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Introduction: A European perspective on Politics and Culture

In this fourth issue of Politics and Culture (2008) we have explicitly chosen for a European perspective. An editorial team of 6, consisting of 3 Belgians (Joke Bauwens, Nico Carpentier & Sofie Van Bauwel), 2 Germans (Tanja Thomas & Fabian Virchow) and one Hungarian (Peter Csigo) launched a call for essays and reviews, for instance using ECREA’s mailing list. The end result is an issue with 6 essays and 8 reviews. Given the media studies background of the 6 editors, it is not surprising that most of the essays and reviews also focus on the media as an inseparable component of the spheres of the cultural and the political.

One of the main objectives of this issue is to bring together a number of publications that span Europe. After the Iron Curtain aka the Wall had come down, and the USSR disintegrated, there was hope that the academic communities that had existed on both sides of the Curtain would find each other. The ideological megalomania of the Cold War had cheated these academic communities (with some notable exceptions) from the opportunities to collaborate and to be exposed to each other’s paradigmatic and theoretical richness. Almost 20 years later, this hope has only partially materialized. The communicative lines have not been opened sufficiently, and the different national and regional academic spaces have remained too closed, sometimes even too isolationist. The materiality of the Wall might have disappeared; but there is still an immaterial divide that keeps these academic communities apart, based on sets of restrictive ideas of what Europe and European academia is (and is not). This issue can only offer a very humble contribution to overcoming this divide, for instance by including texts from Bulgaria, Poland, and the Czech Republic, some of which explicitly thematize the post-communist configuration (see for instance Reifová’s review of ‘Past for the Eyes’ and Kozlowski essay ‘Out of post-communism’).

These inclusions bypass a mere token representation of the Eastern European countries. Many of the texts deal with issues that are related to the question of what kind of Europe will eventually come into being through the different integration processes. A first cluster of articles focuses on notions of citizenship and participation, continuing the search for new and deepened articulations of the European democracies. The Santana / Carpentier essay, the review of ‘Citizenship and Consumption’ (by Kaun), and the ‘Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything’ (review by Fuchs) all deal with the renewed role (and its problems and limitations) of citizenship. This is complemented by the emphasis on govermentality, and how in a neoliberal context new forms of (self)regulation appear. Here I need to mention the reviews of ‘Discipline and liberty’ (by Boddin) and of ‘Better living through Reality TV’ (by Vandenbrande).

A second cluster deals with issues of representation. Ibroscheva’s essay on the mediations of gender, Dietze’s essay on occidentalist visual politics, Reifová’s review of ‘Past for the Eyes’ and Dhaenens’ review of ‘Screened Out. Playing Gay in Hollywood from Edison to Stonewall’ look at the representational processes that circulate in Europe (and beyond), linking them to analyses of their emancipatory potential. Also Biltereyst’s chapter on new censorship studies, looking into ‘the boundaries of acceptable representations’, touches upon these logics and their problems.

These texts, together with the Fetzer / Johansson essay on political media discourse, and the reviews on ‘Magic in the Air’ (by Garmendia Larrañaga) and ‘The International Handbook of Children, Media and Culture’ (by Ponte) offer a broad perspective about the potentialities and the threats of the new and expanded Europe. They offer us horizons and utopias that might not always be achieved, but are worth pursuing and articulating.

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