Skip to main content

Cultural Heritage and Identities of Europe's Future

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CHIEF (Cultural Heritage and Identities of Europe's Future)

Berichtszeitraum: 2018-05-01 bis 2019-04-30

Cultural Heritage and Identities of Europe’s Future (CHIEF) is an international research project funded by the European Commission and led by Aston University (UK). The project started in May 2018. It involves academic, civil society and policy-maker partners across nine countries (Croatia, Georgia, Germany, India, Latvia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, UK) and will run for three years.
The twinned ideas of respect towards minorities’ rights and cultural diversity are facing well-documented challenges across Europe. These include the radicalisation of young people and the revival of tribal identities and separatism. These and other phenomena raise questions about the idea of Europeanness as a culture of dialogue and mutual respect. CHIEF aims to examine the processes and environments that influence young people’s cultural literacy and cultural identity. Its purpose is to explore ways of changing how cultural literacy is shaped and encouraged.
The project has the following overall objectives:
1. To achieve a better underlying conceptual understanding of young people’s cultural literacy as a process that takes place in diverse educational environments, framed within national and supra-national policy agendas, and shaped by the intergenerational dynamics of re-production of cultural practices, values and attitudes.
2. To critically evaluate the meanings of ‘European culture’ and ‘European cultural heritage’ as a central reference point for policies aiming to develop more effective inter-cultural dialogue in Europe, by questioning the interpretation of (supra)national culture as a form of construction of collective identities.
3. To bring a truly global and inter-cultural perspective to exploring the meanings of ‘European culture’ by expanding the regional focus of the investigation to non-EU countries, with a view to examining the political, cultural, and economic ties that connect Europe to other parts of the world.
4. To investigate actual practices and attitudes of young people articulated in the course of their inter-cultural communication, which constitute the fabric of their inter-cultural experiences.
5. To map the existing pedagogical approaches to enhancing young people’s cultural literacy in Europe (and beyond) as manifested in national curricula, textbooks and actual classroom practices.
6. To evaluate the effectiveness of young people’s learning practices in relation to the pedagogy of cultural literacy.
7. To assess civil society as a non-formal educational environment for developing young people’s cultural knowledge, stimulating their cultural participation and supporting inter-cultural dialogue.
8. To methodically examine young people’s cultural literacy as part of a process evolving in the course of intergenerational transmissions of cultural practices and values, in the context of mnemonic socialisation within families.
9. To examine the political and practical limitations of elitist and historically static understandings of European cultural heritage by unpacking its underlying politics of cultural selectivity, with reference to ‘heritage in making’.
10. To facilitate knowledge exchange between various stakeholders in order to enhance the development of effective strategies that raise cultural literacy and challenge xenophobic stereotypes among young people.
During the initial stage, the CHIEF consortium has laid the groundwork for an in-depth mixed-method exploration of discourses and practices of young people’s cultural socialisation in diverse educational environments. The policy and educational context of cultural literacy as well as the national heritage offers in the CHIEF countries have been outlined and critically evaluated resulting in the following findings:
1. Most policy documents and curricula do not provide basic definitions of ‘culture’, ‘cultural literacy’, or ‘cultural heritage’. Most national policies approach cultural education in an instrumental way. The prominence given to the economic potential of cultural literacy in policy documents appears to be part of departmental strategies to attract additional funding for cultural literacy education.
2. Public investment in cultural literacy education appears to be increasingly targeted towards larger institutions (typically associated with high culture) and projects that are considered to produce either observable returns or economically self-sustaining cultural practices. Major reforms tend to focus on innovations that, relative to total government budgets, are fiscally benign.
3. Broad commitments to cultural and social tolerance are reflected in a range of programmes that seek to operationalise cultural literacy as a driver of social tolerance for diversity and inclusion (hereafter just inclusion). Alongside these commitments and programmes, cultural literacy education is also reported to instil a strong awareness and understanding of national culture in young people as it relates to collective, national identity. The failure to satisfactorily reconcile the tensions between inclusion and national culture poses several mutually reinforcing risks to developing inclusive forms of cultural literacy education.
4. In general, discussion of barriers to access and participation in policy documents is selective and superficial. Little consideration is given to barriers of access and participation beyond socio-economic status and ethnicity. The effects of inequalities arising from religion, gender, and physical and mental disabilities are under-emphasised. There appears to be little understanding of what combination of factors prevent access and participation, or of what cultural activities are affected.
5. There is little evidence of specific programmes or initiatives aimed at situating national cultural practices and national heritage within a pan-European identity. School curricula reflect the lack of common ground in defining European identity at the national level.
The research findings outlined above will inform our further research activities, which will progress with ethnographic case studies of informal and non-formal cultural socialisation and participation of young people in the context of family, civil society organisations and friendship groups.

To ensure the impact beyond academia the CHIEF consortium has employed the participatory action research (PAR) methodology in its ethnographic case studies of informal and non-formal cultural participation and socialisation of young people. The PAR element of research has been closely linked to the Multi-Stakeholder Partnership (MSP) methodology that has been developed by the project, and implemented to bringing together policy-makers, researchers, civil society activities, educational and heritage practitioners and young people. The CHIEF project has produced the tool-kit for building effective cross-stakeholders collaboration which can be transferred for use in other contexts of multi-stakeholder partnership.
Furthermore, to maximise the societal and policy impact of the project, in each consortium country partners established Councils of Advisors for Policy and Practice as a consultative body which is regularly briefed about the progress of research. The consortium has already produced its first policy brief that has been sent to the European Parliament in attempt to disseminate the findings and evidence-based policy recommendations to the high-powered stakeholders at the international level.
The CHIEF project logo