Journal of Intercultural Communication, Issue 23, June, 2010

Hans Erik Näss

The Ambiguities of Intercultural Dialogue:
Critical Perspectives on the European Union’s New Agenda for Culture


Throughout the last couple of decades various aspects of culture seems to affect the lives of European citizens more and more. As a reply the European Union (EU) in 2007 endorsed ‘A European agenda for culture in a globalising world’, evidently their first-ever strategy for culture. Zooming in on three areas – intercultural dialogue, culture as a catalyst to creativity, and culture as part of foreign relations – culture had for the first time been elevated into the premier league of Union politics. This article therefore investigates the background and content of the agenda further with particular emphasis on intercultural dialogue: What is the substance of this phrase and under which conditions is it likely that it will affect European culture as policy instrument? Unfortunately the EU demonstrates an indistinct understanding of the notion that cultural variation consists of both diversity and difference. These two concepts are related, but not synonymous, and furthermore essential to a) understand the multicultural Europe, and b) in deciding where the attempts of intercultural dialogue should end. As a consequence it is argued that the EU must revise their understanding of intercultural dialogue if their cultural policy should become something more profound than good intentions.

Key words: European Union, cultural policy, globalization, intercultural dialogue

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