Josep Ferré

Acting Director General of the European Institute of the Mediterranean

The dossier of this issue 26 of Quaderns de la Mediterrrània is entitled “Imagining the Mediterranean”, like the congress held on 22 and 23 September 2017 in Valencia, organised by IVAM (Institut Valencià d’Art Modern) in collaboration with the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed). This is the second joint activity by the two institutions after the seminar “Between Myth and Fright”, whose contributions formed part of the dossier of issue 24 of this journal. The congress “Imagining the Mediterranean” posed questions that we will now attempt to address with the publication of the contributions made at that time. 

Can we talk about collective identity construction for all the countries and cultures touching the Mediterranean Sea? What would this vague conception of Mediterraneaneity consist of? How can peoples that live their daily lives in such an apparently radically different way share an identity? What can people for whom the Mediterranean is an abyssal border have in common with those who use for enjoyment and pleasure? These are questions that are difficult to answer because we are experiencing complex situations and convulsive times in which identity/ies can only be problematised and challenged. However, when we talk about the Mediterranean we can find a shared collective imaginary, aspects, climates, relationships, landscapes, smells, lifestyles, spatial arrangements… that bring us closer to the northern and southern peoples of this sea that reflects us all. 

As José Miguel García Cortés, director of IVAM, notes, we might refer to a feeling of belonging, an identity of “urgency” (so to speak) that, although in recent decades the Mediterranean has become a border, limit and common grave for thousands of people from the southern countries, we still recognise and are in time to recover. Although these are times of truncated hopes, we should not stop asking ourselves about our relationship with the Mediterranean and the peoples surrounding it.

We see the armed conflicts, the small boats full of migrants crossing the sea and the disagreements through images, usually out of context and that have become a supposed threat to the established order. For this reason, we must generate a joint cohesive narrative that paves the way towards policies built from a Mediterranean perspective and, in this respect, the awareness of our models of collective representation will be relevant. The construction of a solid and visible citizenship becomes a cultural and political objective: we need discourses that articulate common values of diversity and shared challenges to re-launch the Mediterranean project.

The dossier we are presenting is divided into three parts, with contributions by international sociologists, anthropologists, political experts and art and image theoreticians with the main objective of Imagining the Mediterranean: 1) Perceptions and Representations, 2) Art and Memory, and 3) Between the Square and the Non-Place. This dossier is completed with an interview with the Tangier-born filmmaker Farida Benlyacid.

Today, more than ever, we believe that extensively exploring the Mare Nostrum ‒ this long-lasting laboratory ‒ means knowing, building and developing new narratives that allow us to participate in a diverse and contradictory socio-cultural context. We can imagine new relationships and new bonds for a near future without forgetting the most recent historical experiences. For this reason, this dossier is a commitment to building a historical future, participating rather than being mere observers.