urope is a continent full of differences and complementarities, and its history has thus been marked by conflicting factors but also by unifying elements. European civil wars have marked the last century and a half, and the barbarity of the 20th Century meant that after 1945, Europe set out on the long and difficult path towards the building of a community or a union which would lay the foundations of a lasting project of peace and democracy. The Cold War, however, prevented the immediate realization of a pan European project, but did create conditions for the initiation of the Franco-German reconciliation which supported European reconstruction. Contrary to what happened in the 1930s, it was possible to put into practice a project oriented towards a supranational democracy.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, new horizons opened up, but the crisis in the Balkans reminded Europeans that the cultural and political divisions had not disappeared. As Jacques Delors noted, the new European Union, faced with a rapid enlargement, had to become more modest but more demanding in its objectives. Thus, in order to complete the four freedoms (free circulation of people, goods, capital and services) and to create the Economic and Monetary Union, the Union adopted three central goals – peace and security, sustainable development and cultural diversity. It is at this point that we find ourselves: constructing a European Union with more citizenship, more democracy and more peace.
The Treaty of Lisbon emerges out of these concerns and the idea that Europe today can better encompass the idea of double legitimacy on which it is based: legitimacy of the States, and legitimacy of the citizens. For this reason, Europe of nationalities has to be seen in a new light, and supported by five points. In the first place, the ancient nations have not lost their relevance, having to be seen as free and open realities, and not as closed and protectionist contexts. In the second place, historical memory should be regarded as a factor of cultural diversity and not of chauvinist expansionism. Thirdly, national egoisms in an open society have to give way to cooperation and to mutual respect. Fourthly, pluralism and freedom are incompatible with economic and cultural protectionism and fifthly, what the European Union aims at is the construction of a union of free and sovereign states which has to involve the legitimacy of the States and their citizens.
After the hopes of the People’s Spring of 1848, the idea of self-sufficiency and national aggression prevailed. Today, a relative loss of memory could allow us to forget that nations have to encourage civic responsibility. Thus in 1989, a civic upheaval was necessary for a culture of peace to be able to join national belonging and European solidarity. Lest national egoisms return, it is indispensable to understand that it is not a question of creating a European nation, but of constructing a complex legitimacy based on pluralism, in a cosmopolitan and universalist sense, capable of incorporating liberty, equality, difference, solidarity, mutual respect and dignity of the human person.
To talk of a Europe of nationalities is thus to understand History, laying the foundations of a political and institutional reality capable of defining common interests and values and defending them, preserving differences and making of them a factor of encounter, of peace and of preservation of the common cultural heritage. Heritage and memory should thus come together. In essence, Europe needs to understand what unites it and what divides it in order to become an active Union of States and free and sovereign Peoples!
Guilherme d'Oliveira Martins
ations are always the result of the human desire to design a life in common and project it into the future in the hope of gaining temporal continuity, or even eternity. But to ensure this lasting future, or even a simple existence in the present, an identity must be forged in the land of sacred time and space, in other words, in the mythical time of origins. So it is not surprising that all nations and/or nationalities invest their imaginaries with myths of origin, whose symbolic and practical usefulness frequently equals their aesthetic and literary character.
We are also aware of the extent to which these myths of origin are intimately connected to the symbolic production of collective identities, without which peoples and communities would not survive as units. But the quest for such identities has frequently been the cause of the most varied conflicts in the European (and extra-European) space, feeding on mutual ignorance and the absence of comparative and dialogic approaches which could bring together European peoples rather than pull them apart. At this international conference, Europe of Nations – Myths of Origin: Modern and Postmodern Discourses, we aim to create an analytical and critical archive of the most important myths of origin of European nations, and promote a contemporary and challenging debate around the principle themes involved: from literature to communication, from history to the arts, from anthropology to sociology, from politics to philosophy.
In this context we are interested in understanding the ways in which discourses of Modernity have (re)invested, transformed and/or reinforced the narratives of origin of Europe’s nations, and what is or are the meaning(s) attributed to them in Post-modernity, by appropriating them in increasingly intense and recurrent forms.
Knowing how widely the myths of origin of European nations have spread and how strong their impact has been outside Europe, mingling with myths of origin of non-European nations, we are particularly interested in learning about the way in which the non-European Other lives or lived our myths, how in certain cases they appropriated these myths, adapting them to their own circumstances and also how the contemporary communication and culture industries have facilitated the globalization of these myths of origin (we are thinking, for example, of the ways in which the film industry has appropriated the oldest myths of Europe and returned them to us in hollywoodesque form).
Finally, and inversely, we are particularly interested in the register, knowledge and understanding, of the rich mythological reserve of insular geographical spaces where the imaginary of origins acquires very particular configurations, of rare beauty and depth. The main objective of this conference is to contribute to the vast source of reflection about the future of a Europe which is united precisely because it is diverse and multiple in its Myths of origin, in turn related to the diverse nationalities which constitute it. Researchers and national and international experts, recognized in the field of the arts and the human and social sciences, will contribute to the deepening of the debate surrounding the conference theme and the fundamental lines which configure the eternal search for identity, between the narrative legitimating and the many metamorphoses of the Myths of origin.
The international conference will be held under the high patronage of the President of the European Commission and takes place at the University of Aveiro, Portugal, on the 9th, 10th and 11th of May, 2011. The President of the Scientific Committee is Dr. Guilherme de Oliveira Martins, and the conference is jointly organized by the Centre of Languages and Cultures of the University of Aveiro (CLC), the Centre of Lusophone and European Literatures and Cultures of the University of Lisbon (CLEPUL) and the International Society for Iberian-Slavonic Studies (CompaRes).
Maria Manuel Baptista