Josep Ferré

Acting Director General of the European Institute of the Mediterranean

The dossier of issue 27 of Quaderns de la Mediterrrània is entitled “Cultural Heritage and Identity” and complements the European Year of Cultural Heritage, promoted in 2018 by the EU with the aim of reinforcing a sense of belonging of citizens to a common European space. Since the launch of Quaderns de la Mediterrània in 2000 the IEMed has driven reflection on tangible and intangible heritage in the Euro-Mediterranean area. This dossier provides visions that include elements that identify the history and culture of different countries on both shores. For this reason, we also feature the winning stories of the international literary contest “A Sea of Words”, organised annually by the IEMed and whose motto in its eleventh year was “Memory and Identity: Rethinking Cultural Heritage”.  

Both projects reflect our commitment to the series of initiatives developed this year throughout Europe and that have helped citizens get closer to their cultural heritage and actively engage in it. Cultural heritage influences our identity and everyday lives, underpinning villages and towns, natural landscapes, archaeological sites and music in the Euro-Mediterranean region. It is not only found in literature, art and objects but also in the crafts learnt from our ancestors, the stories we tell our children, the food we enjoy in company and the films we watch and in which we recognise ourselves. For this reason, both tangible and intangible heritage are absolutely necessary and, while often differentiated, complementary. 

The articles and stories that make up the present dossier deal with these aspects. Through the landscapes, smells, lifestyles or historical constructs, the texts included here seek to bring the peoples from the North and the South of the Mediterranean Sea, which reflects us all, closer together. Many of the stories by the young participants in “A Sea of Words” reveal the importance of looking to the family or collective past to understand themselves and be able to join forces to face an increasingly more complex future. 

The big challenge facing Mediterranean societies, beyond the role of the economy or politics, will be the construction of stable and long-lasting relations, based on truth, between peoples, individuals and their cultures. It is quite an undertaking because the truth depends to a large extent on how we perceive our neighbour and, in the Mediterranean sphere, the collective imaginary too often tends to be marked by conflict. Recovering the memory of individuals from the Mediterranean is, therefore, both an ambitious and necessary objective. Only through the safeguarding of those positive or negative experiences that strengthen shared values will we be able to discover common interests.

The dossier we present is divided into three sections with contributions by anthropologists, writers and visual artists that reflect on different aspects of tangible and intangible heritage: 1) Complex Identities; 2) Cultural Heritage: Between Art and War; and 3) A Sea of Words. The dossier is completed with an interview with the playwright and theatre director Yesim Ozsoy, whose work explores the ancestral Turkish traditions to propose a shared international imaginary.

Today, more than ever, we believe that closely examining the tangible and intangible heritage on both sides of the mare nostrum involves understanding, building and developing new approaches to this multi-identity based on preserving it and on understanding and respecting traditions, very often shared, that enrich the human vision and help us recognise ourselves. Only in this way will we be able to pass this heritage on to the new generations so that they can also find their place in the world and build the future of the Euro-Mediterranean region.