Accepted Paper:

Heritage in parallel identity narratives: European capitals of culture  


Linde Egberts (VU University Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

Local and European narratives of identity are constructed parallel and influence each other mutually in European Capitals of Culture (ECoCs). This paper explores the role of heritage in the formation of local and European identity narratives by studying multiple ECoCs, candidates and European policy.

Paper long abstract:

The ECoC programme is often seen as the flagship of European cultural policy and it is subject to growing academic attention in recent years. "Culture" has been studied as the engine of regional and urban regeneration. However, the interaction between local and European identity narratives and the practices in which these are constructed have been left underexplored.

The European Commission hardly fills in the content of what this European dimension is made of. But it offers the framework of calls, procedures and criteria for cities to fill in this European dimension locally. And by reacting to these calls, local identity narratives are created in terms of Europeanness. Simultaneously, these claims on what is European in the local add layers to what can be conceived as a European identity narrative.

Heritage plays an important role in these local and European narratives of identity, as ECoCs often draw on their past to build a connection between local identity and the European dimension. For instance, in 2010, the Ruhr region in Germany highlighted its role on the foreground in the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community and emphasized its 150-years history of immigration. The past thus serves as a source for the legitimation of a so-called "capitalization" of the city and therewith it nourishing the layeredness of the European identity narrative locally. Analysing recent European capitals of culture offers insight in the processes that lie at the core of today's European identity narratives.

Panel Heri001
Heritage as a European product