wide a range of institutions as possible.

  1. The genuine inclusion of “migrant” community voices in interpretation and display (collective empowerment) is a complex and time-consuming process, which has not only cultural, but also political, social and financial implications: if policy makers want to avoid tokenism when referring to the importance of involving diaspora organisations[2] in developing more inclusive and dialogical understandings of heritage, there is a clear issue of representation and recognition which needs to be addressed: “empowerment for a disempowered community means demanding power in the arena where you are invited to act” (Lagerkvist 2006).

We recommend to support accreditation schemes/procedures allowing diaspora organisations to be fully recognised as strategic partners in heritage interpretation strategies and programmes (in the framework of EU-funded projects in particular).

  1. A greater and more systematic effort should be placed on the recognition and validation of migrants’ skills and talents in heritage interpretation (individual empowerment). Experience has shown that when they are not merely involved as “guides” for their respective communities, but recognised as “new interpreters” to all effects of the museum’s heritage, mediators with a migrant background are key in the promotion of different levels of accessibility and inclusion, by fostering a new familiarity between the museum and “new citizens”, by encouraging the participation of “native” non-visitors (with particular reference to youths), by promoting in regular museum-goers new ways of looking at the collections, and ultimately by going beyond policies targeting individuals and groups according to their “ethnicity”.

More in general, the recognition and validation of migrants’ skills and talents should be reflected in staff diversity at all levels (and in all areas of work) of the organisation. Over the years, several surveys have clearly pointed out that diversity in programming and audiences hinges on diversity of staff and governance, but the resulting policy recommendations mostly remained unanswered.

We recommend to establish a legal framework allowing to employ more professionals with a migrant background in museums and other heritage institutions (e.g. acknowledging their role as “key interpreters” of collections). Funding is also needed to support on-going training and long-term involvement of these new professional figures in building the institution’s intercultural competence and leading to systemic change in the way it is perceived by stakeholders. Finally, the support of schemes/programmes for diversifying governance in museums (and other heritage institutions)[3] is strongly recommended, so that a range of different competencies and skills are actually tapped, applied, brought into dialogue and implemented in audience development and cultural participation strategies and programming.

  1. When it comes to European heritage and identity/ies, academic research and policy agendas often seem to keep travelling on parallel paths, without ever really meeting. But ideally, a research agenda on issues like the ones we are addressing in this policy brief should be highly functional to policymaking. When talking about cultural heritage policies in a “troubled Europe” (CulturalBase Consortium, January 2017), we are referring not only to the challenges posed by the so-called “refugee crisis” currently affecting many EU Member States, but also to the failure of many museums to acknowledge the growing diversity of the societies in which they are immersed (by way of example, the increase of migrants being awarded citizenship status in different national contexts, pointing to a gradual shift “from workers to population”,[4] should have clear implications in terms of how cultural participation of this still largely under-represented “audience” is encouraged), let alone address it.

We recommend the creation of permanent (rather than project-based) platforms and mechanisms of consultation and mutual feedback between academics, researchers, policy makers and practitioners (community of research and community of practice).

[1] A relevant example is the benchmarking tool for diversity management in cultural institutions developed in the framework of the “Brokering Migrants’ Cultural Participation” project (funded by the DG Home Affairs of the European Commission, “MCP Broker” may be seen as a continuation of the work on Access to Culture and on Intercultural Dialogue under the Open Method of Coordination), tracking the potential journey of a cultural institution from a basic level where MCP is an imposed agenda, to an advanced level where the cultural institution fully reflects society’s diversity and promotes full-fledged cross-cultural interaction.

[2] See for example the experience of the READ-ME network (Réseau européen des Associations de Diasporas & Musées d’Ethnographie), which was discontinued due to the difficulty in many partner countries to recognise diaspora associations as fully-fledged partners.

[3] An independent initiative running in the Netherlands since 2000, Atana, comprises “the recruitment and training of new board members for cultural institutions and non-profit institutions, in close cooperation with those organisations. Atana focuses on people with a double cultural background; people who are at home in the Netherlands, but are also rooted in one of the many other cultures situated in this country. People with skills that are needed in boards, such as knowledge of finance, law, marketing & communication, management, and arts and the networks that come along with relevant working experience”.

[4] Fondazione Ismu, Ventunesimo rapporto sulle migrazioni 2015, FrancoAngeli, Milan, 2015.

Research Parameters

Bodo S., “Museums as intercultural spaces”, in R. Sandell, E. Nightingale (eds.), Museums, Equality and Social Justice, Routledge, London and New York, 2012: pp. 181-191.

CulturalBase Consortium, Cultural heritage policies for a troubled Europe. Proposals from the CulturalBase social platform, January 2017.

CulturalBase Consortium, Rethinking Research and Policy Agendas on Cultural Heritage and European Identities, November 2016.

ERICarts Institute, Sharing Diversity. National Approaches to Intercultural Dialogue in Europe, Study for the European Commission, DG Education and Culture, March 2008; see in particular the challenge paper by Bodo S., From “heritage education with intercultural goals” to “intercultural heritage education”: conceptual framework and policy approaches in museums across Europe.

Fabiani J. L., The European Migration Cultural Heritage, CulturalBase Vision Document (Cultural Inclusion Axis), March 2016.

Khan N., The Artist as Translator, paper delivered at the seminar “Super Diversity – Who Participates Now? Discussion on the phenomenon of ‘super diversity’ in the visual arts”, Institute of International Visual Arts, London, 2 February 2010.

Kouki H., Instrumentalizing European Cultural Heritage: exclusionary challenges & suggestions for inclusion, CulturalBase Vision Document (Cultural Inclusion Axis), April 2016.

Lagerkvist C., “Empowerment and anger. Learning how to share ownership of the museum”, in Museum & Society, July 2006, 4(2): pp. 52-68.

Matarasso F., History defaced. Heritage creation in contemporary Europe, paper delivered at the international conference “When culture makes the difference. The heritage, arts and media in multicultural society” (Genoa, 19-21 November 2004).

OMC (Open Method of Coordination) group of EU Member States’ experts, Report on the role of public arts and cultural institutions in the promotion of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, January 2014.

Visions of Culture – Structured dialogue between the European Commission and the cultural sector, Brainstorming Report Promoting intercultural dialogue  and bringing communities together through culture in shared public spaces, March 2016.

Web sources:

Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe: see Country profiles with chapters devoted to “Cultural diversity and inclusion policies” (4.2.4)  and “Intercultural dialogue: actors, strategies, programmes” (4.2.7), and the section “Culture & Democracy themes”,

Museums and Migration blog

The Incluseum blog

Brokering Migrants’ Cultural Participation” project website

NEMO – Network of European Museum Organisations’ Reading corner on Intercultural Dialogue

Museum & Society on-line journal

The experimental strands of practice described in the chapter “Museums as ‘intercultural spaces’: exploring new paradigms” of this brief may be exemplified by model case studies documented in the “Patrimonio e Intercultura” website (all project descriptions are in English):

Museum mediators as “new interpreters” of the museum’s heritage

Brera: another story, Brera National Picture Gallery, Milan

Twelve storytellers in search of an author, Gallery of Contemporary and Modern Art, Bergamo

Engaging diverse groups through storytelling

Plural Stories, Guatelli Museum, Ozzano Taro (Parma)

DIAMOND – The museums as a space for dialogue and collaborative meaning-making, City Museum of Zoology, Rome

Promoting a dialogue between museum objects and “objects of affection”

TAM TAM – Tutti al Museo (The Museum for All), Museum of Peoples and Cultures, Milan

Encouraging the symbolic adoption of museum objects

[S]oggetti migranti – Migrant subjects/objects, “Luigi Pigorini” National Prehistoric Ethnographic Museum, Rome

In someone else’s shoes, City Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, Montebelluna

Promoting a synergy with contemporary artists in order to develop new perspectives on the notions of heritage or identity

A Vision of My Own and City Telling, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin

The art of making difference, Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the University of Turin

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Since the second half of the last century, culture has experienced a profound mutation, through which its position and role in social dynamics have been transformed to constitute an essential basis of today’s society. Cultural digitization and globalization have radically altered the cultural ecosystem and intensified the relationship between cultural identity, cultural heritage and cultural expression. This transformation has occurred both within the professional cultural sector as well as in society as a whole.

The CulturalBase. Social Platform on Cultural Heritage and European Identities project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme, aims to identify and analyse the main current debates and controversies as regards culture, in particular in relation to cultural heritage and European identities from a double standpoint, namely, an analytical as well as a public policy perspective. To carry out this work, three axes have been prioritised: cultural memory, cultural inclusion and cultural creativity.

This policy brief addresses the Cultural memory axis and, more specifically, the issue of heritage rights and culture. It summarises the conceptual and policy context, identifies key issues and challenges, and raises open questions, particularly with regard to the specific focus on heritage rights and culture within the Cultural memory axis. Finally, the brief offers a series of recommendations, which can contribute to the understanding of the different dimensions of recent memory theories and discourses as well as related policy strategies particularly in the cultural heritage sector in Europe.

Evidence and analysis

This brief has several policy implications since cultural heritage is concerned in particular with heritage rights “which carry with them many of the ambiguities of human rights”[1].

However, given recent societal developments as for example in post-conflict societies, a crucial question is what kind of challenges exist and which questions must be raised when a cultural rights approach, in general, and a heritage rights approach, in particular, become part of both heritage policies and practice.

In other words, can the heritage rights dimension open up the debate to other directions and conclusions? What are the most challenging questions to be answered?

The conceptual and policy context

The current debate on heritage rights is embedded in a specific conceptual and policy context. The past few decades have witnessed a variety of conceptual and policy developments at both European and international levels which have acknowledged the meaning that cultural heritage can bring to society as a whole[2]:

  • In the 1970s there was a conceptual transformation as regards cultural heritage from a conservation-led to a value-led approach.
  • During the 1990s, the principles of “sustainability” started to be included more prominently in policy documents on cultural heritage, increasingly combined with the objective of “development“[3].
  • More recently, a growing recognition, not only across Europe but also in the rest of the world, of the all-inclusive nature of the historic environment, where tangible and intangible assets are no longer perceived as separate from one another.
  • The Council of Europe Faro Convention[4], contributed to the policy shift towards people and human values in the centre of a renewed understanding of cultural heritage.

The greater recognition of the importance of cultural heritage and the policy shift at the EU level became evident through a series of conferences, events and of far-reaching strategic policy documents adopted by the EU Council of Ministers and the Council of the European Union[5].

Faro Convention

The principles and spirit of the Faro Convention play a particular role for the issue discussed in this brief as the Convention has linked together heritage rights and human rights.

The Convention’s Preamble states: “Recognising that every person has a right to engage with the cultural heritage of their choice, while respecting the rights and freedoms of others, as an aspect of the right freely to participate in cultural life enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and guaranteed by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)”.

“The Parties … agree to:

  1. recognise that rights relating to cultural heritage are inherent in the right to participate in cultural life, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  2. recognise individual and collective responsibility towards cultural heritage;
  3. emphasise that the conservation of cultural heritage and its sustainable use have human development and quality of life as their goal.

Article 4, Rights and responsibilities relating to cultural heritage, states:

“The Parties recognise that:

  1. everyone, alone or collectively, has the right to benefit from the cultural heritage and to contribute towards its enrichment;
  2. everyone, alone or collectively, has the responsibility to respect the cultural heritage of others as much as their own heritage, and consequently the common heritage of Europe;
  3. exercise of the right to cultural heritage may be subject only to those restrictions which are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of the public interest and the rights and freedoms of others.“

United Nations 2017 “Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights

As to the right to a cultural life as a core part of human rights, a recent new report engages explicitly with these issues[6]. In March 2017, the United Nations‘ Human Rights Council published a “Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights“[7].

On 3 March 2017, the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva: “This is a wake-up call for our times. We face a global avalanche of hate in the form of rising fundamentalism and extremism around the world. This must be tackled with urgency, using a human rights approach. Culture and cultural rights are critical components of this response”.

In the section “A human rights approach to fundamentalism and extremism“ it is stressed that “Cultural rights are a critical component of the human rights approach and the defence of these rights today requires tackling fundamentalism and extremism. Policies that combat discrimination in the right to take part in cultural life or promote freedom of artistic expression, scientific freedom and education in accordance with international human rights norms are core aspects of combating fundamentalism and extremism“. (Nr. 20, page 6.)

Furthermore, that “Arts, education, science and culture are among the best ways to fight fundamentalism and extremism. They are not luxuries, but critical to creating alternatives, making space for peaceful contestation, promoting inclusion and protecting youth from radicalization“. (Nr. 22page 6.)

The report concludes: “Cultural rights, understood as fully integrated within the human rights system, are critical counterweights to fundamentalism and extremism; they call for free self-determination of individuals, respect for cultural diversity, universality and equality“. (Nr. 95, page 20.)

Challenges and questions

Both the human rights as well as the cultural rights approach, particularly for their relevance as regards access to and participation in culture, are of crucial importance for all three axes of the CulturalBase project: Memory, Inclusion and Creativity.

The research undertaken within the Cultural memory axis has identified various dimensions of the current heritage practice: i.a. different uses of heritage, from reshaping local communities to branding strategies[8]; educational aspects of heritage as learning and entertaining resources[9], or the overarching question of how heritage rights are negotiated[10].

As regards a human rights approach to cultural heritage, this policy brief has identified the following four main challenges[11]:

Challenge 1: Culture is increasingly “owned” by groups who use heritage to assert their identity.

Challenge 2: European institutions put human rights-based approaches at the core of how they manage, teach and represent heritages.

Challenge 3: Ideologically-motivated destruction of cultural heritage increases.

Challenge 4: Should Europe promote heritage sites linked to human rights issues?

One overarching questions still remains, namely if a focus on heritage rights can open discussion and foster a more ethical and empathetic heritage sector, and citizenship.

[1] Chalcraft, Jasper (2016): Negotiation Heritage Rights, Vision Document (cultural memory axis), p.2.

[2] CHCfE (2015): Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe, page 10/11.

[3] Hangzhou Declaration (2013): Placing Culture at the Heart of Sustainable Development Policies. UNESCO International Conference.

[4] Council of Europe (2005): Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society

[5] Council of the European Union (2014a): Conclusions on Cultural Heritage as a Strategic Resource for a Sustainable Europe, adopted on 21 May 2014; Council of the European Union (2014b): Conclusions on Participatory Governance of Cultural Heritage, adopted on 25 November 2014); European Commission (2014): Communication Towards an Integrated Approach to Cultural Heritage for Europe, adopted on 22 July 2014.

[6] This report follows a 2016 report and the work of Ms. Bennoune’s predecessor Farida

Shaheed, in particular her 2011 report Access to Cultural Heritage as a Human Right.

[7] United Nations, Human Rights Council (2017): Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights. Special Rapporteur: Karima Bennoune.

[8] Dominique Poulot: “Uses of Heritage” (March 2016)

[9] Isidora Stanković: “Valuing Heritage as Learning and Entertaining Resources” (March 2016)

[10] Jasper Chalcraft: “Negotiating Heritage Rights” (March 2016)

[11] Jasper Chalcraft: “Negotiating Heritage Rights” (March 2016)

Policy Implications and Recommendations

Based on the analysis presented so far, a series of recommendations are provided aimed at a range of policy-makers at European, national, regional and local levels.

  1. CulturalBase has demonstrated that “cultural memory“, in all of its diverse dimensions, is a critical factor in understanding the current Cultural Heritage (CH) discourse in Europe, and beyond. Memory must be treated as a fundamental part of Europe’s past and present and as an important factor in understanding, interpreting and communicating today’s cultural heritage. A promising direction for future research is to consider European cultural heritage as an entangled mosaic of histories, to compare the ways in which different memories intersect with each other and to map such intersections spatially and temporally.

We recommend supporting projects that address and promote a broader historical understanding and greater knowledge of issues related to Cultural memory strategies and practices in different communities in Europe. Such projects should, whenever possible, include other world regions whose heritage is intertwined with that of Europe[1].

  1. CulturalBase has discussed and supported a pluralised concept of European cultural heritage which can be seen as an expression of a more globally connected world. This actually raises the issue of the role of European cultural heritage in international relations (cultural diplomacy).

We recommend further research on the role of European cultural heritage in international relations. This research should analyse the openness of European heritage to decentralised and subaltern readings and the engagement of academic and policy communities into inter-cultural dialogue platforms for the elaboration of entangled, often painful and conflictual, memories and identities[2].

  1. In their current understanding and practice, “heritage rights” are concerned with different research disciplines which usually operate in single, hardly connected spheres. Questions raised in the CulturalBase Cultural memory axis substantiate that the issue of “heritage rights” should be addressed through interdisciplinary approaches rather than through single fields of research. Relevant research disciplines which should be brought together in interdisciplinary teams and projects include socio-economic science and humanities as well as technical and legal sciences.

We recommend to support interdisciplinary research that addresses both the technical-legal aspects of applying heritage rights as well as their broader social impacts[3].

  1. “Heritage rights” pose interesting but complex questions. The “rights” perspective sheds light on the conflicting aspects of heritage with regard to communities’ memories and the shaping of social identities. Although the “rights” paradigm is recognised as problematic by some (for example, issues of legal “ownership” and reinforcing ethnos-based identities), it increasingly orientates practice and is being written into legal instruments which shape heritage policies. The digital shift and intellectual property rights specifically challenge the heritage rights debate and practice.

We recommend to encourage projects and platforms that develop tools (such as handbooks, roadmaps, toolkits) so that individuals, communities and heritage activists can discuss heritage rights in relation with their social identities and use these in constructive ways[4].

  1. Community engagement is a relevant issue in current heritage practices in Europe. How communities co-operate and how they are incorporated or are excluded, is crucial to understanding the impacts of heritage-making on contemporary societies. This is particularly relevant where policy makers push heritage as a tool of development, income generation and a focal point for social cohesion.

5.1. We recommend more explorative research and mapping of heritage practices on how communities participate in heritage-making and on how various kinds of memory work in different kinds of communities are established, such as in the case of migrants and refugees, or, the heritage of slavery.

5.2. We recommend focused research on what methods might actually strengthen community and grassroots organisation thus addressing the need for participatory approaches to cultural heritage from a different and complementary angle.

  1. The digital challenge for cultural heritage practice in Europe is evident. Much of the promise of the digital as a phenomenon that can democratise and open access to heritage as a social resource has not been realised. Instead, the digital divide has amalgamated existing and new forms of exclusion. However, more explicit social uses of heritage through digital technologies do exist, and new communities of practice are emerging around these, as well as new kinds of solidarity. Not only do we need to know more about the factors that make such digital heritage resources useful, there is a need to support educational and non-commercial uses, helping to create a more diverse digital landscape oriented to social uses.

We recommend further research on the current use and exploitation of digital heritage resources and on how organisations, activists and networks working with digital heritage resources could be supported more effectively. Relevant research issues in this context include structural and process-oriented approaches facilitating the use of digital heritage resources, barriers to access to these resources as well as methods for safeguarding against various forms of commercial or ideological appropriation. [5] 

[1] Cultural Base (2016): “Rethinking Research and Policy Agendas on Cultural Heritage and European Identities”, p. 2.

[2] Cultural Base (2016): “Rethinking Research and Policy Agendas on Cultural Heritage and European Identities”, p. 3.

[3] Cultural Base (2016): “Rethinking Research and Policy Agendas on Cultural Heritage and European Identities”, p. 6.

[4] Cultural Base (2016): “Rethinking Research and Policy Agendas on Cultural Heritage and European Identities”, p. 7.

[5] Cultural Base (2016): “Rethinking Research and Policy Agendas on Cultural Heritage and European Identities”, pp. 5/6.

Research Parameters

CulturalBase documents used for this Policy brief include:

  • Jasper Chalcraft: “Negotiating Heritage Rights” (March 2016)
  • Dominique Poulot: “Uses of Heritage” (March 2016)
  • Isidora Stanković: “Valuing Heritage as Learning and Entertaining Resources” (March 2016)
  • CulturalBase Workshop Report “Which Museums for the (European) Heritage of the 21st Century” (Paris, 17 January 2017)
  • Draft agenda proposal “Rethinking Research and Policy Agendas on Cultural Heritage and European Identities” (November 2016) during the workshop held in Florence in December 2016

Other documents:

United Nations, Human Rights Council (2017): Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights. Special Rapporteur: Karima Bennoune.

Council of Europe (2005): Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society.

CHCFE Consortium (2015): Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe. Published on behalf of the CHCfE Consortium by the International Cultural Centre, Krakow. June 2015.

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Since the second half of the last century, culture has experienced a profound mutation, through which its position and role in social dynamics have been transformed to constitute an essential basis of today’s society. Cultural digitization and globalization have radically altered the cultural ecosystem and intensified the relationship between cultural identity, cultural heritage and cultural expression. This transformation has occurred both within the professional cultural sector as well as in society as a whole.

The CulturalBase. Social Platform on Cultural Heritage and European Identities project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme, aims to identify and analyse the main current debates and controversies as regards culture, in particular in relation to cultural heritage and European identities from a double standpoint, namely, an analytical as well as a public policy perspective. To carry out this work, three axes have been prioritised: cultural memory, cultural inclusion and cultural creativity.

This policy brief focuses on how the changes brought about by digitisation impact culture and the ways heritage is being communicated today, culture’s position and role in the social dynamics of today’s society and how the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy may affect this role. The brief summarises the work carried out within the Cultural creativity axis of the CulturalBase project that reflected on the concept of creativity within the context of European societies. It will identify key issues, challenges, questions and the resulting implications for policy makers as well as cultural professionals.

Evidence and analysis

Digital culture – more than just creative economy

“Culture is a memory, collective memory, dependent on communication for its creation, extension, evolution and preservation”.  (Foresta, Mergier, Serexhe, 1995)

Culture, communication and information are closely related concepts: through communication our society constantly recreates itself and redefines its collective reality.[1] The right to obtain and share knowledge and the right to create and re-create are central to survival of any culture. The knowledge embedded in our cultural memory, has always been communicated and preserved through our cultural communication structures; the communication technologies represent an important element that enable and facilitate the processes of creating, sharing and preserving our cultural memory. Information is a non-rival good, which is not “spent” in communication with others, but is sustained and “preserved”.

The widespread use of digital technologies has visible impacts on different aspects of our culture. These changes do not happen due to some inner technological logic, the concrete change depends on how society accepts it, to which uses it puts it and how it regulates it.

Since the “creative economy” has become a main focus of EU policies for culture, the cultural sector continuously questions the aims that should be achieved by regulating digital culture. What public policies ensure that society can make the best of digitization in the cultural sector? On the one hand, the Council of Europe considers that “digitisation must be accompanied by enlightened cultural policies, if opportunities for access and participation, individual and collective creativity are to be fully used”[2]. On the other hand, the EU policies that provide regulatory frameworks for the development of digital culture mostly focus on the creative economy and on providing opportunities to business sector and consumers. Consequently, the issue of policies for creative economy in Europe and how they navigate the tensions between culture and economy represents a challenge that impacts the entire cultural sector, including heritage institutions and citizens who practice and communicate culture in the digital context, as their digital practices in the cultural heritage domain have impact on issues of identity and belonging.

Digital Single Market – will there be a room for culture and not just creative economy?

As cultural production is becoming more digital, the influence of national political governance seems to be decreasing. Today, complex regulatory frameworks regulate our economic, social and cultural activities and digital context is regulated mostly outside the purview of cultural policies. As the changes brought about by digitisation knows no borders and convergence processes cut across global and national levels, this makes regulation awkward. In the situation of convergence, how can we regulate content that comes from channels that are considered as ‘light broadcasting’?  How can we differentiate ‘communication’ and ‘unofficial broadcasting’ in the context of digital networks? What should be regulated and what left free? Nowadays European countries face similar challenges in their attempt to regulate digital culture, and they need to address diverse issues outside of the remit of cultural policies, such as: technological convergence; internationalization and integration of online markets; harmonization and coordination of policies within the EU; and, from the point of view of cultural policies, a challenge related to the prevalence of market logics at the expense of approaches emphasizing the variety of values at stake in the cultural sector.

DSM with its focus on digital and data economy and its technical discourse seems to be a barrier to fully understand its full implications for culture and particularly in the cultural heritage community. Nevertheless, the fact that it has become both a political imperative and an instrument structuring the EU, DSM represents a major implicit policy for culture: its implications for cultural trade bring questions related to our collective identity[3] with unintended cultural side-effects. In this logic, the consequences of the these changes will effect both the cultural and creative sectors as well as the cultural heritage sector and thus merit a better understanding.

Among its objectives, the Europe 2020 strategy includes developing a digital single market in order to generate smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in Europe. The DSM[4] remit is high quality digital service throughout the EU. Aiming at creating a single EU regulatory space, its main focus is on: creating the adequate conditions and a levelled playfield for digital networks and innovative services to flourish; ensuring that consumers and businesses have better access to digital goods and services across Europe; and maximising the growth potential of the digital economy. As digital and creative economy are interlinked, the EU priorities concerning DSM include also the development of a creative economy. This represents a complex framework within which the development of online services and opening up of cultural content should be looked at. The opening up of access to cultural content is expected to contribute towards a vibrant European digital single market and Europeana, the EU flagship cultural project, is expected to bring benefits to EU society through smart use of ICT and revealing information that promotes cultural diversity, creative content and accessibility of European cultural heritage online. Whereas, the DSM emphasises the business side of cultural content provision and considers that an enhanced use of digital technologies can improve citizens’ access to information and culture and improve their job opportunities, end-users’ practices and participatory culture are left out of its focus. Indeed, issues related to cultural diversity are seen in a simplistic way – from the distribution point of view where more content can reach more people – and the market is only a key mechanism to this end.

In the context of current EU reality that faces regulatory fragmentation and fragmented markets in the content sector where rights have to be negotiated with 28 countries, simplifying such reality may represent a significant step forward for the cultural sector, providing that balance is stricken between the market logic and cultural values. From the point of view of the cultural researchers and professionals participating in the CulturalBase project, the Digital Single Market is understood as an attempt to implicitly reconfigure a cultural space in Europe, as the EU can be described as a set of territories with their particular cultural identities. DSM has a relevance on how we manage cultural life on those territories. This “involves addressing significant tensions between the territorial principle and the supranational market principle[5]. The changes that DSM envisions will have major impacts on the business models in the cultural sector and the cultural sector has numerous questions regarding this major implicit cultural policy.

Who benefits from the proposed reforms? Is it about Trans-Atlantic product trade and big aggregators of content? Which stakeholders will benefit? Will the interests of larger and smaller EU countries in any future reforms be balanced? How DSM affects cultural and heritage sector that should preserve and enable to citizens access to culture and its knowledge resources? What place will be left to cultural policies in regulating cultural space at national and EU levels when we know that digitisation and use of digital technologies has had visible impacts on cultural sector services and business models?

The central issue of DSM for the cultural sector is IPR reform that is trying to achieve harmonized copyright regime in the EU. As this will have implications for rights’ holders, intermediary institutions (such as heritage institutions) and end-users, a key question is – who will be advantaged and who will be disadvantaged? There is a visible divide among copyright stakeholders with, on the one hand, end-users and institutional users (e.g. libraries, archives, universities) in favour of a system based on openness, fairness and solidarity, and authors, collective management organizations, publishers and producers in favour of the current copyright rules, on the other. As stated in the Vision document “The Digital Single Market should strive to simplify existing regulations and also ensure that existing public cultural resources remain openly accessible to citizens, as the right to obtain and share knowledge and the right to create and re-create are central to survival of any culture. These arguments, of course, may come up against the resistance of rights holders.”[6]

For the cultural sector, aspects of particular importance within IPR reform include: exceptions to copyright rules relevant for the digitization of heritage institutions’ collections; and the remuneration for the use of copyright protected works for artists and cultural and creative industries.

Considering that the cultural sector is expected to be a catalyst for creativity and to contribute to EU economy and growth in jobs and, at the same time, preserve and enable citizens’ access to culture, it would be important that EU IPR regulation supports appropriate business models that provide for the digitization of collections’ holdings in the cultural public sector as well as support of users’ rights for use and reuse of digital heritage content. For the cultural heritage sector the important question is – how should IPR be conceptualised in the digital age that would ensure preserving robust public domain and users’ rights from analogue times? The existing system of copyright clearance is complicated and time consuming. Content belonging to the 20th century culture is either under copyright regime or falls in the category of the orphan works. The unclear status of significant part of 20th century’s heritage collections that have not yet entered into the public domain is an impediment for providing digital access to it. Such content is often not digital and frequently out of distribution in its analogue form. Its unclear status (orphan works) represents a barrier to mass digitisation projects or free reuse of such objects, if digitised. Re-balancing copyright requires at least some reform as demanded by end-users and institutional users, most importantly a more harmonized and flexible system of exceptions and limitations. The EU’s IPR reforms consider some exceptions and limitations for educational use. The CulturalBase stakeholders questioned whether these exceptions and limitations should be called users’ rights – as opposed to authors’ rights – to ensure a balance among different stakeholders.

Will microenterprises and artists benefit from the reforms?
For many cultural microenterprises IPR is not a system that they consider to be their main business model, as enforcing it via law suits is too expensive for them.

Will users’ rights and the free access to culture and sharing be preserved?
In considering providing access to cultural content to users, DSM emphasises the business side of cultural content provision, leaving users’ creative participatory practices out of its focus. The DSM focus is on providing “consumers” with better access to digital goods and services across Europe. This includes the issue of portability of content paid for in the country of origin that has been put forward with the aim of lifting geographic limits (geoblocking) to consumers and providing consumers more opportunities and choices.

Considering the DSM logic that favours the supranational market principle over the territorial principle, questions arise regarding the position of small countries in the EU’s DSM, as well as, the possibility to use cultural arguments supporting a special position of cultural products within the DSM. Will we still be able to argue for the special position of cultural products in the digital single market? Cultural commerce is different from “regular” commerce – selling cultural products (e.g. books) to other countries is not the same as selling other products (e.g. shoes), as there are different barriers for this, including, for example, the language barrier. Will small countries benefit? The cultural industries’ production capacities of the smaller EU Member States is fundamentally different than that of the larger EU Member States, thus, their ability to sustain national cultural production and contribute to European cultural diversity might be hindered if the logic of the DSM favouring only economic benefits prevails over the accepted principles of European cultural policies including national IPR regulation. It would be important to ensure that cultural policy makers participate as interlocutors in conversations about DSM reforms to question consequences the reforms have on national cultural sectors and introduce cultural discourse and argumentation that would go beyond economic issues and find strong arguments for broader view of culture – not just as a commodity but as a public good, as well.

The EU has not been involved in formulating its explicit common cultural policy, as this was considered politically inacceptable in the context of the implementation of the subsidiarity principle. However, other explicit public policies that the EU has developed have a concrete impact on the cultural sectors within both the EU and within Member States. Culture and digital culture are becoming closely interlinked. In the situation where cultural production is becoming more digital, DSM represents a major implicit policy for culture in the digital age. Thus, if we still hold on to the expectations that digitization will democratise and open access to heritage as a social resource, it is important to make room for cultural policies and cultural arguments when decisions are made about DSM, as today we cannot talk about culture as something separate from the digital environment that underpins it.

[1] Foresta, D. et al., The new space of communication, the interface with culture and artistic activities, Strasbourg: Council of Europe, 1995.

Uzelac, A. “How to understand digital culture: Digital culture – a resource for a knowledge society”, in: Digital Culture: The Changing Dynamics, ed. Aleksandra Uzelac, Biserka Cvjetičanin (Zagreb: IMO, 2008).


[3] See CulturalBase Vision Document. The Digital Single Market

[4] A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe – COM(2015) 192 final

[5] See CulturalBase Vision Document. The Digital Single Market

[6] CulturalBase Vision Document. The Digital Single Market

Policy Implications and Recommendations

Based on the evidence and analysis presented above, some recommendations are provided aimed at a range of policy-makers at European, national, regional and local levels.

  1. Evidence-based policies are needed and they should be supported by systematic research and monitoring of issues and developments in digital culture. As DSM represents a major agenda of change for the cultural sector this merits that systematic research be undertaken in order to provide explanations and evidence for cultural policy makers when considering DSM reforms. Such monitoring should include developments coming from the EC and EP, as well as, responses to these deriving from stakeholder groups, lobbies and the wider policy community.

We recommend that related research include: researching the interests that are at play in this field; providing arguments for making culture a special case in the context of market that is not about culture; proposing alternative visions and alternative ways to disseminate non-commercial cultural content and proposing sustainable business models for survival of alternative players in the market; researching consequences of DSM on cultural diversity across territories. Cultural policy-makers should use such research results as a base for framing discourse that informs policy agendas; keep in focus public sphere dimension of digitisation; ensure that the proposed policy agendas foster creative communities and commons and not only commercial cultural content.

Expert discourse about DSM is a key barrier that prevents cultural professionals from understanding it and engaging with the process of ongoing reform. “Translation” into simple understandable arguments and language is needed to ensure that relevant questions are asked about a process and interests that come into the play.

  1. The main issue discerned within the proposed DSM reforms that affect the cultural sector relates to the tensions between the territorial principle (the cultural policies domain) and the supranational market principle (DSM logic). This, together with the tensions between values of culture and economy and the relationship between cultural and digital policy making, represents an obstacle for building better understanding and synergies between them.

We recommend that, in the elements of DSM that concern the creative economy and cultural issues, greater focus should be placed on striking a balance between culture and economy, as culture is not just a commodity, but equally a public good as well. It should be considered if a ‘level playing field’ – a concept that is about fairness based on playing by the same set of rules (market rules) –  promotes cultural diversity and enables the aspects of culture that are not about profit-making to prosper in the digital environment.

  1. To be able to address development of digital culture and heritage, and before changes envisioned by DSM take effect, cultural policy-makers should address the issue related to prevalence of a market logic at the expense of variety of cultural values, and set the goals they want to reach to be able to defend those goals in discussions concerning DSM reforms.

We recommend that a relevant cultural policy goal should ‘creating an enabling environment for digital culture and for empowering citizens, within which issues of long-term sustainability and viability of digital cultural services must be address.

Research Parameters

CulturalBase documents used for this Policy brief include:

Matías Zarlenga & Arturo Rodríguez Morató, “The Digital Single Market: Synthetic Report on Cultural Creativity”.

The literature and on-line resources quoted in the brief.

NewsNews alerts

One of the objectives of CulturalBase is to socialize the results of the activities carried out through the provision of short and focused documents intended for the wider public. To this end a series of 4 policy briefs addresses issues of particular relevance within each of the three project axes: cultural memory, cultural inclusion and cultural creativity. The policy briefs summarise the conceptual and policy context, identify key issues and challenges, and raise open questions. They also offer a series of recommendations, which can contribute to the understanding of the different dimensions of recent memory, inclusion and creativity theories and discourses as well as related policy strategies in the cultural sector in Europe.

The first three policy brief of the series are now available.

Please click here to access the Policy Briefs.

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Workshop rationale

Cultural Base is a social platform funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme 2014-2015 “Europe in a changing world: inclusive, innovative and reflective societies”. Cultural Base aims to address the topic of Heritage and European Identities from a double standpoint, namely, an analytical as well as a public policy perspective. It all began with the idea that since the second half of the last century, culture has experienced a profound mutation, through which its position and role in the social dynamics have been transformed. Culture now constitutes an essential basis of today’s society in a context of cultural digitization and globalization. The transformation of the entire cultural ecosystem has radically altered – and at the same time, intensified – the relationship between cultural identity, cultural heritage and cultural expression. This transformation has occurred both at the level of the professional cultural sector as well as in society as a whole.

As a Social Platform, Cultural Base aims at exploring the new challenges and the new potential of culture, where three pillars – cultural identity, cultural heritage and cultural expression – intertwine combining the knowledge stemming from academic and non-academic worlds. The work of the Cultural Base platform is conducted along three main axes: (1) Cultural memory, (2) Cultural inclusion, and (3) Cultural creativity.

These three axes aim to research debates relating to heritage in the institutions and practices of cultural memory; how the focus on diversity and inclusion impacts on the practices of memory institutions, including on stakeholders and networks; what this reconfiguration contributes to new or post-national oriented narratives about identity and European values; and how heritage, cultural diversity and creativity relate in the context of huge cultural transformations such as the ones represented by digitization and cultural globalization.

In the framework of the Cultural Base Social Platform, the goal of this first workshop is to establish a solid and shared base for discussion and future work on the part of all involved stakeholders.

Particularly, the workshop aims to achieve two objectives in an atmosphere of mutual learning and participation:

  1. To identify and select the main issues to be further studied and discussed within each axis.
  2. To evaluate the practical connections between those issues and their relative importance with regards to the wider fields included in Cultural Base.


There were six types of participants:

  • Academic stakeholders: A total of six academic stakeholders were invited to participate in the workshop. They contributed specific presentations on relevant issues in the form of Discussion Papers during the Academic Sessions. They were:
  1. Michal Buchowski, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland
  2. Volker Kirchberg, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany
  3. Ramón Máiz, University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  4. Emmanuel Negrier, University of Montpellier, France
  5. Nikos Papastergiadis, University of Melbourne, Australia
  6. Augusto Santos Silva, University of Porto, Portugal
  • Practitioners and Policy Stakeholders: All non-academic Stakeholders involved in Cultural Base are encouraged to send their feedback about the Project as well as about the materials circulated in the framework of this workshop before and during the event. Seventeen representatives from the fields covered by the Project were selected among all Practitioners and Policy Stakeholders to participate in this first workshop with the aim to incorporate their views from the onset. Their contributions were crucial in order to inform the academic discussion with the experience and perceived priorities from field practitioners and citizens. They were asked to read the workshop materials in advance and comment them in the course of the various sessions. The workshop also offered the opportunity to collect information about possible new stakeholders in the framework of the planned call for enlarging the Social Platform. The practitioners and policy stakeholders participating in the workshop were:
  1. Santiago Arroyo, President FIBICC – Fundación Iberoamericana de las Industrias Culturales y Creativas (member of ENCACT – European Network of Cultural Administration Training Centers), Barcelona, Spain
  2. Luca Bergamo, Secretary General CAE – Culture Action Europe, Brussels, Belgium
  3. Ngaire Blackenberg, Partner Lord Consulting, Barcelona, Spain
  4. Francesc Casadesús, Director Mercat de les Flors, Barcelona, Spain
  5. Cornelia Dümcke, Director Culture Concepts, Berlin, Germany
  6. Lars Ebert, Senior Advisor “ELIA – The European League of Institutes of the Arts”, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  7. Karol Frühauf, Res Artis (Director of Bridge Guard Art / Science Residence Centre), Bratislava, Slovakia
  8. Peter Inkei, Director Budapest Observatory, Budaörs, Hungary
  9. Gabriele Mazza, former Council of Europe, Strasbourg, France
  10. Eduard Miralles, President Interarts Foundation for international cultural cooperation, Barcelona, Spain
  11. Jordi Pascual, Coordinator Culture Committee UCLG – United Cities and Local Governments, Barcelona, Spain
  12. Mark O’Neill, Director Policy & Research Glasgow Life, Glasgow, Scotland
  13. Ferdinand Richard, Director Belle de Mai, Marseille, France
  14. Pepe Serra, Director MNAC – Museo Nacional de Arte de Cataluña, Barcelona, Spain
  • Partners: There are seven members in the Cultural Base formal consortium and they all participated in the event. In addition to actively contributing to the discussion, they prepared “Discussion papers” to get the discussion started. They were:
  1. Arturo Rodríguez Morató (Coordinator) and Matías I. Zarlenga, with the collaboration of Mariano Martín Zamorano, Rocio Nogales Muriel, Jordi Alomar Payeras, Peter Wagner, Aurea Mota and Juan Díez Medrano, University of Barcelona, Spain.
  2. Gerard Delanty and Jasper Chalcraft, University of Sussex, United Kingdom.
  3. Jean-Louis Fabiani and Nasser Suleiman Gabryel, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary.
  4. Philip Schlesinger, Centre for Cultural Policy Research, University of Glasgow, Scotland.
  5. Anna Triandafyllidou, Ruby Gropas and Sabrina Marchetti, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, Italy.
  6. Dominique Poulot, Université de Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France.
  7. Mercedes Giovinazzo, Interarts, Spain.
  • Advisory Board: Cultural Base has associated a group of experts to accompany the work of the Partners and the concrete project results. One member of the Advisory Board participated in the workshop and offered a specific contribution in the Conclusive Sessions:
  1. Ulrike Hanna Meinhof, Southampton University, United Kingdom.
  • Mediators: Three “mediators” carried out the dynamization of the Stakeholders Sessions. Their tasks were to: (1) act as rapporteurs of the contribution of the participating stakeholders in the different sessions; (2) incorporate the issues introduced by the Academic Stakeholders and Partners into the action areas assigned to Stakeholders; and (3) facilitate the discussion in the Stakeholders Sessions (SS). There was one Mediator per axis, namely:
  1. Mercedes Giovinazzo, Interarts for CULTURAL MEMORY
  2. Rocío Nogales Muriel, University of Barcelona for CULTURAL INCLUSION
  3. Jordi Alomar Payeras, University of Barcelona for CULTURAL CREATIVITY
  • European Commission:
  1. Zoltan Krasznai, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium

Workshop dynamics and sessions

The workshop enjoyed the support of the Spanish General Society of Authors and Publishers (SGAE,, which is a private entity devoted to the defence and collective management of the intellectual property rights of its over 100,000 members. The SGAE Foundation provided its facilities in central Barcelona at no cost for the workshop.

The program was divided into three types of sessions: the Academic Sessions (AS), the Stakeholders Sessions (SS) and the Conclusive Sessions (CS). Each build on the preliminary work carried out by the Partners and Academic Stakeholders articulated in the form of “Discussion Papers”.

The colour coding of the various axes is maintained throughout the workshop documents mirroring the project visual identity in order to facilitate recognition and navigation.

Academic Sessions

The Workshop began on Wednesday 30th of September with six Academic Sessions (AS), one per each Thematic Field, consisting of 90-minute sessions. These sessions were held in parallel per axis (see diagram below). In each of them one Partner made a keynote speech on a central question (30’) and one academic stakeholder was expected to present a short paper on another issue (15’). The idea for those short papers was that they could be complementary to the other presentations addressing important issues for the thematic field in question that were not covered by the assigned keynote speaker or giving a relevant different perspective on the same issue covered by her/him.

Objective: Identification of issues (academic and related to specific action areas).

Participants: Partners, Academic Stakeholders, Stakeholders, Mediators and Academic Assistants.

Roles: Axis Leader (implicit coordination of the session and, where appropriate, presentation of the proposal); other Partners (presentation of the proposal); Academic Stakeholders (presentation of their proposal); Mediator (presentation of the proposal/comments by the Stakeholders not present in the meeting, write down new proposals from Stakeholders present in the meeting, frame the issues raised by the Academics Stakeholders and the Partners within the practice areas of Stakeholders); Stakeholders (identify issues in the areas of practice and raise new issues not mentioned by academics); Academic Assistants (presentation of proposals and recording of academics’ reactions).

Dynamic: Partners and Academic Stakeholders present their papers and the Mediators open the discussion by presenting a summary of the reflective comments by the non-present Stakeholders (from the first question stated in the section below, 3.3) and then raise their specific visions (of question two), inviting the participating Stakeholders to make a contribution with regard to what has been presented and writing down through all contributions. The Academic Assistants note the academic feedback.

Inputs: Partner’s papers; Academic Stakeholders Discussion Papers; Stakeholders’ feedback.

Outputs: List of issues (academic and linked to specific practice/policy areas).


TF1. Memory and heritage

Academic Presentation

Keynote speech by Jasper Chalcraft and Gerard Delanty, “Can Heritage be Transnationalised? The Implications of Transnationalism for Memory and Heritage in Europe and Beyond

Complementary contribution by Augusto Santos Silva, “Cultural heritage and democratic development: a view from Portugal


A discussion among Partners (P), Stakeholders (STH) and Academic-Stakeholders (ASTH) took place after the academic presentation focusing on to the problem of unity and diversity in cultural heritage in the European context. As a general conclusion of this academic session, it came out that the idea of nations itself remains constitutively trans-national.

STH5: We should be less cautious about how we discuss common heritage, especially cultural heritage, because of its potentially positive social influence when used to positively emphasise shared contributions to history and promote reconciliation. E.g. Cyprus, where heritage can be used to promote reconciliation.

Relating back to Gerard Delanty and Jasper Chalcraft’s point about over-emphasis on diversity at the expense of unity, which unpicks the logical connection that has to exist between these two concepts, STH5 agreed that we need to think more about unity and diversity. Diversity has become too important, and is coupled with profound relativism. We’ve lost sight of how unity can be created or sustained through a common corpus of beliefs and worldviews.

P7: We have become too schematic in speaking of diversity as good and unity as bad, where no such necessary connection exists. Postcolonial and postmodern critiques tend to repeat these misleading assumptions.

STH10: It is good to know what was really expected as the outcome of this meeting, and what should stakeholders contribute?

P7, replying to STH10: The aim is to try to identify questions that have been insufficiently addressed in the literature, and to consider what this means for policy and practice. E.g. can we shift the discussion back to commonality instead of difference, and can we also raise complex issues like the holocaust?

STH2: Cultural diversity has often been used to exclude others. We stand to learn a lot from how migrants etc. build identities. By looking at them, we can better focus on the on-going process of formation of cultural identity, and how unity and diversity are in constant tension over time.

P7: We need to find a new language to speak about unity.

P8, speaking to STH2: Do we need to follow academics that emphasise the need to decentre the self?

STH2: Youth in Marseille tend to recognise global unity and the clan as key loci of identity, and don’t strongly identify with the nation and with Europe. This is important because it is an example of how identity is constantly in flux. Put bluntly: the idea of European identity seems bogus.

P7, responding to STH2: It would be interesting to ask how much Ferdinand Richard’s argument (based on the French case) could be generalised.

P15: Augusto Santos Silva’s paper was interesting and it would be interesting to know how a similar argument could be applied to Spain. P16 suspected that the process of transformation of heritage is still incomplete. The idea of Europe in historical terms is different to the idea of Europe in political terms. The only example of super-national citizenship in a political project occurred for a brief time, under Roman Imperial rule. Aside from this Europe has always been rather fragmented along national lines.

Augusto Santos Silva (responding to P15): Yes, we still need to pursue the idea of how the political project of Europe can embrace persistent diversity, and we need to explore how cultural and historical background can be used to achieve this. This shared culture and history is a strength but may not be sufficient to the task. In practical terms, we need to subject generalisations to critical scrutiny, e.g. by critiquing Lusophony, or by critiquing the idea that the Portuguese colonial project was more benevolent than others. Another example: the Portuguese still speak as if they have a sort of monopoly on the language, while the real dynamism appears to be in Brazil.

P7: To approach a provisional conclusion: accepting the validity of a transnational perspective allows us to see that: first, Nations are connected; second, as a result of these connections, which is joined changes. This alters how we look at things, by allowing us to see that the national is itself constitutively trans-national.

[1] In order to guarantee privacy rights of participants in the discussion, anonymity is ensured by substituting their names with the acronym that corresponds to their category: Partners (P), Stakeholders (STH) and Academic-Stakeholders (ASTH) plus a number that uniquely identifies them.


TF2. Memory and identities

Academic Presentation

Keynote speech by Dominique Poulot, “Is the invention of memories necessary to identities?

Complementary contribution by Ramón Máiz, “Culture, identity and politics” (synopsis of the paper by Jasper Chalcraft)


A discussion among Partners (P), Stakeholders (STH) and Academic-Stakeholders (ASTH) took place after the academic presentation of this thematic field focusing on the issue of identities and the narratives that configure them.

STH10: The difference between identity as a normative construct on the one hand, and the positivistic fact of a community from the perspective of an outsider on the other hand, creates a dilemma. So, most non-Europeans consider European identity to exist, even if some Europeans might question it.

P7: A central feature of identity is that it’s a narrative we tell about ourselves, but such narratives constantly change. Some want to scrap the concept of identity because it’s too confused and contested. But despite this, the idea is likely to return, even though when returning it might be called something else. Whatever we call it, it’s about how individuals or collectivities tell stories about themselves.

ASTH1: Identity should be the thing to be explained and not the explanation, although on the extreme right this is not how people think about identity.

P7: A fact about identity is that it isn’t always clear that it is totally constructed. We have to assume some sort of continuity, and narratives may provide this, even if the narrative is illusory.

P14: The conversion into heritage of nearly all features of national culture is very striking. The evolution of this since the Second World War or the 60s is worth considering because it appears historically novel.

STH5: Challenging accepted narratives according to experiences of minorities can be very distressing and release real political tensions throughout an entire society. Academics should be sensitive to this when, for example, parents and teachers teach history. Citizenship education is something that can be used to deal with this.

ASTH1: Sometimes we need to free ourselves from history. The burden of history can be too profound for a society to bear in some circumstances.

P15: Returning to themes of narrative discussed before: Some people these days speak about the importance of audience engagement in the construction of culture. We should also think about how heritage can be managed in a participatory fashion. These two lines of though should be better integrated.

P8: Also interesting to think about ethno-politics in settler societies, like Maoris in New Zealand, who have claimed cultural property and requested the return of articles from museums. But this could be extremely controversial in non-settler societies.

P15: Narratives can’t be exclusively claimed by institutions. They often belong to others.



TF3. Inclusion and identities

Academic Presentation

Keynote speech by Anna Triandafyllidou, “European Identity: What kind of diversity into what form of unity?”

Complementary contribution by Michal Buchowski, “Multiculturalism and tolerance: a view from central Europe”


A discussion among Partners (P), Stakeholders (STH) and Academic-Stakeholders (ASTH) took place after the academic presentation of this thematic field focusing on the following issues: (1) The problem of cultural relativism in shaping identities; (2) The need to build a new framework to define identities from a pluralistic point of view; (3) The role of cultural symbols as cohesive elements in the definition of identities; (4) The role of artists in the definition of symbols that functions as integrating elements; (5) The need for cultural institutions to play an important role in promoting inclusive values.

P10: Cultural relativism in Europe – is it the death of EU identity? The role of EU is not to forget his/her identity: to keep history, and to refuse cultural relativism. This is part of a long debate: Religion, the role of the immigrants. What kind of transition does Europe have? Is European identity a bureaucratic identity?

P9: Dynamics (discussed in Anna’s paper) have led to many effects, such as the emergence of regional nationalism. Ideological dynamism is now pessimistic: the end of Europe. Anna wrote about the potential of a new frame. Emergence of multi-cultural discourse (Canada, other countries). It is important to state the importance of culture and symbols in new Europe. We should get rid of this feeling of guilt, as it does not work and is counterproductive. These new frames have been used by national identities: Catalans, Scottish – who want to take advantage of these new frames. Poland is similar to France: hostile to migrants / refugees: exist a crude vision of the other. France has an experience of migration: lives in a mutli-cultural society since 70/80 years: yet migration still very complex. It would be interesting to think how art can play a role in the definition of symbols.

ASTH3: Makes a comparison with Europe and the construction of nation states 100 years ago: there existed similar tensions. Maybe we can learn from history? Inequality in social and political terms: In which way was this legitimated? Who benefits from it? How are contradictions dealt with in the construction of nation states? In the 19th Century there were very strong tensions: Rich poor, socialism, capitalism. This could prove useful when thinking about today. Why do nation states try to homogenise societies? Is there a need for a uniform nation to legitimise democratic power? Citizens with full / non-full citizenship: Similar to the 19th Century : Who was allowed to vote – men/women? Who had the right to higher education? Full citizenship was not granted. Examples can be used to try to analyse today’s immigrant situation/minorities. The system used to hide this inequality. If we are successful in building a new EU identity we will solve some of the problems from nation states from 100 years ago. Each nation state: language, values, traditions, music, landscape, religious practices: traditions were clear. Culture was a useful tool for building this national identity. Today this is not a useful tool: artists are much more individualistic. What do EU people share? What classical cultural items do we use to identify ourselves?

STH3: We get stuck in distinction: Whether to approach from cultural / political angle. This can get problematic. Young people identify with Beyonce, this then becomes more complicated with Beethoven i.e. the higher up the scale, the lesser identification there is on a broader scale. Germany has a very distinct separation between culture and politics in the federation. Culture is a regional competency. There is still no model to show how this can work: Germany had a model for integration: this did not work. France, La cité: “Me as a citizen being the only one being looked at from the state”: la République. England: groups were identified that got their own autonomy: this did not work either. Therefore it is not sure that we can compare national integration/identity with European integration/identity as it failed everywhere. Instead we could look at democracy and representation between political and cultural realm. People do not feel represented anymore (pessimistic view mentioned earlier) but at the same time, there is a chance to see where the real change mechanisms are: bottom up: via institutions, NGOs, civil society. Currently the institutions that shape identity: e.g. Poland museum of the Jews – are still very nationalistic, similarly in Amsterdam: a lot of Dutch glory. These institutions should unify and not separate us, therefore there is an institutional failure. However, this is where the real change mechanism is (not at the political now popular culture level). There could be some policy/support formulated from this project. Two things for the agenda – democratic representation and the role of institutions.

ASTH4: Europeans look for core values, which can be promoted by institutions. There are many elements of popular culture that have not been mentioned that Europeanise people. E.g. the football league: people travel across Europe. Internal mobility, Erasmus students, Eurovision. Should try to distinguish between soft communication that goes on despite other debates that take place. There is always a relationship of power. Who is gaining, losing something in this process.

P5: The role of the elites: Intelligence in the building of EU identity. Should question how this is taking place and by whom (top-down). EU public sphere is monopolised. However, there are also new actors: Civil society, which now even has a role in the economic sphere via economic activities. A new type of artists and creators has emerged which are concerned in transformative powers of what they produce. It used to be more institutional before these new actors came along. Dividing and separating so clearly political and cultural identities is not possible whilst power still plays a role.

P12 question to P5: Artists and their transformative power: How does this relate to Europe? What should be added is that for many Europe is irrelevant, it is not a question.

STH 3: We should look at the roles of the elites. In the Netherlands, the elites did fail and do not represent the country. Otherness as such is not incorporated in the elites. Privilege is protected.

P5: Artists meet in a collective community, which does use the EU identity in a sort of instrumental way described in Anna’s paper, as a device to achieve something.

They use the other EU citizens as a contrast, they want to compare with what others are doing. They also refer to the supranational identity. National level is sometimes a lost level – lost too many battles at this level, therefore they look to the supranational.

ASTH3: Idea of who wins and who are the lobby groups? There is not a homogenous approach. Supranational level could be a common space for minority groups. There is instrumentalism, however, all groups are using this tool. Why do elites welcome this mobility and when? Who deals with the contradictions? What kind of local space / shared values do we want? What is the use of cultural identities today? In a globalised world? We share many labels of identity. There are not simple symmetric identities and we use them: in favour of self-interest, rational and irrational.


TF4. Inclusion and heritage

Academic Presentation

Keynote speech by Jean-Louis Fabiani and Nasser Suleiman Gabryel, “Can New Cultural Institutions and Policies Contribute to the Equalization of Conditions in Europe? Cultural legitimacy, heritage and identity politics”

Complementary contribution by Emmanuel Negrier and Lluis Bonet, “Participation in Arts & Heritage and Its Policy Implications. Preliminary Reflections



A discussion among Partners (P), Stakeholders (STH) and Academic-Stakeholders (ASTH) developed after the academic presentation of this thematic field focused on the following issues: (1) Participation and empowerment of minorities / migrants; (2) European culture as an element of legitimacy; (3) The power relationship in the definition of cultural policies targeting a more active participation of citizens and minorities / migrants.

STH3: With regards to the first presentation which spoke of the multiple memories in a single society, and whom recognises whom, this can be linked directly to the question of participation. With regards to the second presentation: the question of empowerment is important as you do not pass on power, it has to be taken. There are a lot of museum initiatives in the Netherlands that want to work with communities – but these are often a window dressing. An event that divided the country in recent years: Black Peter tradition. One young black artist designed a t-shirt that said ‘Black Peter is Racism’ and was imprisoned. This started a debate that polarised the discussion. Many thought this was an innocent children’s event. If a community by itself tries to take power to challenge existing traditions this can lead to debate/ be challenged. Two weeks ago there was a state of the union where the king reads out the declaration of the government. The carriage that the king arrives in has scenes painted on it of the colonial past. When it comes to consciously deciding on what our commemoration looks like, the talk of participation is suddenly silent, because real participation means losing power.

P12 asks ASTH3: How does the research fit into European identity? Question to P9 – Do you see European identity as a legitimacy device?

P9 in response to P12’s question: Although there may have been a shift in the central authority being the legitimate authority, STH3’s comment shows that power still plays a role. How can a cultural public sphere be constructed? A new legitimate Europe would be a new type of legitimacy, in the form of a new type of authority. Empowerment means the de-empowerment of others (through the equalisation of conditions) – for the dominant this could be damaging, but for Europe this could be possible.

ASTH3: The aim of the paper is not European culture – but a reflection on how we build and analyse the strategies of Europe. Cultural policy is a European invention.  Politicians should think at local, regional, national level (taking into account the cultural paradigms mentioned in his paper). The levels of tension need to be taken into account: The local decisions taken benefit the local, the national benefits the national. In Europe – most of the decisions are influenced by European lobbies, which defend their own interests: We need to be aware of this for the cultural sector: who will be the influence at the EU level? Only the major corporations? Maybe some unions if they are strong enough to have a voice at the EU level, but never local groups and voices. If we want to defend diverse culture in Europe, we must defend this at the local level.

ASTH2: Participation tends to happen at a local level, this does not mean that it does not inform the state agents. Local level planning has extended to national museums. We should not create dichotomy that participation does not work, there are many different levels of state, and they do talk to each other. Technology creates a space (maybe not true citizen empowerment), but a line of dialogue, which goes between local, regional, national and EU levels. New circles of empowerment are created.

P10: What is the role of EU identity? Historical process after World War II and fall of Berlin Wall: Europe is organised with a middle-upper class model – for social security, democratisation of culture, schools. This model is historically limited for 40 years. The question for Europe identity actually emerged after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, globalisation and the destruction of social models. Popular classes became frightened by globalisation, there is no popular class uprising, did not see Europe as protective EU identity – before World War II (end of the 19th Century), European civilisation was talked about with a pessimistic point of view. After World War II many writers said that European civilisation was ‘immortal’. Question of EU identity came after the fall of wall as the model of the middle class had collapsed.

ASTH3: I want to highlight that the scheme of our paper does not work for all EU countries. E.g. Spain had a dictatorship until 1975. There is a need to talk inside Europe about the Western part of Euro centrism. What kind of examples are we explaining European situations? Germany weak in cultural policies (mainly England, France), does not build paradigms. P9 comments that Germany is strong at building institutions. And asks why cultural paradigms matter, if they do not work? It is important to open a discussion about internal biases.

P10: Muslims are like Roman barbarians. History of the decline of the Roman Empire and the role of Roman civilisation. The barbarians do not have the West as a model. Radicalisation is a process of legalisation outside of the West (another model). Muslims born in Europe: integration into society does not work, young people from this minority dream about Qatar, Saudi Arabia, not about Europe – this is a big challenge. In the same context in public discourse in Europe the talk is of Europe identity.

P9: Does not fully agree with P10’s point, as this is only the case for some minorities. Syrians for examples are currently going to Germany northern Europe. These new Islamist are closer to western technologies and are using this against the West. They are greater experts on new technologies for videos and spreading images, than on the Coran.

P10: Westernisation against the West: the key political ideology of Islam is that ‘Islam modernised modernity, not a modernised Islam’.



TF5. Creativity and identities

Academic Presentation

Keynote by Arturo Rodríguez Morató and Matías I. Zarlenga, “How does cultural diversity contribute to cultural creativity in Europe?”

Complementary contribution by Nikos Papastergiadis, “Multicultural arts and cultural citizenship: a view from Australia”



A discussion among Partners (P), Stakeholders (STH) and Academic-Stakeholders (ASTH) followed the academic presentation of this thematic. It revolved around these two main issues: (1) The need to conceptualize cultural creativity beyond the economic framework; (2) The importance to analyse cultural creativity processes in peripheral or non-urban areas taking into account the difficulties that situation creates with respect to connectivity.

STH13: Questioned what cultural creativity in Europe means today. She spoke about five dilemmas: innovation and creativity being accepted as a paradigm of progress (growing criticism of this); problems with definitions of cultural creativity; concept is lesser developed than others; how can public institutions provide spaces for radical creative thinking to flourish? Emphasis on processes – cultural creativity as an environment where creative processes can emerge.

ASTH6: Agrees that we need to be careful and take an active role in how concepts are defined. There is a tendency to measure things in terms of economic value. How can we develop ways to measure intangible value?

P13: Talks about breaking boarders in creativity (referring back to “radical creative thinking”) and potentially offending and being censured. What to do with this risk? Only some institutions can afford this risk. We need guidelines on what is offensive and what are the consequences.

Again language was referred to – the term “creativity” being interpreted in different ways depending on the person. Stretching of the term to cover new media such as gaming? The official EC definition of culture and creative sectors relates to goods and services not cultural practices.

STH6: Mentioned impact of migrants in rural areas.

P13: Mentioned potential for horizontal networks bypassing large cities and connecting smaller urban centers.

P11: Talked about connectivity limitations in rural areas or outside big urban centers and how creativity still tends to move towards larger cities like London. What do we miss by only focusing on urban areas?

TF6. Creativity and heritage

Academic Presentation

Keynote speech by Philip Schlesinger, “Creative Europe? Culture, economy and policy in the EU”

Complementary contribution by Volker Kirchberg, The (Un-)Sustainability of Creative Cities?


A discussion among Partners (P), Stakeholders (STH) and Academic-Stakeholders (ASTH) followed the academic presentation of this thematic field with a focus on these issues: (1) Emphasise the need to generate new cultural indicators to measure and value the cultural heritage and also to better understand the place of ecology in the cultural creativity process; (2) The role of civil society in culture activities.

STH14: Talked about the importance of indicators for managing information and explaining to policy making institutions how culture can be a value. The importance of making partnerships with other sectors was also mentioned as being useful.

ASTH5: Discussed the role of civil society in culture (especially in the US cities like Detroit and Baltimore). Not necessarily translatable to Europe because the public sector funds culture and creativity in Europe, so they also have more say in defining it.

STH13: Talked about the need for a holistic understanding of heritage and for it to be seen as more of a process. We need to understand how to value heritage. The economic side is better understood than the social.

P11: Agreed Heritage is referred to in the papers in a theoretical way. Need to get a more lateral conversation going. Ecology concept – what does mapping ecology onto creativity mean? Is it dangerous to talk about this in EU at the moment?

ASTH5: Talked about museums as actors of social change.

Stakeholders Sessions

Three Practitioners and Policy Stakeholders Sessions (SS) – one per project axis – followed the six initial Academic Sessions. Each SS consisted of two-hours sessions each centred on the views and contributions of non-academic stakeholders. Mediators summarized any contribution received from Stakeholders via the website. The SS were co-chaired by axis leaders and Stakeholders mediators.

Stakeholders were invited to address and share with other participants the following two questions:

  1. What is your reaction to the issues included in the Discussion Papers and to what extent do you relate to those issues in your specific field?
  2. Can you identify other relevant issues existing in your field with regard to the Project axis in which you participate?

Objective: Assessment of issues raised in the AS.

Participants: Partners, Academic Stakeholders, Stakeholders, Mediators, and Academic Assistants.

Roles: Partners who are Axis Leaders coordinate the session together with the Mediators; Mediators (coordinate the session together with Axis Leaders; they include the issues raised by Stakeholders in the AS and facilitate the participation of Stakeholders); Academic Assistants address the issues raised by the academics in the AS; Stakeholders assess and select the issues they and the academics raised in the AS.

Dynamic: Axis Leaders and Mediators are co-chairs / the Academic Assistants present a schematic summary of issues raised by scholars in the AS / Mediators also schematically reformulate the issues introduced by Stakeholders in the AS and use it as a starting point for the Stakeholders’ assessment discussion. This discussion would be aimed, firstly, to the assessment of the connections among the various issues and secondly to their relative social and political importance. It would be structured as follows: firstly the two groups of Stakeholders (practitioners and policy-makers) take the floor with the facilitation of Mediators and second scholars take the floor facilitated by the Axis Leader.

Inputs: List of issues (academic and linked to specific areas of action).

Outputs: Two documents that capture the assessment of academic and non-academic issues raised.

News alert 10
News alerts

The Policy Seminar will be held at the Centre for Fine Arts – Bozar in Brussels (Belgium) on 31 January 2017, in the framework of CulturalBase, a project funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program.

‘Cultural heritage policies for a troubled Europe. Proposals from the CulturalBase Social Platform’ is the title of this policy seminar which aims to contribute to clarify how cultural heritage policies could better address the challenges – economic crisis, increasing climate of nationalism, racism and xenophobia, etc. – that Europe is confronting nowadays and also offer options to be eventually integrated in the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018.

Academic and practitioner stakeholders from the CulturalBase Social Platform have been working jointly to developed a set of proposals for research and policy intervention in relation with the different societal challenges Europe needs to face.

The seminar will focus on some of these central issues. For more information on CulturalBase and this seminar, please visit this page.

Should you be interested in attending the event, please contact us by email at the following address:

SEMINAR PROGRAMME: download pdf file.

News alerts

Researchers, stakeholders and policy makers had the opportunity to debate a set of topics regarding Europe’s identity and cultural heritage and to put forward priorities for future research and policy programmes in the second and final CulturalBase Workshop (Florence, Italy, 1 and 2 December).

With the title ‘Rethinking research and policy agendas on cultural heritage and European identities’, Workshop 2 aimed, through  expert input, to contribute to improve quality of life, feelings of security and of trust across Europe.

The synthetic summary of this second workshop is now available on this website (click here to access the document). Its concluding remarks recognize the role of heritage for reconciliation and the danger of emphasizing heritage dissonances which, in turn, may also be used by populists in nationalistic and exclusionary approaches.

The Global Governance Programme of the European University Institute, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies hosted the workshop. The CulturalBase project is implemented by a consortium of several European partners, among which is Interarts, and is funded by Horizon 2020.

News alerts

“Rethinking Research and Policy Agendas on Cultural Heritage and European Identities” is the title of the last workshop of the CulturalBase Project that will take place on 2 and 3 December 2016 in Florence (Italy).

Cultural heritage managers/decision-makers, experts from several European academic institutions and civil society organisations will participate. They will focus on building a new research and policy agenda for European cultural heritage and for European identity/ies.

This second workshop is organised by the Global Governance Programme of the European University Institute, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, one of the partners of ‘CulturalBase. Social Platform of European Identities and Cultural Heritage’, a project funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation (grant agreement No. 649454) and implemented by a consortium involving several European partners.

You can register here.

WORKSHOP PROGRAMME: download pdf file.

News alerts

The proposal to create a European year devoted to cultural heritage came from the European Commission, whose work includes bolstering and supplementing the actions of the Member States to preserve and promote European cultural heritage. This type of initiative enables activities to be organised and resources earmarked to highlight the important economic and identity role of European cultural heritage. In the proposal document the Commission refers to the CulturalBase project, implemented by a consortium of several European partners including Interarts, as one of the resources where relevant information can be found on European cultural heritage. The CulturalBase project is funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation and seeks to identify and analyse some of the main topics in European identities and heritage.

NewsNews alerts

The research process within CulturalBase has, to day, followed to initial steps. Firstly, an overview of six large thematic fields, 2 per each of the three project research axis and covering a range of topics related to Cultural Heritage and European Identities, has been carried out in order to identify and analyze the main research issues and policy programs. Secondly, an in-depth review of a further 12 specific Thematic Areas selected as a result of the previous process has also been carried out. The result is a set of 12 Vision Documents each focused on one the 12 Thematic Areas (see Theoretical framework), identifying research gaps and building theoretical perspectives.

Please click below to access the Vision Documents per Thematic Area:

MEMORY AND HERITAGE I: Vision Document. Entangled Memories & the European Cultural Heritage. Gerard Delanty

MEMORY AND HERITAGE II: Vision Document. Negotiating Heritage Rights. Jasper Chalcraft

MEMORY AND IDENTITIES I: Vision Document. Uses of Heritage. Dominique Poulot

MEMORY AND IDENTITIES II: Vision Document. Valuing Heritage as Learning and Entertaining Resources. Isidora Stanković

INCLUSION AND HERITAGE I: Vision Document. Instrumentalizing European Cultural Heritage. Hara Kouki

INCLUSION AND HERITAGE II: Vision Document. The European Migration Cultural Heritage. Jean-Louis Fabiani

INCLUSION AND IDENTITIES I: Vision Document. Participation of citizens in debates on European Identity. Jean-Louis Fabiani

INCLUSION AND IDENTITIES II: Vision Document. The Role of Religion and Secularism in Defining European Identity. Anna Triandafyllidou

CREATIVITY AND HERITAGE I: Vision Document. The Digital Single Market. Philip Schlesinger (collaboration of A. Uzelac & C. Waelde)

CREATIVITY AND HERITAGE II: Vision Document. Cultural Creativity and Value. Philip Schlesinger

CREATIVITY AND IDENTITIES I: Vision Document. New Frameworks of Cultural Creativity. Matías I. Zarlenga

CREATIVITY AND IDENTITIES II: Vision Document. Cultural hybridization in Europe. Arturo Rodríguez Morató