EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006


Turning back to the 'Mediterranean': the Mediterranean Voices project

Location Wills 3.30
Date and Start Time 21 Sep, 2006 at 11:30


Julie Scott (Canterbury Christ Church University) email
Vassiliki Yiakoumaki (University of Thessaly) email
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Short Abstract

These panels will explore the resignification of 'the Mediterranean' and its relationship with Europe by reflecting on the experience of anthropological involvement in a European Union project on the 'Euromed' region.

Long Abstract

In recent years the Mediterranean has undergone reinvigoration and redefinition in response to the changing configuration of Europe. Today the Mediterranean constitutes the borderlands of the European Union, a shifting zone where the project of European enlargement confronts Europe's historically constituted other on its southern and eastern shores. The Mediterranean thus has a special significance for Europe, and is given reality through the implementation of a range of bureaucratic and policy instruments of which the Mediterranean is the object. At the same time, claims to qualities of European-ness have become a symbolic resource to be mobilised and contested in local discourses and power struggles. This is a rather different Mediterranean from that conceptualised by the mediterraneanist anthropology of past decades, and poses ontological, epistemological and methodological questions concerning its location, analysis and representation. The Mediterranean Voices project represents an attempt to engage with the resignification of the Mediterranean from within an EU policy framework. Funded through the Euromed Heritage II programme, which promotes the concept of transnational civil society united within a common Euro-Mediterranean heritage, the project established a network of researchers in 13 cities across the Mediterranean, carrying out ethnographic research in urban neighbourhoods over three years, and creating a series of visual products, including a multi-media online database of the results. The papers presented in these panels will interrogate the idea of the Mediterranean on a number of different levels: at the level of European policy; cultural, political and economic institutions; the virtuality of an online Mediterranean; the materiality of the concrete, local and day-to-day; and the interplay of diverse temporalities connected to the emergence of (often conflicting) memories and the creation of heritage.

Chair: Vassiliki Yiakoumaki


The European Union under construction: programmes as political technologies

Author: Eleftheria Deltsou (University of Thessaly)  email
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Long Abstract

During the last 15 years, discussions in the anthropological literature over what constitutes Europe have gained impetus. Top-down and bottom-up ethnographic studies of European integration raise questions that concern not only whether a European identity has been or is being accomplished but also whether the aims set by the European Union are or can be met. As is commonly remarked, constituting Europe does not involve only its foundation as an institution with the corresponding bureaucracies but, more importantly, its pragmatic realization. One of the ways to study the European Union is through its policies and programs, as through those the EU constructs, promotes and advocates itself. Funding projects incorporate the vision and the essence of the EU and constitute building blocks of the political, economic and cultural Europeanization process. This paper will address the question of the signification the EU develops for itself through its own programs. In particular it will focus on the web representation of "Euromed Heritage" with its particular emphasis on the Mediterranean, to show that these programs constitute not just means of policy making but actually technologies of governmentality.

Imagining the Mediterranean

Author: Julie Scott (Canterbury Christ Church University)  email
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Long Abstract

The fictive nature of place has become a common component of anthropological discourse, a necessary counter to essentialist assumptions about the fixity of place and the locality of social relationships, including those underlying anthropological practice. The practical and theoretical orientation towards scapes, flows, and mobile social relationships, responds to the globalizing trends of 'supermodernity' and the increasingly individualized nature of relationships with a proliferating range of spacialities, mediated by travel and the technologies of the imagination, including the mass media and internet. Yet these developments are also accompanied by a countervailing emphasis on the persistence of the idea of 'place', of people's attachment to 'places', and of the materiality of the ideas in which 'place' is rooted. In this paper I explore these issues through reflection on participation in a European Union sponsored project, Mediterranean Voices, whose remit of representing 'the Mediterranean' is driven by the EU agenda of imagining and reproducing a 'Euromed' zone at Europe's southern edge. I suggest that a number of versions of 'the Mediterranean' emerge and are held together in dialectical tension in the course of project implementation and practice. I argue that the use of hypermedia and the web make it possible to imagine the abstraction that is 'the Mediterranean' as the materiality of a lived 'Mediterranean' space, opening up opportunities for a subversive spatial practice, and tactical engagement with the very discourses of 'cultural heritage' and 'Mediterranean identity' that determined the conditions in which the Mediterranean Voices project took place.

'We don't need Europe, but Europe needs us': the mobilisation of local reserves against globalisation in contemporary Croatia

Author: Michaela Schäuble (University of Berne )  email
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Long Abstract

Europska unija nije cool, ali sir i vrhnje jesu - "The European Union is not cool, but (our) cheese and cream are!" With this and similar slogans the political organisation SIN (Samostalnost I Napredak - "Independence and Progress") launched a rather spectacular anti-EU campaign in Croatia in 2005. The huge posters that were put up along main roads represent and foster a distinct anti-European sentiment in Croatia stressing local reserves against globalisation such as the country's "natural Mediterranean" beauty and cuisine, simultaneously calling for economic independence through subsistence farming, and inciting fear of terrorism that is portrayed as primarily endangering Western Europe.

Significant numbers of Croats, and Dalmatians in particular, understand themselves as guards of Europe and entitle Croatia Antemurale Christianitatis ("bulwark of Christianity"), a phrase that dates from the Mediaeval Crusades at the beginning of the Ottoman invasion. Indicating that they and their ancestors have successfully protected, and still protect, the borders of Europe against intruding forces "from the East", this theme increasingly carries the reproachful implication that their historic role is not adequately acknowledged in Europe today. Such discourses - alongside alleged inequities during the past decades - stimulate the gradual formation of a self-image that can be called a collective victim identity. However, forms of systematic self-victimisation are not only used to reinterpret past events, but are also deployed both in the articulation and rhetorical re-negotiation of current political issues and in setting the terrain for future debates and contestations of power. Recent discussions, be they in relation to the anticipated EU-membership or the collaboration with the War Crime Tribunal in The Hague, are perceived as a continuation of previous "wrongs."

I argue that this understanding is of central importance regarding the (im)balances of power and the role Croatia - along with the other republics of the former Yugoslavia and Mediterranean borderlands of the EU - is to play in a new Europe. The region continues to be characterized as a zone that has the potential to perpetuate and proliferate insecurity by imposing set borders and spreading conflicts elsewhere. At the same time, Europe's emphasis on multiculturalism, transnationalism and transmigration is of limited use and applicability to places where essentialist notions of culture and identity are gradually fostered to guarantee long-lasting stability.

Rachel's Tomb and the Walls of Bethlehem

Author: Tom Selwyn (SOAS)  email
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Long Abstract

The paper starts by describing Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem. Formerly this was a small domed structure perched on a piece of open land on the ancient route between Jerusalem and Hebron and between the predominantly Christian towns of Bethlehem and Beit Jala. It was part mosque, with an adjacent Islamic cemetery, part Jewish holy place: a shrine to a kind of religious cosmopolitanism characteristic of this part of the Eastern Mediterranean. Nowadays, surrounded by high concrete walls and extensive Israeli military defences, it has become an exclusively Jewish site - a yeshiva, or centre for religious study - for predominantly orthodox Jewish visitors accompanied by a few tourists from Jerusalem brought to the tomb in armed buses.

The area surrounding Rachel's Tomb was, up to recently, a bustling neighbourhood of houses, shops, and restaurants. Now it consists of an almost deserted set of streets, broken up by walls, barriers, and surveillance points, being part of a vast superstructure of concrete walls, electric fences, military roads, and checkpoints, which snakes its way down from the north to the south of Palestine, encircling villages and towns (Bethlehem included) on its way. The tomb and its quarter demonstrate what 'separation' actually looks like on the ground and can be read as a symbol not only of the present relationship between Israelis and Palestinians but of more general polarising forces and processes within and beyond the Middle-East itself.

The plight of Rachel's Tomb and its quarter thus speaks eloquently of 'separation', military occupation, and conflict, and her tomb reminds us of Rachel's own experience of exile and murder. However, the stories of both Rachel and her tomb contain points of reference that encourage us to imagine what might lie beyond the present occupation and the landscapes of disintegration in which this is carried out - and a substantial part of the paper considers what these points of reference are.

Tom Selwyn, London Metropolitan University, EC TEMPUS and MED-VOICES programmes.

Sa Gerreria: a shadowy neighbourhood. Ethnography of a place built upon de-memory

Author: Marc Morell (Universitat de les Illes Balears)  email
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Long Abstract

Along with the growth of tourism, building activities and real estate speculation have developed in the form of generalised re-urbanisation across the Mediterranean. Heritage plays a key role in this process: it aims for quality in the tourism industry through the production of places.

Research carried out in Ciutat de Mallorca (Spain) within the Mediterranean Voices project, unveils this use of heritage by looking at how it puts into the market renewed neighbourhoods and their everyday life, often hiding their conflicting memories.

Indeed, neighbourhoods and their everyday life do not exist per se, nor do the relations and values to be found at their core. They are the result of a process that becomes more apparent in those neighbourhoods that stand within the so-called "historic" areas because of their strata of memory, their "heritagised" and "heritageable" geographies and their economic and political centrality.

Sa Gerreria [The Pottery] stands within the Historic Centre of Ciutat de Mallorca. It is a neighbourhood in the making that embraces the area where Es Barri Xino [red-light district] once stood. The making of Sa Gerreria radically differs from other similar processes recently carried out: Its name, its unity, its limits and its social fabric are imprecise; the magnitude of the area and the timescale for reform surpass those of the previous cases; it is the outcome of different overlapping reform planning schemes led by different agencies; and the voices contesting these reforms have been, and are, either simply absent, too low, silent or silenced.

This paper deals with the appealing side of neighbourhood and of its everyday life, as well as with the narratives of public heritage and private patrimony that are involved. It does so by focusing on the political agendas and spatial tactics that shape this space as well as on the use of its collective memory and the politics and economics of place this use masks.

Filming memory

Author: Christos Varvantakis (Goldsmiths )  email
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Long Abstract

[Reflections on two perspectives on filming memory: Two examples

from the recent ethnographic film production of Mediterranean Voices ]

This presentation is concerned with matters that emerge on the attempt to film memory. Through the oral history research procedure, memories and signs of nostalgia usually emerge during the interviews. The researcher or filmmaker that is concerned with the making of a film out of such researches usually confronts the problem of how to represent the subjects' memories. Within this confrontation, one might commit what MacDougall (1994:267) calls the "crime" of representation, naming the personal attempt for translation of memories in images. Such a translation and visual representation contains the danger to impose the filmmakers' vision over the audience. But on the other side, a raw realism, which would, for instance, permit only clips of interviews on a film, runs the danger of losing any necessity for visualization, for such material could perhaps have the same value in textual forms. The wide spectrum that is described by these two extremes is by no means only a space of latent ethnographic dangers or potential "crimes": This is also a space of countless potentials for representation, a space with opportunities for the camera to become active, to see, to feel and to bring to the screen something from the people that the ethnographer and his camera has interviewed/ interacted with.

Under this light, and within the context of Visual Anthropology, I will discuss about two recent films from the ethnographic film production of the project of Mediterranean Voices. The first film, "Fragments from the Past" (2005), presents in a realistic approach, people from London's Turkish speaking communities, talk about their memories of arriving in London and the role of cinema in adjusting to their new life there. Differentiated from this approach is the second film, "Ilhna Beltin" ('Voices of Valletta', 2005 -an approach to the 'hidden', and the less popularised aspects of life in Valletta today, and within living memory), in the sense that the filmmakers attempt some fictional experiments of reconstructing scenes of memory described by the interviewees or visualizing a sense of nostalgia that emerge from the interviews. The possibilities for representation that emerge from these two different approaches of filming memory will be discussed through reflections on these two films, within the context of memory reconstruction.


I'm referring to two documentary films produced for the Mediterranean Voices Project (www.med-voices.org). This Project is funded by the Euromed Heritage II programme.

MacDougall D 1994, Films of Memory, in Visualizing Theory: Selected Essays from V.A.R. 1990-1994, ed. Taylor L; Routledge, USA

Made by Hakan Demiralay and Vedide Kaymak, for the London team of Mediterranean Voices.

Produced by Mark Casha & Rachel Radmilli (University of Malta) and Directed by Edward Said (Ballottra Films).