Europe and European culture – a conceptual analysis

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Series Details Vol.4, No.1, March 2002, p1-26
Publication Date March 2002
ISSN 1461-6696
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Current debates on Europe and European culture illustrate the growing difficulties in agreeing on the meaning of Europe. More than ever, Europe is a contested concept. Through a conceptual analysis, this article outlines different positions taken in filling the concept of Europe with meaning. The focus is on Europe as a culture. In line with modern cultural theory, articulations of Europe as a culture may be viewed as displaced within a gamut going from the most essentialist to the most constructivist. Essentialist articulations of European culture typically follow the traditional model of culture as it has been fixed through the nation-states. As is shown in the article, attempts at articulating a European culture along the lines of nations run into conceptual troubles. Recently, a more constructivist mood has come to dominate the ways Europe can be given meaning. A shift from culture to identity has marked this new constructivism. But constructivism also points in the direction of a political field where culture is challenged by a political vocabulary. This article demonstrates the different transfers from a cultural to a political field in current statements on European culture.

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