THE HUMANITIES AND THE CHALLENGES OF THE NEW EUROPE: CULTURE, LANGUAGES, IDENTITIES
8th International SELICUP Conference (Spanish Society for the Study of Popular Culture)
Portblue Club Pollentia Resort (Alcudia, Majorca, Spain)
24-26 October 2018
After centuries of almost universally acknowledged respect, the humanities are now widely perceived to be in crisis. And this may be seen as a twofold crisis, coming from both within the humanities themselves—no longer, if they ever were, exclusively centred on “the study of the human” (hence what in some quarters is referred to as “posthumanism”)—and from the world outside—no longer universally acknowledging the value of humanistic thought.
Therefore, as Summit suggests, the humanities need to prove themselves relevant. And this could be achieved should they (1) stop looking at themselves as guarantors of disciplinary knowledge; and (2) go back to the original spirit of humanistic study, which had “aims, effects, and [a] social mission” (2012: 668).
Inspired by such principles, the University of the Balearic Islands will host the 8th International SELICUP Conference, which aims at becoming a suitable forum in which a wide range of approaches can be presented and discussed from the different branches of the humanities, addressing some of the main challenges of contemporary European society. This seems to be a timely occasion, as there is strong evidence that a new paradigm is beginning to visibly alter the principles regulating cultural sensibilities.
One of the main features of the late 20th century was globalisation, while the so-called “postmodernism” was very much the cultural system underlying late capitalism. However, the social and economic environment in the 2010s is (or at least seems to be perceived as) different: capitalism, the driving force behind globalisation, has shown its weaknesses, plunging a good many countries into the deepest recession in decades. As a result, life and work conditions have been substantially altered. Likewise, the geopolitical order has also changed: political and economic power seems to be shifting eastwards (especially to Asia) while the perception exists that Europe cannot manage crises (international politics, immigration, Brexit) efficiently enough. Other factors should be added to the mix, and these include the digitalisation of culture and the very human experience, the impact of tourism as an economic force, the growing perception of immigration as a social problem and the widespread fear resulting from globalised terror. This changing environment, as Vermeulen and Akker partly suggest (2010, 2015), seems to be resulting in a new sensibility, which might even become a new cultural paradigm. Thus, as opposed to postmodern a-historicism, fragmentation and de-centralisation, this new context seems to have fostered a return to historical memory and conscience (see e.g. Todorova 2004 on the Balkans), which has in turn resulted in different reactions. On the one hand, there has been ‘a revival of conservative nationalism’ (e.g. in the USA, UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and some countries of the former Eastern Bloc). On the other, the anti-systemic Syriza, Five-Star and Indignados movements in Greece, Italy and Spain, respectively, have gained notoriety, and the same goes for positions questioning hegemonic national identity discourses, as can be seen in Spain (Borgen 2010), the UK (Guibernau 2006) or the countries of the former Yugoslavia (Bieber 2015).
While this new sensibility is beginning to draw academic attention in the field of the plastic arts, research is badly needed in other areas. It is because of this that SELICUP 2018 aims at analysing this changing context and its effects on all kinds of cultural and linguistic manifestations. This will be done in the unique environment of the Balearic Islands: an officially bilingual territory which, due to its location and importance as a tourist destination, has witnessed a profound yet surprisingly rapid social transformation, becoming an extraordinarily dynamic multicultural and multilingual space.