Productivity of Culture

Kostas Theologou

Kostas Theologou, PhD - post-doc N.T.U.A. researcher, member of the European Research Associates


presentation: Acculturaltion and European Citizenship as Significant Parameters in the Multicultural Urban Space
category: Dialogue between Cultures

Download the presentation "Acculturaltion and European Citizenship as Significant Parameters in the Multicultural Urban Space"


The attempt to include societies, citizens, attitudes, mentalities, everyday lives, myths, life experiences, local habits and communal celebrations etc within the institutional frame of a supranational organization such as the European Union presupposes a long and inventive procedure, referring to the Fernand Braudel’s longue durée. The active articulation of the multicultural supra-national formation holds a “de-constructive” effect upon the ethnic identity of the European citizen

In this paper we intend to indicate citizenship as of paramount significance for the societal unification of Europe, in the urban spaces, of course. Citizenship should be enhanced by the acculturation which is of vital importance, the contribution of local tradition and local values to the Pan-European Civilization and the need to transcend nationalism and modernity: the prerequisite of a supranational citizenship consists of a post-modern tool, a catalyst for the formation of multicultural social spaces.

1. The European Stake and Citizenship

The European construction has always been and still is an adventure, with companions and disputants in reference to the goal and content: peace within this construction, a large prosperous market, the enhancement of the democratic institutions towards a standard social model, the formation of a cultural identity, a progressive evolution of the EU declaring a dynamic presence on the international landscape. How broad could this Europe become without modifying its target and without mutating the essence of its unification? It’s important to clarify from the beginning that our thought focuses towards the perspective of an integrated Europe, the dynamics of the EU to become a state itself, integrating the supra-nation of the Europeans.

If the two major cultural criteria being used to define national identity is language and religion, then for the EU, it can be underlined that Christianity consists of a connecting material for its member states.

Of vital importance to the formation of an integral European identity are:

a) The unification of the educational system as a mechanism for political socialization of the new generation of citizens

b) The broadened possibility of working people (professionals) not only to move, but also to work in any other place within the United Europe

c) The institutional facilitation for acquiring property in other states.

Through the deconstructive procedure of the national identity of the European citizen, another equally longstanding “synthetic” procedure will emerge: the construction of the supra-national identity. The new citizenship (citoyenneté) will merge and contain the partial fragmental nationalities, i.e. the national identities.

A novel collective identity is thus formed through common life-experience and interaction, sharing myths and collective memories. This quasi-political identity could eventually function in integrating the fragmental nationalities and the fragmented national characteristics in a common mould of qualities for the new citizenship.

The amalgam of identities within Europe shall create a refined and noble citizen, with a democratic consciousness and more tolerant against otherness. This citizen should have fought in advance (during a long time in history) for the institution of social solidarity, the access to knowledge via technology, and the right to work as a pre-condition for obtaining political rights. Citizenship is the most essential ingredient for virtual confederation of EU; this task will be produced within a sociological and institutional fermentation of a century or longer, for without this supra-national connective citizenship the Union will remain socially and politically wise an unaccomplished process.

Europe of today is seeking to know herself, to know its soul, to become aware of what it really is in relation to the world; to express its project of post-modern future. In other words Europe is more or less confusedly seeking to step into a more adult “we”, i.e. a community of persons and nations with full and entire responsibility (Lejeune, 1999)

Europe is an Archipelagos, a large Republic divided in different islands-states, and at the same time in permanent interaction. In such a “space”, then, the centre is everywhere; within that Archipelagos the states, the cities, the demos, are really individual, really autonomous, genuinely free, to navigate eternally one towards the other so that they may know each other, or even confront each other (Cacciari, 1998).

Thus, the E.U must cease to be an ongoing, social, scientific puzzle. A federal European state founded on its broadened financial basis and its monetary union will soon have successful results in the level of international antagonisms (Habermas, 1998). The European Union offers its boundaries, competences, membership and character (all) in the process of negotiation (Bellamy, 2001).

The European countries will “denationalise” themselves, only if people practically express their desire to “mingle” towards a non-ethnic, but social formation of working-class belonging citizens. This procedure cannot be determined in time, but it will surely need the perspective of a century.

While the international framework preserves its significance, the mode in which every national society enters this framework cannot but vary from one country to another as it is determined by national particularities (Vergopoulos, 1999).

2. Acculturation in the Age of Europeanization

Acculturation is of frequent and important usage in the age of globalization (Europeanization, according to our issue), and it declares accurately this process of mixing people belonging to different cultural milieux, who demonstrate behaviours dictated by different cultural protocols.

We perceive acculturation as love (humanitarian) procedure. We visualize the new multicultural European society as a bread of kneaded elements not as a melting pot, where identity qualities are being indiscriminately confused, producing an alloy in a blast furnace. The multi-cultural matrix of acculturation allows to the bread of our society to preserve the “tasty” characteristics and the personal “tints” being bore by individuals and groups, when related in order to achieve a common welfare and a “public benefit”.

In the world as an entity, in Europe and increasingly in the Helladic space, there is no specific mode of being citizen in a specific country. We are all human beings, and we express this common humanity in culturally different ways, both around the world and within our contemporary nation states. Thus, not only is immigration a normal process, but so too is the resulting cultural diversity within our countries. These two processes provide novelty and vitality to all of us, as individuals and as communities.

Early views about the nature of acculturation are a useful foundation for contemporary discussion. One formulation in particular, has been widely quoted.19 Acculturation comprehends those phenomena which result when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first-hand contact, with subsequent changes in the original culture patterns of either or both groups…under this definition, acculturation is to be distinguished from culture change, of which it is but one aspect, and assimilation, which is at times a phase of acculturation… (Redfield, Linton, & Herskovits, 1936, pp. 149-152).

It is imperative to base our work on acculturation by examining its cultural contexts. We need to understand, in ethnographic terms, both cultures that are in contact if we are to understand the individuals that are in contact. Thus, a linkage is sought between the acculturation of an individual’s group and the psychological acculturation of the individual.

Not all groups and individuals undergo acculturation in the same way; there are large variations in how people seek to engage the process. These variations have been termed acculturation strategies. At the cultural level, the two groups in contact (whether dominant or non-dominant) usually have some notion about what they are attempting to do (e.g., colonial policies, or motivations for migration), or what is being done to them, during the contact.

Similarly, the kinds of changes that are likely to occur will be influenced by their strategies. At the individual level, both the behavioural changes and acculturation stress phenomena are now known to be a function, at least to some extent, of what people try to do during their acculturation. The long-term outcomes (both as psychological and socio-cultural adaptations) often correspond to the strategic goals set by the groups of which they are members. Integration can only be “freely” chosen and successfully pursued by non-dominant groups when the dominant society is open and inclusive in its orientation towards cultural diversity (Berry, 1991).22 These two basic issues were initially approached form the point of view of the non-dominant ethno-cultural groups. However, the original anthropological definition clearly established that both groups in contact would become acculturated.

Having a positive sense of oneself, linked to the two cultures that surround a person, and maintaining a balance between them, is the most adaptive way to pass through the process of acculturation.

3. The Local Tradition as a Contributor to the European Civilization

We will refer to the value of contribution from the local to global tradition (cultural heritage) and to the value of “regional heritage” in the age of globalization and pan-Europeanization. We’ll try to point out the importance of memory as an inseparable part of creative progress for a society in an age of rapid developments in communication and the diffusion of information. We’ll focus our attention on the following notions and we’ll also refer to the importance of memory as an ingredient for creativity and progress in a multiethnic and supranational society, in this age of rapid evolutions in communication and information diffusion.

Knowledge that has been accumulated by humankind, the spectacular developments in the field of technology, wonderful chances presented by the society of information in our age, all these marked to a large extent the only at first glance unlimited economic development, the exploitation of the weak, the destruction (spoiling) of natural environment. We created a society founded on knowledge (rather on ephemeral knowledge under the notion of news or of elementary information). We didn’t base it on the respect for nature, the environment and fellow human beings. On every occasion or manifestation our knowledge leads, I think, to comprehending the meaning of tradition. As centuries pass by local traditions have developed useful experience, techniques of environmental protection and managing skills regulating social conflict,25 that comprise together a treasure of knowledge shared by all mankind. At first glance globalization with its ways of developing communication at high technological level seems to contribute to international cooperation and to conflict prevention.

But it’s obvious up till now that globalization is a form of economic and cultural neo-colonialism not only for Third World countries but wherever it has been able to uproot and extinguish local traditions.26 Actually it doesn’t extinguish them but assimilates them into a homogenized mass culture, obliterating them through informatization and through the introvert everyday life of the individual citizen.

The danger lurking here is that this kind of development ignores the cultural identity of local society (collectiveness, minorities included), restricts their right to their own cultural heritage, their right to use their own language, their right to wear their traditional costumes, to practice their ritual customs, to believe in different moral values, to have different myths. So to put it in a nutshell, we are speaking about unset (non-formulated) negation of collective cultural rights and freedoms.

Although the notion of “tradition” is commonplace in social science, it has not been awarded the deserving analysis and attention. Cultural heritage is perceived as a source of constructive democratic commitment and as sustained development and subsequently as a platform for the well-being and unity of the diverging variety existing among the peoples of Europe (among nations and their communities).

A serious problem for peaceful coexistence between different national groups, besides human rights, could be traced in the freedom to express and to proclaim their collective or religious identity. It is impossible to suppress the urge that emerged in certain peoples to become unique and respectable in the world with their own rights. Increase of newspaper circulation, expanding of university education, reformulating of hereditary right, proliferation of folkloric connections are all elements which define collective behaviour labelled as nationalism.

Nationalist ideologies take advantage of cultural inventions to prove the procedure of collective self-defying, and to cultivate the feeling of proud and hope related to symbolical persons so that it becomes possible to describe them-selves at a conscious level, to develop and to celebrate their own selves.30

Neither it is possible to evolve without getting to know the cultural traditions of others. Events of the last few years make it evident that exactly this “abstract” aspect of culture is the one undergoing slow but steady change.

But we ought to understand that there are cultures where respect for the community, for the tradition and for the past have a priority compared to the individual and the present. In a society deeply rooted in tradition it’s not the short-term but long-term goals that are important, not rapid development (usually accompanied by catastrophe), but the slow process of constructing and preserving certain equilibrium.

Obviously, cultural traditions have preserved the necessary elements so that a multitude of national groups could express their identity. These elements are not simply comprised of the brick and stones of ancient ruins or by other traces of the rest of the material cultural heritage. These elements belong to the field of “abstract” heritage as well.

In many cases these non-material spiritual traditions that are constructed in a difficult manner - sometimes they could only be sung or danced – are of greater importance than anything else, because people feel deeply attached to them. So it is precisely wars and national conflicts between our leaders that have made us to suddenly realize what intellectual tradition means to some peoples; the myth about which a story is created or the very myth that generates history. It is of less importance to which extent these myths are true or not. They are able to mobilize human masses, to trigger a war and to construct ideological bastions which are not rooted on any material foundations.

Interactions between and through different cultural heritages, communities and environments should be perceived more as sources of creative dialogue than as reasons for clashes while mutual knowledge and understanding of specific cultures and inherited traditions could expand and deepen our common prospect for coexistence in the frame of our common European values.

Or, to put it simply: local value systems of faith (or conviction), or mythology, or prejudice and differences in customs and religious confessions could potentially comprise a field for clashes. It’s not our cultural traditions per se but ignorance and false knowledge about these, and our negation to adopt their existence, and our attempt to un-root them, the causes that produce sentimental extremities.

In a Europe of various national shades it is necessary to provide for arrangements on Education, Culture and Scientific Documentation that will facilitate our coexistence: Let’s educate younger generations in respecting other national traditions; it’s a primordial first step towards the direction of a pacific symbiosis together with other ethnicities different that the one we belong to. Let’s organize cultural meetings where one could distinguish the values of local traditions and encourage nations to get acquainted with each other and promote their mutual level of knowledge about their specific cultural features. Knowing about the cultural diversity and variety is a fundamental part for extinguishing intolerance against the Other (Alius). Documentation of the local traditions and cultural heritage (an everlasting concern) consists of a one way option in order for us to inherit a tangible spirituality for future generations. It is of great importance to encourage this “preservation” by taking advantage of the modern technological achievements (video, multimedia, digital processions etc), so that our data and conclusions are easily spread to the rest of the world. Respect of the local culture and tradition (each state its own entire culture, but also the cultural inheritance of national and religious particularities and minorities) reads as defense of our local cultural identity. Apart from Europe the entire world admits the vital significance of culture and of cultural heritage in all aspects of everyday life.

Every national entity as a European country contains a variety of particularities. Italy is a different country up North and a different country down South. Greece being geologically divided preserves a vast variety of local traditions and heritage, being cut by mountains, rivers, valleys, canyons and seas. Crete can be a particular local tradition; Cyclades on the other hand are an entity and every single island an entire particularity.

Europe contains many cultural communities being founded outside Europe and vice versa in the world there are many cultural communities being rooted in Europe’s past. Many civilizations of the past that have influenced the development of our societies transcend our national borders. The abridgment of geographical distance is essential and cultural cooperation with the larger international community can and should consist of a parameter of pacific symbiosis and politically stable regime.


Constitutional parity, equity between citizens, should consist of a common plan that percolates the various endless pressures of society, which seek for the consolidation of inequality. Citizen in modern democracy is not a partner to the Republic; stays a subject to a state sovereignty.

There remains to walk through an important path, urging us: the alley to the new citizenship. The notion of solidarity consists of an important foundation, stating that people, truly, cannot line in isolation without owing to others. Since they receive they ought to liquidate their debts. Still this is something to be agreed by all parties. This agreement cannot be constructed without fermented with the common consciousness which, due to empathy, is in dialectical discourse with the sense of right and justice.

A society of right cannot be defeated unless its members do not arise to offend themselves. Citizenship owns all qualification in order to act against xenophobia and chauvinism, severe side effects of nationalism. The emancipation progress (from the feudalistic organization of society) deviates to hatred and exclusion for the Other. During their (national) emancipation peoples had been inspired by the values of liberty. In their nationalist frenzy the values of tradition, of civilization and of culture are contorted to weapons against the neighbour, in order to exclude diversity.

Our basic hypothesis, though, is that the be-quested “unification” can only be attained through an osmotic social chemistry, through interpersonal relations and the trend to form multinational families , scattered in societies being so far “nationally pure”. The nation once used to relate people, nationalism still disassociates and excludes. Citizenship with its supranational dimensions emerges to act as the equivalent of a “national liaison” in a smaller scale territory; it will merge the present nations of the Europeans to a supra-nation of the European Confederation, i.e. a new state.



Kostas Theologou is a post-doc resercher (urban identity and memory traces in the modern city) at the National Technical University of Athens; he teaches "History of Civilization" and "History and Philosophy of Science and Technology". He is the author of "Citizen and Society in European Union. An approach to the supranational characteristics of the European citizenship" Athens, Papazissi, 2005 and "Space and Memory. Community-Identity-Urban Texture. Thessaloniki 15th-20th century" (University Studio Press, 2007) [both in Greek].
A more detailed CV can be found here

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