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Culture, integration and European public space


Activities under this topic should explore the dynamics through which European “public spaces” both shape, and are shaped, by cultural activity, and the dynamics through which integration can be practised and understood. This will involve investigating a variety of perspectives: for example, historical models for European public space, and the relevance of such models for today; the impact of migration on culture and the creation of public space; the role of material culture in shaping public spaces; the role of creativity in defining European identity; and the role of the cultural sphere in either enabling or challenging integration at political and economic levels. Activities may also include researching questions such as: How meaningful is it to speak of a common “European” culture or history or public space? How should such a concept be modelled, and how has it been modelled in the past? How has the circulation of knowledge (through media, research, publishing practices, intellectual and education networks) contributed to or challenged European integration? How do various European spaces and identities make use of the media and systems of representation? Are representations of Europe mainly created and captured by Northern/continental Europe and how do Southern and Central and Eastern Europe citizens contribute and participate to a European public space? What are the relations between material objects and cultural and political practices? How can multiple histories and cultures be integrated into a notion of national or “European” identities?

There is a strong need for humanities-oriented research in this topic, as a well as a need for multi-disciplinary engagement representing also a large variety of European countries well balanced geographically, including from Southern and Central and Eastern Europe. There is significant potential also to facilitate new collaborations between researchers and partners in the media, heritage, creative and other sectors, thus adding value to research-led knowledge exchange.

The proposed ERA-NET Cofund will have a wide geographical coverage, including Southern and Central and Eastern Europe. It aims at coordinating the research efforts of the participating Member States, Associated States and Regions in the field described. Proposals should pool the necessary financial resources from the participating national (or regional) research programmes and implement a joint transnational call for proposals with EU co-funding (resulting in grants to third parties) to fund multinational innovative research initiatives in this domain. Proposers are encouraged to implement other joint activities, including additional joint calls without EU co-funding.

Participation of legal entities from international partner countries is encouraged in the joint call as well as in other joint activities. Participants from countries which are not automatically eligible for funding[[]] may nonetheless request a Union contribution on to cover the coordination costs of additional activities on the basis of the ERA-NET unit cost.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of a maximum of EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately.

“Europe” has existed as a cultural, political and economic identity for centuries, although the nature and coherence of that identity has been contested greatly over time. One of the major challenges for Europe since the mid twentieth century has been the challenge of linking European identity to forms of integration that produce mutual benefit through tolerance, respect and creative interaction, and avoid the devastating conflicts of the past. Culture plays an essential role in this process, since the realm of culture is where values, belief-systems, memories, languages, educational systems, artistic practices and social lives operate and evolve. Culture is where forms of creativity and diversity can be modelled or practiced; it is also a place where separateness, difference and specificity can be asserted and maintained in productive ways that enhance our quality of life. The cultural, political and economic spheres exist in dynamic relation to each other, and the coherence of Europe at the political and economic levels is closely related to and impacted by events and practices at the level of culture.

The attempt to create European integration (which is to be distinguished from simple “homogenisation”) at political, economic and cultural levels has been incomplete; this is evident in the phenomena of xenophobia, extremism, ethnic conflict, Euro-scepticism and the revival of the North-South and East-West divides, as well as electoral apathy or disenchantment. At the same time, there is strong awareness among citizens and immigrants of living in a distinct “European” space, both real and imagined. It is made real in geographical focal points like cities, particular regions and landscapes, and in other forms of cultural heritage. Arts and creative industries have also proved to be vehicles of European integration: a growing number of vibrant urban spaces, populated by international communities of creative practitioners, are now acknowledged as engines of cultural and economic development and innovation. The challenge for research is to identify how the relations between culture and integration have been modelled and how they can be better understood for the immediate future.

Specifically, there is an urgent need to understand the role of culture in defining “public space”, and role of culture in enabling or problematizing cultural integration whilst respecting diversity. “Public spaces” are the arenas in which key cultural interactions and societal dynamics take place and can be observed. This notion of “public space” can be interpreted widely: it includes physical and built environments, landscapes and material culture. But it also includes cultural zones, public spheres and “virtual” spaces defined by media, language, ethnicity, shared values, political allegiances, religious identities, creative practices, and communication technologies. These spaces are populated not just by people but by material objects, texts, art works, performances and institutions, all of which contribute to the creation of a sense of place. Recent research is acknowledging the crucial importance of physical things, objects and material traces of culture, and the value of material culture for providing new ways of looking at multiple histories and identities within a diversified Europe.

The ERA-NET Co-fund Action will mobilise the wide range of transnational and multi-disciplinary perspectives necessary to understanding the relationships of culture, European integration and “public space”, including in Southern and Central and Eastern Europe. The research is expected to lead to a richer, more complex and comprehensive understanding of the cultural dimensions of European integration; to discover and analyse historical models and precedents for integration in Europe; to give new insights that promote the full potential of citizens’ engagement with European public and cultural spaces; to stimulate public, political and scholarly debate about the future prospects of European integration; to provide a platform for changes to existing structures, policies and practices, such as the development of new modes of interactive and reciprocal engagement between users, academics and those working in the media, creative industries, and heritage sectors.