European Academy of Participation

Roadmap towards future impact

By Lars Ebert
on behalf of the European Academy of Participation consortium.

This article reflects on 3 years of an Erasmus+ funded Strategic Partnership project on participation in and through the arts, its network dynamics, key outcomes and its embeddedness in a European policy context. It concludes with a brief outline of future activities.

Open here an illustrated PDF version of the EAP-Roadmap

The project

The European Academy of Participation is a community of educational and cultural institutions across Europe and Turkey and a network of practitioners and academics in the area of participatory art practice that have collaborated for many years. Some partners developed joint projects and exchanges under the umbrella of ELIA – The European League of Institutes of the Arts, others were engaged in the EU financed Multilateral project TimeCase – Culture is Memory in Action (2011-2014), and some partners collaborated informally. A core of 10 partners[1] formed the consortium by the name of European Academy of Participation led by Goethe Institute Lyon and Castrum Peregrini Amsterdam, funded by the Erasmus+ programme as a Strategic Partnership from 2015- 2018.

This Roadmap aims to summarise the main findings of the project, contextualizing them in the broader social-, political-, cultural- and educational policy framework of the European Union and creating an overview of the broader EAP network that will exist beyond the EU funded consortium as a co-created self-organising rhizome. All institutions and individuals engaged in this extra-institutional structure exemplify one of the main insights of the past years of collaboration: whilst participation may be the focus of everyone engaged in EAP, participation cannot gain one shape, size, content or rules. Participation does though always require to ask a similar set of questions to scrutinize each unique social setting and the role of the artist that engages in it. The exchange on the challenge of asking these questions and realising projects, learning from each other, empowering institutions and individuals proved to best function in a participatory way. Even if participation may not be easily taught in a traditional way, participatory learning, and creating alternative spaces of learning and critical pedagogies keep the focus of interest and the motivation to engage for everyone involved in EAP.

Participation is a spectrum
The point of departure of our project was formed by a Spectrum of Participation developed by Chrissie Tiller in the previous project TimeCase, see p.22/23. It shows that there is not one single mode of participation but rather a grid that ranges from more audience development work to real participatory practice, where the former often uses the term participation whilst most of the activities remain what is often referred to as spectating or enhanced engagement.  Tiller has marked this difference by starting with active engagement and moving through collaborative making to co-creation; to work that is completely initiated and led by participants: encompassing some of the important questions of why, where and how. There is sometimes an assumption that participatory arts projects inevitably lead to positive social outcomes.  But if traditional hierarchies have largely been maintained throughout the process there is little reason why this should happen. This analytical work is a very valuable reflective tool for cultural analysts, curators and funders but it is also of great practical benefit for practitioners. Through the spectrum they can question their own motivations and address the level of engagement they plan to work with.

Spectrum of Participation
By Chrissie Tiller
Active Engagement Collaborative Making Co-Creation Participants’ initiative
Participants are involved with or contribute to the making of the work through stories, ideas or performances. Artist/s remain in the leading creative role but participants have a direct involvement in the creation of the final piece, working together with artist/s. Power is delegated to the participants as they take growing control of the artistic creation through the creative process. Participants instigate and realise their own creative idea. They are the directors/curators of the piece.  Where professional artist/s involved is their decision.
WHO is involved? Professional artists and non-professional participants. Other partners from social contexts. Professional artists and non-professional participants. Other partners from social contexts. Professional artists and non-professional participants. Other partners from social contexts. Participants.  Other partners from social contexts.
HOW does the work take place? ‘Inventive’ (or devised) ‘interpretive’ (or already existing) – i.e. working on participants’ stories and concerns or on an existing piece.

May be single-authored/ signature piece with participants helping realise artists’ ideas.

‘Inventive’ (or devised) ‘interpretive’ (or already existing) – i.e. working on participants’ stories and concerns or on an existing piece.

Shared authorship. With artist/s still taking final directive/artistic decisions.

More likely to be ‘inventive’ (or devised) piece of work.

Shared authorship – with equal value being given to participants’ input. Shared decision-making.

Most likely to be ‘inventive’ (or devised) piece of work created by the group. Often process driven.  Authorship lies totally with participants.
WHAT happens? Workshops that may focus on collecting material. Performance. Artist/s share skills dependent often on whether participants are engaged in the final performance. Skills workshops. Performance.

Artist/s share skills towards participants making the performance.

Skills workshops. Performance.

Artist’s share skills. Participants share skills.

Skills sharing. Performance.
WHY? Social. Celebration/Fun

Skills Development

Own or others attitudinal or behavioural change

Improved Health and Well-being

Community Development

Economic Impact

Political Activism


Skills Development

Own or others attitudinal or behavioural change

Improved Health and Well-being

Community Development

Economic Impact

Political Activism


Skills Development and exchange

Own or others attitudinal or behavioural change

Improved Health and Well-being

Community Development

Economic Impact

Political Activism


Skills Development and exchange

Own or others attitudinal or behavioural change

Improved Health and Well-being

Community Development

Economic Impact

Political Activism

WHY? Artistic. Participants assist artist/s’ in realising their vision.  Honours participants’ input.  Often a greater focus on professional artist/s intended outcomes. More inclusive artistic practice driven by artist/s. Participants input is central. Strong focus on professional artist/s’ input into creative outcomes. More inclusive artistic practice driven by participants. Equal focus on shared artistic development.  Shared artistic vision. Participants as artists engaged in creative process. Participation is both the process and the product. Shared artistic vision. May employ professional artist/s to help them realise final product
WHERE? Traditional/less traditional spaces Traditional/less traditional spaces Less traditional spaces Less traditional spaces
EXAMPLES Theatre /dance/drawing on stories /lives of a particular group but performed by professionals. Opera where participants are trained supernumeraries. Community choirs mainly performing music selected for them. Choirs drawing on participants’ own musical cultures. Theatre /opera/dance working with themes identified by participants who may also perform. Professionals and non-professionals working together. Theatre /opera/dance in which the issues/concerns of participants are what drives the work.  Professionals and non-professionals working together but non-professionals may have increasing input as skills developed over time. Dance, bands, orchestras, choirs, theatre -performances led by the needs of a particular community to express themselves creatively.

Framework of reference
In the period between October 2015 – February 2016 all partners of the EAP project have collaboratively developed a benchmark statement about Participatory Art Practice following the Tuning Educational Structures in Europe methodology. The document is intended as a reference document that reflects the diversity of the field in Europe, as well as serving as a benchmark for curriculum developers, teachers, employers and academics and practitioners that work towards enhancing educational and practical advancements. It sets an MA (EQF level 7) standard and is published at

The document offers a broadly shared benchmark in the European Higher Education Area for educational providers who wish to extend their existing curricula with a specialisation or additional provision in the area of participatory art. EAP represented both, academic and cultural institutions, as well as cultural practitioners. Creative partnerships between Higher Education and cultural organisations offer significant potential for the students learning experience and the development of professional skills, capabilities and scholarship in the subject area.

To develop the document the partners adopted the Tuning Methodology under the guidance of the Tuning Academy at the University of Deusto in Bilbao, Spain, one of the project partners. The TUNING Educational Structures in Europe started in 2000 as a project to link the political objectives of the Bologna Process, and at a later stage the Lisbon Strategy to the higher educational sector. Over time Tuning has developed into a process, an approach to (re-) design, develop, implement, evaluate and enhance quality (first, second and third cycle) degree programmes. The Tuning outcomes, as well as its tools are presented in a range of Tuning publications, which academic institutions are invited to test and use in their own setting. The Tuning approach has been developed by, and is meant for higher education institutions.

The name chosen for the process ‘Tuning’ aims to reflect the idea that universities who want to create a common higher education space should not look for uniformity in their degree programmes or any kind of unified, prescriptive or definitive curricula, but simply for points of reference, convergence and common understanding.

At present the Higher Education sector is working with two existing European Qualifications Frameworks. A Qualifications Framework is a common reference framework which links countries’ qualifications systems, acting as a translation device to make qualifications more readable and understandable across different countries and systems in Europe. This document has consulted the Sectoral Qualifications Frameworks for the Creative and Performing Disciplines and for the Humanities that bridges the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) for Life Long Learning (LLL) and the Qualifications Framework (QF) for the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) at the level of academic sectors/domains. See (and/or

Based on this background, EAP partners have drafted a Tuning Document compatible or aligned with the existing Frameworks, – as an add on. The document describes existing study offers across Europe, the work field, as well as competencies on MA level structured in knowledge, skills and attitudes.  At its core, it defined the following proposition of the subject matter:

Four intensive short courses
The Tuning document formed the main reference for the intensive, low-residency course modules that EAP piloted in London (July 2017), Bucharest (May 2018), Amsterdam (June 2018) and Marseille (July 2018) with 200 international students (art graduates and mid-career artists) and 30 international teachers.
From the outset of the project the partners discussed the possibility of teaching participation. Some colleagues suggested that a certain maturity is needed for each artist to work in a social contexts, others were convinced that participatory art practice needs to be underpinned by theoretical knowledge, or that ethical questions are at the core of all practices. The experience of the London Pilot course was a tipping point in the perception of all partners: it became clear that participation can maybe not be taught, but that teaching about social engagement in the arts may be best taught in a participatory way. EAP hence planned to realise three additional pilots in 2018 to test a more case study bound model (Bucharest), a co-creation model (Amsterdam) and a more urban experiential model (Marseille). All three of these provided positive experiences for the participants and will be further developed by the partners beyond the life-cycle of the project.

Claire Binyon, Porto reflected in hindsight:

‘I want to highlight the quality of the encounters, the physical act of being there, and the value of the moment of contact, exchange and what this generates for the young artists that we had involved. The relationships forged was one great outcome of the project –  and the value of the residency for expanding the participants vision as to what is possible and happening in the world of social intervention leads to an expansion of their “employability” in their specific fields . This is what actually stays with me and what we didn’t have so much awareness of until after the event. It is also the major factor in an increasingly digital world and could be for me why participatory arts and residencies of this kind are essential in the current climate.’

And the group of the University of the Arts London participating in the Amsterdam course wrote this learning diary[2]:

‘Participants had the opportunity to address ethical and practical issues relating to participation, work with other dedicated artists and cultural practitioners from different European perspectives, and be able share their own knowledge and skills to their peers. The course took place in Castrum Perigrini , ‘the fortress of the pilgrim’, a WWII safe house in the city centre of Amsterdam which is a place of (artistic) research and encounter. It offers a protected environment for artists, thinkers, opinion leader and activists, to work in the context of the organisation and in exchange with its network and audience.

What is ethics of hosting? The parameters of housing, the demands of exchange, problematisation of the role of the host and the guest, in the current socio-political context?

Prior to meeting face-to-face, participants had access to a Moodle site on which they discussed the theme of ‘paradoxal hospitality’ and shared their lectures on ethics, art & politics, relational aesthetics and… international food recipes! Castrum Peregrini was our residency and ‘host’ for the week.

Day one was all about horizontal learning, starting with ice-breaker activities and lectures, in preparation for Open Space Technology for which some participants submitted work ideas which aided the formation of some new dynamic working groups. Throughout the week, participants also had the chance to contribute to different lectures ranging from Arts, Psychology, Sociology and Social Activism in-between reflective sessions. Ideas, motivation and deeper questions about meaning of our work sparked throughout the week, not forgetting that cooking and sitting down for dinner were key moments in the day for reflection, thus becoming a dedication of ours. These shared moments sprouted from everywhere: From techno vjing to Sinop Biennale in Turkey!

The film group worked around participative making based on collaboration and peer-learning.  Participant Caglar recalls: “The group was inspired by artist Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht’s (historical house owner) on her life and own hospitality. The strong presence of history is felt in Castrum Peregrini. We were particularly interested in Gisele’s collection of objects and hiding place during WW2. With Lars’s generous permission, we have taken residency in Gisele’s art studio where we worked for one week to produce participatory film. We have learned to understand each other through creativity and making. As a multicultural group it was interesting to see how each of us interpreted the tragic events of WW2 in the form of art practice, and how each transformed their feelings to film. We also debated on ethical questions surrounding art-making about sensitive historical & current events.

It was a pleasure to organise a screening for everyone at the end. Overall, this alternative space of learning, with no defined hierarchies raised questions about the existing power structures and functions of art practice in the community.”

Pandora participated in the Lecture & Sourdough Group: “I’ve had a fantastic experience in EAP, ever since EAP provided me with an open space allowing me to develop my ideas with professional participants.

Through seeing other group’s presentations, I began to visualise the different working models between Artist’s and Curator’s. I found that some curators consider the audiences opinions far greater than that of the artist, and focus on the art market. This made me wonder who has the discourse to interpret artworks? These workshops encouraged me to recognise how important communication is for collaboration.”

Tongyao’s group explored different curational and educational models: “The openness and flexibility of this peer learning structure asked us, the participants, to throw out our own interests and formulate groups based on that, which is very different from the brief-orientated learning structure I am used to on my course.

This structure very much challenged individual proactivity throughout the whole process. By meeting community artists, curators and people from a wide variety of backgrounds inspired the vibrant conversation and discussion within the groups, sharing a similar interest of participatory art practice. This experience has helped to develop my understanding of participation, understanding the structure, innovation and relationship between the artist/host and its participants.”

As seen in these different participatory experiences, each group participated and took residency in a unique way, showing the variety of ways to produce and learn through the logic of hospitality and collaboration. Some explored the field research, some shared the importance of theory through lectures and some collaborated through art making or engaging in critical and reflective sessions. The last day was dedicated to presenting our final pieces followed by a celebration of this educational experience. The participants felt very much at home under the hospitality of Castrum Peregrini, and we truly hope these collaborations will continue in the future.’

International Conferences
During three international conferences (Dublin October, 2016; Amsterdam, October 2017; Marseille, July 2018) the project engaged with an expert audience of 300 delegates from participatory art practice, education and art theory to discuss the project’s ambition, progress and embeddedness in the international discourse.

For one of the conferences we took the title from Nato Thompson’s book Living As Form (2012). He asks whether it is time at the beginning of the 21st century to return Duchamps urinal from the museum to the real world. But the question arises whether it would be accepted by the ‘real world’ today, where one is suspicious towards arts and the artists in their supposed elite bubble. Art keeps engaging with life, trying to find new forms of expression and impact. What is the artistic form of live today, or should we rather talk about art as resistance? And how does education prepare the artists of the future for their role in these new realities?

European Academy of Participation has critically discussed the embeddedness of participatory practice in an international framework that has rapidly changed in the past few years. Before, participatory art was largely perceived through the historical lens of what happened since the fall of the Berlin wall. The ‘end of history’-feeling led to the long prevailing paradigm of neoliberalism, our current political order of free trade and open markets. In this paradigm the private sector takes the lead and the role of the public and that of the state supporting the public is pushed to the side. Simultaneously, alongside the positive effects of participation in and through art and culture, the term participation has been appropriated by the neoliberal policies to stress the fact that individuals need to take their own responsibility versus a withdrawing welfare state. Political support focused on the economy and the financial market, not the citizen. In turn, and quite ironically, citizens and artists were expected to compensate for austerity politics, being maneuvered into roles that would ‘art wash’ a misery that should have actually been solved by other professionals: care takers, city planners, social workers etc.

Meanwhile the world has changed. One could believe that in countries like the USA, Britain, Poland, Turkey, the Netherlands and Hungary, the revolutionary potential of people and their representatives, long considered to be the domain of the left, is now with populist and nationalist movements that battle principles of enlightenment such as human rights, equality and solidarity. In the fake and fact less news their representatives produce, expertise, high end culture and, consequently, artists are framed as the enemies of the ‘people’. Nevertheless, the basic question stays the same: how can artists engage with communities in a mutual beneficial way, towards progress and more culturally and economically inclusive societies?

EAP in a changing EU policy landscape
Throughout the project EAP has observed European-wide developments with genuine interest. It was obvious, that the learning process of project partners and the outcomes they produced will only create impact on transnational level if genuinely embedded in the broader context of European policy. In this effort the consortium has benefitted from the invaluable work of Culture Action Europe, to which its partners maintain close ties.

EAP was conceived in a pre-Brexit world. Since the referendum much has changed, – the feeling of European fragmentation has prevailed and in the midst of tumultuous negotiations it becomes evident that the EU will not be the same in the future. On a financial level the EU faces a tough challenge to draw up a budget with less contributions and equal, if not more spending. Without the UK the EU will face an approximate €12 billion annual budget gap with new priorities in the areas of defense, migration and border control requiring more funding​. Cuts across all EU programmes Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020. But culture brings added value to the EU and may be – with education and research – a crucial instrument against fragmentation and therefore urgently needs additional European funding. ​

Culture and the arts permeate all fields of our society and therefore affect a broad policy spectrum. Many studies published in the past few years show the positive impact of culture on health and well-being, social cohesion and equality, education, promotion of democratic principles, external relations, alongside with growth and jobs, research and innovation.

They all point out that culture must be at the heart of policy. Culture Action Europe’s publication “The Value and Values of Culture” summarises measurements of how culture contributes to different policy fields. Spending 1% on culture in every budget line will provide a sustainable quality of life both, in our cities and in our countryside and will serve to creating a more integrated society.

Creative Europe, the EU funding programme dedicated to culture, represents 0.14% of the EU total budget (2014-2020), out of which only one third (31%) goes to culture. The programme has a high threshold that is proven by low and decreasing application success rates, due to its significant popularity and insufficient finances. A great number of high quality projects are without the urgently needed support. Above all, limited resources are re-allocated towards a new and ever wider range of initiatives. The relevance and efficacy of the programme suggests the need for increasing its budget.

On 30 May 2018, the European Commission presented their proposal for the Creative Europe programme 2021-2027. It offers a more balanced approach across social, economic, artistic and cultural priorities. The new programme suggests increased opportunities for cross-border cooperation and cross-border projects. Simplification and greater flexibility will hopefully ensure easier access to the programme for small organisations amongst which many that focus on participatory, socially engaged art. New features are, amongst others, a focus on mobility for artists and cultural and creative operators, and a broader approach to the digital shift in the cultural and creative sectors.

The future Creative Europe programme also focusses on specific sectors, notably heritage, architecture, music, literature, design fashion and cultural tourism and recognises the importance of safeguarding artistic freedom in the current EU political context. Hybridisation of practices, convergence and increasing cross-sectoral cooperation, demand sufficient financial resources to ensure equal support across all sectors.

Regretfully, no tangible steps have been taken towards a focus on participatory art practice, socially engaged art, community art and the support of artists in all stages of their education and career to be impactful agents of change, empowered to face the ethical dilemmas that come with this work and sufficient funding to engage in long-term projects.

EAP partners also feel a strong need for the development of new indicators of successful project implementation that are less based on quantitative measurements but rather on qualitative, long term impact and social change.

Furthermore EAP partners would like to encourage ERASMUS+ to include better guidance on how to bridge the gap between non-formal and informal learning in the cultural sector and education (lifelong learning). Only if we manage to break through the existing silos we will be able to live up to the challenges of a society in which borders between sectors and disciplines are vanishing.

EAP contributes to building synergies between sectors
Culture must be intrinsically linked to learning, teaching, research, critical thinking, creativity and problem solving. Hence it is of utmost importance that the various EU programmes Horizon2020/FP9 (research), Erasmus+ (education), Creative Europe (culture) and Citizens for Europe (civil society) combine their forces and recognize that the silos they represent will soon no longer be representative of the work realities of the sectors for which they were originally designed. Culture and education are the responsibility of the same directorate-general of the European Commission and on a national level sometimes of the same ministry. Unfortunately, this often remains of symbolic nature and the potential to develop synergies between education and culture are not used due to internal divides. Creative skills and industries make a huge contribution to the economy and – more related to the EAP endeavors – from a social perspective learning about and through participation in culture represents tangible benefits for more inclusive societies. Vice versa education plays an important role for cultural literacy, enabling humans to participate in culture from an early age. ‘From cradle to grave’ is a slogan often cited when talking about Lifelong Learning. Contemplating about the mutual contributions of education and culture to each other’s domains the image of ‘life wide’ learning comes to mind: learning takes place in all domains of life, be it in formal educational settings, in informal or non-formal settings, in your family life, in cultural organisations, social organisations etc. The role that artists can play as catalysts for learning and change, is at the heart of EAP and should be at the centre of reflections on the intrinsic link between education and culture.

Civil society already recognises the need for a deeper, more wide-reaching integration of education and culture from a policy perspective. In 2013 the Lifelong Learning Platform, Culture Action Europe and Access to Culture released joint recommendations in their paper “Building synergies between education and culture”. Those remain valid today and EAP partners urge for their implementation. Nevertheless, in light of the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage and recent policy developments, including the European Commission’s 2017 Communication “Strengthening European Identity through Education and Culture”, EAP partners feel that some key findings of the project can contribute to the further development of an integral approach to culture and education. Also the new dynamics as set out by Councils communication ‘Towards a European Education Area by 2025’ from November 2017 and the revision of the core competences of lifelong learning that were revised in 2018 are important cornerstones for the sectors to act together in the next years.

The negative developments of a fragmenting Europe with Brexit as a symbol, but also strong anti-democratic and fascist elements gaining democratic support in many EU countries, form the fundaments of the idea that identification with a supra-national, cultural inclusive approach may not be achieved by a monetary and economic union only but mainly also by a cultural policy that is trans-national, inclusive and accessible for all. The strong political support shown by all European institutions in recognizing this new reality is acknowledged by EAP partners and connected to the hope that it will enable courageous change as outlined above.

Anticipating new developments
EAP partners and the wider network of EAP, including their alumni initiative and a group of associated partners maintain the experiences and exchange established during the project. The EAP network is keen to further develop, integrate and formalize the educational modules, across national borders (north-south, east-west Europe), discipline borders (visual, performing, urban) and across sectors. It therefore follows with great interest the discussion around ‘European Universities’ initiated by EU leaders at their 2017 Gothenburg Summit, where they outlined a vision for increasing policy attention in Europe to education and culture. The Member States, the Council and the Commission agreed a.o. on the aim of  ‘…strengthening strategic partnerships across the EU between higher education institutions and encouraging the emergence by 2024 of some twenty ‘European Universities’, consisting in bottom-up networks of universities across the EU which will enable students to obtain a degree by combining studies in several EU countries and contribute to the international competitiveness of European universities’. EAP shares the aim behind this initiative, to bring together a new generation of creative Europeans, who are able to cooperate in different languages, across borders and disciplines, to address the big societal challenges and skills shortages Europe faces. EAP partners await with great eagerness further clarification of the possibilities that this new initiative will offer and are ready to bring in their expertise in this process or similar forwardlooking new programmes and funding calls.

The EAP network
A network of artists, academics and mediators
More than 400 individuals have participated in the various activities of EAP. Many of them have stayed in touch, have realised joint artistic projects, or have followed invitations for guest lectures and academic exchanges. On the initiative of a participant from the early stages of the project a closed Facebook group organises the alumni of EAP and now plans for yearly life-gatherings, supported by partner University of the Arts London.

A network of committed institutions
Partners have invited local and international organisations to contribute their projects, experiences and network to the Multiplier events and the Courses. Many of these have stayed engaged in the project as associated partners and expressed interest to be involved in follow-up activities, notably School of Music and Performing Arts Porto (ESMAE), PELE Porto, Burg Giebichenstein Halle, Friche La Belle de Mai Marseille, DAS Amsterdam, Mimar Sinan Istanbul and University of Utrecht.


Follow-up timeline

After the EU funding has ended the lead partners GI and CP together with the University Aix-Marseille will bundle main findings and boarder reflections on participation in a print publication at Synchron Publishers for which we encourage paper contributions to be sent to the editors Joachim Umlauf and Lars Ebert by the 1 December 2018 at the latest. The proposals should summarize the envisaged contribution in one A4 page max and be accompanied with a letter of motivation.

Sustaining the network
A core group of partner envisages a yearly meeting of EAP alumni. Alumni are brought together in a database that comprises all participants of multiplier events and intensive courses, approx. 400 individuals. It is open for newcomers proposed by existing network members. The first meeting is planned in October 2019 in London at partner University of the Arts London.

A core group of partners and facilitators will meet during a workshop as part of the 2019 Sinopale to discuss possibilities for further implementation of intensive low-residency courses provided by academia and the field. Approximately 15 participants. Open for representatives of interested organisations.

Academic implementation of low-residencies: ESMAE, UAL and UNARTE Bucharest are currently investigating possibilities of integrating the low-residency courses in their curricula of offer for short courses. Please follow the EAP website for further updates.

Participatory heritage making: Goethe Institut and Castrum Peregrini have secured a Creative Europe grant to implement the project Heritage Contact Zones in the framework of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 in which methods to access and co-create future European Heritage in a participatory way is developed and implemented.

Are you a practitioner in participatory or socially engaged art? Do you represent an art organisation or an art school that wants to engage in future EAP activities? Join the EAP network and meet peers across borders. Visit and get in touch!

[1] Goethe-Institut, Munich, Germany; Castrum Peregrini, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; ACERT, Tondela, Portugal; Avrupa Kultur Dernegi, Istanbul, Turkey; National University of the Arts Bucharest, Romania; Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London, UK; University of Marseille, France; Universidad de la Iglesia de Deusto, Bilbao, Spain; ELIA The European League of Institutes of the Arts, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Create, Dublin, Ireland.


Questioning Traumatic Heritage: Spaces of Memory in Europe, Argentina, Colombia (SPEME)

click here to check out our May 2023 SPEME Programme

Please also see the SPEME project website

SPEME realises activities and publications that are built on exchanges between academic researchers – working on memory, trauma and heritage – and non-academic professionals – working in the fields of memory museums and sites of memory – between Italy, The Netherlands, Argentina and Colombia.

The fundamental aim of the project is to devise new forms of transmission of traumatic memories linking them to the present, on the assumption that memory, to be effective, has to invent creative ways of becoming relevant to the present. In order to do so, the project takes as its specific object of investigation a various array of spaces of memory, such as museums, former detention camps and sites of commemoration, to investigate how various traumatic pasts can be preserved and transmitted through space, and which kind of innovative actions might both improve knowledge of the past and serve as an opening to actual issues and new social subjects.

The international and intersectoral network developed by the project will make possible transfers of knowledge, both between difficult past heritages in different historical and geographical contexts (Europe and Latin America) and between academic researchers and museum curators. The different and complementary competences of these institutions will promote something more than a simple knowledge transfer but will fuel powerful knowledge exchanges at the theoretical, methodological and practical levels, which has few or no precedents in the field of memory and museum studies.

Through a rich combination of staff meetings, theoretical seminars, training workshops, fieldworks and conferences, this project will increase competences and skills of both academic and non academic partners, as well as facilitate the development of innovative and creative actions involving new social actors (civil society, new generations, minority groups, refugees, and others) and addressing actual questions, from Human Rights to post-conflict reconciliation.

Project Partners

  • MUSEO DE SITIO ESMA – Ex Centro Clandestino de Detención, Tortura y Exterminio Argentina
  • STICHTING HERENGRACHT 401 (H401) The Netherlands

The 2022 issue of the HCM – Heritage, Memory and Conflict Journal (Amsterdam University Press) containing several articles written by the SPEME partners is now available.

Click here to read the complete issue: Spaces of Memory: Heritage, Trauma, and Art.

Additionally, in July 2023 our partner ESMA reflect with Libera and Gruppo Abele on the history of the ESMA and its meaning for today’s Argentinian society. You can read the article here.

We also warmly recommend reading J.J.Cahen’s Holocaust Memory – Memorials and the Visual Arts in the Netherlands to have a better grasp of the evolution of the Dutch public memory through the lenses of an artist.

You can find this article on European Judaism • Volume 56, No. 1, Spring 2023: 102–118.


Heritage Contact Zone

Heritage Contact Zone (HCZ) works with contested heritage. The consortium of organizations from Germany, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium and Romania  present a sample of the neglected or contested heritages that the project focuses on.

Point of departure is the notion that European history is as much a history of shared cultural accomplishment as it is a history of violence, – violence of wars, colonisation, totalitarian and imperial regimes, religious violence, economic violence leading to social injustice, racial violence and generally the suppression of ‘others’. Only by recognition of all aspects of history also that of conflict and dissent, and by actively engaging with those citizens that still suffer exclusion because of this history being marginalised in mainstream heritage representation, Europe will be able to transgress its impasse and move forward towards more unity. Cultural mediators and artists play a key role in this project to open up current heritage structures as ‚contact zones‘ towards more inclusive narratives.

In the two years of the project (September 2018 – August 2020) HCZ has realised 5 local exhibitions, co-curated with citizens, building bottom-up heritage representation and ‘new’ approaches and narratives for the organisations involved. It then looked at other examples of innovative and inclusive heritage representation, using heritage as a space for dialogue and constructive conflict and publish them in a comparative overview. In a series of workshops across Europe divers methodologies have been tested. Outcomes are bundled in the Heritage Contact Zone Toolkit.

Please visit the project website for more information about the project, the toolkit and events:


EuropeS. The Green Guide to the Perplexed

As an outcome of the first edition of the Castrum Peregrini Dialogue, a joint initiative of the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) and Castrum Peregrini, we are working on a publication that will take the form of a travel magazine. During the European Cultural Challenge – a two-day advocacy retreat to work on positive change through culture, organised by ECF, taking place in Amsterdam on 15 and 16 May – key contributors of the magazine, 2018 ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture laureate Krzysztof Czyzewski and guest experts, critically discussed contributions for the Green Guide to the Perplexed, and literally – though in its widest sense – map “Europes” (mental) territories – with its borders, fault lines and promising lands.

Here are some impressions of our meetings:

Adeola Enigbokan, editor of the Green Guide, summarizing a days discussions.

Charl Landvreugd and Wendelien van Oldenborgh in conversation about their contribution to the Green Guide

Quinsy Gario working on a ballad of the perplexed.

Gloria Wekker and Diana Pinto in conversation about a life journey in style.

This work also has a second object in view: It seeks to explain certain obscure figures which occur in the Prophets, and are not distinctly characterized as being figures. Ignorant and superficial readers take them in a literal, not in a figurative sense. Even well informed persons are bewildered if they understand these passages in their literal signification, but they are entirely relieved of their perplexity when we explain the figure, or merely suggest that the terms are figurative. For this reason I have called this book Guide for the Perplexed 

Maimonides, ‘The Guide for the Perplexed’ circa 1190

‘The Negro Motorist Green Book’ was published between 1936 and 1966 to guide African-American car owner who, despite the harsh realities of segregation and racism, decided to travel in the United States of America during the era of Jim Crow laws. The Green Book pointed them to safe places to eat, sleep and refuel, an information that could save them endless trouble and, perhaps, their lives.

Taking inspiration in those 12th and 20th Century references, ‘Europes. The Green Guide to the Perplexed’ will be a one-off magazine, published by Castrum Peregrini and the European Cultural Foundation, designed to share with a broader audience the stimulating intellectual journey that we experienced together in our meetings in 2017.

Perplexity about the state of Europe is what brought us together last year, and we did not get rid of it; rather, we embraced it in our journey together, and we want it to be central to our Magazine. We are imagining this coming publication as a travel magazine which, as this kind of publications does, fulfills the double role of a guidebook –with tips pointing the readers towards interesting features of the shifting European mindscapes, highlights, safe roads, shelters and more – and of an appealing teaser that entices the reader to actually set off on a journey of discovery. The result is meant to be aesthetically appealing and intellectually stimulating in equal measure.

The summer of EAP

In the forthcoming months, Castrum Peregrini will be involved in the organization and production of three different courses in Amsterdam, Bucharest and Marseille. These seminars are part of an ongoing project regarding diverse open educational programs which revolve around creative participatory practices. This is an initiative built by the European Academy of Participation (EAP) – an organization conformed by Castrum Peregrini and 9 other partners from different parts of Europe.


The course in Bucharest will be held in the National University of Arts Bucharest and in ARCUB – The Centre for Culture of the Bucharest Town Hall from the 11th to the 25th of May. Through a series of reflective site visits, the course will address topics such as heritage, participation and the construction of identity. Sociologists, architects, artists, art historians and political activists will be invited to share their practices and reflections on the democratization of heritage, the openness of institutions and their role in process of identity construction.


The Amsterdam course will take place from the 2nd to the 10th of June at Castrum Peregrini. On this occasion, the course will focus on peer-learning and horizontal knowledge exchange, providing a safe environment where the distinctions between teacher and students are erased. Castrum Peregrini will work as a pressure cooker where the participants from different disciplines will live, exchange, debate, cook and share ideas for a week.


Finally, the course in Marseille will be from the 2nd  to the 13th of July 2018, organized in collaboration with the University of Aix-Marseille. This course will focus on the fields of fine art, theatre and literature and especially on social engaged art framed within the logic of cultural mediation, administration and public space discourse. As a port city, Marseille is culturally rich and with a problematic history regarding immigration and colonialism. It is in this environment that the participants will have the opportunity to visit, explore and reflect using participatory methods.  


Living As Form EAP conference, Amsterdam 26-27 October 2017, photo by Maarten Nauw 


If you want any further information regarding the courses, the EAP or Castrum Peregrini, contact

Critical Pedagogies at Castrum Peregrini

By Jemima Wilson

On Friday 9th March, our Artist in Residence and senior research lecturer, Renée Turner, hosted 2018’s edition of Critical Pedagogies at Castrum Peregrini for students enrolled in the two-year Master Education in Arts programme at Piet Zwart Institute, an interdisciplinary research programme merging theory and practice. As a current intern at Castrum Peregrini as part of my MA in Arts and Society at Utrecht University, I was lucky to be able to listen in to the day of talks and discussions held in in Gisèle’s studio. With a breadth of teaching experience within (and outside) the mainstream education system and a diverse span of ages and backgrounds, the small group of students brought sharp observations and a supportive atmosphere of creative, critical enquiry. With a morning introduction to The House of Gisèle and Castrum Peregrini’s complex heritage, the afternoon began with Andries Hiskes from Leiden University sharing his PhD research into disability and its affective affordances. Renée’s own ongoing artistic research project based at Castrum Peregrini, The Warp and Weft of Memory, was explored later in the afternoon. Renée was joined by senior lecturer and interdisciplinary research advisor, Professor Frans-Willem Korsten, to moderate the day.

Firstly, Frans welcomed the small group of students with a tour of the two historic apartments within Castrum Peregrini’s building, contextualising the history of the organisation and the setting for a day of critical enquiry. Alongside the story of Gisèle’s eclectic upbringing, Frans explained the intense wartime period where Jewish students hid in Gisèle’s apartment along with their teacher, poet Wolfgang Frommel, and the later establishment of a creative community in 1952. The group were also introduced to Castrum Peregrini’s contemporary artistic programme, including Dutch artist Amie Dicke’s poetic emergency blanket installation, After Goldschmidt (2012). Thinking through other mediums or approaches to contemporary artistic research, sound was raised as an important sensory aspect of hiding, along with the vast collections of books, both of which have inspired work by previous artists in residence.

Prompted by Renée, who is unfolding stories from Gisèle’s wardrobe and letters, Frans told the story of the German’s second raid on the apartment, when an officer decided to make no arrests despite making it clear that the papers provided for the hiders were insufficient. Was he having a good day? Was he pleased to meet a German-speaking household? Did he take a liking to someone? The impact of personal decisions and challenges to the status quo flowed on, in a day that played with ideas around the personal and the societal.

In Gisèle’s ‘Salon’, the top floor apartment she moved to after the war, students keenly observed Gisèle’s own painting in the midst of her collections of natural objects and artefacts. The five-panelled painting, Moira, sparked conversations over organisational links and cultural responsibilities with the painting now owned by Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam with the stipulation that it remains in the house. The students were mesmerised by Gisèle’s multi-panelled painting, Cycladic Ritual, mechanised to enable thirty two different compositions with undulating forms giving way to goddesses and back again, with requests for one last turn! Renée makes the point; Giselle was ¨digital before digital!¨ Indeed, Gisèle herself believed it to the first ‘mobile painting’ of its kind. Semantics, rhythms and connections tumble on throughout the day. With no snow or ice to keep us inside, we venture out onto the roof terrace: here we could see across Amsterdam’s historic rooftops and facades, but we ourselves remained hidden.

Descending to Gisèle’s studio, a glowing, book-filled, gallery-like space, the students settled in a horseshoe formation to begin the more structured element of teaching. Since last yearś Critical Pedagogies day, the context had changed with the recent articles in Vrij Nederland exposing the abuses of power within the building before the death of Wolfgang Frommel in 1986. Discussions turned to the Ancient Greek concept of ‘pedagogical eros’, where love connected students and teachers with both sexual and platonic relationships. They discussed the difference between ethics and morality, and how to address such histories from an ethical perspective. Within a small, intergenerational academic setting, the conversation broached ‘vulnerable topics’ that are often shut down in society; everyone agreed that safe spaces are needed to discuss and challenge societyś constraints. As professor Frans-Willem Korsten reminded us, after all, people are ‘just bodies’, and therefore bring with them embodied complexities.

Bodies then, and those considered disabled or deformed, were the focus of Andries Hiskes presentation of his PHD research. Utilising media, art and literature as resources, Andreis asked his audience to analyse and question  their own responses ‘deviant bodies’ presented in examples including photos used on inclusion flyers (school children in wheelchairs smiling instead of working) , Michelangeloś David (propped up by a tree stump) and Tiny Tim in Dickenś Christmas Carol; ‘God Bless us, Every one’ (every one, but not a homogenous whole). Can we treat students and pupils fairly? Is it possible? And, what, asks Renée, does education lose from its inherent standardisation?

A group of educators in 2018, embarking on two years of critical research, are indeed likely to have thought about inclusion in the classroom, lecture hall or workshop, but Andreis provoked a thorough rethink. ‘What does inclusion mean?’ Andreis asked. An embrace. Those excluded. A whole. A rabbit hole of problems opened up: if, for instance, there is a functioning whole, there is no one outside to make the embrace. We were pointed to the etymology of these terms that proliferate education, the arts and society; in fact, inclusion has roots in ‘confinement’ whilst diversity stems from ‘difference’, ‘contradiction’, ‘disagreement’ and even ‘wicked’ and ‘perverse’. Andreis invited us to read, or to ‘materialise the complexity’ of disability via art and literature, and through this active engagement with our emotional response, allow ourselves to question society’s language, protocols and behaviour. As students observed, the same practice could be applied to colonialism, and my thoughts returned to how we can broach the relevant issue of historic abuse. Nothing is black and white, Andreis states, just as Frans-Willem had earlier suggested that Castrum Peregrini’s heritage should not be reduced to a simple dichotomy of light and dark.

In the afternoon, students got to learn about their tutor’s own artistic research project, The Warp and Weft of Memory. Reading aloud from The Female Perspective, Castrum Peregrini’s publication for the 2017/2018 programme, Renée takes us on a journey into Gisèle’s closet, shows us the private Wiki which serves as a digital sketchbook and conceptual archive as well as unbuttoning a timeless cape that occupies a mannequin in the studio space alongside a red Dick Holthaus dress. Renée is open about her process, including her search for the right voice (in first person? Via letters? Renée as actor? A stranger?) and the recent idea of filming items of clothing, such as heavy skirts spread out, to express the sensory aspects, sound and movement, via digital (flat) means. Renée’s two year process will end in the summer, and so we all, myself included, are reassured that ideas, and experimentation take time.

Renée explains that she is used to writing for online rather than print mediums, and so she heavily edited her words for the printed magazine style publication. Here, unlike the Wiki and its tagging system or semantics developed by Renée and her collaborators, the placing of the images is static. The printed page cannot not express Gisèle’s fluid use of scarves, hats and costumes in her experimentation of performing, posing and painting with herself muse. A large, ornate mirror still occupies the studio space, hung on hinges like a door, and numerous photographs show Gisèle reflected in its glass. Renée references To the Lighthouse and the poetic vestiges of people and actions (like buttoning and unbuttoning) that it signifies. The flatness of the mirror and the digitally scanned black and white archive photographs of Gisèle reflected in that mirror, are again flattened behind glass on Renée’s laptop screen.

 ‘Are you like me, am I like you?’ Renée asks in her writing, and we discuss whether Gisèle preempted that her personal archive, including her closet, would be researched by an artist. Or was her need to classify, to make inventories, the habit of a girl who grew up with servants with a sense of entitlement? A student asks where will Renée’s research go next, and she tells us about moving onto two other archives, with textile objects opening entirely different narratives. The day ended with wine back on the ground floor, connections whirring and questions firing.

Call for participation – EAP summer schools

Castrum Peregrini is excited to offer 15 fully financed places in 3 intensive course modules on participatory art in Bucharest (11-26 May), Amsterdam (2-10 June) and Marseille (2-12 July).

Participants will have the opportunity to address ethical and practical issues relating to participation, work with other dedicated artists and cultural practitioners from different European perspectives, and be able share their own knowledge and skills to their peers.

When creating the program for each course, the local culture and environment was taken into consideration. Participants will experience the city’s cultural landscapes, visit inspiring and challenging projects and meet guest artists that share their experience in situ.

The courses will be multidisciplinary and have each been designed so that participants will:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the historical and contextual perspective and current debates around participatory artistic practice, including ethics.
  • Become aware of, and be able to draw on appropriate strategies and methodologies to work with diverse and collaborative approaches and co-creation.
  • Enhance their own participatory arts and/or curatorial practices ranging from generating the original ideas in partnership with others, to initiating and facilitating appropriate activists, to relenting critically on their own process.

Applicants must either be enrolled at a Master’s level or higher or have advanced artistic or cultural management experience.

If you are interested please send a letter of motivation to
Please note that the deadline is 15 February, 12:00!

The Warp and Weft of Memory

The Warp and Weft of Memory

The Warp and Weft of Memory is a research project by artist Renée Turner. She has been funded by the Mondriaan Fund to work at Castrum Peregrini from September 2016 to September 2018.  The work explores the wardrobe of Gisèle d’Ailly van Waterschoot van der Gracht, and the ways in which it reflects her life, work, and histories through textiles and clothing. The aim is to weave connections to the present from a personal perspective. As a whole the project will have different contributions and public manifestations through public lectures, an exhibition and an online narrative combining artefacts, written reflections and images from Gisèle’s own archive of photographs.

Update One Year On: Inside Gisèle’s Closet

Renée Turner

Illustration of Gisèle’s attic apartment closet by Cesare Davolio

Illustration of Gisèle’s attic apartment closet by Cesare Davolio

Her closet is full. Next to garments on hangers, there are also shelves stacked with various accessories and boxes. Summer shoes, wool hats, leather gloves, woven bags and exotic slippers – each box has its own label penned with a black magic marker. More labels float within the boxes; these are subcategories.

The smell of Gisèle’s closet is a combination of dust, dry rot, perfume and naphthalene. The heating pipes run through the closet, making it unbearably warm and the aromas combined with the heat, become a scent diffuser. I try to smell her, but can’t. We can only smell people we’ve known. Or that’s how we recognize that we smell them. Her scent might still be there, but I never knew Gisèle, and cannot recognize it. To be in someone else’s closet is an odd experience. It is intimate, and sometimes uncomfortably so. These objects were the nearest to her body, and many garments still retain her shape. Clothing animates our bodies, and we in turn animate our clothes. Virginia Woolf writes about this in her novel, To the Lighthouse: “What people had shed and left — a pair of shoes, a shooting cap, some faded skirts and coats in wardrobes — those alone kept the human shape and in the emptiness indicated how once they were filled and animated; how once hands were busy with hooks and buttons; how once the looking-glass had held a face; had held a world hollowed out in which a figure turned…” (1) Working on a project like this, I realize projection is inevitable; the gaps are filled with my own reflection.

Left: Gisèle’s mirror 2017, Right: Gisèle’s mirror date unknown

Left: Gisèle’s mirror 2017, Right: Gisèle’s mirror date unknown

I have spent the past year photographing the contents of Gisèle’s closet and scanning relevant images from her photographic archive. Some items are of significance, like her dresses designed by Dick Holthaus, a well-known Dutch designer, and others are more banal, like a box of gloves or a drawer of pantyhose. What should be done with those things with little status?

Some of Gisèle’s clothes are not represented in her archive of photographs. For example, there are no images of her in the Holthaus dresses. Maybe she didn’t like the formal occasions during which she wore them. But other clothes are in images, especially those the most closely related to her work. For example her vividly coloured harlequin costume was used as a source for her paintings. She was her own muse.

An image taken from Gisèle’s archive, one of several photographs of her modelling for one of her paintings. Painting: 'Plumed ladies' (1964)

An image taken from Gisèle’s archive, one of several photographs of her modelling for one of her paintings. Painting: ‘Plumed ladies’ (1964)

Gisèle’s harlequin costume as found in her closet. Made of polyester, the colour remains unfaded.

Gisèle’s harlequin costume as found in her closet. Made of polyester, the colour remains unfaded.

As the clothes are documented, images are scanned, and eventually uploaded and tagged within the digital archive, I think about what makes an object worthy of remembrance. By what merit is something christened heritage or not? With that judgement, the present casts its dice towards an imagined future, waging a bet on stakes unknown. What constitutes value in the now might not be necessarily significant for the future and vice versa. It is a posture akin to Marshall McLuhan’s adage in The Medium is the Massage: “The past went that-a-way. When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavour of the most recent past. We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.” In imagining the future and what it will value, we sometimes fall short of the mark. While McLuhan was speaking about technology, his sentiments are equally prescient when thinking about how we stockpile the present for tomorrow’s history.

Credits and Thanks:

The Mondriaan Fund

Castrum Peregrini: Michael Defuster, Frans Damman & Lars Ebert

Kate Pullinger: contributor

Frans-Willem Korsten: contributor

Andre Castro: mediawiki and server space

Ana Isabel Carvalho and Ricardo Lafuente: frontend design

Cristina Cochior: scans, photography and mediawiki

Cesare Davolio: illustrations

Riek Sijbring: advice on textiles and clothing


All images are the sole copyright of the Castrum Peregrini Foundation and were selected and scanned as a part of The Warp and Weft of Memory, a project by artist Renée Turner. The project was made possible through the generous support of the Mondriaan Fund.



In spring 2016 we announced The Warp and Weft of Memory as upcoming research project by Renée Turner as follows:


“Every poet of furniture — even if he be a poet in a garret, and therefore has no furniture — knows that the inner space of an old wardrobe is deep.” 

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 1958

warp and weft

The Warp and Weft of Memory is a research project by artist and writer Renée Turner, which will result in an online narrative exploring the contents of Gisèle d’Ailly van Waterschoot van der Gracht’s wardrobe, and the ways in which it reflects her life, work, and larger histories through textiles and clothing.

The project, combining fact and fiction, has been generously supported by the Creative Industries Fund NL, and is a collaboration with Kate Pullinger (award winning author of novels and digital fiction), Andre Castro (with an expertise in wikis, Open Source software and hybrid publishing), Ana Isabel Carvalho and Ricardo Lafuente (a free/libre graphic design duo working under the name Manufactura Independente), and Cesare Davolio (an illustrator working on educational projects and socially oriented campaigns).

At the end of the research period, the online multi-nodal narrative will be launched along with an exhibition and series of related lectures, presentations and discussions.



Call for the immediate release of Osman Kavala

We, the friends and supporters of Castrum Peregrini, are deeply concerned by the recent arrest of Osman Kavala. Kavala was detained on 18 October Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport upon returning from the southeastern city of Gaziantep. He has been held in detention ever since. No charges have so far been laid against him.

Osman Kavala is not just a friend of Castrum Peregrini but one of Turkey’s most important intellectual and cultural figures.  He has played a prominent part both in defending the rights and liberties of all in Turkey, and in bringing together people of different political viewpoints to discuss their differences and to work out a common language of civil debate. Nothing could be more important in Turkey – and in many other countries – today.

Osman Kavala has played an important role not just in encouraging discussion inside Turkey but also in presenting the complexities of Turkey to the outside world. His work has been invaluable in making many people outside the country understand and appreciate Turkey. His work should be celebrated, not condemned.

We call for the immediate release of Osman Kavala. We call also for the release of the many others – academics, journalists and public servants – who have also been arrested and detained in recent months in similar circumstances. We support the work of all those in Turkey striving to create a strong civil society in which political disagreements and disputes can be resolved through public discussion and mutual respect.


Avraham Burg, author and former speaker of the Knesset, Nataf, Israel

Frans Damman, Michael Defuster and Lars Ebert, Castrum Peregrini, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Adeola Enigbokan, artist and urbanist, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Quinsy Gario, artist and activist, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Kenan Malik, writer, lecturer and broadcaster, London, UK

Dominique Moïsi, political scientist, Paris, France

Wendelien van Oldenborgh, artist, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Diana Pinto, intellectual historian, Paris, France

Mirjam Shatanawi, cultural critic and curator, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Thijs Tromp, Secretary of the board, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Katherine Watson, director European Cultural Foundation, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Gloria Wekker, social and cultural anthropologist, Amsterdam, The Netherlands


De Oude Kerk, Museum van Loon, H401 and De Reinwardt Academie make up the INTERHISTORICITEIT coalition supported within the framework of 3Package Deal. It wants to stimulate ‘creative producers’ to develop activities that connect and combine historic periods and cultural contexts.

The coalition has supported

Ronit Porat from October 2016 to September 2017,

Smári Róbertsson from October 2017 to October 2018,

Stéphanie Saadé from October 2018 to October 2019,

Aude Christel Mgba from October 2020 to October 2021,

Ima-Abasi Okon from October 2021 to October 2022,

Ana Navas from January 2023 to January 2024

Guston Sondin-Kung from January 2024 to January 2025.



smári rúnar róbertsson: this clock before it existed

Stéphanie Saadé: The Travels of Here and Now

Living as Form





This two-day international conference in Amsterdam about participatory art in education and culture featured keynote presentations of cutting edge initiatives, panel discussions, workshops and open space technology sessions for an active role of all participants sharing their practice and peer-to-peer exchange.


With a.o. Renzo Martens, Patricia Kaesenhout, Pier Luigi Sacco,- and you!


The conference Living as Form followed up on previous conferences Participation on Trial (Amsterdam, October 2014) and  European Academy of Participation (Dublin, October 2016). It concluded the 2nd year of the EU project European Academy of Participation,

Living as Form brought together international and national initiatives to foster synergies: How is internationalisation of education taking shape? What good practice can we share of border crossing artistic and community work? How to match the international and the local in cultural programmes?

Living as Form discussed the relations of the cultural and social field and education and the possibilities of a formalised educational offer for artists that involves all these areas.


Please find here the detailed programme Living as Form

Watch the key presentations on our YouTube Channel


Who participated?

Artists, curators, producers, community and institutional leaders, teachers, researchers and critics, from the Netherlands and around the world.



Nato Thompson, from whom we borrow the title of this conference, asks whether it is time at the beginning of the 21st century to return Duchamp’s urinal from the museum to the real world. But the question arises whether it would be accepted by the ‘real world’ today, where one is suspicious towards arts and the artists in their elite bubble. Art keeps engaging with life, trying to find new forms of expression and impact. What is the artistic form of live today, or should we rather talk about art as resistance? And how does education prepare the artists of the future for their role in these new realities?


The conference Living As Form critically discussed the embeddedness of participatory practice in an international framework that has rapidly changed in the last two years. Before that, participatory art has largely been perceived through the historical lens of what happened since the fall of the Berlin wall. The ‘end of history’-feeling has led to the long prevailing paradigm of neoliberalism, our current political order of free trade and open markets. In this paradigm, the private sector takes the lead and the role of the public and that of the state supporting the public is pushed to the background. Simultaneously, alongside the positive effects of participation in and through art and culture, the term participation has been appropriated by the neoliberal policies to stress the fact that individuals need to take their own responsibility versus a withdrawing welfare state. Political support focussed on the economy and the financial market, not the citizen. In turn, and quite ironically, citizens and artists were expected to compensate for austerity politics, being manoeuvred into roles that would ‘art wash’ a misery that should have actually been solved by other professionals: care takers, city planners, social workers etc..

Meanwhile, the world has changed. One could believe that in countries like the USA, Britain, Poland, the Netherlands and Hungary, the revolutionary potential of people and their representatives, long considered to be the domain of the left, is now with populist and nationalist movements that battle principles of enlightenment such as human rights, equality and solidarity. In the fake and factless news their representatives produce, expertise, high end culture and, consequently, artists are framed as the enemies of the ‘people’. Nevertheless, the basic question stays the same: how can artists engage with communities in a mutual beneficial way, towards progress and more culturally and economically inclusive societies?


In the period October 2015 – February 2016 all partners of the EAP project have collaboratively developed a Tuning Document Participatory Art Practice_Creative Producer and the respective graduate profile of a Creative Producer. The document is intended as a reference document that reflects the diversity of the field in Europe and at the same time serves as a benchmark for curriculum builders, teachers, employers and all those academics and practitioners that want to enhance educational and practical development. It set out to establish a MA level standard and contribute to enhancing pedagogy in this field of practice. It is published at

The documents competences inform an intensive Higher Education Course Module that EAP has piloted in London in July 2017 with 30 international students (art graduates and mid-career artists) and 12 international teachers.

The conference was embedded in the projects activities and discussions so far, and invited the Dutch and the international field to contribute with expertise and experiences and use the event as a networking and sharing possibility.



Doopsgezinde Kerk, Singel 452, Amsterdam; Castrum Peregrini, Herengracht 401, Amsterdam; Goethe-Institut, Herengracht 470, Amsterdam.


Organised by


Castrum Peregrini, Amsterdam, The Netherlands representing the EAP – European Academy of Participation partners.

In collaboration with Goethe Institut Lyon and Amsterdam, Tandem for Culture, Community Participation (European Cultural Foundation/MitOst), and representatives of the Willem De Kooning Academy Rotterdam, DAS Art Amsterdam, University of Utrecht and University of the Arts Utrecht.

The conference was financially supported by Fonds Voor Cultuurparticipatie, The Erasmus+ programme of the European Commission and the Goethe Institute Netherlands.

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Castrum Peregrini Foundation is an independent cultural centre in an Amsterdam canal house. It emerged out of a community that survived there in hiding during World War II. It wants to be a place where individuals come together to make a positive contribution to an inclusive society. Participation in art and culture is a prime instrument towards this goal.

Castrum Peregrini Dialogue

We have realised the first round of our think tank, the Castrum Peregrinin Dialogue, with the generous support of the Pauwhoff Fund and in close partnership with the European Cultural Foundation and the Dialogue Advisory Group. The latter – an internationally acclaimed group of peace mediators- holds office here in our premises.

The ECF is a kindred organisation that is close to our heart in many respects. With our own history as a hiding place in which art, culture and friendship helpt young people to survive in this house we embrace ECFs mission to strive for an open, democratic and inclusive Europe within which culture is a valued and key contributor.

Together Castrum Peregrini and the ECF share the desire to develop viable concepts of living together in diversity.

In our recent publication The House of Gisèle we have published Kenan Maliks wonderful article Living in Diversity, a lecture that he delivered when we launched the house of Gisèle and Job Cohen unveiled a plaque at our building in May 2016. We took Kenans tekst as a motivation, a framing paper so to speak to bring together a divers group of thinkers from all walks of life and various disciplines to meet three times in one year for 2,5 days and analyse in a conversation, the root causes of fragmentation in Europe and the world today and what we need to take into account when thinking about how living in diversity can work. We tried to balance participation of man and woman, younger and older generation, white and non-white, various religious backgrounds. Also we made sure that we create a protected environment, apply Chatham House Rules for instance, so that everyone feels safe and can speak up, be vulnerable and engage in a dialogue that is based on learning from one another in the first place. Our experience is that our heritage – like the studio of Gisèle – offers a frame, physically and spiritually, which makes those conversations more easy, respectful and intense.

Also we engaged two experienced moderators, Avrum Burg, members of our board of recommendation, author and former speaker of the Knesset as well as Ram Manikkalingam, director of the Dialogue Advisory Group, seconded by Fleur Ravensbergen.

We work to a set agenda, everybody of the 20 participants around the table gives a short input to a certain session, like social justice, and then we speak for 1,5 hours, before we go to the next session. All is reported and after three meetings we bundle it to share it with opinnleaders, programme makers, activists etc. For this first round of meetings 2016/17 we strive to publish outcomes by December 2017.

  1. Avraham Burg, author, former politician, a.o. speaker of the Knesset (moderator)
  2. Ram Manikkalingam, director Dialogue Advisory Group (moderator)
  3. Fleur Ravensbergen, deputy director Dialogue Advisory Group (moderator)
  4. Mirjam Shatanawi, curator Middle East and North Africa, Tropen Museum, NL (rapporteur)
  5. Brian Burgoon, Director Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam, NL
  6. Adeola Enigbokan, Social Scientist, Amsterdam/New York
  7. Quinsy Gario, poet, artist, activist, NL
  8. Osman Kavala, president Anadolu Kültür, Istanbul, TR
  9. Charl Landvreugd, artist, curator, writer, Rotterdam, NL
  10. Kenan Malik, writer, lecturer, broadcaster, London, UK
  11. Dominique Moïsi, political scientist and writer, Paris, FR
  12. Wendelien van Oldenborgh, artist, representing NL at 2017 Venice Biennale, NL
  13. Thijs Tromp, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Amsterdam, NL
  14. Diana Pinto, cultural historian, Paris, FR
  15. Jordi Vaquer, regional director for Europe at Open Society, ES
  16. Katherine Watson, director European Cultural Foundation, Amsterdam, NL
  17. Gloria Wekker, Anthropologist and author, NL
  18. Gertraud Auer Borea d’Olmo, secretary general Bruno Kreisky Forum, Vienna, AT

Residencies supported by Mondriaan Fund

2017 artists in the residence at Castrum Peregrini supported by the Mondriaan Fund


March & April 2017: Pieter Paul Pothoven 


The work of Pieter Paul Pothoven (1981, NL) comprises sculpture, installation, and includes different forms of writing as well. In his projects, he searches for alternative ways of engaging with the past through study of historical sites, artifacts and resources, in order to mediate new relationships with history often based on their potential use-value in the present.

During a 2-month residency at Castrum Peregrini, he will continue to study socialist resistance before, during and after the Second World War in Amsterdam. Central to his project is a comparative study of three groups that organized their actions in radically different times but share similar motives.


pothoven_castrum_peregrini_2017Pieter Paul Pothoven received his BFA at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam (NL) and his MFA at Parsons The New School of Design, New York. He was a resident at Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown (US), Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht (NL) and Instituto Sacatar, Salvador (BR). His work has been shown in various solo and group exhibitions. Recent exhibitions include: ‘You talkin’ to me?’, Barbara Seiler, Zürich (CH); ‘Sunsets never looked as stunning as through the haze of factory sooth’, Van Eyck Acadamie, Maastricht (NL); ‘Territorial Drift’, Garage, Rotterdam (NL); ‘Listen to the Stones, think like a mountain’, Tatjana Pieters, Ghent (BE); ‘Lapis Lazuli from Serr-i-Sang’, PuntWG, Amsterdam (NL); ‘11:59, on a date of no particular significance’, Hudson D. Walker gallery, Provincetown (US); ‘The intelligence of Things’, The Kitchen, New York (US). He initiated and co-curated ‘Weight of Colour’, a symposium about the materiality of color, Amsterdam (NL) and the group exhibition ‘I scarcely have the right to use this ghostly verb’, New York, (US). His texts have been published in amongst others: Anamesa Journal, Simulacrum, Volume, De Gids and Beyroutes, an Alternative Guide to Beirut. Currently he lives and works in Amsterdam.


October & November 2017: Aimée Zito Lema

Rond de Jambe, video still, 2015

Rond de Jambe, video still, 2015

Expanding an insignificant event, isolating a sudden movement, choosing an affective gesture and zeroing in on it until we lose ourselves in the sounds it emits, the grain of the photo or the word that names it, furnishes us with a chance to reinterpret the events as they are presented to us, and of understanding history from new perspectives.

The Subversive Body, 2016 / Installationview @ Wilfried Lentz Rotterdam/ Photo: Sander van Wettum

The Subversive Body, 2016 / Installationview @ Wilfried Lentz Rotterdam/ Photo: Sander van Wettum

Aimée Zito Lema grounds her practice in this premise. Based on a process of selection and appropriation, Zito Lema zooms in on the detail of gestures, often by using archive images taken of working class demonstrations or counter-cultural movements. This motif, once enlarged almost to the point of abstraction, brings to mind the mechanism that enables cooperation and development within a community, or a movement, or an affective structure than bonds a group or a family. It is revealed to us in her work, just as a tiny detail can give rise to a community spirit and all that this brings with it. Her artistic practice structures the narrative around the process, triggering a dynamic that, taken together, lends meaning to the work. The idea leads to an expression, act or performance. This work in turn gives rise to the object that, inasmuch as a metaphor, returns us to the expression from which it came, only to be recycled and give birth to new possibilities.*

For her residency at Castrum Peregrini Zito Lema will focus on the role of friendship within adverse social-political circumstances.  She will research different notions of friendship in political contexts, taking as starting point the history of the house of Gisele van Waterschoot. Looking at past and present, searching for traces of these notions of friendship, understood as solidarity and support structure.

Portrait Aimée: Photo by Hugo Tillman

Portrait Aimée: Photo by Hugo Tillman

Visual artist Aimée Zito Lema (born in Amsterdam, 1982, grew up in Buenos Aires) studied at the University of the Arts, Buenos Aires, the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam, and followed the Master Artistic Research program of the Royal Academy in The Hague (2009 – 2011). She was artist-in-resident at the Rijksakademie (2015-2016). Her recent exhibitions include: The 11th Gwangju Biennale; The Dorothea von Stetten Award, Kunstmuseum Bonn; Hors Pistes: L’art de la Revolte, Centre Pompidou Paris (all in 2016); the long-term project Body at Work at Casco, Utrecht (2013 – 2014); and the residency ‘Het Vijfde Seizoen’, Den Dolder, (2011).

Call for volunteers!

IMG_3352Are you interested in contemporary culture combining a heroic past with pressing social issues? Would you like to support a non-profit arts organization with a long and unique history?

Castrum Peregrini is looking for volunteers:

Host in the exhibition space: As part of the on-going public program Memory Machine Castrum Peregrini organizes exhibitions in collaboration with cultural producers, taking place in the old studio of founder Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht.

Bartender: Castrum Peregrini regularly organizes lectures, debates, performances and movie screenings that target a broad audience, including creative producers, artists, students, teachers and academics. Afterwards visitors meet in the bar.

Tour guide: Castrum Peregrini offers guided tours of the historic house, visiting the authentic hiding floor and studio of Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht is. As a guide you tell the story of Gisèle and the history of Castrum Peregrini to groups of up to 12 people who sign up in advance.

Exhibitions are open from Monday to Friday, from 12:00 – 18:00.
Events take place in the evening or during weekends.
Tours by appointment.

IMG_3485What we ask:

  • Proficiency in Dutch or in English
  • Available from 4 hours per week (host shifts are from 10:00 to 14:00 and from 14:00 to 18:00, bar shifts from 18:00 to 22:00)
  • A representative, friendly attitude to visitors
  • Willingness to learn more about the exhibitions
  • Dedication: the hosts, bar staff and tour guides keep the program running!

What we offer:

  • Invitation to all our openings and events (and free drinks during events)
  • Annual Festive event for all people involved
  • A chance to work together with the international network and team of Castrum Peregrini, and meet international artists and other professionals from the art and cultural world
  • Work at an inspiring place
  • Specifically during your shifts:
    • A place to read / study / work• Free drinks (coffee / tea / juice) and cookies

Enthusiastic? Please e-mail Judith,, for questions or to apply, including your motivation.

Castrum Peregrini zoekt vrijwilligers!

IMG_3352Ben je geïnteresseerd in een heroïsch verleden dat hedendaagse cultuur met acute maatschappelijke vraagstukken verbindt?

Wil je een non-profit kunstorganisatie met bewogen geschiedenis steunen?

We zoeken mensen voor verschillende taken:

  • Host in de expositieruimte: In het kader van het doorlopende publieksprogramma Memory Machine organiseert Castrum Peregrini in samenwerking met culturele producenten verschillende tentoonstellingen in het oude atelier van oprichter Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht.
  • Barmedewerker: Castrum Peregrini organiseert regelmatig lezingen, debatten, performances en filmavonden die zich richten op een breed publiek, zoals creative producers, kunstenaars, studenten, docenten, academici en opiniemakers. Na afloop ontmoeten mensen elkaar in de barruimte.
  • Rondleider: Castrum Peregrini biedt rondleidingen aan in het historische huis, waarbij onder andere de authentieke onderduiketage en het atelier van Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht te bezichtigen zijn. IMG_3485Als rondleider vertel je het verhaal van Gisèle en de geschiedenis van Castrum Peregrini aan groepjes van maximaal 12 mensen die zich van te voren aanmelden.
Tentoonstellingen zijn geopend van maandag t/m vrijdag van 12:00 – 18:00.
Evenementen vinden plaats in de avond of in het weekend.
Rondleidingen op afspraak.

Wat we van jou vragen

  • Vaardigheid in het Nederlands of in het Engels (beide is een pre)
  • Beschikbaarheid vanaf 4 uur per week (host shifts zijn van 10:00 – 14:00 en van 14:00 – 18:00, bar shifts van 18:00 – 22:00)
  • Een representatieve, vriendelijke houding ten opzichte van bezoekers
  • Bereidheid je te verdiepen in de tentoonstellingen
  • Toewijding: vrijwillig maar niet vrijblijvend, de hosts, barmedewerkers en rondleiders houden het programma draaiende!

Wat we je kunnen bieden

  • Een plek in een hecht team
  • Uitnodiging voor al onze openingen en evenementen (en gratis drankjes tijdens evenementen)
  • Jaarlijks feestelijke bijeenkomst voor alle betrokkenen
  • Een kans samen te werken met het internationale netwerk en het team van Castrum Peregrini en internationale kunstenaars en andere professionals uit de kunst- en cultuursector te ontmoeten
  • Werk op een inspirerende plek

Specifiek tijdens je shifts

  • Een plek om aan te lezen/studeren/werken
  • Gratis drinken (koffie/thee/fris) en iets lekkers
Enthousiast? Email Judith om je aan te melden!


New 3Package Deal coalition: Transhistoricity

De Oude Kerk, Museum van Loon, Castrum Peregrini and De Reinwardt Academie make up the new coalition “Transhistoriciteit” supported within the framework of 3Package Deal. It wants to stimulate ‘creative producers’ to develop activities that connect and combine historic periods and cultural contexts.

RPThe coalition partners have selected Tel Aviv based artist Ronit Porat to live and work in Amsterdam for a year as of September 2016. Her studio will be based, in turn, at the host institutions.

Artist Ronit Porat writes about her art, “My engagement with times and places is not an external one, but applies a subjective circular motion that begins with the personal, shifts to the collective, and then returns to the self.” So then, according to Porat – who holds a MFA from the esteemed Chelsea College of Art and Design and who has exhibited her art in dozens of shows from Paris to Warsaw to Jerusalem to Albania and beyond – time and history are transcendent and the mistakes and victories of our histories reside with us now and here.

‘Untitled’ , 2012, The Kids who were shot, (The Marching Children, Alfred Alfred Eisenstaedt)

‘Untitled’ , 2012, The Kids who were shot, (The Marching Children, Alfred Alfred Eisenstaedt)

Her art clearly explores these concepts of subjectivity and transcendence and connectedness, and her primary tools are juxtaposition, overlay, and mixed media. Using these tools among many, she shows us that time and history are not just one thing, but they are cobbled together to forge a collective memory that colors the way we see the world: on top of an image of an unidentified boy, she scribbles a Hitler mustache; she juxtaposes a nose-diving war plane with a nose-diving woman dressed in a short white garment; she tears in half a self portrait of Marianne Breslauer; in several images of unusual bodies, she convolutes anatomy and physiology to craft images that are at once familiar and alien. And the wondrous, whimsical, challenge of her work is tempered with a muted grayscale color scheme that unites each of her pieces as sentences in one large conversation about what it is to be alive.

One inspiration for Porat’s work is the Kibbutz in which she grew up, a “unique place which derives it identity from its history and the story behind its settlement.” Through her upbringing there, Ronit Porat began to understand how important it was to analyze histories holistically, incorporating objects and artifacts that come from various periods and cultural contexts. One can clearly see this in her work, which is radically inclusive and pleasantly jarring because of its unexpected pairings of disparate images and texts. Regarding her reasons for mixing so many images, Porat says that “everything can be included in order to create new narratives from the images that resonate with memory, pain and belonging.” And indeed, viewers are sure to experience visceral emotions when enjoying the Israeli artist’s work; it is easy to feel as though we too are included in her art, that she is telling our personal histories.

Ronit Porat’s art has resonated with audiences all over the world, and she has received coveted awards from organizations such as America-Israel Cultural Foundation, the Arab Jewish seminar on Creative Environment, the Ministry of Culture and Sport, and the Hadassah College of Technology. She was also named Musrara, Jerusalem’s Artist for Social Change in 2009.

Kenan Malik: Living in Diversity

Kenan Malik‘s lecture ‘Living In Diversity’ at Castrum Peregrini, 2 May 2016, was organised on the occasion of the launch of the Gisèle House.
He writes about his experience at Castrum Peregrini on his personal blog.

KnipselLiving in Diversity  

‘Can Europe be the same with different people in it?’ So asked the American writer Christopher Caldwell in his book, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, published a few years ago. It is a question that has been asked with increasing urgency in recent years as the question of immigration, and in particular of Islamic immigration, has taken centre stage.

At the heart of this question lies the dilemma of how Western societies should respond to the influx of peoples with different traditions, backgrounds and beliefs. What should be the boundaries of tolerance in such societies? Should immigrants be made to assimilate to Western customs and norms or is integration a two-way street? Such questions have bedeviled politicians and policy-makers for the past half-century. They have also tied liberals in knots.

The conundrums about diversity have been exacerbated by the two issues that now dominate contemporary European political discourse – the migration crisis and the problem of terrorism. How we discuss these issues, and how we relate the one to the other, will shape the character of European societies over the net period.

The migration crisis is often seen as an issue of numbers. More than a million irregular migrants arrived on Europe’s shores last year. The images of thousands of migrants desperately crossing the Aegean, or trudging their way through the Balkans, or arriving at railway stations in Hungary, Austria and Germany filled our TV screens for much of the past year. They give a sense of a continent under siege, of seemingly the whole world wanting to come to Europe.

The numbers of migrants coming to Europe are indeed large. But it is worth putting these numbers in context. One million migrants constitute less than 0.2 per cent of the EU’s population. Turkey, the country to which migrants are being deported under the new deal signed with the EU, has a population one seventh that of the EU, but is already host to some 3 million Syrian refugees. There are already 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon – 20 per cent of the population. That is the equivalent of Europe playing host to 100m refugees. Pakistan and Iran each have over 1 million refugees within their borders.

Some of the poorest countries in the world, in other words, already bear the greatest burden when it comes to helping refugees. If these countries were to adopt Europe’s attitude, there really would be a crisis.

Debates about immigration are, however, rarely about numbers as such. They are much more about who the migrants are, and about underlying anxieties of nation, community, identity and values. ‘We should not forget’, claimed Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, as Hungary put up new border fences, and introduced draconian new anti-immigration laws, ‘that the people who are coming here grew up in a different religion and represent a completely different culture. Most are not Christian, but Muslim.’ ‘Is it not worrying’, he asked, ‘that Europe’s Christian culture is already barely able to maintain its own set of Christian values?’

Many thinkers, Christian and non-Christian, religious and non-religious, echo this fear of Muslim immigration undermining the cultural and moral foundation of Western civilization. The late Oriana Fallaci, the Italian writer who perhaps more than most promoted the notion of Eurabia – the belief that Europe is being Islamicised – described herself as a ‘Christian atheist’, insisting that only Christianity provided Europe with a cultural and intellectual bulwark against Islam. The British historian Niall Ferguson calls himself ‘an incurable atheist’ and yet is alarmed by the decline of Christianity which undermines ‘any religious resistance’ to radical Islam. Melanie Phillips, a non-believing Jew, argues in her book The World Turned Upside Down that ‘Christianity is under direct and unremitting cultural assault from those who want to destroy the bedrock values of Western civilization.’

To look upon migration in this fashion is, I want to suggest, a misunderstanding of both Europe’s past and Europe’s present. To understand why, I want first to explore two fundamental questions, the answers to which must frame any discussion on inclusion and morality. What we mean by a diverse society? And why should we value it, or indeed, fear it?

When we think about diversity today in Europe, the picture we see is that of societies that in the past were homogenous, but have now become plural because of immigration. But in what way were European societies homogenous in the past? And in what ways are they diverse today?

Certainly, if you had asked a Frenchman or an Englishman or a Spaniard in the nineteenth or the fifteenth or the twelfth centuries, they would certainly not have described their societies as homogenous. And were they to be transported to contemporary Europe, it is likely that they would see it as far less diverse than we do.

Our view of the Europe of the past is distorted by historical amnesia; and our view of the Europe of the present is distorted by a highly restricted notion of diversity. When we talk of European societies as historically homogenous, what we mean is that they used to be ethnically, or perhaps culturally, homogenous. But the world is diverse in many ways. Societies are cut through by differences, not only of ethnicity, but also of class, gender, faith, politics, and much else.

Many of the fears we have of the consequences of modern diversity are in fact echoes of fears that were central to what we now see as homogenous Europe. Consider, for instance, the debate about the clash between Islam and the West, and fear of Islamic values as incompatible with those of the West. It may be hard to imagine now but Catholics were until relatively recently seen by many much as Muslims are now.

The English philosopher John Locke is generally seen as providing the philosophical foundations of liberalism. His Letter Concerning Toleration is a key text in the development of modern liberal ideas about freedom of expression and worship. But he refused to extend such tolerance to Catholics because they posed a threat to English identity and security. Until the nineteenth century Catholics in Britain were by law excluded from most public offices, and denied the vote; they were barred from universities, from many professions, and from serving in the armed forces. Protestants were banned from converting to Catholicism, and Catholics banned from marrying Protestants.

Such vicious anti-Catholicism existed well into the twentieth century, and not just in Europe. In America, the historian Leo Lucassen observes, Catholicism was perceived as ‘representing an entirely different culture and worldview, and it was feared because of the faith’s global and expansive aspirations’. ‘It is the political character of the Roman Church’, wrote the essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘that makes it incompatible with our institutions & unwelcome here.’

Today the idea of the Judeo-Christian tradition as the foundation of Western civilization is taken as received wisdom. But the concept of a ‘Judeo Christian tradition’ is an invention of the 1930s, arising out o the attempt to create a broad front to challenge the menace of anti-Semitism. Its invention is testament to the fact that, in the eyes of many people, Jews constituted a mortal threat to European identity, values and ways of being, so much so that they became victims of the world’s greatest genocide. The very existence of Castrum Peregrini is testament to that view of Jews as a civilizational menace.

From the creation of the first Ghetto, in Venice, exactly 500 years ago, to Martin Luther’s fulminations against Jewry, to the Dreyfus affair in France, to Britain’s first immigration law, the 1905 Aliens Act, designed principally to stem the flow into the country of East European Jews, a central strand in European historical consciousness was the portrayal of Jews as the elemental ‘Other’.

Europe was rent not just by religious and cultural but by political conflict, too. From the English civil war to the Spanish civil war, from the German Peasants’ rebellion to the Paris commune, European nations were deeply divided. Conflicts between communists and conservatives, liberals and socialists, monarchists and liberals became the hallmark of European societies.

Of course we don’t think of these conflicts as expressions of a diverse society. Why not? Only because we have a restricted view of what diversity entails.

But even within that restricted notion of diversity, our historical picture of European societies is mistaken. We look back upon European societies and imagine that they were racially and ethnically homogenous. But that is not how Europeans of the time looked upon their societies. In the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, the working class and the rural poor were seen by many as racial distinct.

A vignette of working-class life in Bethnal Green, a working class area of east London, that appeared in an 1864 edition of The Saturday Review, a well-read liberal magazine of the era, was typical of Victorian middle-class attitudes. ‘The Bethnal Green poor’, the article explained, constituted ‘a race of whom we know nothing, whose lives are of quite different complexion from ours, persons with whom we have no point of contact.’ ‘Distinctions and separations, like those of English classes’, the article concluded, ‘which always endure, which last from the cradle to the grave… offer a very fair parallel to the separation of the slaves from the whites.’

There were similar attitudes in France. In a speech in 1857, the Christian socialist Phillipe Buchez wondered how it could happen that ‘within a population such as ours, races may form – not merely one, but several races – so miserable, inferior and bastardised that they may be classed as below the most inferior savage races, for their inferiority is sometimes beyond cure.’ The ‘races’ that caused Buchez such anxiety were not immigrants from Africa or Asia but the rural poor in France.

The concept of a homogenous Europe made diverse by modern immigration crumbles when shake off our historical amnesia. We only imagine our societies as particularly diverse because we rewrite the past, and because a very peculiar definition of what constitutes diversity allows us to ignore the diversity – and the fears and the conflicts – that then existed. European societies have always had, or were perceived to have had, ‘different peoples’ within their borders.

And this brings us to the second question: why should we value diversity, or indeed, fear it? I will return later to the question of why we may wish to value diversity. But I want to begin with the question of why many fear it. Consider two contemporary French thinkers from opposite ends of the political spectrum, for both of whom Islam represents a threat, but for very different reasons: the liberal philosopher Bernard-Henry Lévy and the conservative thinker Pierre Manent.

In 2010, during the debate about whether the burqa should be banned, Lévy came out ‘in favor of a law that clearly and plainly declares that wearing a burqa in the public area is anti-republican’. But, he insisted ‘This is not about the burqa. It’s about Voltaire. What is at stake is the Enlightenment of yesterday and today, and the heritage of both, no less sacred than that of the three monotheisms.’

Where, for Lévy, Islam represents a threat to Enlightenment liberalism, for Manent it is the corrosive impact of Enlightenment liberalism that has allowed Islam to be a threat. The French have no choice but to surrender to Islam, Manent argues, because they have become decadent and ‘tired of freedom’. By emphasizing rights rather than duties, our desiccated democracies have dissolved social bonds leaving nothing but a ‘dust’ of isolated egos. ‘The most striking fact about the present moment’, Manent writes, ‘is the political and spiritual enfeeblement of the nation. … If Islam is extending and consolidating its influence … in a region where all social forms are vulnerable to corrosive critique in the name of individual rights, then there can scarcely be any future for Europe other than Islamization by default.’

Many liberals have echoed Levy’s warnings, many conservatives Manent’s fears. Both view Islam as a threat to European values, but disagree on what values are being threatened. For liberals, conservative Islamic doctrines run counter to the values of the Enlightenment. For conservatives, it precisely the corrosive impact of liberal Enlightenment values that have allowed Islam to triumph.

The fear of diversity, in other words, is itself felt from a diversity of standpoints. And fear of the Other is rooted primarily in anxieties about the Self. The Other becomes a problem – indeed the Other needs only to be conjured up – when there is social apprehension about who we are or what we stand for.

The claim that Islam poses a fundamental threat to Western values draws on the ‘clash of civilizations’ thesis, popularized in the 1990s by the American political scientist Samuel Huntington. The conflicts that have convulsed Europe over the past centuries, Huntington wrote in a famous 1993 essay, from the wars of religion between Protestants and Catholics to the Cold War, were all ‘conflicts within Western civilization’. The ‘battle lines of the future’, on the other hand, would be between civilizations. And the most deep-set of these would be between the Christian West and the Islamic East, a ‘far more fundamental’ struggle than any war unleashed by ‘differences among political ideologies and political regimes’.

Civilizations, however, are not self-enclosed entities. They are ‘civilizations’ precisely because they are porous, fluid, open to wider influences. Because they are open to diversity.

There are no historically transcendent civilizational values. There is a view of European civilization as developing along a linear line from Ancient Greece through the crucible of Christianity to the Enlightenment and modernity. Yet, what many today many describe as ‘European’ values would have left most of the major figures in that European tradition bewildered – Aquinas and Dante, for instance, and even more so Augustine and Plato. On the other hand, Aquinas and Dante certainly would have understood the values of many of their Islamic contemporaries, such as the great philosophers Ibn Sina or Ibn Rushd, values that many would now consider as existential threats to the very being of Europe.

There is, in other words, no single set of European values that transcends history in opposition to Islamic values. Nor is there a single Islamic tradition that transcends history. Norms and practices have inevitably varied over time and space. They inevitably mutated in a faith that has lasted for almost 1500 years. They inevitably diverged in an empire that once stretched from the Bay of Bengal to the Bay of Biscay, and do so even more in a community that is now spread out across the globe from Indonesia (which has the largest Muslim population in the world) to America, from Scotland to South Africa.

Consider a recent poll of British Muslim attitudes that generated a national debate. The poll was conducted for a TV documentary fronted by Trevor Phillips, former head of Britain’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission, and of its predecessor, the Commission for Racial Equality.

The poll revealed a deep well of social conservatism within British Muslim communities. Just 18 per cent of Muslims thought that homosexuality should be legal (compared to 73 per cent of the general population), 4 in 10 thought wives should always obey her husband. A third wanted girls to be educated separately to boys. Almost 9 out ten thought that the law should not permit mockery of the Prophet.

Trevor Phillips, who as head of the EHRC and the CRE played an important role in shaping integration policies, wrote of ‘a chasm opening between Muslims and non-Muslims’ and ‘the unacknowledged creation of a nation within the nation, with its own geography, its own values and its own very separate future.’ Europe’s Muslims, he suggested, were different from previous waves of migrants because they had have refused to ‘abandon their ancestral ways’. ‘The integration of Muslims’, he concluded, ‘will probably be the hardest task we’ve ever faced’.

Seen by itself, the poll might indeed lead one to such a conclusion. But any poll provides at best a snapshot of the views of people in one place, at one time. People, and communities do not, however, exist as a snapshot.

Had you taken this poll 30 years ago, when I was growing up, you would have found very different results. For the contemporary social conservatism of British Muslims has not always been present. The first generation of Muslims to Britain were religious, but wore their faith lightly. Many men drank alcohol. Few women wore a hijab, let alone a burqa or niqab. Most visited the mosque only occasionally, when the ‘Friday feeling’ took them. Islam was not, in their eyes, an all-encompassing philosophy. Their faith expressed for them a relationship with God, not a sacrosanct public identity.

The second generation of Britons with a Muslim background – my generation – was primarily secular. Religious organizations were barely visible. The organizations that bound together Asian communities (and we thought of ourselves as ‘Asian’ or ‘black’, not ‘Muslim’) were primarily secular, often political.

It is only with the generation that has come of age since the late 1980s that the question of cultural differences has come to be seen as important. A generation that, ironically, is far more integrated and ‘Westernised’ than the first generation, is also the generation that is most insistent on maintaining its ‘difference’. Much the same process can be sketched out in France, in Germany, in the Netherlands. It is a paradox that questions the conventional view of the relationship between diversity and integration. Yet it is one that is rarely discussed.

One reason for that is that we rarely take a step back to give ourselves a broader perspective on social problems. What one might call the ‘snapshot’ view of communities and cultures has become central to much of the discussion about diversity and integration. So, Trevor Phillips claimed in his TV documentary that British Muslims ‘don’t want to change’ and ‘still hold views from their ancestral backgrounds’.

The real problem is, in fact, the very opposite. British Muslims have changed. But many have changed by becoming more socially conservative. The question we need to address, therefore, is why has this change taken place? But blinded by a snapshot view of Muslim communities, most policymakers and ask the opposite question: Why hasn’t any change taken place? If we cannot even ask the right questions, it is little wonder that we fail to find the right answers.

At the same time, the fact that significant sections of British Muslim communities have become conservative, even reactionary, on many social and religious issues, does not mean that all have. No community is homogenous. To say that Christians have become more liberal on issues of gay marriage over the past thirty years is not to deny that there is a diversity of Christian views on this issue. The same is true of Muslims. There is evidence that British Muslims have become more polarized on social issues – that a large proportion have become more conservative, while small minority is far more liberal than much of the population at large. There is polling evidence, too, that Muslims in many European countries, and in the USA, are more liberal than Muslims in Britain.

And this leads us to another of the ironies in the way we think of diversity. Many who view society as diverse often fail to see the diversity of minority communities. This is as true of those who welcome diversity as of those who fear or reject it.

Consider social policy in France and Britain. As forms of public policy, French assimilationism and British multiculturalism are generally regarded as polar opposites. Yet, from very different starting points, both kinds of policy have come to foster narrower visions of social identity, and both have tended to ignore the diversity of minority communities, treating them instead as if each was a distinct, homogenous whole, each composed of people all speaking with a single voice, each defined by a singular view of culture and faith.

‘What, in today’s France’, asks the novelist and filmmaker Karim Miské, ‘unites the pious Algerian retired worker, the atheist French-Mauritanian director that I am, the Fulani Sufi bank employee from Mantes-la-Jolie, the social worker from Burgundy who has converted to Islam, and the agnostic male nurse who has never set foot in his grandparents’ home in Oujda?  What brings us together if not the fact that we live within a society which thinks of us as Muslims?’

Of the five million or so French citizens of North African origin, just 40 per cent think of themselves as observant Muslims, and only one in four attend Friday prayers. Yet, Miské observes, all are looked upon by French politicians, policy makers, intellectuals and journalists as ‘Muslims’. Government ministers often talk of France’s ‘five million Muslims’.

The use of ‘Muslim’ as a label for French citizens of North African origin is not accidental. It is part of the process whereby the state casts such citizens as the Other – as not really part of the French nation. Faced, as are politicians in many European nations, with a distrustful and disengaged public, French politicians have attempted to reassert the notion of a common French identity. But unable to define clearly the ideas and values that characterize the nation, they have done so primarily by turning Islam into the ‘Other’ against which French identity is defined.

In his 1945 essay Anti-Semite and Jew, Jean Paul Sartre had suggested that the authentic Jew was created by the anti-Semite. Miské makes the same point about the authentic Muslim: that it is the way that the outside society treats those of North African origin that creates the idea of the authentic Muslim, and indeed of the Muslim community itself.

French citizens of North African origin who do not think of themselves as ‘Muslim’, can, writes Miské, ‘feign indifference’ and ‘appear to be French, secularist and republican, devoted lovers of our land and our territories’. But, he asks ‘how long can we seriously hold on to this voluntary position when we are constantly sent back to our ‘Muslim’ identity?’ In other words, the identity ‘Muslim’ is both created by the wider society, and appropriated by those defined as ‘Muslim’ as a means of asserting their own agency, ‘to regain possession of our diminished existences’, as Miské puts it.

Much the same is true of Britain. British multicultural policies do not, as in France, seek to define national identity against the Other, but rather portray the nation as ‘a community of communities’, as the influential Parekh report on multiculturalism put it. The authorities have attempted to manage diversity by putting people into particular ethnic and cultural boxes, defining individual needs and rights by virtue of the boxes into which people were put, and using those boxes to shape public policy.

Instead of engaging directly with Muslim communities, the authorities have effectively subcontracted out their responsibilities to so-called community leaders. Rather than appealing to Muslims as British citizens like all others, the ‘community of communities’ approach encourages politicians to see them as people whose primarily loyalty is to their faith and who can be politically engaged only by other Muslims. The result has been, as in France, to create a more parochial sense of identity and a more tribal vision of Islam.

One consequence of this perverse way of thinking about diversity is that the most progressive voices within minority communities often get silenced as not being truly of that community or truly authentic, while the most conservative voices get celebrated as community leaders, the authentic voices of minority groups.

The Danish MP Naser Khader tells of a conversation with a journalist who claimed that ‘the Muhammad cartoons insulted all Muslims’. ‘I am not insulted’, Khader responded. ‘But you’re not a real Muslim’, came the reply.

‘You’re not a real Muslim.’ Why? Because to be proper Muslim is, from such a perspective, to be reactionary, to find the Muhammed caricatures offensive. Anyone who isn’t reactionary or offended is by definition not a proper Muslim. Here liberal ‘anti-racism’ meets rightwing anti-Muslim bigotry.

The ways in which we conventionally look upon diversity, then, turn migrants into the Other, stripped of individuality, even, ironically, of diversity. Minority communities have become seen as homogenous groups, denied the possibility of transformation, defined by primarily by culture, faith, and place of origin.

The clash between the reality of living in a diverse society and the official insistence on putting people into cultural or ethnic boxes, and the creation of a more parochial, more tribal sense of identity, can have grave consequences. Consider, for instance, the second issue that, together with the migration crisis, dominates much of contemporary European political discourse: the growth of homegrown jihadists. The recent attacks in Paris and Brussels have brought the two issues together in many people’s minds.

The problem of jihadism, the argument goes, is a problem of migration, because it is the arrival into Europe of those with fundamentally different values and beliefs, and with a hatred European civilization, that lies at the root the European jihadist problem. Close off the borders, stop the influx of Muslims, and Europe will begin to be able to deal with the issue of jihadism within.

It is an argument that flies in the face of the facts. The vast majority of European jihadis are not migrants, but second or generation Europeans, and their relationship with Islam is far from straightforward. A high proportion – up to 30 per cent in France – are converts to Islam.

Many studies show, perhaps counter-intuitively, that individuals are not usually led to jihadist groups by religious faith. A British MI5 ‘Briefing Note’ entitled ‘Understanding radicalisation and extremism in the UK’, leaked to the press in 2008 observed that ‘far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practice regularly’. The French sociologist Olivier Roy similarly observes of contemporary jihadis that ‘Very few of them had a previous story of militancy, either political… or religious’. A Europol review of Changes in modus operandi of Islamic State terrorist attacks also notes the ‘shift away from the religious component in the radicalisation of, especially, young recruits’.

We often look at the issue of European jihadism the wrong way round. We begin with jihadists as they are at the end of their journey – enraged about the West, with a back and white view of Islam, and a distorted moral vision – and often assume that these are the reasons that they have come to be as they are. That is rarely the case.

Few jihadists start off as religious fanatics or as political militants. Radical Islam, and a hatred of West, is not necessarily what draws individuals into jihadism. It is what comes to define and justify that jihadism.

So, if not religion or politics, what is it? ‘The path to radicalization’, as the British researcher Tufyal Choudhury put it in his 2007 report on ‘The Role of Muslim Identity in Radicalization’ ‘often involves a search for identity at a moment of crisis… when previous explanations and belief systems are found to be inadequate in explaining an individual’s experience.’

Jihadists, in other words, begin their journey searching for something a lot less definable: identity, meaning, respect. There is, of course, nothing new in the youthful search for identity and meaning. What is different today is the social context in which this search takes place. We live in a more atomized society than in the past; in an age in which many people feel peculiarly disengaged from mainstream social institutions and in which moral lines often seem blurred and identities distorted.

In the past, disaffection with the mainstream may have led people to join movements for political change, from far-left groups to labour movement organizations to anti-racist campaigns. Such organizations helped both give idealism and social grievance a political form, and a mechanism for turning disaffection into the fuel of social change.

Today, such campaigns and organizations often seem as out of touch as mainstream institutions. What gives shape to contemporary disaffection is not progressive politics, as it may have in the past, but the politics of identity. Identity politics has, over the past three decades, encouraged people to define themselves in increasingly narrow ethnic or cultural terms.

At the same time social policy has, as I have already observed, exacerbated these trends, helping create a more fragmented, tribalized society.

A generation ago, today’s ‘radicalized’ Muslims would probably have been far more secular in their outlook, and their radicalism would have expressed itself through political organizations. They would have regarded their faith as simply one strand in a complex tapestry of self-identity. Many, perhaps most, Muslims still do. But there is a growing number that see themselves as Muslims in an almost tribal sense, for whom the richness of the tapestry of self has given way to an all-encompassing monochrome cloak of faith.

Most homegrown jihadis possess, however, a peculiar relationship with Islam. They are, in many ways, as estranged from Muslim communities as they are from Western societies.  Most detest the mores and traditions of their parents, have little time for mainstream forms of Islam, and cut themselves off from traditional community institutions. Disengaged from both Western societies and Muslim communities, some reach out to Islamism. Many would-be jihadis, Olivier Roy observes, ‘adopt the Salafi version of Islam, because Salafism is both simple to understand (don’ts and do’s)’ and because it is ‘the negation of… the Islam of their parents and of their roots.’ It is not through mosques or religious institutions but through the Internet that most jihadis discover both their faith and their virtual community.

Disembedded from social norms, finding their identity within a small group, shaped by black and white ideas and values, driven by a sense that they must act on behalf of all Muslims and in opposition to all enemies of Islam, it becomes easier for wannabe jihadis to commit acts of horror and to view such acts as part of an existential struggle between Islam and the West.

How, then, should we look upon diversity? I have questioned the fear of diversity. But why, and how, should we value it?

When we talk about diversity, what we mean is that the world is a messy place, full of clashes and conflicts. That is all for the good, for such clashes and conflicts are the stuff of political and cultural engagement.

Diversity is important, not in and of itself, but because it allows us to expand our horizons, to compare and contrast different values, beliefs and lifestyles, make judgments upon them, and decide which may be better and which may be worse. It is important, in other words, because it allows us to engage in political dialogue and debate that can, paradoxically, help create a more universal language of citizenship.

But the very thing that is valuable about diversity – the cultural and ideological clashes that it brings about – is precisely what many fear. That fear can take two forms. On the one hand there is the nativist sentiment: the belief immigration is undermining social cohesion, eroding our sense of national identity, turning our cities into little Lahores or mini-Kingstons.

And on the other there is the multicultural argument, that respect for others requires us to accept their ways of being, and not criticize or challenge their values or practices, but instead to police the boundaries between groups to minimize the clashes and conflicts and frictions that diversity brings in its wake.

The one approach encourages fear, the other indifference. The one approach views migrants as the Other, whose otherness poses a threat to European societies. The other approach views the otherness of migrants as an issue that society must respect and live with.

Few events better express both the fear and the indifference than the fallout from the events of New Year’s Eve in Cologne. Large numbers of women were allegedly that evening robbed and sexually assaulted by men, many of whom were described as being of Arab origin. At first the authorities tried to cover up the events, pretending that nothing had happened. When details eventually emerged there was inevitably outrage.

The authorities’ initial response stemmed not just from a fear of the reaction and of racists exploiting the issue, but also from a sense that such events were inevitable in a diverse society in which different values and beliefs and practices clashed, and it was better quietly to let ‘Arabs be Arabs’ than to have a robust and difficult public debate about the issue. And when the truth began to filter out, public fury was directed not just at the men responsible for the sexual attacks, nor just the authorities who tried to cover up the incident, but also at migrants as a whole, becoming a reason for opposing all migration to Germany. Both perspectives view migrants as the Other, as people fundamentally different from Us, though they differ in how deal with the otherness. Fear and indifference, indifference and fear, twisted into a tight knot.

What neither approach begins to address is the question of engagement. Engagement requires us neither to shun certain people as the Other with values, beliefs and practices that are inevitably and fundamentally inimical to ours, nor to be indifferent to the values and beliefs and practices of others in the name of ‘respect’, but rather to recognize that respect requires us to challenge, even confront, that values and beliefs of others. It requires us to have an robust, open public debate about the values, beliefs and practices to which we aspire, accepting that such a debate will be difficult, and often confrontational, but also that such difficult confrontational debate is a necessity in any society that seeks to be open and liberal.

The retreat from engagement is perhaps best expressed in one of the most explosive issues of recent times – that of free speech, and the question of where one draws the boundaries, especially in the giving of offence. From the global controversy over the Danish cartoons to the brutal slaughter at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the question of what is, and should be, acceptable in a plural society has become one of the defining conundrums of our age.

There has come to be an acceptance in many European nations that it is morally wrong to give offence to those of different cultures or faiths or beliefs. For diverse societies to function and to be fair, so the argument runs, we need to show respect not just for individuals but also for the cultures and beliefs in which those individuals are embedded and which helps give them a sense of identity and being. This requires that we police public discourse about those cultures and beliefs, both to minimize friction between antagonistic groups and to protect the dignity of those individuals embedded in them.

As the British sociologist Tariq Modood has put it, that ‘If people are to occupy the same political space without conflict, they mutually have to limit the extent to which they subject each others’ fundamental beliefs to criticism.’ One of the ironies of living in a plural society, it would seem, is that the preservation of diversity requires us to leave less room for a diversity of views.

I take the opposite view. It is precisely because we do live in a plural society that we need the fullest extension possible of free speech, because it is both inevitable and important that people offend the sensibilities of others. Inevitable, because where different beliefs are deeply held, clashes are unavoidable. Almost by definition such clashes express what it is to live in a diverse society.   And so they should be openly resolved than suppressed in the name of ‘respect’ or ‘tolerance’.

But more than this: the giving of offence is not just inevitable, it is also important. Any kind of social change or social progress means offending some deeply held sensibilities. Or to put it another way: ‘You can’t say that!’ is all too often the response of those in power to having their power challenged. To accept that certain things cannot be said is to accept that certain forms of power cannot be challenged.

The notion of giving offence suggests that certain beliefs are so important or valuable to certain people that they should be put beyond the possibility of being insulted, or caricatured or even questioned. The importance of the principle of free speech is precisely that it provides a permanent challenge to the idea that some questions are beyond contention, and hence acts as a permanent challenge to authority. Once we give up the right to offend in the name of ‘tolerance’ or ‘respect’, we constrain our ability to confront those in power, and therefore to challenge injustice.

It is not, however, simply Muslim, or minority, sensibilities that should be able to be offended. Liberal or European sensitivities, too, should be open to affront. Yet, too often those who demand the right of newspapers or novelists to offend Muslims, often are less robust when it comes to views that may offend liberal norms. Double standards are rife.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the French government organized a march through Paris in defence of free speech, a march that was attended by over a million and a half people and 40 world leaders. It also arrested more than 50 people, including the comedian Dieudonné, for seemingly showing sympathy with the gunmen. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders presents himself as a warrior for free speech. But he wants to ban the Qur’an because he considers it hate speech. Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that published the Muhammad cartoons had, a few years earlier, refused to publish cartoons about Jesus by the caricaturist Christoffer Zieler because they might ‘provoke an outcry’. And so it goes on.

The fundamental importance of free speech is that it is the very material of social engagement. When we restrain freedom of expression what we are really restraining is the capacity for social engagement. But social engagement has to be a two-way street, or it is nothing at all. Double standards undermine the very possibility of real engagement.

So, finally, let me return to the question that is the title of this talk: how should we live in a diverse society?

First, we need to recognize how narrow a view of diversity we have today. And that our narrow concept of diversity is at the very heart of many of our problem. If we look upon our differences in political or moral terms, they are often negotiable. If we see them in ethnic or cultural or religious terms, almost by definition they are not. Our peculiar perception of diversity has therefore made social conflict more intractable.

Second, we need to combat the pernicious impact of identity politics, and of the way that social policies have accentuated that pernicious impact. The combination of the two has ensured that social solidarity has become increasingly defined not in political terms – as collective action in pursuit of certain political ideals – but in terms of ethnicity or culture. The answer to the question ‘In what kind of society do I want to live?’ has become shaped less by the kinds of values or institutions we want to establish, than by the group or tribe to which we imagine we belong. From this perspective, diversity becomes a prison rather than the raw material for social engagement.

Third, we need to recognize that the issue of social fracturing is not simply an issue of migration or of minority communities. One of the features of contemporary Europe is the disaffection that many have with mainstream politics and mainstream institutions. It is one of the reasons for the rise of populist and far right groups, a disaffection fuelled by a host of social and political changes, that have left many, particularly from traditional working class backgrounds, feeling politically abandoned and voiceless, and detached from mainstream society.

There are certainly issues specific to immigrants and minority communities, but they are best understood in the context of the wider debate about the relationship between individuals, communities and society. Societies have become fragmented because these relationships have frayed, and not just for minority communities.

Finally, a guiding assumption throughout Europe has been that immigration and integration must be managed through state policies and institutions. Yet real integration, whether of immigrants or of indigenous groups, is rarely brought about by the actions of the state. Indeed , the attempts by the state to manage diversity has been at the heart of many of the problems.

Real integration is shaped primarily by civil society, by the individual bonds that people form with one another, and by the organizations they establish to further their shared political and social interests. It is the erosion of such bonds and institutions that has proved so problematic and that explains why social disengagement is a feature not simply of immigrant communities but of the wider society, too. To repair the damage that disengagement has done, and to revive what I call a progressive universalism, we need, not so much new state policies, as a renewal of civil society.


Een ingekorte Nederlandse versie van deze tekst verscheen tevens in De Groene Amsterdammer van 26 Mei 2016.

European Academy of Participation

European Academy of Participation

Creative producers and the communities of tomorrow
A Strategic Partnership supported by the ERASMUS+ programme of the European Commission. September 2015 – August 2018

EAP_Logoformats_4cThe European Academy of Participation (EAP) brings together 10 partners from all over Europe, including higher education institutions and arts and culture organisations. The project aims to make a contribution to a more inclusive Europe, in which people live together in mutual respect of their differences. The EAP partners consider participatory practice in art and culture as a central tool to involve communities in a positive process of constructing a shared cultural space.

Participation is hot!
A key priority for funders, fostering social cohesion and exposing ethical questions around responsibility and authorship, participatory practice can provide compelling means to communicate through art and culture. It also embraces the dissolving of boundaries between academic and artistic disciplines and those between the policymaker, the artist, the curator and the audience. This increasing flexibility brings about a new practice profile: the creative producer.

EAP wants to develop:
* A shared understanding of a graduate profile for practitioners working in participatory settings, based on the dialogue between higher education, lifelong learning and the creative field.
* A benchmark document that adopts the Tuning Educational Structures in Europe methodology that will be validated and published for the use of educators and practitioners.
This includes a qualifications framework and acknowledges the already existing variety of participatory approaches in the humanities and the arts.
* An intensive 2 month, low-residency module/unit jointly offered by universities and cultural organisations. This post graduate lifelong learning education module/unit targets postgraduate students – from the arts, humanities and social sciences – as well as practitioners including artists, trainers, teachers, curators and others from third sector cultural organizations.
The ambition of EAP is to tap into the existing potential of higher education and the unique and hard won endeavours of creative projects and organizations scattered across Europe that are engaging the public as active agents in their work. Through interaction both sectors impact on the diversifying societies of Europe, valuing participatory practice in the arts.

EAP will organise 3 public conferences
1) 2016, 27-28 October, Dublin, Ireland: Towards a European Benchmark.
2) 2017, May, Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Bringing education and practice together.
3) 2018, May, Lyon, France: New Communities, New Jobs, New Policies.

Goethe-Institut, Munich, Germany; Castrum Peregrini, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; ACERT, Tondela, Portugal; Avrupa Kultur Dernegi, Istanbul, Turkey; National University of the Arts Bucharest, Romania; Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London, UK; University of Marseille, France; Universidad de la Iglesia de Deusto, Bilbao, Spain; ELIA The European League of Institutes of the Arts, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Create, Dublin, Ireland.

More info at


Nov 2013- Nov 2015

Een samwenwerking tussen

kunstenares Amie Dicke en Castrum Peregrini.

Amie Dicke: “When I first saw the scribble saying ’DO NOT TOUCH~ I am sorting important souvnirs’ on top of an untouched pile of papers, this message perfectly described my own observations at Castrum Peregrini. The note was one of the many small personal reminders from the studio of artist Gisèle (1912-2013), which she wrote down to organize her daily life in the house she eventually lived in for seventy years. I found more important souvenirs, not only on top of or under her piles, but in the margins of her (hand)writings and on the back of old photos and other images and objects. Even in the unwritten or not used paper, I found a story of the unmade.

The more I visit the house the more I see it extending beyond its own walls. I see patterns and relations. I wonder where the images, the pictures I took, actually have their origin. To what extend do the house and the ‘important souvnirs’ affect my perception? Please follow my ongoing exploration at:

Thanks to Sander Tiedema, Rafe Copeland, Lorenzo De Rita, Gisèle d’Ailly van Waterschoot van der Gracht, Michael Defuster, Lars Ebert, Frans Damman and the Mondriaan Fund.”


Een huis als muze

Een samwenwerking

tussen Amie Dicke

en Castrum Peregrini.

Nov 2013- Nov 2014

IMG_5117Amie Dicke:

When I first saw the scribble saying ’DO NOT TOUCH~ I am sorting important souvnirs’ on top of an untouched pile of papers, this message perfectly described my own observations at Castrum Peregrini. The note was one of the many small personal reminders from the studio of artist Gisèle (1912-2013), which she wrote down to organize her daily life in the house she eventually lived in for seventy years.

I found more important souvenirs, not only on top of or under her piles, but in the margins of her (hand)writings and on the back of old photos and other images and objects. Even in the unwritten or not used paper, I found a story of the unmade.

The more I visit the house the more I see it extending beyond its own walls. I see patterns and relations. I wonder where the images, the pictures I took, actually have their origin. To what extend do the house and the ‘important souvnirs’ affect my perception? Please follow my ongoing exploration at:


Thanks to Sander Tiedema, Rafe Copeland, Lorenzo De Rita, Gisèle d’Ailly van Waterschoot van der Gracht, Michael Defuster, Lars Ebert, Frans Damman and the Mondriaan Fund.

Silent Heroes

Silent Heroes

The Learning Partnerships looks back on an exciting and rich first half of the project.

The project has made a vibrant start during its first partners meeting in Amsterdam during which the partners have agreed on a structure, method, division of tasks and timeline to approach the project objectives to

  • be a platform for exchange on the subject of hiding in museum-, memory- and learning environment
  • find and map stories of hiding and build a website that makes them accessible for a broader public.
  • give the visitor/learner an active role in finding stories of hiding, making use of online tools and the possibilities of smart-phone recordings


Dates for the immediate next meetings have been agreed as well as the order of meetings. Most meetings will be realized in the second half of the project due to the local agendas that made it more useful for the project to tap into activities of the partners that provide the project with promising synergies.

  • Amsterdam, 8-10 December 2013, realized
  • Hohenems, 15-17 June 2014, realized
  • Berlin, 20-23 September 2014, confirmed
  • Warsaw, February 2016, to be decided
  • Hungary, April 2016, to be decided
  • Amsterdam, June 2016, to be decided


To achieve the projects aims the partners have agreed

–          that each partner will be hosting a meeting presents their local museum/educational works concerning silent heroes, and the gaps that they have identified in their context. Both the realized projects/permanent offers as well as the discussion around the development of the respective organization will be addressed with a discussion and written feedback of all partners. To this end a questionnaire has been designed, that will be used by all staff and learners at all meetings. The questionnaires will be collected by the co-ordinator and the outcomes will be made available on the website; the partners strive for comparability in order to draw conclusions for all partners to inform their organizational development plans.

–          to  build, design, develop and maintain a project website that features their local online resources already available, the partners case studies with the respective peer feedback gathered from the staff and learners and the findings and personal narratives connected with the local reality of the partners and their audience working with silent heroes. This may also require to assign a researcher with analyzing and drawing conclusions from the comparative overview in conjunction with the steering group member’s, which are the representatives of the partner organizations.

The consortium has realized that the material gathered and the research questions (questionnaire) applied are so exciting in terms of outcomes that already after the first two meetings it has become clear that partners want to sustain the outcomes, that especially the website will be developed with a longer term perspective and that it will be extended by other European countries that had a history of hiding during the 2nd world war.

The time planning foresees to have a first draft of the website presented during the next partners meeting in Berlin in September. During the meeting in Warsaw the content to date should be up and online.

In terms of content we have looked at stories of hiding in Amsterdam and those of the silent heroes that helped Jews cross the Austrian/German-Swiss boarder in Hohenems. Examples reach from museum exhibitions (Anne Frank House) to the role of contemporary art in dealing with the past (Castrum Peregrini), the medium of film (Akte Grüninger) and walking tours (Hohenems). In the second part we look ahead to see how Berlin addressed the silent heroes from the German perspective, to Warsaw how a newly established Museum deals with the diversity of viewpoints (with a special focus on the righteous among the nations) and to Hungary with respect to civil society initiatives and walking tours as educational means. Finally in Amsterdam, the Jewish History Museum will conclude the partner meetings with scrutinizing their new initiative ‘Jewish quarter/holocaust memorial’.

All partners are highly motivated and the consortium looks forward to a dynamic and fruitful further learning experience.


Questions for structuring each meeting, for looking at case studies and also for peer coaching feedback on cases presented and discussed:


1)    How are the roles of historic persons in the respective memory setting represented:

  1. hiders
  2. helpers
    i.    passive/silent
    ii.    active/heroic

2)    How are historic sources being used?

3)    How is the materiality of the place/space preserved?

  1. Conserved
  2. Reconstructed
  3. Deconstructed

4)    Is there a link with the current issues of societies?

  1. Are moral and ethical questions addressed?
  2. Are political questions raised?
  3. Is there space for a philosophical/artistic take on the past?

5)    Is the question of identity and image building addressed, especially how the image building has changed in the historic perception of the last 7 decades?

What is the distinct presentation approach, what is the (possibly unique) museological vision/concept and what part does (adult)education play in it?

Silent Heroes, Living Memory.

The context of hiding

during the Second World War

as a challenge for

cultural memory organisations

A Grundtvig Learning Partnership financed by the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission


  • Castrum Peregrini, Amsterdam
  • The Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam
  • Jüdisches Museum Hohenems
  • Silent Heroes Memorial Center of the German Resistance Memorial Center Foundation, Berlin
  • MAROM Klub Egyesület, Budapest
  • Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw


This project brings together organisations in the field of holocaust memory and adult learning about the second world war. They share an interest in the history of hiding and the role of oral history for a learning environment that fosters active participation of learners in Museum settings. The project wants to

–          be a platform for exchange on the subject of hiding in museum-, memory- and learning environments.

–          find and map stories of hiding and build a website that makes them accessible for a broader public.

–          give the visitor/learner an active role in finding stories of hiding, making use of online tools and the possibilities of smart-phone recordings.

The last generation of survivors will be in the focus of the activities and also the second generation of family and friends of survivors will be interviewed. The stories will be collected in an online database that can be used by all partners involved and by the wider sector of adult education that addresses the historic role of shelter. This project wants to develop an overarching web portal for the partners websites displaying Hiding places and their stories.

The physical places like the Anne Frank House, Castrum Peregrini and those collected e.g.  by the Gedenkstätte Stille Helden in Berlin, will be visited and scrutinized with respect to their methodology of preservation, access for the broader public and educational material and activities.

External funding will ensure broad visibility of the website in all partner countries involved. A sustainability plan must ensure that after the learning partnership ends, the website will be further maintained and that it will be extended by other European countries that had a history of hiding during the 2nd world war.

Mapping Future Heritage




the present


In the framework of the Tandem project of MitOst, Berlin, Castrum Peregrini – Intellectual Playground and the Centre for Humanities, University of Lviv, Ukraine realise a long-term collaboration project that will examine ‘dynamic’ cultural heritage as an everyday experience.

Mapping Future Heritage wants to collect sites of memory which are forgotten, neglected, not yet discovered, difficult, or just too obvious to stand still. Those sites get significance by the unique combination of human stories and ideas that have historically loaded them. The story of a place, the story of people and the story of ideas make for a unique kaleidoscope worth discovering. Identifying and registering those places and facilitating an artistic intervention in them allows for unusual encounters with the past that have the potential to shape and influence a future life. In the first small exhibition you will see 4 projects about four sites identified by the two project initiators Castrum Peregrini, Amsterdam and The Centre for the Humanities, Lviv. They are the beginning of a project that will include an increasing number of partners in different countries. Stay tuned and please feedback to us sites, that are worth unlocking.


”  Modern technology has allowed for a huge increase in the capacity to store, categorise, interpret, transfer and present heritage and memories in the form of archives, libraries, collections and databases. In this vein heritage has been approached more and more in terms of memory work. A lively theoretical discourse in the last 40 years , among others, has ensured the framing of heritage as a phenomenon with its own history, not merely a material relict but also a cultural process.This process is not only an individual or social one, it is an activity occurring in the present, in which the past is continuously modified and redescribed even as it continues to shape the future. Cultural memory links the past to the present especially where the mediation of difficult or tabooed moments of the past are concerned, moments that impinge upon the present. Cultural memory is the product of collective agency rather than psychic or historical accident, it is bound to specific sites and global at the same time. It is not something of which one happens to be the bearer, although memory is often so habitual that it seems automatic, but something one performs. Acts of memory are performed by individuals in a cultural framework that encourages such acts. Art and other cultural artifacts can mediate between the parties to the traumatic scene, and between these and the viewer. To enter memory the traumatic events of the past need to be made narratable.”

Travelling and exhibition

The Mapping Hidden Heritage project will launch the web application in a travelling exhibition that will display artists work on, in and with heritage sites. The exhibition will be on display in Moldova in 24-28 May 2012 and in Amsterdam in autumn 2012. The website will be launched in May 2012.


The projects so far

Au/Ra, Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

After Aura, Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

InsideOut, Lviv (Ukraine)

Agora, Lviv (Ukraine)


Find us on facebook!

FIT – Fanaticism Indicator Test

FIT – Fanaticism Indicator Test

Our application for a two year project on the theme of fanaticism was granted by the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Comission. We are happy to work for two years with the following group of partners:

Volkshochschule Hietzing, Vienna, Austria

The Red House for Culture, Bulgaria, Sofia

Goethe Institut, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Tolerance Institute, Lodz, Poland

Pele association, Porto, Portugal

We will kick off at a working conference in Amsterdam, 25 and 26 September 2009.



FIT – Project overview


In this project, fanaticism is approached as a characteristic given of human nature, not something to be looked after in ’others’. It is seen as a danger to which every individual is exposed. Moreover the self awareness bears the potential to gain an understanding of tolerance that lies far beyond the usual indifference. Only by overcoming the distance between image and identity in terms of fanaticism a true understanding of tolerance is the inevitable added value.

Questions related to that topic are:

–           what is fanaticism?

–           when and why does one gets fanatic?

–           why is one individual more vulnerable than the other?

–           what is needed to realise one has tendencies towards fanaticism?

–           when can you call somebody fanatic?

Europe has a long history of religious, political, racist, economical fanaticism that has had disastrous effects on the development of the continent. That threat is existing until today and is likely to be a reality in future societies, too.

At  the end of the project we want to be able to address the following questions:

–           Is there a typical European fanaticism or one that is unique for certain    countries, religions or ethnic groups?

–           Why are certain periods in history more vulnerable for a collective fanaticism    than another periods and which indicators can we define?


Elias Canetti, Sebastian Haffner and Hannah Arendt highlight that fanaticism belongs to the ’condition humaine’. It is thus a universal phenomenon, not bound to specific races, cultures or countries. The only harness for individuals against this human characteristic is to improve their self awareness towards it.

The main objective of this project is the development of strong tools to create self awareness of one’s vulnerability for fanaticism in a playful but effective way in different countries of the EU.

One of the tools consists of the Fanaticism Indicator Test (F.I.T), an online questionnaire on different aspects of social attitude and behaviour, of which a pilot version was developed on the background of the Dutch situation by the Stefan Zweig Genootschap Nederland At the end of the exercise, F.I.T. gives the staff and learners of the involved organisations evidence of their degree of vulnerability towards fanaticism. We now want to develop it for European wide use.

The European value/dimension of the project is inherent to the sociological, historical and language studies that are necessary to make F.I.T. applicable to the present-day situation of the involved partner countries. The potential of this project is the combined use of the universal human character and national experiences and contextual characteristics. This makes the project strongly suitable for staff and learners to experience the meaning of “United in Diversity”. The project could lead to an EU blueprint for dealing with fanaticism on the level of individuals.

An online application of F.I.T. will be implemented on the websites of the partner organisations. Partners will make the broader theme accessible to the learners and staff involved in the project by contributing case studies from their daily practice.

Additional information about fanaticism and tolerance is to be found on their websites.

The devastating effects of fanaticism are clear to anyone that only had a glimpse on the 20th century history of Europe. Today, it is present by the tendencies towards nationalism and populism, religious fanaticism, the call for the strong leader, exclusion of outsiders and minorities, intolerance towards different opinions and ways of life etc.

The fanaticism indicator

A pilot fanaticism indicator, developed by the Stefan Zweig Genootschap Nederland, was tested in a local setting (Amsterdam public library) in the Netherlands, see To add a European value/dimension to the existing tool other countries need to be involved. The potential of the project lies in its universal character and yet depends on national experiences and individuals willing to share a learning experience. This will lead to a validated set of values and criteria to create a methodology suitable for data gathering, interpreting and implementing an online self awareness exercise.

Research, define, exchange

It will be necessary to gather knowledge about the different social contexts of mentality and behaviour in the involved countries and about the characteristics of their different language use seen from the perspective of fanaticism. Research about the history and state of the art of tolerance and fanaticism of each country of the partners is inevitable to make the project recognisable for all groups of the different countries.

–           Development of a methodology for measuring fanaticism.

–           Research on the contextual particularities of the countries of the partners, i.e., history, social structure and societal contact, language, etc. This will be done in the form of case studies.

–           Developing concrete instruments to increase individual awareness of handling fanaticism. The pilot version of the fanaticism indicator is one of those   instruments and will be adapted according to the outcome of the contextual       research.

–           An online application of the indicator to be implemented in the websites of the partner organisations.

Main objective

Development of a strong tool to create self awareness of one’s vulnerability for fanaticism in a playful but serious and effective way for learners and staff of the participating organisations and a broad public throughout the countries of the partners.

With the use of web 2.0 applications the Indicator will be easily accessible for a broad layer of European citizens at a low cost scale. The tool consists of an online questionnaire on different aspects of personal social attitude and behaviour. At the end of the exercise, the fanaticism indicator test gives the users evidence of their degree of vulnerability towards fanaticism against a defined average. The fanaticism indicator will be implemented in the websites of all involved partners to reach their respective staff and learners.

The fanaticism indicator will be fed with additional information about fanaticism and tolerance in general, but also specified for the realities of the countries of the involved partners and or different ethnical or minority groups within those countries. Each country in the EU fosters its own culture, language and idioms that are a substantial part of individual identities of the citizens. This richness will be the main fuel during the development of the indicator.


o          development of the fanaticism indicator:

1.         definition of fanaticism

2.         collecting material

3.         Visit of locations of conflict

o          mapping exercise collection of data

o          analysing of case study data

3.         analysis

4.         questionnaire

5.         developing software

6.         launch and integration of the tool within partner’s website

7.         promotion, free publicity

8.         Follow up publication, article etc?

o          working meetings

o          set up working groups staff/learners