Universiteit Leiden

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Lecture | Studium Generale

Europe and its culture

Wednesday 18 January 2017
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden
Room 019

Two lectures on European culture and identity.

No Culture, No Europe

Over the past decade, the European Union has been experiencing a drawn-out crisis, politically as well as economically. In his lecture sociologist Pascal Gielen will argue that an important element is missing from the debate: culture. This is quite strange because the base on which we stand and on which Europe stands is nothing but culture. For example, faith in politics, like faith in the European currency is first en foremost a cultural issue.  Democracy is a matter of political culture, just as good economic relationships are a matter of economic culture. Culture is a shared frame of reference and the only thing that can lend meaning to people’s lives and the societies in which they life. The European project will never succeed if it does not recognize culture as its main raison d’être.


Pascal Gielen is full professor of sociology of art and politics at the Antwerp Research Institute for the Arts (Antwerp University - Belgium).

Repairing Europe: A Critical Reading of Storytelling in European Cultural Projects

While European integration was long considered to be primarily about economic and political cooperation, it is increasingly approached from a cultural angle. Culture has become a key instrument in trying to shift people’s national sentiments to a loyalty to the European community and in seeking agreement on how Europeans collectively remember their past and envision their future.

This lecture zooms in on two cultural projects that reflect this ambition of European political and cultural bodies to strengthen the European Union’s legitimacy by anchoring "Europe" in a shared narrative: the House of European History, planned to open in Brussels in 2016, and the Via Regia, one of the trajectories promoted by the European Institute for Cultural Routes. The primary aim is to critically examine the role and function of narrative in both projects. "Europe," after all is no more a story than it is a proper name denoting an economic, political or cultural entity. That European institutional bodies seek to fashion a narrative for Europe should, therefore, arouse our suspicion. And if we do cautiously agree to view Europe in narrative terms, we should do so by asking the questions that stories and storytelling evoke.


Dr. Astrid Van Weyenberg is Lecturer in Literary Studies at the Film and Literary Studies Department, at Leiden University. She is especially interested in the relation between literature and politics. At present, she is doing research on constructions of Europe as a narrative in European cultural projects.

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