Media Fortress Europe: Geographies of Exclusion and the Purification of Cultural Space

David Morley (University of London)

Abstract: This paper addresses the question of the future of Europe under the conditions of the postmodern communications geography in which we now live. The paper explores the cultural dimensions of the issues (concerning the regressive nature of the images of a white, Christian Europe) which lurk beneath the economic "bottom line" of the European Union's attempts to create a single market in the audiovisual sphere. In this context, the paper also offers an analysis of the recent resurgence of ethnic nationalisms, as an index of the continuing significance of "rituals of exclusion" in contemporary European culture. This recalcitrant desire for the "purification" of cultural space is argued to indicate the widespread yearning for the "lost" (impossible) Heimat of the single Ethnos, from which alterity has (somehow) been eliminated.

Résumé: Cet article adresse la question de l'avenir d'une Europe dans les conditions de la géographie des communications postmoderne que nous vivons actuellement. Cette article explore les dimensions culturelles des questions (concernant le caractère régressif de l'image d'une Europe blanche et chrétienne) qui sous-tendent l'absolutisme économique des tentatives que fait l'Union européenne de créer un marché unique dans le domaine audiovisuel. Dans ce contexte, cet article offre aussi une analyse de la résurgence récente de nationalismes ethniques, comme indice de la signification continue de "rites d'exclusion" dans la culture européenne contemporaine. Nous soutenons que ce désir récalcitrant pour la "purification" de l'espace culturel indique une nostalgie répandue pour une appartenance "perdue" (impossible) à une ethnie unique, de laquelle on aurait éliminé (d'une façon ou d'une autre) l'altérité.

In recent debates about the future of Europe, the nation-state has been seen to be disintegrating from above and below, under the dual pressures of the impact of supra-national economic dynamics in the global market and simultaneous regional demands for greater autonomy.1 In relation to the second of these pressures it has become a commonplace to refer to regions such as Scotland or the Basque country as "nations without states." Conversely, as Richard Collins' research on the European Union's involvement in a range of pan-European broadcasting projects indicates, one could reasonably argue that the European Union itself, in recent years, has been acting rather like a state without a nation -- or, rather, as a state busily trying to invent a (super) nation for itself, through its control of communications and cultural technologies (see Collins, in press).

Certainly the European Union has become increasingly conscious of the potential role of the new communication technologies in laying the material supports of (possible) pan-European markets and audiences, and in defining a sense of what it means, in this day and age, to be "European." Its policy increasingly recognizes that culture is at the heart of the European project (or, more crudely put, that questions of culture lie beneath the "bottom line" of the potential profits of pan-European markets). The EU has identified the audiovisual and other communications industries as key instruments in the creation of a sense of European cultural identity.

The problem lies in the vast discrepancy between the rather idealistic and oversimplified concept of "Europe" which recent policy has sought to promote, and the realities of contemporary tribalisms, within and without this "Europe," whether or not they have yet resulted in the horrors of "ethnic cleansing." If we are to understand the current and future role of the communications industries in Europe, we must understand the context in which they are being developed.

The creation of a pan-European market in the audiovisual sector is motivated largely by the ambition to use this as a foundation for competition in the global media market. The European Commission has sought to harness these developments in order to promote what it calls a "European audiovisual space." Through a range of initiatives -- the MEDIA program, European Cinema and Television Year (1988), the RACE and Audio-visual EUREKA programs -- it has sought to lay the foundations for a postnational audiovisual territory.

But it is not simply a matter of economic and technological self-assertion. The European broadcasting agenda also has a significant cultural dimension. The question of new media markets is closely associated with improving mutual knowledge among European peoples and increasing their consciousness of the life and destiny they have in common. The European Commission has encouraged program-makers to appeal to a large European audience because such broadcasts can help to develop the sense of belonging to a community composed of countries which are different, yet partake of a deep solidarity. This assertion of a common cultural identity is clearly assuming a strategic importance for the present attempt to restore European self-confidence.

But this is not without its problems; not everyone feels attracted to this kind of Euro-identity and many are, at the very least, uncertain about what the claims to "unity in diversity" of European culture might actually mean. The idea of a Europe without frontiers and the experience of transborder media flows can actually work to create anxieties and a sense of cultural disorientation. One response to these upheavals has been to find refuge in more localized senses of place and identity; we have seen the flourishing of cultural regionalism and small nationalisms (Basques, Scots, Bretons, and so on). Euro-identity also does little to make room for the large numbers of migrant and diasporic populations now living in the continent (the people "Sans Papiers" in France, for example). What does the idea of Europe add up to when so many within feel that they are excluded? European identity, for all its apparent self-confidence, remains a vulnerable and anxious phenomenon, and is increasingly articulated with regressive forms of pan-European white racism.

If there are internal tensions, there are also external challenges to the coherence of European identity. Developments which might be seen either as on the periphery of Europe (or as beyond Europe) pose considerable challenges. Developments to the east and south of Europe raise questions about other territories and identities -- Balkan, Central European, Baltic, North African, Arab, Islamic, Mediterranean -- and of their implications for Europe. Will these developments undermine the small (northwestern) vision of Europe? Or might they potentially expand and enrich it?

To what extent do these areas seek to develop better relations with Europe? To what extent are they being pulled towards alternative points of reference? What range of identities might be possible within the European "cultural space"? How might they cohere around elements of both local and cosmopolitan culture? What new boundaries and divisions might develop between social, cultural, and ethnic groupings? What is the relation between the previously dominant Western European culture and the newly stirring nationalist cultures of Eastern Europe? Just as the territories outside the European Community must consider their relationship to this cultural and economic space, so must Europe come to terms with what this "beyond Europe" means for it.

The idea of Europe has always been constructed around a negative conception of unity and community. In the new Europe, the same exclusionary principles continue to operate, and European identity is still constructed against those -- without and within -- who appear to be non-European or anti-European. Today it is perhaps the Japanese, the Muslims, and the poor who are most seen to threaten the European ideal. The Japanese because, as the first "non-white" culture to become part of modernity, it is they (along with the "Four Tigers" of Southeast Asia, despite their current difficulties) who have now become the source of inspiration for other cultures. The Muslims and the poor -- the 50 million inside and all the travellers from North Africa, Turkey, Romania, Bangladesh, or wherever -- because they are seen as the forces of anarchy and disorder. Europe is "Europe" against these Others.

In the history of the European nation-states, the sense of national unity has been closely linked to the integrity and sovereignty of the national territory. In the new European Community, the matter of territorial integrity remains paramount. With the lifting of economic barriers within the Community to create the "Single Market," the issue of the security of Europe's external boundaries becomes all the more fundamental. If, for most of this century, the Soviet empire marked a "natural" boundary to the east, the end of the Cold War has terminated this convenient state of affairs. Once again "the Eastern question" is opened up, and with it "the Southern question." Indeed, with the dramatic return of "the Balkan question" to the headlines of the European media, we seem to confront less the "end of history" (Fukuyama, 1992) than the "return of history." Along its eastern and southern edges, Europe is now having to re-negotiate its territorial limits as an economic and political entity. Who can be assimilated? And who must be excluded? This is not simply a question of economic, or even political, criteria for inclusion. What is happening along these eastern and southern edges is also about suturing the cultural identity of Europe. This desire for clarity, this need to know precisely where Europe ends, is also about the construction of a symbolic geography that will separate the insiders from the outsiders (the Others). Implicit (and increasingly explicit) in this approach is the suggestion that the next Iron Curtain should divide Europe from, and insulate it against, the Islamic Other.

Confronted still by fears of domination by American and multinational corporations in the new communications industries, there is also a tendency to fall back into a "Fortress Europe" posture, designed to fend off Americanization, as well as a concern to defend indigenous national cultures against the threat of "Brussels." However, as Martin-Barbero (1988) puts it, this is to define one's indigenous culture as a "natural fact," a kind of pre-reality, static and without development, the "motionless point" of departure from which modernity is measured. From this perspective, transformed into the touchstone of identity, the indigenous would seem to be the only thing which remains for us of the "authentic," that secret place in which the purity of our cultural roots remains and is preserved. All the rest is then seen only as contamination and loss of identity (Martin-Barbero, 1988). The rejection of any such calls for "authenticity" or "purity" in the defence of "national culture" is the precondition of any effective and more open-minded engagement with the ongoing processes of cultural reconfiguration in Europe.

James Donald (1988) identifies a logic that has been at work in shaping the political and cultural map of Europe: culture can be seen as "a field in which the forces of identity, standard speech and the state exert a centripetal pull against the centrifugal forces of cultural difference, linguistic variation, and carnival" (p. 33). Cultural diversity and homogeneity have been circumscribed by the forces of centralization, standardization, and unity. Hitherto, it has been in the form of the nation-state that this containing principle has been most highly developed. In the process, living but stateless cultures have been marginalized and have struggled to survive (de Moragas Spa, 1988). What is perceived as the rich tapestry of European cultural diversity is, in reality, a system of territorial and cultural hierarchies shaped through the power of the nation-state.

The key question is whether (and with what consequences) European integration might take us beyond the logic of the nation-state. Will it, indeed, as the European Commission supposes, stimulate a new and more egalitarian cultural geography? And what role might the new communications technologies play in this process? The partial answer to these questions is that, to the extent that they transcend national territories, the new communications media may help to erode the authority of the nation-state and to open the way for new and varied forms of internationalism and regionalism. However, the corresponding danger is that the centripetal /centrifugal dynamics described by James Donald (1988) may, in fact, recur at a higher level, with a European mega-state as the centralizing and containing force. In this case, ironically, we might then find ourselves defending national cultures as the very basis of cultural diversity and, albeit reluctantly, supporting national sovereignty as a bulwark against global standardization and homogenization. The question is whether it is possible to transcend this nation-logic, to move beyond the "nationalistic assumption ... of a normative congruence of polity and culture," to re-imagine "a new form of human community in which polity and culture are decoupled" (Collins, 1989, p. 2). A genuine and radical cultural diversity would entail the more fundamental (and perhaps utopian) project of deconstructing this logic of containment, rather than simply and defensively reconstructing it at higher levels.

The effect of the great dynamic forces of modernity -- what Giddens (1990) calls the separation of time and space, disembedding mechanisms and institutional reflexivity -- has been to "disengage some basic forms of trust relation from the attributes of local contexts" (p. 108). Places are no longer the clear supports of our identity. If anything, this process of transformation has become accelerated, and time-space compression has come to be ever more intense. It is through the logic of globalization that this dynamic of modernization is most powerfully articulated. Through proliferating information and communications flows and through mass human migration, it has progressively eroded territorial frontiers and boundaries and provoked ever more immediate confrontations of culture and identity. Where once it was the case that cultures were demarcated and differentiated in time and space, now "the concept of a fixed, unitary, and bounded culture must give way to a sense of the fluidity and permeability of cultural sets" (Wolf, 1982, p. 387).

The key image here is that of home, homeland, and Heimat (see Morley & Robins, 1995, chap. 5). It is around the meaning of European culture and identity in the new global context that this image -- this nostalgia, this aspiration -- has become polemically activated. There is, it seems, no place like home -- and apparently no place in that home for some who wish to dwell there. Our common European home remains to be built, but the stories we tell ourselves about our common (and uncommon) past are already shaping our understanding of how it should be constructed, how many floors it should have (a basement for the servants?), which way it should face, and who should have the keys to the door.

Postmodernity in Europe: The return of the dark ages?

In contrast to the optimistic perspective of the EU technocrats, French historian Alain Minc argues that what the future of Europe offers is something rather similar to the experience of its own "Middle Ages" insofar as we are, in his view, going back, with the contemporary collapse of the nation-state, towards a situation of "a lasting, semi-stabilised disorder, which feeds on itself " (A. Minc, interview for "The New Middle Ages," transmitted on The Late Show, BBC2, London, November 28, 1994). This point is amplified by British historian Norman Stone who similarly claims that we may well be heading towards a situation comparable to that of England during the "Wars of the Roses" in the fifteenth century, where the dominant form of sociality was not so much nationalism as tribalism (N. Stone, interviewed for "The New Middle Ages," transmitted on The Late Show, BBC2, London, November 28, 1994; see also Maffesoli, 1994). Stone further offers an analogy between the current status of the European Commission and that of the papacy in the fifteenth century -- as a "shadowy sovereign body which doesn't have much in the way of teeth; which is the ultimate law-making body, but where, in fact, there are huge areas simply without the law" (N. Stone interview, November 28, 1994), as the nation-state disintegrates, both from above and from below.

The point is that if, for three centuries in Europe, the state has been established to create order, today we are seeing areas developing without any kind of order or state power. Minc's view in this respect, is again reinforced by Stone:

The writ of the central state, which had been growing [in Europe] since the time of Absolutism in the sixteenth century, has now ceased to run in parts of many countries. You can see tower block estates, for example, in many European cities, which are in fact run by drug barons. In those areas, you simply have to come to terms with the local robber baron ... and in that sense, you are then back in something very like the experience of the Middle Ages. (N. Stone, interviewed for "The New Middle Ages," transmitted on The Late Show, BBC2, London, November 28, 1994)

Enzensberger (1994) and Mestrovic (1994) have also offered analyses of the tendencies towards societal disintegration with which Minc and Stone are concerned. Both Enzensberger (1994) and Ignatieff (1994) feel that we may be moving towards something unpleasantly similar to the Hobbesian "war of all against all." In this situation, conflicts tend to perpetually subdivide those who had previously been able to exist peaceably with their neighbours (under a system of what Ignatieff [1994] calls "civic nationalism") into enemies (within the terms of "ethnic nationalism").

In precisely this vein, in his analysis of the conflicts in ex-Yugoslavia, Ignatieff (1994) argues that "Ethnic nationalism [has] delivered the ordinary people of the Balkans straight back to the pre-political state of nature where, as Hobbes predicted, life is nasty, brutish and short" (p. 30). Mestrovic (1994) offers, as his subtitle has it, a disturbing analysis of the "confluence of postmodernism and postcommunism" in Eastern Europe, as presaging the potential "Balkanisation of the West." He defines "Balkanisation" as a process similar to that which concerns Enzensberger (1994), namely, "the breaking up of a unit into increasingly smaller units that are hostile to each other," but adds immediately, lest his emphasis be misunderstood, that "there is no good reason to understand Balkanisation literally, as something that must apply only to the Balkans" (p. ix). Mestrovic (1994) notes that the term "Balkanisation" was, of course, invented "to denote those people in the Balkans who seem likely to slaughter each other" as opposed to "the civilised Americans, French and British" (p. viii). However, his own analysis leads him to conclude that this is not a matter of there being some special tendency towards bloodlust and hatred on the part of the people who happen to inhabit that particular geographical region (which would be, as Ignatieff [1994] observes, to "make excuses for ourselves ... [by dismissing] ... the Balkans as a sub-rational zone of intractable fanaticism" [p. 15]). Rather, in Mestrovic's view, the conflict in the ex-Yugoslavia represented the (ongoing) possibility of a broader process of the unravelling or "Balkanisation" of both the former Soviet Union and, potentially, of many parts of Europe. So much, as Mestrovic (1994) observes, for the "postmodern culture of fun" as opposed to the "grim realities of postcommunism" (p. 1).

Descriptively, Ignatieff 's (1994) account of life in ex-Yugoslavia conforms depressingly well to what might, at first sight, appear to be the rather overly pessimistic views of Minc and Stone. Thus, for example, Ignatieff notes that, in the Balkans, what had been one of the most civilized parts of Europe (particularly in terms of multiculturalism; for a novelistic account see Andric, 1993) was returned to the barbarism of the Middle Ages, where

such law and order as there is, is administered by warlords. There is little gasoline, so the villages have returned to the era before the motor car. Everyone goes about on foot.... Late 20th century nationalism has delivered one part of Europe back to the time before the nation state, to the chaos of late feudal civil war. (Ignatieff, 1994, p. 34)

Indeed, Ignatieff 's own experience would seem to substantiate Minc's and Stone's speculations concerning the return of medieval figures, roles, and institutions. Thus, Ignatieff notes that

Large portions of the former Yugoslavia are now ruled by figures that have not been seen in Europe since late medieval times: the warlords. They appear wherever the nation state disintegrates ... in the Lebanon, Somalia, Northern India, Armenia, Georgia, Ossetia, Cambodia. With their carphones, faxes and exquisite personal weaponry, they look postmodern, but the reality is pure early medieval. (1994, p. 28)

What is distinctive about Ignatieff 's analysis is that, beyond these descriptive or generalized observations, he also offers an account of the causal dynamics which drive the processes of "Balkanisation" and ethnic hatred. He offers an account of this "slide into hatred" neither as an expression of some innate human tendency to abhor or reject "otherness," nor as an irrational aberration. Rather, for Ignatieff, what we see here is the all-too-understandable response of frightened people to the collapse of the framework of social order which had previously been sustained, however partially, by the nation-state. For any one individual, this is, of course, a fear-driven, defensive strategy. However, as Durkheim (1964) observed, social processes operate behind the backs of individuals, and the overall, if unintended, social effect of this formation of defensive allegiances is, of course, to reinforce the need for others to do the same. Thus the vicious cycle of fear becomes self-sustaining.

In the Balkan situation, Ignatieff (1994) argues that what we see now as "ethnic hatred" is largely the result of "the terror that arises when legitimate authority disintegrates" (p. 16). In his account, what happened there was that "in the fear and panic which swept the ruins of the communist states, people began to ask: so who will protect me now?" (p. 6). In Ignatieff 's analysis, "nationalism" and "ethnic belonging" are seen to be persuasive precisely because they offer "protection." As Ignatieff puts it:

The warlord offers protection ... a solution. He tells his people: if we cannot trust our neighbours, let us rid ourselves of them.... The logic of ethnic cleansing is not just motivated by nationalist hatred. "Cleansing" is the warlord's coldly rational solution to the war of all against all. Rid yourself of your neighbours, the warlord says, and you no longer have to fear them. Live among your own, and you can live in peace, with me and my boys to protect you. (1994, p. 30)

In this, perhaps, we see some of the features of the darker side of postmodernity, where alterity and heterogeneity are less cause for celebration than for fear. Those of us in (thus far) less crisis-ridden societies may also need to exercise some caution in our responses to disasters such as these. As Ignatieff (1994) notes, "If patriotism, [as] Samuel Johnson remarked, is the last refuge of a scoundrel, so post-nationalism and its accompanying disdain for the nationalist emotions of others, may be the last refuge of the cosmopolitan ... [and] cosmopolitanism is the privilege of those who can take a secure nation-state for granted" (pp. 9-10).

Geographies of exclusion: Rituals of purification

There is a long history of the production of imaginary geographies, in which the members of a society locate themselves at the centre of the universe, at the spatial periphery of which there is a world of threatening monsters and grotesques. In these matters, the question of boundary maintenance, between inside and outside, between the world of the familiar (Heimat) and that of the strange (Fremde) is crucial. In this respect, we could usefully follow Sibley (1995) who argues that "the determination of a border between the inside and the outside [proceeds] according to the simple logic of excluding filth, as Kristeva puts it, or the imperative of distancing from disgust" (p. 14). This is a process which operates both on a societal (or national /macro) level and, of course, at the level of the everyday familiar experience.

In his analysis of the dynamics of what he calls the purification of space, Sibley, drawing on the work of Mary Douglas (1966) and Basil Bernstein (1970), is centrally concerned with what he calls the geography of exclusion, as enacted through the creation and policing of boundaries of various sorts. The dynamics of all this, he argues, are provided by the (socially produced) desire for the purification of social space. This applies, he argues, at both micro and macro levels. Just as the home may be profaned by the presence of dirt in the form of dust or mud (or a particular space within it profaned by the presence of an object properly belonging to another space), similarly, the homeland may be felt to be profaned by the presence of strangers, or the national culture profaned by the presence of foreign cultural products. In either case, the "unclean" element, which brings the danger of profanity and thus must be cleansed, represents dirt -- that is, in Douglas' famous definition, matter out of place.

In an earlier article, Sibley (1988) argues that far from being particular to so-called primitive societies, purification rituals are a pervasive feature of contemporary cultural life. Thus, he continues, residential space in the modern city can be seen as "one area where purification rituals are enacted, where group antagonisms are manifested in the erection of territorial boundaries which accentuate difference or otherness" (p. 414). This argument provides a close parallel to Davis' (1990) analysis of the processes of social segregation involved in the retreat of affluent whites into gated communities in Los Angeles; these developments in L.A. seem, unhappily, to portend a similar process elsewhere. Sibley observes that patterns of residence are frequently based on social divisions, such as those of class, ethnicity, and so forth. As he notes, in these circumstances, social difference is seen as implicitly threatening. While, with the "social sorting involved in the creation of residential submarkets, the likelihood of [physically] encountering difference and otherness is minimised, by the same token, when such encounters do occur, the greater is the likelihood that a moral panic will ensue" (Sibley, 1988, p. 416).

Threatening encounters with those defined as alien -- those responsible for cultural miscegenation -- can, of course, take place not only in physical but also in virtual or symbolic space. Here we return again to the question of the role of the media. Insofar as the television set is placed within the symbolic centre of the (family) home, thus transgressing its outer boundaries, it can serve either to enhance or to disturb viewers' symbolic sense of community (for a particularly disturbing account of the potential role of video technology in subdividing communities of viewers, see Kolar-Panov, 1997). In some cases, television can serve to bring representations of "unwanted strangers" into our homes. Thus, in her article "Is This What You Mean by Color TV?" Bodroghkozy (1992) quotes from viewers' letters written to the producers of the black sitcom Julia, produced by NBC. Among those responses, she finds one from a white viewer, pleased with his continuing success in keeping black people out of the physical neighbourhood in which he lives, who is outraged at their symbolic invasion of his territory via television: "I believe I can speak for millions of real Americans.... I am tired of niggers in my living room" (p. 156).

Conversely, in other situations (e.g., contemporary multicultural Britain), the television set can also offer the solace of symbolic immersion in a lost world of settled homogeneity. Thus, Bruce Gyngell (former Head of Television-AM in Britain, now returned to work in television in his native Australia) has claimed that Australian soap operas such as Neighbours and Home and Away (which receive far higher ratings when they are shown in Britain than they do in Australia) appeal to many within the British audience precisely because they are, in effect, racial programs depicting an all-white society, a society for which, he claims, some Britons still pine. As Gyngell went on to put it: "Neighbours and Home and Away ... represent a society which existed in Britain ... before people began arriving from the Caribbean and Africa. The Poms delve into it to get their quiet little racism fix" (quoted in Culf, 1993).

In recent years, many national governments have attempted to ban (or at least control) the consumption of foreign media material by outlawing (or requiring the licensing of ) satellite dishes. Thus, in an uncannily exact mirror-image of the other's policies, while the Iranian government has attempted to ban satellite dishes on the grounds that foreign programs were part of a Western cultural offensive against Islam, bringing a cultural danger of Occidentosis (an "infection" from the West; see Al-I Ahmad, 1984), the mayor of Courcoronnes (a poor, mainly North African immigrant area south of Paris) banned such dishes at the instigation of the French National Front, in whose eyes the dishes represented the threat (a form of cultural treason?) of "a population that lives physically in France, but inhabits (via satellite) a world of Virtual Islam" (The Independent, August 13, 1995).

Postmodern geographies: Space, place, and nostalgia

In her work, Doreen Massey (1994a, 1994b) has made a series of criticisms of the orthodoxies of the new postmodern geography. In essence, her argument is that this current orthodoxy offers too stark a binary contrast in which an overly static model of the past is unhelpfully set against an overly frantic model of the present. In this orthodoxy, as she puts it, "an [idealized] notion of an era when places were [supposedly] inhabited by coherent and homogenous communities is crudely counterposed to an image of de-stabilizing, postmodern fragmentation and disruption" (1994a, p. 24). Her point is that the place called home was never an unmediated experience and that, moreover, the past was no more static than the present. This is so, Massey (1994b) argues, not least because

it has for long been the exception rather than the rule that place could simply be equated with community, and by that means provide a stable basis for identity, and because, certainly, so far as Britain goes, places have for centuries been ... complex locations, where numerous different and frequently conflicting communities intersected. (p. 8)

So much for the (back-projected) settled, homogenous communities of postmodern theory's romantic and nostalgic image of the past.

As Massey notes, the destabilizations of the postmodern period have certainly given rise to a variety of defensive and reactionary responses -- witness the rise of various forms of born-again nationalism, accompanied both by sentimentalized reconstructions of a variety of "authentic," localized heritages and by xenophobia, directed at newcomers or outsiders. Certainly, as Massey notes, in the face of these developments, it has come to seem, to many critics, that any search for a sense of place must, of necessity, be reactionary (see also Wheeler, 1994). Massey's (1994a) argument is that this is not necessarily the case and that it is, in fact, possible, if we approach the question differently, for a sense of place to be progressive, not self-enclosing and defensive, but outward-looking. This is to reject the notion that a sense of place must necessarily be constructed (à la Heritage Industry) out of an introverted, inward-looking history based on delving into the past for internalized origins (Massey, 1994a).

That way of thinking about space and identity is premised on the association of spatial penetration with impurity, whereby incoming elements (foreign immigrants, commodities, or television programs) represent "matter out of place." Against any inward-looking definition of place and identity, Massey (1994a) argues for "a sense of place which is extroverted, which includes a consciousness of its links to the wider world" (p. 28), where what gives a place its identity is not its separate or pure internalized history, but rather its uniqueness as a point of intersection in a wider network of relations. This is, then,

not simply a bounded, self-contained sense of place, constructed in antagonism to all that is outside (the threatening otherness of externality), but an understanding of its character which can only be constructed by linking that place to places beyond ... and where it is the particularity of linkage to that outside which is ... part of what constitutes the place. (Massey, 1994a, p. 29)

It would seem that this conception of a porous, non-exclusive, Heimat holds the best -- or perhaps the only -- hope for us all.

Nostalgia, belonging, and fear

Celeste Olalquiaga (1993) argues that, today, the "notion of home endures solely as an icon of itself; home is now a nostalgic yearning, a burning desire for a romanticised sense of belonging, whose segregative appeal is apparent in the current resurgence of fanatic nationalisms" (p. 17). This equation of the desire for roots (or belonging) with a politically regressive form of reactionary nostalgia is widespread. However, against this perspective, Wendy Wheeler (1994) argues that what she terms "postmodern nostalgia" is best understood as a culturally significant expression of popular desire. This, she argues, is not necessarily regressive and sentimental, but simply is the "affective expression of the desire for community" (p. 95). Thus, rather than seeing the

intensification of nostalgia in postmodernity as a regressive sentimentalism, or as a symptom of the loss of any sense of history as real, it is perhaps more useful to see it as an intense cultural expression of the desire for social forms capable of representing what is lost in the experience of enlightenment modernity. (Wheeler, 1994, p. 95)

Thus, nostalgia, according to Wheeler, represents not simply an "unbearably intense and `uncanny' yearning for the homely comforts of a settled way of life" (p. 97) but, more generally, a nostalgia for all those things which are the "other" of Enlightenment Reason and which are "excluded, lost or repressed as a condition of modernity and the subjectivity it produces" (p. 96). Such nostalgic feelings are, of course, ultimately directed towards an imaginary past of plenitude and security, but the strength of these affective expressions is no less pertinent for the fact that their object is imaginary.

Wheeler argues that we badly need to develop a better political response to this nostalgic desire for community -- by "articulating a politics capable of constituting a `we' which is not essentialist, fixed, separatist, divisive, defensive or exclusive" (p. 108). In this connection, Rutherford (1990) has argued that the success of the political Right in many of the "developed" societies of the West in recent years is attributable precisely to the way in which they have "responded to the destabilisations and uncertainties of popular feelings in this post-modern era by promising well-policed frontiers against the transgressive threat and displacements of difference" (p. 11). As he notes, in the U.K., the Right has mobilized images of the family and the nation as central themes of its hegemonic strategy (while simultaneously denying, in Mrs. Thatcher's case, the existence of such a thing as "society"). Thus, Mrs. Thatcher proclaimed "the family and its maintenance really is the most important thing, not only in your personal life, but in the life of any community, because this is the unit on which the whole nation is built" (Thatcher, interviewed by Julie Cockcroft, Daily Mail, May 4, 1989; quoted in Rutherford, 1990, p. 12). In this formulation, then, "society" is replaced by "nation" (with connotations of a corresponding singularity of ethnicity and culture) and the individual is subsumed into the regularizing structure of the (implicitly heterosexual and nuclear) family. Those who do not fit this model (e.g., single parents) are to be eliminated by social policy (internally), while external boundaries are to be strongly policed to ensure homogeneity within. The key problem here, according to Rutherford, is that "the Right, in its articulation of order and the yearning for familiarity and a sense of belonging, addresses a little part of all of us" (p. 13).

Living on the ethnic faultlines

These are, of course, questions of how we see our past (and our future) as constitutive of (or at odds with) our present sense of who we are. In these matters, it is not always clear what tense we are in. Thus, Ascherson (1991) has written of the phenomenon of the "Volga Germans" who have risen out of the past to come "home" to Germany -- their ancestors having settled several hundred years ago in Russia, and their communities having then been deported by Stalin to central Asia. Ascherson describes these people as rather like the "living dead," taking on the role of ghosts come to life, in a community which they consider themselves to be a part, but which has itself (until recently) forgotten about them. He reports contemporary citizens of the cities of (West) Germany describing the experience of meeting these "immigrants" as "like talking to the dead of another century." As he notes, these people

come to Germany, "their" country [but one]...which is utterly unfamiliar to them. They speak antique German dialects, whose vocabulary has withered over the centuries, tongues almost or completely incomprehensible to modern Germans. From 6,000 miles away, they bring values from the German past...[and] are puzzled to find that actually-existing Germany is not like this at all...and their "fellow-countrymen" are not always pleased to see them. (Ascherson, 1991)

Nonetheless, their relief at "coming home" is epitomized, for Ascherson, by the rapture of a German woman from Kazakhstan, arriving at the Frankfurt airport, who simply declared "we are in heaven."

By way of striking contrast, when a group of young musicians (calling themselves "Cartel"), who are Turkish by ethnic origin but born and raised among the "Gastarbeiter" community in Germany, visited Istanbul recently, they reported that "in our homeland [which is how they still think of Turkey], we are thought of as being from Germany and here [in Istanbul], we are called foreigners" (Bengi, 1995). It is not only a matter of the past and the future, but also of how these dimensions are symbolically associated with the realms of the country and the city respectively. Thus, elsewhere, Ascherson (1993) talks of the city as the citadel of difference -- of plural cultures living in peace. As he notes, it is the

big cities that are ... multi-ethnic: the place where immigrant communities settle and seek work. The villages and small towns and countryside, in contrast, still represent the "nation" -- the mythical single ethnos that is supposed to be the real national community. Waves of xenophobia and racialism are "national" rebellions against the reality of what the European cities have become, but it is in those cities that a new idea of community is being painfully worked out and defended ... a place of new identities, which transcend frontiers.

In a similar vein, Dominique Le Gilledoux (1994) reported from Marseilles on how numbers of second-generation immigrants in Marseilles were increasingly identifying themselves with the city itself, as their primary identity (symbolized by a "craze" at that time -- for learning Occitan -- among immigrant youths). This form of city-based rather than "national" (or racial) identification is similar to that espoused by the Turkish-German novelist Jakob Arjouni who, when pressed in a literary interview (Williams, 1994), settles for identifying himself as "a Frankfurter" rather than anything else, explaining that "to say that you come from a certain town, that means something. To say you're German [or Turkish] that means nothing." Likewise, in Le Gilledoux's account of Marseilleise youth cultures, the point is that not only does any second-generation immigrant necessarily and automatically have a Marseilles accent, but, despite the way they are viewed by the rest of France, these young people, who are by ethnic origin African, Senegalese, Spaniard, or Italian "are also from Marseilles, and most of them feel it is their home town."

For Arjouni, the deconstruction of the myth of ethnicity is paramount. He explains that when his novel Happy Birthday Turk! (1994) was published in Germany, it came in for particularly strong criticism from the left. The left complained that the hero of Arjouni's novel was "not a real Turk," to which Arjouni's reply was "so who is this `real Turk'? -- I don't know him" (Williams, 1994). Arjouni is incensed by this form of ethnic absolutism, militantly insisting, in response, that "a character is not determined by his `origins'.... His life is determined by whether he has a big apartment or a small one, if he has love or not, enough to eat or not." He is also deeply resistant to any notion that he somehow "represents" or might be presumed to speak for "the Turkish community." As he puts it, "I grew up in a Turkish family, I have friends who are Turkish, but I don't know about `the Turkish community.' There is a left and a right, people who read books and people who don't like it [his book], or more likely, don't read it."

This is to begin to pose a series of important questions concerning whether the establishment of "community" need entail the elimination of difference (see Young, 1986) and whether "difference" itself should be written with a small or a large "D." This is the question, as Ahmad (1994) poses it, of whether "difference" is to be treated as "something local and empirically verifiable" or as an "epistemological category or perennial ontological condition" (p. 90; see also Suleri, 1992).

Amidst the tide of resurgent nationalisms and ethnic absolutisms, Misha Glenny's documentary on the fate of ethnic Hungarians living in a disputed territory in southern Slovakia poignantly reported one elderly woman's complaint, when confronted with the contentious dilemma of her community's "identity": for myself, she said "I do not want to be a `pure identity person' " (Misha Glenny, Living on the Ethnic Faultline, transmitted on BBC2, January 15, 1994). In a similar "polyglot" spirit, Umberto Eco has argued for the need for Europe to find a "political unity across a polyglot culture" and to recognize that the "real unity of Europe is a polyglot unity," rather than to pursue false dreams, imposing some "Euro-Esperanto" as a unifying language across the continent, while respecting local differences in language and culture (Eco, 1992). However, more pessimistically, Ignatieff (1994) decries any cosmopolitan disdain for the "nationalist" politics of those who are still fighting to achieve the forms of statehood which privileged cosmopolitans themselves take for granted. In this respect, Ignatieff 's caution parallels that of Willemen (1990), who is deeply sceptical about what he describes as promiscuous forms of "alleged internationalism," which he thinks are better described as forms of "evasive cosmopolitanism masking imperial aspirations" (p. 7).

The problem at stake here is also the recognition that the destabilization of national frontiers in Europe (to the extent that it has, in fact, occurred outside the wish-fulfillment dreams of European Union bureaucrats) has not led to any effective new definition of a "European state" (dreadful as that prospect itself may be, in many respects) but rather to the development of an enlarged zone of chaos and uncertainty. In this context (see Ignatieff, 1994), Etienne Balibar has argued that, in Europe, "all the conditions are present ... for a collective sense of identity panic.... For individuals -- particularly the most deprived and the most remote from power -- fear the state, but they fear still more its disappearance or decomposition" (quoted in Nairn, 1993). The question of fear -- and of the extent to which the rise of nationalisms, ethnic absolutisms, and the whole process of the "Balkanisation" of society (see Mestrovic, 1994) into separated "enclaves" can be understood primarily as a fear-driven, defensive process -- is crucial to our enquiry here.

In this connection, it is perhaps worth noting the findings of Nora Rathzel's (1994) empirical study of attitudes to "Heimat" and "Ausländer" in Germany. Rathzel investigated the relationship between these two terms with particular reference to the question of whether people holding particular types of concepts of homeland were more inclined to perceive outsiders as threatening. Her empirical material, while based on a small sample, goes some way to demonstrating that people who hold a reified, harmonious image of Heimat as something necessarily stable and unchanging are particularly likely to be hostile to newcomers, who are then held to be the cause of all manner of disorientating forms of change. Rathzel's study shows that not only are images of "Heimat" and "Ausländer" structurally paired as two parts of a binary opposition, in an abstract sense, but more specifically, that "what makes images of Ausländer threatening is precisely that they make our taken-for-granted identities visible as specific identities and deprive them of their assumed [or reified] naturalness, so that once we start thinking about them we cannot feel at home any more" (p. 91). As Marc Augé (1995) puts it, "perhaps the reason why immigrants worry settled people so much is that they expose the relative nature of certainties inscribed in the soil" (p. 119). How to manage the stress inevitably produced by the recognition that there can be, for us, "No place like Heimat" is perhaps the most important issue of contemporary cultural politics, in Europe and far beyond.


The early sections of this paper draw on material which appeared previously in Morley & Robins (1990) and Morley (1997).


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