Promoting European culture or intercultural dialogue? The case of EUNIC

The role of culture in the external action of Europe has been the subject of recent efforts to promote European culture outside of its borders, while at the same time, strengthening a sense of belonging inside Europe.

European national institutes for culture (EUNIC), is one of the institutions that have played a key role in promoting the use of culture in the EU’s external action. Founded in 2006, EUNIC aims at stirring cooperation among national cultural institutes of the member states of the European Union, such as the German Goethe Institut, the Portuguese Instituo Camoes or Czech Centres. These institutes have international networks of varying sizes.

The members of EUNIC have their own objectives, which consist in promoting their country’s national culture, providing language courses, developing or facilitating cultural projects. The goal of EUNIC, is therefore to find common grounds and develop cooperation projects among these different institutes.

How to promote a European culture that goes beyond national divisions? How to go beyond a merely promotional approach and get engaged with the cultural actors of third countries, in order to generate a genuine intercultural dialogue? EUNIC formed dozens of clusters all around the world, which are organisational structures through which national cultural institutes of different European countries can cooperate. They are formed in an adhoc manner and develop their projects according to local needs.

A first example is that of the participation of EUNIC Senegal to the biennial Dak’art, which is one of the oldest and most famous art biennial in Africa. This participation takes the shape of the support of European artists to exhibit in the Off of this biennial. EUNIC Senegal set up an exhibition of the photograph artist Gil Madeira that show the Sine Saloum area in Senegal (See the link below).

A second example is the EU-China cultural dialogue launched by EUNIC China, that developed a 2 days conference discussing cultural cooperation, an artist residency bringing together 5 artists from Europe and 5 Chinese artists, as well as partnerships between European and Chinese cultural institutions. During the two-day event organised as part of the 5th dialogue, cultural practitioners from China and Europe had the opporunity to discuss a wide variety of issues they accounter in their work such as public space, art education or heritage protection. As part of this dialogue, a partnership was also set up between the Xi’an Academy of Arts and the cultural institution Le Manège‐Mons from Belgium, to develop a program on new media (See the link below for more information).

These examples illustrate different approaches to international cultural relations: one consists in promoting European culture abroad, while the other focuses on fostering intercultural dialogue.

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What do you think are the obstacles for national cultural institutes of member states of the European Union to collaborate when working in a third country?

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This article is from the free online course:

Cultures and Identities in Europe

European University Institute (EUI)