By Fergus Efe O’Donoghue
NUI Galway was host to an Irish Research Council Funded Creative Connections Initiative workshop on Friday, 27 September, examining questions of European identity, through a focus on the themes of sport and digital media.
Sarah Kerr, Post–doctoral Research Fellow at the Arts and Humanities Research Institute at Trinity College Dublin and the initiative’s Principle Investigator, told SIN, “The overall aim is to explore European cultural identities… This very topical question about: what is the crisis in European cultural identity, what even is European cultural identity? Can cultural heritage be a way to tackle the crisis of European identity? That’s why we have that international and interdisciplinary approach- because it is such a big question that we knew we’d have to tackle with perspectives of lots of disciplines”.
The workshop drew on a range of disciplines in the Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and STEM areas from NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, and Queen’s University Belfast, to examine the topic of European cultural identity. This was done, said Ms Kerr, because the matter is “such a big question that we knew we’d have to tackle it with perspectives of lots of disciplines”.
“We have geographers involved, historians, scholars from film studies, sociology, my own background is archaeology, and also colleagues from linguistics. We wanted to have interdisciplinarity to approach the big question, but we also wanted it to be international”.
Participants in the first workshop discussed landscapes and townscapes, in relation to the roles they play in a European cultural identity. While sports may initially seem distant to this thinking, SIN was told that it is an important part of the cultural process. Dr Seán Crosson, of the University’s Huston School of Film & Digital Media and leader of the Sport and Exercise Research Group, spoke of the importance of sport, in relation to the question of identity.
“Sport annually engages millions of diverse people across Europe, both as participants and spectators… In its various forms, sport offers a unique opportunity to encourage an appreciation among citizens of their shared cultural heritage and common values at the heart of European identity.”
The project encourages engagement from Masters and PhD students from all branches of academia, including STEM fields, as well as practitioners and artists in various fields.
“I think what’s really important is that, sometimes, students who are in different disciplines like Film Studies or Sports studies, well, they might see this topic like: ‘my research doesn’t relate to that’’’, said Ms Kerr. “My research is in archaeology. I think all research can be twisted ever-so-slightly to approach a big, grand societal challenge such as this – coming to a workshop like this and thinking outside of your own PhD project, outside of your own Master’s project and thinking outside of your own discipline, to see in what ways your research interests can be tweaked to approach a big question like that… These are the big issues that are going to impact us now and are going to impact us for years to come, particularly anyone who’s living in Ireland or identifies as European.”