So, you want to be a journalist?

As a journalist for twenty years and a journalism educator for a further twenty years, I am often asked what preparation is best for a young person seeking a career in journalism. I avoid answering the question directly, generally saying it depends on the individual, their interests and their abilities. I came into journalism by a series of accidents and I hope that others can continue to have such opportunities.

blue world  Brian Trench

The media industries are in crisis. Advertising spending has collapsed. Public trust of the media is in decline. Editorial staff numbers are being cut. And nobody’s too sure any more just who is and who isn’t a journalist.

And you still want to be a journalist?

Certainly journalism remains a popular choice across Europe for studies and a (hoped-for) career. Journalism training and education courses of various kinds continue to proliferate. Private colleges compete with public universities. More practice-oriented courses compete with more theory-based.

Some courses emphasise the convergence of digital technologies, others follow the traditional demarcations between print, broadcasting and online. Some prepare students to be media entrepreneurs, others train them to be effective employees of large corporations.

I am often asked…

As a journalist for twenty years and a journalism educator for a further twenty years I have been many times through the debates that lie behind these differences. I am often asked what preparation is best for a young person seeking a career in journalism. I avoid answering the question directly, generally saying it depends on the individual, their interests and their abilities. I came into journalism by a series of accidents and I hope that others can continue to have such opportunities.

Good preparation for Euroculturers…?

Doing a European Masters in European culture and writing for this lively online magazine may be as good preparation as any for a career in journalism. There are good reasons for thinking that the mobility between cultures and contexts that the Euroculture experience brings is especially valuable in journalism in these challenging times.

The hard work is done by the students themselves

Journalists are increasingly expected to move between topics, audiences, technical platforms, even languages. But some of the basic attributes of the journalist are unchanged and, it has to be said, some of those attributes can hardly be taught. Journalism education can create an environment in which they are fostered but the hard work is done by the students themselves, more than by the educators.

Some basic attributes of great journalists can hardly be taught

Curiosity, endless curiosity, is essential: how does this work? why is this like this? how did we get here? Keen imagination is needed too: how do I turn this person’s experience into a story of interest to thousands of people? A compulsion and a competence to communicate are required; the journalist needs to tell others what she has found out and must have the tools to do so.

Scepticism is necessary

Journalists are often thought of as cynical – not caring about the consequences of what they do – and many of them do become like that. They get to the point where they have seen “everything”. When they get there, they should know it’s time to stop. Often confused with cynicism, scepticism is in some ways the opposite: it is an enabling, rather than debilitating part of the journalist’s make-up. The sceptical question keeps the journalist moving forward: why should I believe what they are telling me?

Future journalists from MA Euroculture?

The Euroculture student or graduate is, or should be, open to many possible answers to questions that are of public interest, thanks to operating in cross-national, comparative contexts. European media are generally national or sub-national but I would love to think that there are openings, and that there will be more in the future, for journalists who bring broader perspectives and reflexive thinking to the issues of the day.

Brian Trench is a former senior lecturer and Head of School in the School of Communications, Dublin City University

Nora and Prof.TrenchEditor’s words: We express our sincerest gratitude to Brian Trench who accepted the invitation to share his expertise in Journalism with The Euroculturer. His daughter, Nora Trench Bowles, is Copy Chief of The Euroculturer, and is a 2011-2013 MA Euroculture student.

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Prof. Goering’s Top 10 Tips for Intercultural Communication

For the past three summers, I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with the Euroculture Program, teaching at Georg-August-Universität Goettingen and participating in the IPs. For someone who studies intercultural communication, this has been a dream come true, because each summer I have been able to immerse myself into a laboratory in which I can see and observe intercultural communication in action every day. From those observations, I’ve put together my “Top 10” list of lessons learned about intercultural communication.

Beth Goering│bgoering@iupui.edu

Putting together a Top 10 list is a tradition in American television. Some of you may be familiar with David Letterman, a well-known personality in late night TV, who regularly entertains his audience with his Top 10 lists. While David Letterman’s lists are meant to entertain, my list of things the Euroculture program has taught me about competent intercultural communication does not seek to make you laugh. Rather, I hope it will consolidate and contextualize some of the things you probably already know instinctively about what it means to communicate effectively with people from diverse cultures.

So, here are my “Top 10 Tips for Intercultural Communication” , shaped, in part, by my 3 years of experience with the Euroculture MA.

intercultural communication 210. Mind your mindset.

Mindset matters – a lot. The best starting point for any intercultural encounter is a mindset that is tolerant, mindful, and that truly desires effective communication to take place. Those of you in the Euroculture program are a step ahead of the game on this one. By enrolling in this MA program, you evidence your curiosity about people, cultures and places that are different from your own, and that’s an important part of the mindset that facilitates effective intercultural communication.

9. Be a code-breaker

Be aware of the degree to which we are all “coded” by our culture. Everything, from the big things like how we conceptualize what happens to us when we die or how we structure society, to the little things like the shape of our electrical plugs or our culinary preferences, are largely determined by culture. We typically don’t think of the way we do things as being culturally coded. We think of that as being normative. An important lesson on the path to becoming an intercultural communicator is to realize that much of what we just assume to be “True” is a function of our own cultural coding, just like much of what other people assume to be “True” is a function of theirs. When we realize that, we can begin to see that there isn’t necessarily a “Right” or “Wrong” to many of the things we do or say or think. Rather, it’s a matter of cultural coding.

8. Differences can make a difference.

There are some culturally-based differences that do matter, particularly when it comes to studying and working together. You’ve probably encountered some of these differences as students in the Euroculture program. Culture can shape how willing we are to take risks, what our attitudes are towards collaboration, what are preferences are in terms of personal space or punctuality – the list goes on and on. Competent intercultural communicators need to be aware of cultural differences and turn them into assets, rather than seeing them as barriers or hurdles to effective communication.

7. See similarities.

Although there are culturally-based differences that are real, there are many ways in which humans are humans, no matter what their cultural identity is. As the American musician, Melissa Etheridge, puts it, “There are differences we can not hide, but we are all one spirit inside.” Recognizing that “one spirit inside” and looking for ways in which we are similar to people from different cultural backgrounds can help us become more effective communicators.

6. Listening up.

A postcard on my office door claims, “If you think communication is all talk, you haven’t been listening!” In any communication encounter, listening is key, and that is particularly true for intercultural exchanges. Listening is much more than hearing. Listening well involves filtering out distractions, focusing your attention on what another person is saying, making sure you really understand the message, interpreting the message, and responding appropriately. Indeed, listening well is a lot of work, but it is essential to effective intercultural communication.

 “He who is different from me does not impoverish me – he enriches me. Our unity is constituted in something higher than ourselves – in Man… For no man seeks to hear his own echo, or to find his reflection in the glass.”

―   Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

intercultural communication 15. Tell your story.

While listening to the stories of others is an integral part of effective intercultural communication, being willing to share your own story is equally important. Of course, this does not mean disclosing all the intimate details of your life, but in the process of sharing our stories, we can often see the similarities that set the foundation for meaningful intercultural exchanges.

4. Reconstitute reality.

I believe in the power of communication to constitute our social reality. Because communication has that constitutive power, it also has the power to reconstitute realities that aren’t what we want them to be. An important part of reconstituting undesirable social realities is listening to one another’s stories.

3. Meta-communicate.

Meta-communication, or communication about communication, can be a useful ally when it comes to intercultural communication. Competent communicators will recognize when it’s time to move their talk to a meta-level and discuss communication problems that may be getting in the way of effective interaction.

2. Take perspective.

Perspective taking is important. You may be familiar with the Native American proverb that says, “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.” That’s what perspective taking is all about. Try to put yourself into the shoes (boots, moccasins, clogs, sandals?) of the people you encounter from other cultures. You’ll likely discover that the others’ perspectives and behaviors are logical from their standpoints. We’ve already established that much of what we believe and say and do is a function of our cultural coding. That’s true for everyone we interact with, too. Understanding the “logic” of the other’s cultural coding can help make us more effective communicators.

1. Space out.

The final lesson I have learned from my involvement with the Euroculture program is the importance of finding a third cultural space in which intercultural encounters can take place. “Spacing out” means that all of the participants in the interaction will move out of their cultural comfort zones into a space that they create together—a space that makes the best use of the skills and viewpoints that all of the individuals bring to the table. This space that brings together diverse perspectives and ensures that all of them will be heard is the power of intercultural communication.

It is never too late to give up your prejudices
―    Henry David Thoreau

Editor’s words: We express our sincerest gratitude to Prof. Elizabeth Goering who gladly agreed to share her ‘EuCu-taylored’ Intercultural Communication tips with The Euroculturer. Her genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent love for Euroculture students.

Elizabeth Goering, Professor, Contributing writer

Prof.GoeringElizabeth Goering is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. Her primary areas of interest, both in teaching and research, are the intersections between Communication and culture. She has explored these relationships in a variety of contexts, including fundraising, health care, media messages, interpersonal, and organisational. An award-winning teacher, Goering teaches classes in intercultural, organisational, and group communication. In addition, she has presented her research at numerous national and international conferences and published her work in a variety of journals, including Human Communication Research, Howard Journal of Communication, Journal of Popular Culture, Women and Language, The Journal of Business Communication, Case International Journal of Educational Advancement, and Communication and Medicine.

The Beasts of the Field

We humanists can be a finicky bunch. Our allegiances are often as wide as our talents, and our confidence usually wavers against any lull in opportunity. We study great writers, actors, artists, musicians, all of whom have contributed a great deal to the way we see the world at large. We reflect on how amazing it would be to be them, to be great. However…

ear Nicola’s Ear by Vlad Savinskiv and Vladimir Kuzmin (2006)

Alex Bunten│al.bunten@gmail.com

Tasked with writing the first in a series of essays on the real benefits of the humanities and social sciences in one’s career and life isn’t easy. To pastiche Dr. John, these fields are often over-loved and under-paid, mal-funded and over-made. Regardless, they do indeed have innumerable benefits. Unfortunately, most of which I’ll not have the space to elucidate here, however, I’ll leave that noble task to those who follow me in this series.

Rather than berating you with statistics and zero-sum quotes against the sciences, I’ll just do my best to relate some humble thoughts on the issue by peeling apart a few stories from some recent worldly wanderings – Vermont for the holidays, a conference in London, and back to work in Moscow – with an Aesop’s fables tinge to the proceedings.

Greenwich, London

Jeremy Harmer, a highly respected speaker and author in the world of English language teaching, had just finished relating his borderline hatred of the use of large Asian bells on a string to bring an audience to attention after a discussion. We were sitting together at the International House Director’s of Studies Conference. Adrian Underhill, another ELT heavyweight, put his bells down and continued to expound some of the dynamics of a new approach he and Jim Schrivner had hacked out called Demand-High.

“We are 300 yards west of the meridian,” Adrian said. “Now, before you say it out loud,” illustrating what you might do with a student group, “let it replay in your ‘mind’s ear’. Let it repeat it with my accent, with my intonation, the same stress.”

And after repeating it a third time in our mind’s ear or ‘inner workbench’, he asked us to say it as beautifully as possible to the person sitting next to us. Jeremy nearly sang his with excitement before getting his back up again about the bells.

They described the approach as a kind of meme, or most poetically, a “Mexican thought wave.” It’s not meant to replace any methods or processes that have been going on in the ELT classroom all these years, but enhance them with small tweaks and touches. In other words, we should ask more of our students and ourselves, work with the language beyond what we think is possible, pull emergent language into the light and meld it into our mind’s ear. Above all, avoid page turning or the temptation to say, ‘correct, next.’

Listen to yourself and ask more of what you hear. Bells are unnecessary.

Orford, New Hampshire

The annual Bunten family holiday gathering and Yankee swap was finishing up. An older woman who I’d barely exchanged two words with all day, other than to trade some soap for socks in the Yankee swap, caught my attention in the living room.

“You’re Roger’s son, right?” Squinting to see me better she said, “where are you now?” Her green eyes lit up when she heard Moscow.

Originally from East Germany, she had visited the Soviet capital in the 70s. Loved it. Remembered it well. Strong people and character, she said. Beautiful women set against the grey magnificent buildings; Constructivism against the remaining winding curves of the orthodoxy.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn eventually came up. He and his family had lived in Cavendish, Vermont for 17 years while in exile from the Soviet Union. His son played piano and had a small recital once in Vermont’s capital, Montpelier.

“I had to go,” she said. The possibility of meeting his reclusive father was futile to resist for her. He was quite the luminary presence in small-town Vermont.

“And you know what? I saw him fours row behind me. At intermission, he got up and I followed him to the bathrooms.” Her crow’s feet flashed and faded with excitement just recounting her bravery.

She told him how much she respected his literature, and his wish to live without disruptions, and how much she knew he pained to be back home with his own family, his own culture and his own people.

“He looked at me with his deep grey eyes,” clenching her fist to show the intensity of it all, nearly in tears at the thought. “He put his hands on mine,” she took a breath to recall the gravity, “and said, you are my kindred spirit.”

She left that bathroom in tears of joy and sat before me welling up with emotion.

“I’m sorry, I don’t even know your name.”
“Ute,” she said.

We exchanged some further pleasantries. I thanked her for the story, and left with the thought of meeting Solzhenitsyn bouncing around in my mind’s ear.

A well told story is long remembered. Names are optional.

Moscow, Russia

Sitting back in my soviet flat, I’m starring at a pile of words and a yet smaller pile of minutes to work with, listening to my mind’s ear and trying to tell a good story. Below is a heap of half sentences, lost thoughts, entertained analogies, and mixed metaphors. Above are two stories that relate to what I’ll say here. It’s all been planned out. I swear. Just like the benefits you planned to reap from your humanities or social sciences degree.

I might sound nervous about this but don’t worry, I’m a trained professional. I’m just trying to build some tension. I studied for this. This is my place. I belong here. On the page. I’m ready. But actually, I wouldn’t mind a job in sales… Joke.

We humanists can be a finicky bunch. Our allegiances are often as wide as our talents, and our confidence usually wavers against any lull in opportunity. We study great writers, actors, artists, musicians, all of whom have contributed a great deal to the way we see the world at large. We reflect on how amazing it would be to be them, to be great. However, it’s easy to disregard the misfortune, the pain, the loss, the outpouring of emotion, and the often unappreciated lives which lead to them producing a body of work, a story, remembered through the ages.

We are all on an endeavor of greatness, whether we like it or not. We often don’t listen to those telling us it’s not worth it. That could be because we don’t care. We have a dream. Or, that’s simply when we’ve decided to whittle our allegiances down. That’s when we have become something – a teacher, a playwright, a dancer, a craftsman – and not just a teacher with a passion for music, or salesman with a writing hobby.

Disregard what I said earlier. This is nothing you can plan. I actually think it’s foolish to plan it from the start. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any benefits. Just let everything fall in your way, onto the page. It doesn’t matter how trivial. Reflect on it, work with it, give it shape, give it worth, give it life, then submit it when you’re done. But don’t forget to draft like hell to sort all the crap out. What you are left with is here, as in life.

The Lioness

A controversy prevailed among the beasts of the field as to which of the animals deserved the most credit for producing the greatest number of whelps at a birth. They rushed clamorously into the presence of the Lioness and demanded of her the settlement of the dispute. “And you,” they said, “how many sons have you at a birth?’ The Lioness laughed at them, and said: “Why! I have only one; but that one is altogether a thoroughbred Lion.”

The value is in the worth, not in the number.

~Æsop’s Fables

Editor’s words: The Euroculturer is happy to announce the start of a new series “Why Study Humanities and Social Sciences: The real benefits of the Humanities and Social Sciences in one’s career and life” in an attempt to empower Euroculturers and other humanities and social sciences majors. We thank Alex Bunten, a Euroculturer and the Director of the Humanities Professional Network for opening the series with his exceptional insights on humanity en masse.

The series continues on Why Study Humanities: Confessions of a Humanities Major

Alex Bunten, Contributing writer

alex profile 1Alex studied Euroculture in Uppsala and Deusto (2011) and finished his first degree at the University of St Andrews (2005). He is the current Director of the Humanities Professional Network within the Erasmus Mundus Association, as well as one of the founders of the Humanities Perspective conference series – the next installment due to take place at the University of Groningen. Home is currently in Moscow where he is the Executive Centre Assistant Director of Studies at BKC International House Moscow. When not preoccupied with an obsessive work schedule, he is a keen observer of humanity en masse, a connoisseur of the Russian pine nut, and a black belt in metro reading.

Why Study Humanities: Confessions of a Humanities Major

Patrick Awuah, Jr. after studying at Swarthmore College then subsequently working for Microsoft for almost a decade, decided to go back to his home country, Ghana, to start a liberal arts college. He believes that in order to educate the future leaders, humanities studies and liberal arts subjects must be in their main curriculum. Why? Because these subjects teach skills that help develop the personality of leaders: value systems, problem-solving ability, and communication skills.

This is a man who believes humanities majors will shape the future.

So, will I shape the future? Confessions of a Humanities major

Kim future 1

Kim, Ya-ting Yang│kimyating918@gmail.com

Here comes the first confession. Yes, I studied Humanities for 6 years.

And as a result, I became a generalist. After years of training in English literature, cultural studies then political science, I’m simply interested in way too many things that I can hardly focus on only one specific field. Besides, I was trained to be interested in almost everything during my studies. However, I’m not the only one who thinks it’s a waste to be focusing on only one field:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

– Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love (1973)

It seems as if multi-tasking has long been the privilege of being a human. Despite this, I’ve often asked myself the very same question: What am I going to do with my Humanities degree?

Second confession: Well, I was clueless.

After the Euroculture program, like most people, I needed a job. I was immediately faced with the dilemma of diving into the world of academia or putting on suits and smiles to make a living in this capitalistic society. I went to every free conference in town whether they were hosted by Universities or NGOs. I downloaded all kinds of random papers on social studies trying to find one field that I wanted to delve into when I still had my student ID to enter the school’s database. I listened to TED talk with entrepreneurs sharing their never-ending struggle, yet successful life stories. I went up to speakers after conferences and tried to reflect their experiences on myself. Every one of these occasions seemed to create the realisation in my mind that I can probably pursue others’ tracks as my own.

As I tried to lay down the pros and cons of all options, reality struck me that I simply can’t concentrate on doing only one thing for the rest of my life. I think many would agree that a PhD sounds too much of a commitment. And with the statistic against you – only about 50% finish – it seemed like a good thing not to do.

The world around me seems to be getting more and more specialized, you can easily find on the internet obscure academic papers that have under 100 counts of circulation. People’s job titles are getting more specific and filled with too many adjectives to fit on that small piece of business card. All these specification made a knot in my stomach because I can’t seem to find one thing that I can pull off for a very long time.

Third confession: I struggled to find the meaning of being a Humanities major.

Despite all these doubts, I tried to find the “usefulness” of humanities studies. By usefulness, I mean how humanities studies can help me achieve what I want in life. Then came the purpose-searching journey. For me, humanities studies are embodied in communication and therefore link us to everyone in the society; it is essentially how human beings interact with one another.

What we’ve learned in Humanities can be difficult to describe, because it might not be a tangible professional expertise. It is, however, something more profound, something that stays with you wherever you go and can be applied to any field at anytime. Here are the examples.

We’re taught to be sensitive to the world around us, we are taught to constantly find different perspectives, we’re taught to be tolerant and accept the possibility of diversities. We are also really good at solving problems from many perspectives. This is the power and strength of studying humanities and being a generalist, we study human interactions that are embodied in literature, politics, media, and social studies.

And this also applies to me. Humanities studies allowed me to see the world from different perspectives, to sympathize, to be flexible, and to accept multiple possibilities, as well as the possibility to express myself through words, through images, through speeches. And yes, these are the skills that will help me shape the future.

So here comes the last confession.

What a privilege it is to study humanities!

Kim future 2

To get more insights on the topic of Humanities, also read The Beasts of the Field

KimKim, Ya-ting Yang, Contributing writer

Grew up in Taiwan, majored in Foreign Languages and Literature, Kim chose to fly to Groningen and Bilbao to be a Euroculturer. After her internship in Barcelona, she is now working in the advertising industry in Frankfurt, Germany. She is also organizing the Humani[t]ies Perspective conferences with other EMA fellow students. Kim is interested in way too many things to write them all here in the bio, but for the moment she is very intrigued by how the digital world is influencing how we communicate.

BIG IN JAPAN: Photography against stereotypes

BIG IN JAPAN: Photography against stereotypes

These photos were taken during my five weeks in Japan – as part of my research track in Osaka which unfortunately ended too early due to a health problem. A few are photos that should be seen in color and the others are better in black and white. I did not intend to make a photo collection until I came back to Europe. After I came back to Krakow and looked at these photos again, however, I realised that the world would never be the same to me and wanted to share the unforgettable five weeks with The Euroculturer.

Pictures do not need many words. I leave it to the audience to interpret what I really wanted to say with the photos.

ATKA ATUN│atka_brozek@yahoo.com

(IMPORTANT: The copyright law strictly applies to the photos below. In case you want to use them, please contact the author first)

1. A MARKET

A MARKET

2. AT NIGHT

AT NIGHT

3. FORBIDDEN FRUIT

FORBIDDEN FRUIT

4. GOD IN JAPAN

GOD IN JAPAN
5. GRAN ON DRUGS

GRAN ON DRUGS

6. HIDDEN VALUE

HIDDEN VALUE

7. JARMUSCH

JARMUSCH

8. LIKE A PRAYER

LIKE A PRAYER

9. NAHA

NAHA

10. PACHINKO

PACHINKO

11. STOLEN ART I

 STOLEN ART I

12. STOLEN ART II

STOLEN ART II

13. THE ONE

THE ONE

14. TURISTS

TOURISTS

15. VODKA A LA JAPONAIS

VODKA A LA JAPONAIS

If you want to know more about doing a research track in Osaka, also read

1. Japanoculture  2. Juggling Culture Shock

If you want to know more about ATKA, also read

1. In a Relationship with… Patti Smith 2. In a Relationship with…Stefan Zweig 3. Food vs. Life

AAtka(Beata)TKA ATUN, Literature Editor
Atka is from Poland and completed her studies in linguistics with a specialization in intercultural communication. She has studied in Krakow, Paris, and Strasbourg, and Osaka. Atka has been researching Japanese literature and the influence of minority cuisines on those of ‘host’ countries. She carries her dog around wherever she goes, and eats way too much weird food.

(Poll) What are the real competencies of Humanities majors?

1. (Up to 3 answers) What are the real competencies of Humanities majors in today’s fast changing, globalised world?
(Humanities majors example: Art, History, Classics, Languages, Literature, Religion, Cultural Studies, Philosophy, etc)

2.Would you choose to study Humanities again if you had the chance to change to a more ‘practical’ major that would lead you straight to a high-salary job?


Thanks for your votes!

If you want to know more about the benefits of studying Humanities, read

1. The Beasts of the Field

2. Why Study Humanities: Confessions of a Humanities Major

Europe: A Short Story

Pakistan is our country. Britain is our country too.”
– A Pakistani woman living in Bradford, UK [1]

We shall wake up one day to find out that far from solving the problems of our continent, the myth of ‘Europe’ has become an impediment to our recognizing them … It has become little more than the politically correct way to paper over local difficulties, as though the mere invocation of the promise of Europe could substitute for solving problems and crises that really affect the place.”
– Tony Judt [2]

“… not that we can learn from catastrophes, but indeed that we only learn from catastrophes.”
– Jürgen Habermas [3]

I speak only one language, and it is not my own.”
– Jacques Derrida [4]

I’m no prophet. My job is making windows where there were once walls.”
– Michel Foucault [5]

Syed Rashid Munir │srmunir@gmail.com

Rashid

The heavy rains are back, beating away furiously at my windowpane, threatening to shatter it to pieces. The cold they bring with them is excruciating this time around, particularly because my heating has been out since 8am. Every muscle in my body is shivering. I have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I wish I had never eaten that stale sandwich for lunch. These days, I haven’t been able to sleep a lot. Fear takes hold of me every night, and doesn’t let go until the early hours of the morning. And when I finally manage some sleep, demons haunt my dreams, scaring me within an inch of my life. The cold medicine I’m on makes me groggy and nauseous all the time…

All nations need narratives to exit, where the legends, stories, myths, and outright lies have to be patched together into a national imaginary. “Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s minds, and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.” [6] Sitting in my Lahore home back in Pakistan, I had always held the EU in great, fantastical awe. The idea of a trans/supranational union amongst previously-sworn enemies, to a particularly impressionable political science student, I must admit, was nothing short of finding true love: platonic and political at the same time. The romance continued for a long while even after I came here, but I must admit, most of it has been lost. Relationships are hard work, and I’ve never been good at either one.

Freedom. Democracy. Justice. Human Rights. What is one without all the others, and what are the others without the one? Nation-states include and exclude simultaneously. Democracies still need to assign and protect liberal rights and, in order to do that, they need to demarcate clear and enforceable boundaries. These two conceptions seem so inimical to each other, and yet they are inseparable in political thought.

I have never seen the sky so grey in all of my time here. Where’s the silver lining here?

The more I talk with elderly people (in my broken Spanish, of course), the more hopeless I become. And the more I talk to the young ones (in their broken English, of course), the more fearful I become. The elderly say the EU is for the young ones to worry about; the youngsters say the EU is one big bureaucratic dinosaur that has failed to solve their frustrations. People, momentarily, forget the freedoms they take for granted now. And perhaps they don’t really amount to much when you’ve spent all your life in liberal-democracies, but there’s no denying that they are luxuries that not everyone can afford.

The clouds are quiet for now, but I sense a thunderstorm…

But, what freedoms? And at what cost? Are the Basques, Spanish? Are the Catalonians, Spanish? Are the Spanish, European? Are the Europeans, European? People vote in democratic elections, expressing their unwavering commitment to human liberties, at the same time as hundreds of refugees and asylum-seekers are denied entry into European borders, lest they start undermining the ‘unity of the nation’, or start the looting and plunder they bring from their ‘third/home’ countries. Are all humans, human?

These are unsettling times. Reason gives way to fear, resentment, and disappointment. Structural inequalities have a way of constant perpetuation; the only difference is that now, they are more visible than ever. Economic, social, and political outcasts live among us, in front of our very eyes. Youths, civil servants, and pensioners occupy a limited domain of rights. And then there are long-term residents who know of no homeland other than Europe, who know of no loyalty other than to their host state, and yet they live in permanent alienage, shunned to the ghettos of European cities.

Where does violence begin, and where does it end?

I see the lightning, but it’s too far away to hear the thunder…

The ‘democratic deficit’, as everyone so lovingly calls it, is a symptom of a rather malignant tumor that shapes the core of the EU organism. People don’t care about participating in European elections, that’s fine. After all, the Union lies at such a great (metaphorical) distance from the localities in member states, so as to shake the faith of the otherwise faithful, from time to time. But why do they, then, furiously resist even the good steps, in times of crisis? The fact of the matter is that the ‘deficit’ only becomes real for the public once mad cow disease hits the EU’s cow population, or when fiscal austerity results in hundreds of people losing their jobs. Only in times of crises do they really start ‘caring’ about the European Experiment, by immediately distancing themselves from it, of course. In their disowning of the EU, at least, they are united. The political elites have grown accustomed to public indifference at the European level; they are flabbergasted to see them rise up, en masse, against their judgment. Where were they before, they ask?

Will this persistent downpour brew up a storm?

What happens when we die? What lies beyond the nation-state? Is there life after the liberal-democratic, welfare society?

If you’re happy in a dream, does that count?” [7]

My head has started to hurt again. The rains have subsided for now…

“Whatever happened to the European Dream?” the demons inquire.

“It came true…”

________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/nov/22/freedom-diversity-liberal-pentagram/?page=1
  2. Tony Judt, A Grand Illusion? An Essay on Europe.
  3. Jürgen Habermas, The Postnational Constellation.
  4. Jacques Derrida, Monolingualism of the Other: or, The Prosthesis of Origin.
  5. This quote does not come from a book. It was overheard by Hubert Dreyfus, who mentioned it in a talk that was heard by Lewis Hyde, who wrote it down.
  6. Arundhati Roy, War Talk.
  7. Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things.

If you liked Rashid’s article, also read Missing IP 2012 ─ We’ll Always Have… Bilbao?

RashidSyed Rashid Munir, Contributing writer

Hailing from Lahore, Pakistan, Rashid has a B.Sc. in International Relations from LUMS, Pakistan. He is studying MA Euroculture under the cooperation window programme of the European Commission at the University of Deusto, Bilbao. His research interests lie in post-colonialism, sub-altern studies, cultural and critical theory, and citizenship regimes in Europe. Apart from his love of writing fiction, travelling, and exotic animals, Rashid daydreams in his spare time about a job in diplomacy, and is a big Ingmar Bergman fan.

Apartments become stages: a different way of performing and enjoying arts

The night begins with an improvisation that mixed sax music, dance and visuals. Then, a small walk leads to a penthouse where “A mother”, monologue of Dario Fo and Franca Rame, takes place, leaving the audience in the room breathless; Juliette, a beautiful French dancer, warmly welcomes us at her house and suggests us to take a tour of her small penthouse in the neighborhood of Poble Sec. And then, she offers tomato juice and a homemade French quiche.

bianca combine

Bianca Rubino│biancarubino@gmail.com

“Hello! Welcome! Please, come on in!” No, we are not friends of our host; we are entering at a private home to enjoy a performance.

In time of crisis and financial cuts that affect severely the cultural sector and in which, for example, emerged a movement of occupied theatres, a new artistic trend takes shape: performances in apartments. Recently, Barcelona, a city with a diverse cultural offer, has hosted two events of this kind: Hors Lits and BIOROOM. They both have this new idea of performing in common and enjoy a curious and appreciating audience, but they differ in other aspects.

bianca hors lits 3Hors Lits  (Réseau d’Actes Artistiques), which literally means “out of the bed” in French, consists of four performances of twenty minutes each in four different apartments of a given neighborhood in one night. The idea is embedded in the will of breaking down the wall embodying intermediation: it remains a very simple and honest communication between the performer and the public, in any possible place, “even in your bed”. Hors Lits has its origins in France in 2005, when an Argentinian actor decided to react to the problem of not having a space where to perform. Since then, the project has expanded to several French cities and out of France as well: Montpellier, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Montreuil, Marseille, Paris, Rennes, Vevey, Saint Etienne, Beziers, Séte, and lastly Barcelona, Aix en Provence, and Bruxelles.It is so that “Colectivo Suelto”, namely two French girls, exported the event to Barcelona achieving resounded success and counting already two editions. The latter one had place in a mild night in November, accidentally a day of a general strike against financial cuts, 14th November 2012. The meeting point was a square in the neighborhood of Gracia. The action was repeated the next day with an awesome success.

Once everyone was gathered, we were directed to the first apartment. The night began with an improvisation that mixed sax music, dance and visuals. Then, a small walk led to a penthouse where “A mother”, monologue of Dario Fo and Franca Rame, took place, leaving the audience in the room breathless. Later on, an Italian man was already waiting in the next house to perform Pesto Cooking, and once the pesto flavor invaded the room, it delighted the audience with its taste, while moving towards the next apartment. The last appointment was the staging of a dream between reality and fantasy, lightness and uneasiness, talking frames and moving lampshades. Without noticing it, the route had already come to an end and it was time to say goodbye to all those journey mates of that special night. Hors Lits is getting bigger, as Nîmes and Nantes are joining the network this year. Montpellier will stage in “apartment” again on 27 and 28 March, and so will the Paris Region as well. Barcelona will host the event again in May. The official announcements are available on the website horslits.com/.

bianca BIOROOM3BIOROOM’s project started last year. It can be understood as a “perfomative experience of intimacy” and is strictly connected to a doctoral thesis on “the dramaturgy of reality in the contemporary scene”. So it goes around the theatre of intimacy and the theatre of reality and following the reflections of the historian Michelle Perrot, the house becomes a capsule to represent the city. In contrast to Hors Lits, BIOROOM staged four stories directed by four different directors. One of the stories was about Juliette…Juliette, a beautiful French dancer, warmly welcomed us at her house and suggested us to take a tour of her small penthouse in the neighborhood of Poble Sec. Once everyone was comfortably sitting on the sofa or had arranged him/herself on the floor, she offered tomato juice and a homemade French quiche. After that she began telling her personal story. She spoke of her childhood and her neurologic illness, consequence of isolation from the other children. Looking at her, it was hardly believable, due to her enthusiasm and social skills. The energy and the joy she expressed captivated her guests. The audience became personally involved through a series of philosophical questions and answers about life that were followed by an improvised dance session with Juliette. The last part of our night was a solo dance improvisation, in front of the wall projections of her family pictures. There we found out that her parents were part of the night audience.

The two experiences have different perspectives. They both offer an original approach to experience a space and a place where we do not normally experience a dance or a theater session, starting by discovering the atmosphere, and obliging us to go beyond the idea of an apartment and its rooms. Both proved that sharing food can play an important role by making people suddenly feel more comfortable, relaxed, and open. The main experience remains that fascinating feeling created by the situation of intimacy and cosiness. A place and a time for reflection, to taste a beverage offered by the host, to hear different stories, to be curious and discover new homes, to create more intimacy between the artists and the audience.

BIOROOM’s main objective is to build “an itinerant exhibition”, “an intimate map of the most important cities of the world”, believes Juan Hurraco, BIOROOM’s creator and curator. Thus, after the first edition in Barcelona, this year a second edition will be held in Buenos Aires. On the other hand, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, and Santiago de Chile might get involved soon as well. Follow the next stories at bioroombarcelona.tumblr.com

Find out when Hors Lits and BIOROOM will perform in a city close to you and do not miss the chance to live this experience.

bianca combine 2

If you liked Bianca’s article, also read Strasbourg: Pas Seulement Capitale Européenne!

Bianca Rubino, Exhibition Editor

Bianca is Italian with Swiss roots. She studied BA Humanities for the study of Culture in Modena, Italy, and went on Erasmus to Malmö, Sweden. She is now enrolled in MA Euroculture , which she studied in the University of Groningen and the University of Strasbourg. She is currently doing an internship at Interarts, based in Barcelona, Spain, in the field of cultural project management and cultural policy. Her interests are anthropology, sociology, artistic and cultural life and institutions, cultural management and policy, and many more. She has the smallest feet a girl ever had.

Europe: Love or Hate?

Second round of the Second Edition of The Euroculturer

Because we relate

3 January 2013

Do we love or hate Europe? Well, don’t know yet but here are some Euroculturers who decided to love or hate Europe the hard way.

On a rainy day, Rashid laments the loss of his political and platonic love for the EU. Talking to the old and the young only induces fear and frustration. What happened to the European dream? Mario, from Northern Spain, is more optimistic. As a member of the Erasmus generation, he believes in the inherent strength of Europe which runs through the veins of young people. If the old could do, why can’t the young? A piece of news puts Penelope in a time-travel and takes her back to when she was truly happy, loving life and friends, crying, but growing up. So where does she live now after all those years of heartache? Still, between hi and bye. Coming from America and moving to Europe after living in South America for a long time, Mary finds something very weird about Europe. Shouldn’t this place, blessed with better life conditions for more people as it is, do better? She asks this while pointing out the idiosyncrasies she witnessed while adjusting to living in Europe. How blatant can her criticism be? To make Europeans feel better after the hard slap in the face, Heather suggests you watch a hokey pokey dance of Britain, Scotland, and the EU. Will it work?

Too many hot potatoes for a magazine. But again, is it love or hate? Probably, love.

Eunjin Jeong, Editor-in-chief

A Question for Scotland – or is it?

Heather Southwood│Southwood28@gmail.com

“You put your left foot in, your left foot out, in, out, in, out, you shake it all about”*

*the hokey pokey, a dance

Source: Presstv.ir
Source: Presstv.ir

At first glance, this probably describes one of Britain’s (I’m not sure if it extended beyond our borders) awkward dances that took place at every school disco at Primary Schools across the country. However I wonder if this could also be an accurate description of Britain’s policy towards the European Union. I also wonder if this could help explain the peculiar exchange between the EU and Scotland, over the question of Scotland’s potential independence from the UK.

For many years now, the UK has been following a policy of devolution. That is, in Wales and Scotland there has been the implementation of their own ruling authorities that make decisions away from the UK Parliament. This has now led to the discussion over the possibility for Scotland to become an independent state, for which a date has been set for a referendum in which all Scottish citizens from the age of sixteen upwards will have the opportunity to vote upon.

What is perhaps particularly salient in this decision is what this would mean for Scotland and their position in the EU. This has been thrown into the debate as it is important in how the question for the referendum is framed. Does this mean that the EU’s relationship with Scotland as an independent state could be decisive for the citizens in determining the fate of their country?

I think however it is enlightening to look at the Scottish opinion towards this issue. This has the potential to highlight some of the peculiarities of the UK and perhaps this island’s (referring to England, Wales and Scotland) perception as to its position in Europe. As the UK has taken a somewhat ‘rollercoasteresque’ approach to EU policy making, for example the current debate over the repatriation of certain powers, following the previous Governments enthusiasm to signing EU Treaties. Has this approach from the UK influenced the approach Scotland may want to take towards the EU?

Deputy First Minister for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has claimed to Members of the Scottish Parliament, that it was a realistic possibility that Scotland could gain its independence from the UK and remain a member of the EU. This was in response to the demand that Scotland must make its position towards the EU clear before they can formulate or go forward with the referendum. What is interesting however is that these words are in direct contradiction to Jose Manuel Barroso who has clearly stated (although not naming Scotland directly) that all new member states would have to reapply to join the EU.

Yet it has been asserted in the debate that if Scotland did become independent, it could remain a member of the EU, the use of phrases such as ‘common sense’ and ‘it being in the interests of Scotland, England and the EU’ perhaps highlight a position of arrogance that can be seen in the UK’s roller coaster approach and actions towards EU policy. This could be reasserted through Sturgeon’s claims that although Scotland should respect Mr Barroso’s words, he was not the one to make the final decision on the issue. These comments are all those which have been asserted within the Scottish Parliament, arguably showing the way the Scottish are framing the discussion.

The problem as I see it is this, if you look at a map of Europe over the past one hundred even two hundred years, it has changed distinctly. One of the most significant changes can be seen through the creation of new states. Currently, we have seen debates over independence in the Basque country, in Catalonia and most of the new states created from the former Yugoslavia are going through the accession process for the EU. If Scotland could walk straight in to EU membership from its position as part of the UK, it would have wide repercussions throughout Europe; repercussions that the EU could not arguably allow. How could the EU negotiate agreements on for example the Euro without the ultimate option of withholding membership as a possibility to be persuasive in its position?

The EU is a potentially influential factor in this question of independence, the issue of Scottish independence and its continuing relationship with the EU would have consequences for Europe as a whole and the way in which the Scottish ministers have shrugged off Mr Barroso’s words perhaps highlight another issue, that of a state thinking itself more important than that of the collective of the EU. This is an interesting contrast to the growth of Eurosceptism within the UK policy that the EU can be so influential within this debate, but it is also important that the EU values and understands the importance of this debate for the EU as an institution. Hence, the question of Scottish independence has a significance beyond the UK’s borders. It will be interesting to see how the debate will continue.

Source: Huffingtonpost.co.uk
Source: huffingtonpost.co.uk

References:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-20664907

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-20709124

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfPg_GzC-HA

If you liked Heather’s article, also read A Luxury: Lack of Borders

Heather Southwood, Copy Editor

Heather is from Manchester, UK, and completed her undergraduate in Law before studying Euroculture in the University of Göttingenand Jagiellonian University, Krakow. She is currently completing a research track in Indianapolis. Her research interests include citizenship and the promotion of belonging in citizens. She also attempts to discover a new national dish she can cook every time she goes somewhere new.