Sites of Exchange: European Crossroads and Faultlines

Sites of Exchange: European Crossroads and Faultlines

Sites of Exchange: European Crossroads and Faultlines

Sites of Exchange: European Crossroads and Faultlines


Crossing borders - both physically and imaginatively - is part of our nomadic' postmodern identity, but transcultural and transnational exchanges have also played a major role in the centuries-long processes of hybridisation that helped to fashion the vast geographic, political and imaginative container of diversity we call Europe. This volume gathers together the work of scholars from several European countries in an attempt to encourage a collective reflection upon historical - and often mythical' - locations and landscapes, as well as upon the thresholds and faultlines that unite or separate them. The issues the volume tackles are delicate and complex, for the encounter of differences engenders both curiosity and suspicion and there is no easy way to create a new synthesis while respecting and promoting diversity.


Maurizio Ascari and Adriana Corrado

1. Places of Exchange and Places of Conflict

In recent years, a number of important studies have been devoted to the relationship which exists between places and cultural memory. Suffice it to remember the monumental collective work edited by Pierre Nora – Les lieux de mémoire (1984-92) – or Aleida Assmann’s seminal Erinnerungsräume. Formen und Wandlungen des kulturellen Gedächtnisses (1999), in which places are seen and analysed as the mediators of cultural memory. the relationship between places and cultural memory is today at the very centre of a lively academic debate that provides scholars with useful methodological guidelines and theoretical frameworks, inviting us to carry out further research in this field.

This volume gathers together many voices from all parts of Europe in an attempt to develop, or at least encourage, a collective reflection upon historical – and often mythical – locations and landscapes. But talking of places of exchange inevitably leads to a series of problems. True as it may be that European cultures, peoples, national identities, nations and nationalist claims have all contributed to the creation of what is known as modernity, it is also true that modernity has borne within it, since its very birth, the seeds of an all pervading Euro-centrism – a fertile breeding ground for colonialism and imperialism.

Moreover, in this era of globalisation, the idea of exchange is decisively bound to the virtual space of technology – a space taken up by the media and the World Wide Web – rather than to that of specific places. As Anthony D. Smith points out, unlike the national cultures of the past, “Today’s emerging global culture is tied to no place or period. It is context-less, a true melange of disparate components drawn from everywhere and nowhere, borne upon the modern chariots of the global telecommunications system.”

The more recent stages of globalisation – a phenomenon supported by technological development, which has permitted ever-increasing cultural and economical exchange on a planetary level – have deeply modified the

Anthony D. Smith, “Towards a Global Culture?”, in Global Culture, Nationalism, Globalization and Modernity, ed. by Mike Featherstone (London, Newbury Park and New Delhi: Sage, 1990), p. 177.

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