The European Archive of Voices – our mission statement

The European Archive of Voices – our mission statement

How to approach “Europe”? In the face of increasing criticism of the EU and general Europefatigue, this question arises now more urgently than ever. Politically, the European idea is coming under more and more pressure – not least because it is increasingly only being defended with arguments of economic and functionalist nature. Contrary to the pessimistic current diagnoses, it is therefore necessary to ascertain the successes that have been achieved together. It is time we remember and tell a European story. Stories have always held the capacity to unite and the power to create identity. But it is not about constructing a specific narrative. Instead, we must dare to go back into lived history in order to appreciate the value of a united Europe. We want to dedicate ourselves to the outlined goal and make a contribution to the project of a shared European culture of memory.

A long journey

Before a story can develop, it needs an animating retrospective: The gaze turns back to the events and themes of yesterday, the factors that have led to our situation today and can give courage and orientation for tomorrow. The peaceful revolution of 1989 and the subsequent reunification stand like no other event for European integration: decades of division were overcome, diversity was united and new conversations began. How can the long journey from 1948 through 1989 to the present be told? A possible beginning for the narrative of this story is to enter into dialogue with Europeans whose lives make the abstract idea of Europe concrete. It is therefore important to identify the intellectual driving forces that designed and realized the Europe that we all share today.

Our association: “Working on Europe”

In the morning after the Brexit referendum, in spring 2017, a group of young European thinkers joined together to form “Arbeit an Europa” (“Working on Europe”). Among their goals is not only the organization of intellectual think tank-meetings throughout Europe but also to collect renowned and experienced voices on the idea of Europe and to record them in sound and writing in order to outline a panorama of the European zeitgeist.

A culture of listening The emphasis is deliberately placed on voices: with this auditory focus, the project is intended to promote a contemplative intellectual examination. It is all too common for current European crisis debates to narrowly demand activity and optimised operating procedures. However, a culture of listening and mutual understanding is necessary in order to strengthen European integration. The “European Archive of Voices” aims to contribute to this. 45 multilingual Interviews, 3 hours, archived in sound and writing Thanks to the generous support of the Gerda Henkel-Stiftung, the Afried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach -Stiftung and the Volkswagen-Stiftung a multilingual young team of 45 interviewers will conduct interviews with various European intellectuals born before 1945 . These are the people who helped build Europe after 1945 and carried the intellectual discourse about European unity. The interviews will follow a comparable structure, last a maximum of three hours and will be digitally archived (original audio plus a English translation in writing). Every conversation includes questions on: – the individual’s life journey – the lived experience of historical events – past expectations for the future – formative experiences of danger, resistance and progress – important influences and pioneers – drastic changes – fundamental experiences of fear for oneself / society – border crossings in the literal or figurative sense – personal experience with the stages of European unification as well as with the foundation and development of the European Union – the personal view of Europe / wishes for a future Europe.

Here’s a link to our questionair in length. Download

Key moments and personal identity

Our interviews will examine the relationship between the personal identity and specific “key moments” in European history. What meaning is attributed to events such as the end of World War II, the rise of nation states or the opportunities for cooperation and peaceful coexistence that were utilised or missed? What do eyewitnesses recall thinking or feeling about the civil rights movements, student protests, anti-Semitic smear campaigns or the peaceful revolution in Central and Eastern Europe? For example, what role do the years 1968 and 1989 play for one’s own memory in relation to collective memory? Following these questions, a paradigmatic investigation can also be made of the relationship between individual and national commemorative culture.

„Ever closer union”

On the one hand, the outcome of the above questions will make it possible to identify similarities between the assessments and memories of the various interview partners. On the other, the conversations should also explicitly l ook for differences in the history of mentalities and cultural politics. Thinkers who are critical of Europe should also have their say. The promising claim of an ever closer union can only be pursued by recognising different perspectives and political conceptions of validity. It is no coincidence that the principle of European integration is “united in diversity”. It is the declared aim of our project to live up to this motto as a part of the “European Archive of Voices”.

Further distribution options

In addition to the aforementioned Internet archive, possible distribution options include: publication(s), exhibition(s), a scientific conference and an extended didactic preparation of the interviews. We are particularly interested in the scientific recognition of this material as a valid source for a later review on the history of mentalities. Furthermore, there are opportunities for a cultural-sociological, historical-scientific and philosophical approach. The appropriate space for this would be provided by a conference after the interviews have been conducted and published. However, a comprehensive evaluation of the interview material, for example as a sociological study, will not be possible within the scope of this project.

Diversity of perspectives
Possible interview partners are identified using the newspaper archives, lists of members of academies, etc. The selection of interviewees will pay close regard to ensuring the greatest possible variance in terms of ethnic and social origin, gender, occupation, education and social position. In addition to defenders of the European idea, sceptics will also be asked to take part in the conversation. This diversity of perspectives is in the interest of the expressiveness of the material that will be compiled.

The special force of culture

Scientists, representatives of the religious community, trade unionists and politicians will be considered. However, the special focus of the selection will be on people who have distinguished themselves through cultural or artistic activity and intellectual commitment. Like science, art stands for the search for a transnational dialogue about what unites us. What distinguishes it from science, however, is that it is shaped by regional contexts – by local languages, specific experiences and traditions. This brings art closer to the political sphere of the nation states, even though – unlike them – it does not pursue only local interests. The sphere of culture thus reflects in a unique way what distinguishes the European Community: the search for a community and for exchange in the diversity of traditions.

Visibility of the results

With this project, the initiators intend to strengthen European historical awareness, to document past and present lines of conflict as well as utopian outlines through authentic contemporary witness reports and to make them accessible for later review through media and scientific analysis. In addition to archiving the voices, an Internet site – including an extended digital distribution strategy – will ensure the public visibility of the results of the project. In addition, a touring exhibition strategy will be designed and accompanying publications in magazines and the daily press are planned. With the help of various „Goethe“-Institutes here will be public relations efforts to promote the visibility of the results throughout all European countries.

Our timeline:

09/2018 and 01/2019: Preparatory meeting for content coordination, profiling and recruitment of the interviewers and time-witnesses

01/2019 – 03/2020: Conducting the interviews

2021: Public/media presentation and distribution of the “European Archive of Voices”/ A touring exhibition in cooperation with „Goethe“-Institute.