Project: The debt: historicizing Europe's relations with the 'South'

Since the Euro-crisis, the benign European self-image of unity in diversity cedes in the face of a new South-North divide, in which different layers of the past are evoked to explain the division and justify actions. The reasonings mix historical facts with normative, moralistic claims. At their centre is a concept of debt. The core question is: what impact does the invocation of a past debt have on the relation between two (collective) subjects in the present? The question will be answered by selected analyses of debt in narratives about the European past. Invocations of debt have a performative potential and intend to direct action, claiming that a historical debt relation entails rights and responsabilities in the present. This project links questions of historiography with concerns in political philosophy and addresses squarely the issue of the connection between past and present as posed in the arts and in historical sociology. Thus, it adds considerably to common research on uses of the past that often merely shows the past's constructability. Scholarly debate has done little, in the newly divided Europe, to make different view-points intelligible to others. The research will demonstrate how performative invocation of past debt has an impact on the present, but also how a historically insensitive accounting view of debt can provoke guilt-oriented reconstructions of the past as a counter-measure. It aims at a more responsible use of the past in the present. To achieve its objectives, the proposed project links four major centres of research in the humanities with widely known cultural institutions in Athens, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Helsinki and Turin and develops an inter-disciplinary and multi-perspectival approach drawing both on the competences and the experiences of its researchers, who come from both North and South of Europe and are often intra-European migrants.

Acronym The debt (Reference Number: HERA.15.057)
Duration 01/06/2016 - 31/05/2018
Project Topic REFLECTIVE-1-2014
Call HERA Call “Uses of the Past”

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 Universitat de Barcelona Coordinator Spain
2 Institute for Social Research Partner Germany
3 Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale Partner Italy
4 University of Helsinki Partner Finland
5 Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) Observer Spain
6 Unione Culturale Franco Antonicelli Observer Italy
7 BHF-BANK-Stiftung Observer Germany
8 Goethe Institut Barcelona Observer Spain
9 Metromuster Observer Spain
10 Research Centre for Modern History (KENI) Observer Greece