Belonging in the New Europe: A Scottish Perspective

This interdisciplinary conference brought together scholars from countries in both the ‘new’ and ‘old’ Europe to address forms taken by new relational modes of belonging in the context of globalisation processes, new migration patterns and the action of new political subjects.

Ideas and experiences of belonging will be addressed in terms of exterior conditions; of narrative, spatial and historical dimensions, and of cultural engagement and socio-political formulation. The conference had a particular focus on Scotland, which many writers and scholars from Eastern Europe see as offering notably productive points of comparison.

The rationale for the conference emerged from a three-year Research Theme on ‘Diasporas, Migrations and Identities’ run at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, a project that has brought 22 scholars from twelve countries to work as Fellows of the Institute on issues of comparative cultural identity in a Scottish context.

The keynote address was given by Allan Little (BBC Correspondent) on “Blood and Belonging: From Bosnia to the Baltics”


13-14 September 2007

The University of Edinburgh
The Playfair Library, Old College, South Bridge

Thursday, 13 September


Welcome by Professor Vicki Bruce (Head of College of Humanities and Social Science, University of Edinburgh); and Professor Susan Manning (Director, The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, The University of Edinburgh)


Opening lecture by Allan Little (BBC Correspondent): "Blood and Belonging: From Bosnia to the Baltics", sponsored by the RSA in Scotland.

Chair: Mr. Robert Porrer, Chair, RSA Scotland Committee


Reception followed by a short recital by Music Staff and Students, The University of Edinburgh


Buffet supper (by ticket)

Friday, 14 September

9.30 a.m.

Panel Session I: Structures of Belonging


Chair: Professor Lynn Staeheli


Professor Jo Shaw (Salvesen Chair of European Institutions, School of Law, University of Edinburgh): “Political rights and multilevel citizenship in Europe”

Professor Martin Ehala (Chair of General and Applied Linguistics, Tallinn University, Estonia): “Semiotic Structures of Collective Identity”

Professor Irene McAra-McWilliam (Head of School of Design, The Glasgow School of Art): “Connected Community: the aesthetics of interaction in local and global communities”




Panel Session II: Sites of Belonging


Chair: Professor Irene McAra-McWilliam


Dr. Andrew Newby and Ms Linda Andersson (Scottish History, The University of Edinburgh): "Museums and Citizenship in Scotland and Finland"

Dr. Andrew S. Gross (John F. Kennedy Institute, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany): “Remembering, Visiting, Belonging: Rituals of Holocaust Remembrance and Sites of Trans-National Citizenship in the New Europe”

Ms Shonaig Macpherson (Chairman, National Trust for Scotland): "The National Trust for Scotland: A Place for Everyone?"




Panel Session III: Narratives of Belonging


Chair: Professor Susan Manning


Professor Lynn Staeheli (Ogilvie Professor of Human Geography, The University of Edinburgh): "Belonging and Home in an Inhospitable Place"

Dr. Adriana Neagu (British and American Studies, Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Romania): “Spaces and Places Apart. Scotland and Transylvania in the European Imagination”

Dr. Zoltan Imre (Institute for Hungarian Literature, Eötvös Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary): “Staging the Nation in the National Theatre: The Scottish Example"

Lorne Campbell (Associate Director, Traverse Theatre): "New Writing & New Commissioning: Models of working in and about a New Europe"




Session IV: Round table discussion




Abstracts of papers

Professor Martin Ehala (Chair of General and Applied Linguistics, Tallinn University, Estonia)
Semiotic Structures of Collective Identity

Modes of belonging may be analysed in terms of ‘social capital’, defined as the advantage created by a person’s location in a structure of relationships. In all societies, the differences in social capital depend on the strength and position of the various groups to which people feel an allegiance. If the top level in-group is strong, i.e. if people have a strong feeling of ‘we’ that includes all members of society, the level of social capital in the whole society is high. If the sub-level in-groups are stronger, i.e. people identify themselves primarily as belonging to various subcultures – Christian, Muslim, Welsh, punk, etc. – social capital gets distributed within these smaller in-groups and thus its level on the society as the whole is lower.

This is why in relatively homogeneous and egalitarian societies (like Scandinavian countries for instance) social capital is highest. People have a strong feeling of ‘we’ at the level of the whole society. In current multicultural societies, on the other hand, the social capital of the top level in-group is eroded and the shared values that create trust between society members are weakened. I would like to argue that in order for social capital to grow, society needs shared values that enforce modes of belonging at the top level in-group.

Such a fundamental shared value, anchored in our biology is ‘care’. This value is essential for in-group belonging, even in experimental conditions, when groups are formed of random people. This value, which is known to all subcultures in a society, could be used to define the common core of modern multiculturalism. It would be the basis for constructing a new meta-level mode of identity and belonging that would unite the modern subcultures of society in the way nationalism united the historical subcultures within various ethnicities two centuries ago.

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Dr. Andrew S. Gross (John F. Kennedy Institute)
Remembering, Visiting, Belonging: Rituals of Holocaust Remembrance and Sites of Trans-National Citizenship in the New Europe

Holocaust commemoration has become increasingly important in the construction of a transnational European identity and “cosmopolitan memory culture”. Nazism and genocide serve as object lessons in the evils of racism, nationalism, and their fatal combination in nationalist ideology. The forms and rituals of commemoration, however, are as important as the horrible events being commemorated. The last decade has witnessed the emergence of an internationally recognizable memorial architecture and transnational rituals of commemoration. Both are designed to afford visitors temporary feelings of vulnerability and exile, as various scholars have pointed out. My paper understands this temporary exile as a genteel version of Diaspora, which, I argue, has come to serve as a symbol and performance of transnational community in a global age.

There is, of course, a poignant irony in the way contemporary metaphors and rituals of community convert one of the staples of anti-Semitic propaganda-Jewish cosmopolitanism -into a paradigm of transnational belonging. Some critics have expressed concern that the current preoccupation with the Holocaust has led to a form of philo-Semitism or “virtual Jewishness” as distorting as its anti-Semitic precursors. We should, of course, keep in mind the complex relation between Holocaust commemoration and contemporary Judaism. For this reason, I approach Holocaust commemoration as a form of civil religion. What visitors experience at sites of Holocaust commemoration is not so much a confirmation of religious belief, nationality or ethnicity; visitor demographics cut across these traditional markers of identity. Rather, temporary exile has become the ritual and common experience of a new form of communal belonging. My paper will explore this new form of belonging, and the architectural forms and rituals of remembrance enabling it, by analyzing the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, the two newest and most frequented memorials in Germany. It will also consider, by way of comparison, other significant memorial sites in Europe.

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Dr. Zoltan Imre (Institute for Hungarian Literature, Eötvös Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary)
Staging the Nation in the (National) Theatre: The Scottish Example

As the only major cultural institution to be founded since the devolution of Scotland, the National Theatre of Scotland is connected to various symbolic and real territories, institutional relations and power structures: (national) theatre, (national) politics, as well as (national) identity. This paper investigates the major functions of the National Theatre of Scotland within intensifying processes of globalization and the emergence of the present-day post-traditional nation-state. It focuses on how Scottish national identity ‘based upon the sentiment of belonging to a specific nation, endowed with its own symbols, traditions, sacred places, ceremonies, heroes, history, culture and territory’ is formed and maintained as a diverse and multicultural entity by the productions and other theatrical strategies of the NTS.

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Professor Irene McAra-McWilliam (Head of School of Design, The Glasgow School of Art)
Connected Community: the aesthetics of interaction in local and global communities

This paper explores the relationships between community and technological systems in both local and global networks. In the European Commission’s long-term research programme Connected Community, I proposed that future networked media should be designed to support informal communication within local, geographical areas with a diverse community. This approach is therefore in contrast to large-scale productivity-related processes typical of ‘traditional’ computer systems. The programme called for research leading to new technical models for connecting a broad and diverse population.

The research focussed on three major areas: the ‘community as database’, ‘territory as interface’ and ‘tangible computing’. ‘Community as database’ proposed that the networked system would be designed to support access to people, in preference to access to information: the local community was to be viewed as a distributed human resource that could become more connected socially, economically and politically. ‘Territory as interface’ considered the whole territory of the community as interface and thus addressed the relationship between real physical spaces and augmented or virtual ones. A ‘tangible computing’ focus explored the use of physical artefacts as both technological prototypes and social ‘enablers’, particularly in the context of collective use. Examples of the technological challenges included the creation of public domain devices for collective interfaces, knowledge ‘sedimentation’ and adaptive databases, low-cost portable networked interfaces, wireless devices for collective use, and the linking of territory and interface. Throughout the project, the ethnographic studies were carried out in parallel with conceptual design activities in a practice-led approach that supported very rapid prototyping and iterative design research.

This paper addresses the difference between ‘information’ and ‘communication’, the aesthetics of interaction in networked media, and the expanding role of the user as creative producer and publisher in community-based networked systems. I will conclude by proposing that ‘sites of belonging’ are now both physical and virtual, local and global, and explore how the Connected Community research is relevant to Scotland.

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Shonaig Macpherson CBE FRSE D.Univ (Chairman, National Trust for Scotland)
The National Trust for Scotland : a place for everyone?

This paper will consider the importance of place to a nation from the perspective of the National Trust for Scotland. As Scotland’s leading conservation charity, the Trust cares for 128 properties, including 76,000 hectares of land for “the benefit of the nation”. The properties range from grand castles such as Culzean to humble working cottages such as the Weavers Cottage at Kilbarchan to St Kilda. Established in 1931, in acquiring its properties, the Trust did not adopt a strategic approach in determining what to save for the nation, instead usually reacting to events putting a property at risk. This paper will consider how the National Trust for Scotland endeavours to connect a nation to places that symbolise a nation’s heritage and identity.

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Dr. Adriana Neagu (British and American Studies, Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Romania)
Spaces and Places Apart: Scotland and Transylvania in the European Imagination

The presentation draws on a comparative project examining Scotland and Transylvania as cultural constructs and places of memory in continental European imagination. Identifying the Highlands and northern Transylvania as spaces and places apart in the cultural geography of a new enlarged Europe, we observe both their intrinsic mythography and what this contributes to ‘Europe’. I look at myth, epic and oral traditions with a view to exploring how the vast body of folktales, traditional fairy tales, ghost stories and dream allegories reverberate in European representations of the regions. While premised on the enduring distinctiveness of Scottish and Transylvanian myth- and hero-making potential, I also reconsider images of Scotland and Transylvania in the context of Greater European integration. Over the past decade or so difference has been the focal point of inquiries into cultural identity. Dislocation and the narratives of resistance voicing it have established negative identification as the prevailing mode of inquiry. Understood in the broadest sense, as practices of belonging, narratives encapsulate stories of rootedness and (be)longing. By concentrating on narratives as sites of confluence, I bring into comparative focus Scottish and Transylvanian popular myths to reflect on their bearing upon the relational component of identity. These dominant mythical and archetypal patterns emphasising primitive doctrines, extant archaic ritual forms, wedding ritual, magic and superstition– are deemed to have shaped the framework of identification in Scottish and Transylvanian oral history, impacting significantly upon (self-)representations of ‘specialness’ and ‘ordinariness’. My primary interest is in identifying and contrasting the Celtic kernel of these mythic forms and setting the tone for a debate on the larger implications of intercultural correspondences in the face of current anxieties over global uniformity.

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Dr. Andrew Newby and Ms Linda Andersson (School of History & Classics University of Edinburgh)
Museums and Citizenship in Scotland and Finland

This paper will examine the relationship between national identity and national museums in Scotland and Finland from the nineteenth century to the present day. It will compare and contrast how national museums have negotiated national identity in these two small northern nations. Several themes will emerge:

Identity politics and the foundation of the national museums in Scotland and Finland:
National Museums were established in Scotland and Finland at a time when they were both components of multi-national states. Whereas Scotland entered an incorporating Union with England in 1707 to create the British state, Finland went from being part of the Swedish Empire to becoming an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia in 1809.

Building upon work by scholars such as Anthony D Smith, we will discuss how memories and myths are an essential part of national identity. Scotland and Finland maintained their distinct national identities within the British and Russian states by having strong cultural identities. However the historical ‘master-narratives’ of the two nations, and the museums which told the heroic tales of the past, played very different roles in Finland and Scotland.

The decision to establish a national museum in Finland in 1893 occurred in a decade when the struggle for political autonomy from Russia and democratisation increased. The museum was opened to the public in 1916, only one year before independence. Finland therefore employed romantic versions of the nation’s past in the struggle for independence, and the establishment of the national museum was part of the cultural process towards independence.

The opening of the National Museum of Scotland (as the ‘Museum of Science and Technology’) in Edinburgh in 1866, on the other hand, was part of a celebration of Scotland’s role within the British Empire. Scotland did not use a romanticised past in order to become an independent nation-state, which nations such as Finland and Ireland did. Rather, historical narratives were used to demonstrate Scotland’s long existence as a nation, and the successful preservation of this status within a Unionist framework. In short, Scotland saw itself as England’s equal partner in developing the British Union state and, perhaps more importantly, the Empire.

Comparisons between Finland’s relationship with Russia and Scotland with England/Britain.
In order to explain this divergence, we will compare the relationships between Finland and Russia and Scotland and England/Britain.

What kind of narratives are fostered and allowed at national museums?
We will investigate the dominant forms of self-presentation of the two museums in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Part of this will be an evaluation of the construction of internal and external enemies of the nation. To what extent were / are these ‘nationing’ institutions, and what kind of nation might they promote? Do they see themselves as guardians of a national heritage, architects of a nation heritage, or both?

Belonging in the 21st Century
Our final theme will be the role of the national museums in contemporary Scotland and Finland. We will discuss the responses of these institutions to debates about locality, multiculturalism, and devolution – with particular reference to Scotland – and an increasingly globalized world. Who is included and excluded from the museums’ narratives of the nation?

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Professor Jo Shaw (Salvesen Chair of European Institutions, School of Law, University of Edinburgh)
Political rights and multilevel citizenship in Europe

This paper comprises three parts. The first part develops the proposition that citizenship and citizenship practices are ‘organised’ on a multilevel basis within Europe, or more specifically within the European Union. Specifically, the paper argues that it is not only supranational ‘citizenship’ which helps to determine the package of political rights and claims which those who lack the badge of formal national citizenship can assert, but also subnational ‘citizenships’, where political systems at the regional or subnational level give rise to disputes between political authorities within, as well as across, states in relation to non-nationals’ rights. The second part sketches out EU political rights for citizens of the Union; these are focused on an equal treatment guarantee under EU law for EU citizens resident in a Member State other than the one of which they are a national, giving EU citizens the right to vote in local and European Parliamentary elections. The third part focuses on the regional disputes of political rights within Member States of the EU, highlighting the adjudicatory role of constitutional and other courts in this field. The conclusion seeks to place the argument in the broader context of the role of subnational authorities in developing and determining more general policies on immigration and integration.

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Professor Lynn A. Staeheli (Ogilvie Chair of Geography, University of Edinburgh), Dr. Caroline R. Nagel (University of South Carolina)
Belonging and Home in an Inhospitable Place

This paper explores the meanings of belonging and home in settings that seem unwelcoming and inhospitable. Its empirical focus is on Arab immigrants and their families in post-7/7 Britain. Based on in-depth interviews with 42 British Arab activists, we argue that the context of reception for Arab immigrants to Britain has changed in recent years from a place that seemed uninformed about Arab cultures and immigration to one that is more hostile and unwelcoming. Our respondents discuss the ways this has shaped their feelings of belonging and home in a place that seems increasingly inhospitable. In so doing, they discuss the ways they build lives connecting “here” and “there” in Britain and their home countries. The paper concludes with a consideration of the ways in which activists try to build homes and a more hospitable place in Britain

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