Adventures in Cultural Learning

In periods of disillusionment and crisis (war, occupation, migration, industrialisation), a greater “cultural vitality” seems to appear. Indeed, troubled pasts and presents have frequently acted as fertile breeding grounds for cultural productions and artistic manifestations — the cradle for a variety of ‘adventures in cultural learning’. Moreover, it is during these troubled times that culture is often radically re-enacted and re-evaluated as a medium to express unease and disgruntlement with the present, a vehicle to scrutinise problems, the means par excellence to provoke the masses in attempts to revolutionise society, or even as a kind of ‘therapeutic tool’. Thus, culture — while criticising atrocities and making radical propositions for the present and future — has frequently positioned itself at the vanguard of social critique and as a facilitator of societal change. Indeed it was, and still is, — to use Don Mitchell phrasing — “politics by another name” (2000, 3). It should, therefore, not surprise us that culture became a contested territory, a sought-after platform to reassert a certain image or to challenge and reconcile conflicting narratives of the past, present and future. In other words, it was and is believed that those who governed cultural capital/heritage controlled its diffusion and consumption, had/has power over meaning making, the ‘memory factory’ and, thus, identity construction.

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