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HERA Joint Research Programme Public Spaces: Culture and Integration in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - HERA-JRP-PS (HERA Joint Research Programme Public Spaces: Culture and Integration in Europe)

Reporting period: 2017-08-01 to 2020-01-31

HERA – “Humanities in the European Research Area” – is a network of 26 national agencies that fund humanities research. Since its establishment in 2002, HERA has led and developed opportunities for humanities researchers across Europe, investing almost 50 million euros in three joint research programmes (JRPs). These programmes have built European capacity for trans-national and interdisciplinary research, advocated for the societal value of the humanities and promoted excellence in research management practices. By pooling national research funds to create transnational partnerships, over the last decade HERA has added significant value to national funding programmes and to the European Framework programmes. Our members also collaborate – as individual funders and collectively through the HERA network – with other initiatives (e.g. the Trans-Atlantic Platform, EqUIP and Net4Society) to influence and shape future agendas for European research.

HERA has played a major role in promoting societal “impact” as a key element of planning and delivery in humanities research projects, and has promoted and enabled new collaborations between academic and non-academic stakeholders. With the creation of HERA’s fourth Joint Research Programme: “Public Space(s), Culture and Integration in Europe” (HERA PS), the HERA consortium will mobilise the intellectual energies and collaborative potential of a wide range of humanities disciplines in new ways and further develop the knowledge base of the European Research Area by investigating the relationships between public spaces, culture, integration and diversity.

Ultimately, the HERA JRP PS will create new knowledge around issues of public space(s), culture and integration in Europe and establish partnerships across research and societal partners, impact policy, strengthen the HERA network as a pan-European body, and act as a platform for new activities that will enhance the ERA in the future.

For that reason HERA established a fourth large Joint Research Programme (“HERA JRP PS”), funds excellent, multi-disciplinary projects which address the topic “Public Spaces: Culture and Integration in Europe”, and executes a number of additional activities that will enhance the reach and impact of the research. 24 Funding organisations from 24 European countries have committed in total 17 million euro to this new joint transnational call.
In the first period of the HERA JRP PS all work as specified in work packages 2, 3 and 4 was completed:
• The HERA JRP PS call documentation was prepared and published and the online submission system was made available.
• The selection process – Outline Phase and Full Proposal Phase – was carried out as specified and 20 transnational projects were selected for funding.
• The negotiation with all 20 transnational projects was successfully completed and all projects had started by June 1 2019.
HERA JRPs are the only large transnational funding competition for humanities researchers. They are a joint effort of a collaboration of research funding partners from 24 European countries. It has been designed as a large-scale, focused research effort that avoids duplication of resources and effort across the component partners. By pooling resources and expertise and synthesising national research priorities, the model offers efficiency and value for money and facilitates research projects of far greater scale, reach and impact than what could be achieved through smaller and less integrated pots of national funding. Moreover, it allows for better research as groups in different countries are collaborating, bringing their own specific cultural knowledge.

Building on the experience of three previous JRPs, the PS programme is uniquely well-placed to build a coordinated research effort around the challenge of culture and integration in Europe. HERA partners have committed a considerable sum of funding for research in support of this effort. Together with the requested EU co-funding, this has provided funding for 20 large international research consortia.

The 20 transnational projects that have been funded form the basis for the “Public Spaces: Culture and Integration in Europe” HERA joint research programme. The thematic scope of the programme will provide new knowledge and insights relevant to major social, cultural, and political challenges facing Europe and the world. Specifically, it will help to understand the role of culture in defining “public space”, and role of culture in enabling or problematizing cultural integration whilst respecting diversity.

Through time, public spaces have acted as open domains of human encounters and exchanges, often negotiated or contested. Public spaces are closely connected with the expression and exchange of values and beliefs and with the formation and appropriation of institutions, and thus public spaces lend themselves to cultural analysis of these processes and structures. The aim of the HERA “Public spaces” programme will be to deepen the theoretical and empirical cultural understanding of public spaces in a European context. The programme has been designed to facilitate a broad range of cultural approaches to conceptualising public space, its structural and processual formations, and its possible outcomes in terms of integration, exclusion, disintegration, fragmentation, hybridization, amalgamation or transmission. In relationship to the present call, public spaces are understood to encompass both material and symbolic dimensions, both the spheres of institutions and practices. These dimensions can be studied in a historical and contemporary context; across domains of expression, circulation and reception; at local, national and transnational level; and across their physical and virtual manifestations - and interlacing of all of these.

The projects will shed new light on the dynamics through which public spaces shape, and are shaped by, cultural activity, and how various forms of dis/integration can be understood in relation to such spaces. This will involve investigating a variety of perspectives, for example the concepts of and approaches to public space(s), or historical patterns and forms of public space(s), and the relevance of such patterns. Then the formation of public space(s) through institutional and non-institutional activities, the roles played by culture, art and creativity in shaping public spaces, or the impact of migration on culture and the creation and use of public spaces; etc. The research is expected 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, and to study new modes of interactive and reciprocal engagement between academics and various types of stakeholders including those working in the media, creative industries, and heritage sectors, as they have proved to be the true vehicles of European integration. The challenge for research is to identify how the relations between culture and integration within the context of public space(s) have been modelled and how they can be better understood in order to contribute to a better world.