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Beyond the Grand Narrative

Constructing a European heritage does not necessarily rely on an alternative ‘grand narrative’. The following steps introduce ways of thinking heritage without referring to such a grand narrative: transnational heritage, cultural cosmopolitanism, or adjusting to contested heritage.

Given the diverse national identities that exist within the European continent, and given the reluctance of the EU member states towards a supranational cultural policy, constructing a European Cultural heritage can appear as a daunting task. Gerard Delanty explains that for a long time, Europe referred to its heritage on the basis of a ‘Grand Narrative’. In the article linked below, he argues that this approach has been declining. According to him, the 1973 Copenhagen Declaration of European Identity is an example of of this approach. It relies on that idea of a European Civilization based on common values that sustained itself despite the divisions of history. It argues that a ‘common European civilization’ relying on a ‘common heritage’ and ‘converging ways of life’ exists. This declaration supposes that the awareness of having common interests as well as the endeavour to construct a united Europe confer dynamism and originality to European identity.

According to Gerard Delanty, in recent years, some assumptions of the grand narratives have been significantly questioned. First, the idea of a universal Western Civilization has been criticized. Indeed, since the 1980s left wing movements have attacked the very notion of civilization, as a tool to legitimate colonisation. As a result, the notions of culture and identity came to the the fore.

In your opinion, what could be an alternative to a “grand narrative”, to talk about European cultural heritage?

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This article is from the free online course:

Cultures and Identities in Europe

European University Institute (EUI)