EUROHERIT – Legitimation of European cultural heritage and the dynamics of identity politics in the EU

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Funded by the European Research Council | ERC Starting Grant

1 September 2015 – 31 August 2020 

The trans- and supranational dimensions of heritage have become topical in a new way in Europe with the utilization of the idea of heritage for political purposes in EU policy. Since the turn of the century, the EU has launched or jointly administered several initiatives focusing on fostering the idea of a common European cultural heritage. The heritage initiatives are the EU’s “technologies of power” which seek to legitimate and justify certain political ideas and ideologies, such as European-wide identity politics and cultural integration in Europe. However, the politics, discourses, and practices of heritage—and of trans- and supranational heritage in particular—are often intertwined with contentions over its symbolical and factual ownership, meanings, and uses. The project investigates the EU as a new heritage agent and its heritage politics as an attempt to create a new heritage regime in Europe. By conducting a broad comparative study and applying multi-method inquiry, the project participates in a critical discussion on the current identity and integration politics and policies in the EU and Europe.

Main research questions

  • How does the EU aim to create the idea of a common European cultural heritage in politically shaky and culturally diversified Europe?
  • What kinds of explicit and implicit politics are included in these aims?
  • How is a cultural heritage legitimated as European?
  • What kinds of agencies are intertwined in the legitimation processes at different territorial levels and what kinds of political dynamics and power relations are formed between the agencies in the processes?
  • How are the diverse people living in Europe engaged or enabled to be engaged in the making of a European cultural heritage?

Scientific aims

  • to advance research on cultural heritage by widening the perspectives through an interdisciplinary approach
  • to increase mutual interaction between heritage studies, cultural studies, sociology, political science, cultural policy studies, European Studies, and cultural geography in order to bring new insights to each of the fields 
  • to produce a new conceptualization of the trans- and supranational dimensions of cultural heritage
  • to theorize territorial dynamics, power hierarchies, and legitimacy in the processes of heritagization

Societal objectives

  • to increase the transparency of heritage politics and policies and their strategies, tactics, and legitimacy in Europe
  • to promote understanding of the multivocal, affective, and discursive nature of heritage
  • to provide tools for critical evaluation of the motives, means, and consequences of the processes of heritagization


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