From Who We Are to What We Do Together and How - Avenues for European external cultural relations

Damien Helly for More Europe

Date of publication: 
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Thoughts on the More Europe seminar in Paris which took place on May 23rd, 2012, addressing the issues of a common European cultural diplomacy.
Talking of identities is always controversial. Between ontological theories and constructivist approaches, tons of research work has shown that identities remain a debatable concept. Sociologists have demonstrated that one individual carries several identities simultaneously, and uses them alternatively depending on the interlocutors. Philosophical approaches have also diverged in approaching the concept, some looking at it through the prism of constitutional policy-building (HABERRMAS), other like a “dialogical experience, an hologram and an organizational recursion” (MORIN). Political scientists and novelists have studied the way identities are used and manipulated in power struggles.
As for Europe, there has not been agreement so far on the way to define it. It is a debatable concept which cannot be grasped by geography, since there is no consensus on a clear cut identification of European borders. Europe could well be defined as a political project, but this approach is not convincing either because of the existence of European entities (Norway, Switzerland or Ukraine) that are not part of it. Europe may perhaps be a “value system” with its roots to be found in the Renaissance, humanism and the Enlightenment, the tradition of “critical thinking”, but such a system is itself an evolving notion, not exempt from intrinsic paradoxes and contradictions.