Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Specific challenge: Current trends in European societies bring with them opportunities for a more united Europe but also risks and challenges. Processes of convergence and integration are challenged by crises and conflicts over identity, exclusion, trust, confidence, solidarity, tolerance and economic stability. In addition, globalisation has given rise to new forms of localism, withdrawal and segregation, in Europe and other parts of the world. These dynamics, debates and developments typically mobilise versions of “the past” to legitimise their various arguments and actions; traditional historical interpretations and prejudices resurface, cultural memories and inheritances are contested. History – or rather what we make of it – thus determines our conceptual frameworks, our present actions, and influences our building of the future on political, economic, cultural as well as individual levels.

The recovery and reuse of the past has been a feature of all periods of recorded history, but the historical dimension has been given a new impetus in post-Cold War. Throughout Europe, individuals and collectives make use of historical perspectives, cultural heritage, traditions and languages, communicated through high art, popular culture, academic disciplines, politics and media to satisfy or promote various interests and needs. These range from existential and ethical demands for meaning, identity, and orientation, to ideological and political ambitions to provide legitimacy or rationalise a painful past.

In order to understand the pressing questions of identity, integration, political legitimacy, creativity and cultural dynamics across Europe and through which Europe and its future is being built, we need a new, more complex understanding of how the past is used and reflected, taking account of how cultural ideas, traditions and practices are constructed, transferred and disseminated among different agents and regions. Such knowledge explores and systematizes what it means to be a reflective society, and enables us to better understand processes of historical development, innovation, and social change.

Scope: The topics for this proposed programme focus on a variety of problems and perspectives concerning the uses of the past and consider the impact and possible repercussions of these issues for Europe and the wider world. A multifaceted approach will consider both instrumental uses of historical knowledge in the realms of language, memory, cultural practices, politics, economics, literature, media and art, as well as the uses of specific histories and heritages within particular nations, ethnicities and cultural groups. “Uses of the past” requires multidisciplinary humanities-led collaborative ventures and a strong comparative perspective.

The following dimensions could be addressed: uses of the Past for identity construction and institutional embedding of norms and values; uses of the Past in material culture and public space; uses of the Past in media and public space; uses of the Past: Transnational/international/national dimensions, including globalisation; uses of the Past: Impact on solving current problems, decision making and future policies.

The proposed ERA-NET aims at coordinating the research efforts of the participating Member States, Associated States and Regions in the field described and to implement a joint transnational call for proposals with EU co-funding 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.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of a minimum of EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected impact: The proposed research programme on uses of the past will contribute to Europe’s intellectual framework by giving insights into the forces shaping the social, cultural and political transformation in Europe today. It will show how European diversity and integration is shaped by our interpretations of history. It will shed a new light on how and by whom European, non-European or global pasts are actively and instrumentally used and to which ends (and futures) they are used. It will substantially enrich the knowledge base upon which to build policies for a reflective, inclusive and innovative society.

Type of action: ERA-NET Cofund

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