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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds In the previous exercise, you could actually see that many people have transcultural experiences, such as listening to the same music, supporting the same sports teams, having the same hobbies or same style preferences without perhaps knowing it. And you might too. But what exactly is transculturality? And why are we interested in this concept? In this video, we argue that transculturality offers a fresh perspective on managing cultural diversity in Europe. We will say what transculturality is and what it is not, demonstrating how it differs from more known concepts, such as multiculturality or interculturality. Finally, we will shift our attention to how transculturality can help us deal with cultural diversity in today’s Europe.

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 seconds Transculturality continues to be defined against a number of competing understandings of cultural diversity. Over the last decades, multiculturality has developed into a dominant concept for the management of demographic changes in European societies. It has, however, also been criticised on a number of grounds, especially in its implementation as policy. In 2010, for instance, Angela Merkel claimed that multicultural policies in Germany had utterly failed. Despite having a positive connotation, for Merkel it was seen to have encouraged the emergence of isolated societies within the country. Also on the theoretical level, multiculturality has been criticised for promoting difference over equality, endowing rights to specific groups within a society rather than promoting equal or universal rights across it.

Skip to 1 minute and 56 seconds Based on this criticism, interculturality emerged as a concept shifting the focus away from separation and segregation to aspects of interaction and exchange. In order to bring a new dimension to the challenge of growing cultural diversity, it focuses on aspects of communication between diverse cultural groups. For this reasoning, the term has become prominent in the language of numerous cultural institutions. Notably, the UNESCO defines the work largely in terms of fostering intercultural competences in the spheres of communication and education. It is also a central feature of EU cultural policies, which often emphasise the need for intercultural dialogue, understanding and competences as essential to the success of the European integration project.

Skip to 2 minutes and 50 seconds Still interculturality, just like multiculturality faces a considerable shortcoming in the vision of what culture itself is. Cultures are understood as static, closed, and clearly distinguishable entities. Thus, this model tends to establish in and out groups on the basis of traditional categories, such as religion and ethnicity. In so doing, it proposes an overly simplified and conservative framing of cultures that reproduces divisions and tensions in and between European societies. So while multiculturality and interculturality appear to be limited in this sense, the concept of transculturality provides another angle on it. Wolfgang Welsch, one of the key thinkers of transculturality, has argued that cultures are best considered complex, fluid, and relational, rather than single and fixed phenomenon.

Skip to 3 minutes and 56 seconds The reason we think that transculturality is a promising concept is precisely because it enables us to grasp and imagine cultures as ever changing, ongoing processes. Therefore, we suggest to put the old image of cultures aside and to think about them as a multiplicity of different ways of life, which mix and emerge from one another. Consider cinema as an example. A number of European films have tried to give voice to the experience of having multiple, personalised culture affiliations at the same time. For instance, Jess, the main character of Gurinder Chadha’s “Bend It Like Beckham,” an Indian girl living with a family in London shows how she successfully combines her love of football and her loyalty to her roots.

Skip to 4 minutes and 48 seconds Or Fatih Akin’s “Gegen die Wand,” the story of which revolves around two Germans of Turkish origin and their love, is another great example. It shows how transcultural hybridity can be reflected in character’s actions, the languages they speak, and music they listen to. There are many more examples that reflect transculturality in cinema. Try to think of your own and suggest it in the comments. What we want to show is that cultural affiliations exist within groups at a local level, but they’re also spread and connected at a broader level, like the European or even the global. And since culture is an ever changing process, cultures constantly influence one another. And they’re always novel and unpredictable combinations for this web of cultural connections.

Skip to 5 minutes and 46 seconds This is reflected in the changing lifestyles of people, their languages, food, clothing, films, music, et cetera. In the European Union’s motto, “United in Diversity,” we can recognise attempts to implement a transcultural model for the cultural diversity in today’s Europe. Instead of an internal homogeneity of cultures, transculturality takes diversity as its defining principle rather than a problem to be saved. Whether it be the integration of refugees or the harmonisation of national sentiment with Europeanness, clashes between identities should be attended to in a way that they won’t become a threat to social stability.

Skip to 6 minutes and 33 seconds If we embrace diversity and recognise it as a part of our own identity, we will be more open to accepting those that we often see as different to us. As Welsch puts it, “The recognition of a degree of internal foreignness forms a prerequisite for the acceptance of the external foreign.” Then going beyond the sharply defined boundaries between us and them, familiar and foreign, internal and external helps us to understand what united and diversity could actually mean. More over, by connecting the sense of transculturality as a cross-cultural model with diversity as a founding principle, we can start a new debate about how we want to be united.

Skip to 7 minutes and 21 seconds For instance, a unity that is not predetermined by fixed categories like nationality, ethnicity, or religion. In this way, transculturality could successfully contribute to the formulation and implementation of more effective integration policies. Finally, a model of transculturality applied to Europe provides a new, promising way to deal with culture and identity related issues in the context of the European integration process. Moving beyond this still broad idea for Europe to actually become united in diversity in a transcultural way, we will apply this notion of transculturality to the concrete case of the Eramus Mundus Master programme Euroculture in what follows.

What is transculturality?

In this video, Euroculture students discuss some of the theories on transculturality.

While viewing the video, think about the mind maps you and your fellow learners have drawn and shared in the last step. Are there similarities between what you thought ‘transculturality’ meant and what is discussed in this video? Or differences?

Transculturality, alongside its related concept of multiculturality, remains an essential feature of political culture in Europe.

These two concepts, however, continue to offer very different approaches to diversity in Europe. While multiculturality focuses on how distinct social groups and ‘cultures’ live alongside one another, transculturality rejects the notion of closed and culturally homogeneous social groups and focuses instead on shared experiences.

Concerning the resurgence of nationalist fervor in Europe, the debate on how to manage cultural diversity is unavoidable. An emphasis on experiences that connect us, rather than ‘cultures’ that divide us, could perhaps be the key to shifting the terms of this debate.

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European Culture and Politics

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