Universes in Universe / Specials / Identities versus Globalisation?

International Cultural Conference "Identities Versus Globalization?"
(Information by the Heinrich Boell Foundation)

Opening Discussion:
20 January 2005, 17:30 - 21:00 h
Theatre, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures), Berlin

21/22 January 2005, 9:30 _ 18:30/18:00 h
Theatre, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin

Information and Contact:
Andrea Peschel, andrea@boell-brussels.org, Tel +49.30.400 48 482, Fax +49.30.417 23 395

Registration: Send an E-Mail to IvG-Konferenz@boell.de, or a fax to +49-30-28534-109

Conference fee: 15,00 Euro, reduced 8,00 Euro. Please transfer the fee to the Heinrich Boell Foundation’s bank account, acc. No: 30 76 701 at: Bank f. Sozialwirtschaft, bank routing code: 100 205 00, purpose (required): IVG-Konferenz . The conference fee can also be paid upon entry to the conference.


Cultural and Politico-Cultural Dimensions of Globalization

The ubiquitous worldwide presence of the same consumer goods, images and lifestyles is a characteristic feature of cultural globalization. This becomes obvious immediately in the homogenization of popular culture and everyday life, for example, in pop music, fashion and film. Cultural uniformity or adaptation does not develop in the same way everywhere; instead, western/global products are adopted, consumed, interpreted and integrated quite differently, depending on the local context.

Homogenization also means the networking of cultures through the media and digital communication technologies, however. The rapid and worldwide exchange of information prevents isolation, increases the transparency of political processes and makes it possible for people to form transnational interest groups and take action as such. Admittedly, strong asymmetries exist between the "south" and the "north" as well as within individual societies, both in terms of access to these technologies and the flow of information.

At the same time a process of increasing hybridization (or even creolization) can be observed. This term describes the mingling and transformation of different traditions, styles and esthetics, from which new forms develop. Hybridization as such does not represent a new phenomenon; on the contrary, the development of culture is inconceivable without it. What is new, however, is the extent and speed of this mingling.

Protection of Cultural Diversity _ Political Responsibilities

One of the consequences of globalization which calls on the international and national political community to take action is the fact that local customs and ways of life, traditional art forms and even languages of minority groups are in danger of disappearing as a result of the increasing homogenization of culture, because they cannot be adapted to global market laws or become irrelevant due to changes in consumption patterns. Wherever cultural diversity and a diverse media environment _ as prerequisites for a democratic culture _ are threatened, it must be possible for national and regional cultural policy to protect the independent forms of cultural and artistic expression in all their diversity from excessive international economic pressure. In many developing countries, for example, small radio stations are the only medium for political education and the dissemination of local cultural content. Especially in such countries protection against a concentration of media power is extremely important. Cultural policy which protects the culturally distinct and the locally authentic must be limited, however, when it results in isolation or exclusion or is controlled and exploited by authoritarian regimes.

In its Millennium Declaration the United Nations proclaimed the protection of cultural diversity to be one of the basic values of international policy in the 21st century and accorded it the same importance as the protection of biological diversity. In 2003 UNESCO was mandated to negotiate and submit a "Convention on the Protection of Cultural Diversity" by the end of 2005 in order to achieve further progress in setting standards in this area.

Cultural Globalization and Visual Art

Since this conference is taking place in the context of the exhibit "Identities Versus Globalization? Positions of Contemporary Art in Southeast Asia," we are also devoting particular attention to visual art. Artists throughout the world take advantage of the opportunity to adopt new images and symbols, new media and forms of expression and assimilate them into their work. This is reflected strikingly in the exhibition, which is currently on view at the Museum of Ethnology in Berlin-Dahlem. It illustrates the intensive artistic confrontation with various aspects of cultural globalization and considers the opportunities for opening and enrichment as well as the threats and fears that are perceived.
The critical question often posed by artists and arts organizations as to whether art can represent "the" culture of a particular nation or region, and the categorical turning away of artists from various forms of self-ethnicization and ethnicization of the "Other" and their corresponding warning against ethnomarketing support the theory of an increasing interculturality of art and culture.
At the same time there are many reasons for pointing out the risks and threats to the continued existence and further development of the tremendous diversity of traditions and cultures and their forms of artistic expression and to devise diverse strategies for their preservation. This position calls for more than merely a criticism of the ideology of globalism which has degenerated to the esthetic preference of cultural eclectics and their opinions on taste. It claims for itself the right to difference as ultimately again the uniform of the intercultural and the hybrid. The various paths to the coexistence on equal terms of (globalized) modernity and pre- or postmodernity can be found only by means of compromises of approach and distance, that is, not as a result of hierarchical, dominant classification systems, but self-determined. For the perception of art and culture this means continuing to come up against the limits of what can be understood and integrated without "translation."
Is it possible to make precisely this cultural borderland between proximity out of interest and understanding and, on the other hand, distance in acknowledgement of the never fully understandable "Other" a key, productive topic for art and culture? What would that mean for the representation/exhibition and for the perception and linguistic interpretation of European and non-European art?

Goals of the Conference

The conference of the Heinrich Böll Foundation is an important step to intervene in the ongoing process of reflection on the complex and highly contradictory relationship of culture and globalization and to examine it in more depth. This international, interdisciplinary conference is itself part of "cultural globalization." The focus of interest for the Heinrich Böll Foundation is to make clear the ambivalences of cultural globalization which are perceptible to everyone, to promote discussion on the related, seemingly unsolvable conflicts and to seek ways of making contradictions and even paradoxes productive.

The exhibition "Identities Versus Globalization? Positions of Contemporary Art in Southeast Asia" organized by the Southeast Asia Regional Office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, which can be seen until 30 January 2005 at the Museum of Ethnology in Berlin-Dahlem, represents an attempt at communication and understanding within a region in which a great many people with very different religions, political systems and cultures (must) act together in a densely populated area in order to be able to compete in the global competition.

The second day of the conference, which examines the role and function of art, is also connected to the question of where and how art can and must communicate between cultures.

The Heinrich Böll Foundation will invite a number of international experts from academia, politics, culture and visual art to this conference. Together with them we will

- attempt to analyze, in a comparative process, what impact cultural globalization has in the regions of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Arab Middle East and Europe, what is seen as opportunity or risk and what consequences these assessments have in the regions. We are also interested in conveying a differentiated view of the consequences and responses in individual regions to the primarily German conference participants. It is important to us to contrast the opportunities of independence and cultural diversity with the much-invoked "clash of civilizations."

- examine whether and to what extent cultural globalization can lead to democratization. We will present examples from various non-European regions which illustrate how globalization processes can result in more codetermination and participation in decision-making or the development of completely new and independent forms of cultural expression.

- discuss the role of art in times of cultural globalization. In particular we will investigate the issues of change in artistic content and practices, the political significance of visual art and the extent to which it can be read. In addition, we will examine the discrepancy between cross-border art, cultural networking and the sovereign nation state with its basic principle of nationality, which still constitutes the classification system of the world under international law.

- analyze possibilities for political action and existing approaches. On the one hand, we are interested in gaining a more accurate picture of where politics is called for and should take action, but also the question of what the achievements, strengths and weaknesses and dangers of the cultural policy currently under discussion (and already in existence) are at the national and international level.


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