Becoming Europeans: Cultural Identity and Cultural Policies by M. Sassatelli

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By M. Sassatelli

During this major intervention into the educational and institutional debate on eu cultural identification, Monica Sassatelli examines the identity-building intentions and results of the ecu Capital of tradition programme, and likewise seems on the paintings of the Council of Europe and the recent eu panorama conference.

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That is, from an essentialist view of identity as given by collective identifications with specific cultural contents that characterize given values, habits, territories and peoples, homogeneously shared, and effectively fashioned on the model of the nation, to ‘evolutionary social processes underlying collective identity formation in Europe’ (Spohn, 2005: 2), the fostering of which is at the basis of the vision of European societies typical of neofunctionalism. 2 Diversity A radical critique of the old as well as the renewed version of European cultural identity as unity lies at the heart of the approach stressing its plurality, or, as is increasingly phrased in opposition to the previous one, diversity.

That is, from an essentialist view of identity as given by collective identifications with specific cultural contents that characterize given values, habits, territories and peoples, homogeneously shared, and effectively fashioned on the model of the nation, to ‘evolutionary social processes underlying collective identity formation in Europe’ (Spohn, 2005: 2), the fostering of which is at the basis of the vision of European societies typical of neofunctionalism. 2 Diversity A radical critique of the old as well as the renewed version of European cultural identity as unity lies at the heart of the approach stressing its plurality, or, as is increasingly phrased in opposition to the previous one, diversity.

At the level of the state and above, cultural differences were “European” and therefore good; below, they were anathema, inasmuch as they challenged the authority of the state’ (Herzfeld, 1987: 77). Notwithstanding the formula ‘unity in diversity’, in the end unity prevails, and it is easy to fall back to what we have here considered as the first position. Indeed nineteenth-century writers, exemplified by the French historian and politician François-Pierre Guizot, used the term to claim that Europe’s superiority was due to the variety of its national specifications and its plurality of guiding principles, compared to Oriental monolithic despotism (Wintle, 1996a).

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