themes / Alien Europe

Alien Europe what does it mean to be European

moderator: Dejan Ilić
participants: Azra Akšamija / Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak / Paul Scheffer / Tigran Mansurian

The notion of “European character” applies to various kinds of communities: national, local, and religious. But it is often defined in response to the needs of a given moment, often political or economic in nature. These definitions arbitrarily determine intellectual, cultural, and moral standards, resulting in an abstract, somewhat “imposed” European character, different from the one perceived through individual experience.

The question of who is an alien in Europe isn’t solely a question of the coexistence of cultures or religions in Europe, nor a question of how to address the issue of immigration. It’s an issue of the various categories of that “European character,” categories constructed by Europe itself. There is an inherent problem in that issue, a problem of cultures, subcultures, and traditions excluded from our common, imposed heritage. Paradoxically, it is people from territories commonly recognized as “originally European” that nowadays might feel alien in Europe.

Is the “European character” a strictly intellectual construct?

We would like to take a look at the issue of European diversity, not just in the context of ethnic and religious differences, but also differences between subcultures, generations, and people of varying competence; we wish to consider the reasons why so many supporters of a multicultural Europe oppose the concept of multiculturalism itself, how tolerance for “the Other” should work in practice, and how cultural policies can help foster the coexistence of different cultures within Europe.