The Policy of Cultural Rights: Socio-legal Perspectives on Cultural Diversity
Coordinators: Miren Manias-Muñoz (University of the Basque Country), Lucero Ibarra Rojas (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas)
Description of the meeting
The workshop "The policy of cultural rights: socio-legal perspectives on cultural diversity" aims to open a place of interaction for socio-legal scholars who wish to share work that deals with how the state and law influence the possibilities of development for different cultures in diverse societies. Due to its social and economic contribution the cultural production is a relevant matter for governments. On the one hand, cultural goods play a core role in social cohesion, strengthening commonly held values and territorial identity as well as being able to spread out knowledge through the community. So, in the first place, culture constitutes a source of unity and identification enabling citizens the sense of belonging to their own nation. However, even if the cultural production is an expression of meanings from local content and point of view, it is also connected and influenced by the current global context. On the other hand, creativity depends on the value of use; on the level of its demand and industrial activity where money becomes the exchange value. Considering that there are evidences of the sectors' positive impact to the local economy, this contribution of culture should also be measured. Given its centrality, it is not surprising that culture is also present in the language of rights. Cultural rights refer to the rights of production, consumption and access that people have to the world's creative industry (UNESCO, 2005). For that reason, it is important to not understand individuals simply as consumers of cultural goods but rather as producers and participants of the cultural system; while distribution companies as means of carrying cultural goods to the audience. In this context, the state and public institutions become the main regulation bodies for the whole production, distribution and exhibition process of culture. This would involve accomplishing the principle of diversity and establishing spaces for its visibility, promotion as well as access to it through specific means of distribution. However, decision-making in this field also falls to education providers, regional and local authorities, employers'' organizations, trade unions and the media. Therefore, wh at is the role of law, particularly of public policies and cultural regulation, in guaranteeing cultural diversity? In the context of diverse societies, this becomes a central issue to the concerns of democratic states. The notion of cultural unity inside a single state has often led to attempts of constructing a homogeneous cultural landscape while erasing internal cultural differences. However, many cultures have coped with attempts of eradication and now the paradigm in several states has turned into a view which formally aims for "rescuing" and promoting cultural diversity. Thereby, it is necessary to stress here that the cultural production strongly depends on a particular socio-political context and regulation. While the development of cultures is not entirely dependent on state sponsorship, the processes carried through the state are central to understand the interactions of different cultures. State promotion or limitation of certain cultural expressions can indeed make for an environment where some cultures are deemed more legitimate than others. This has also been recognized internationa lly by the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Cultural policy is now to be judged as it is able to overcome discrimination of minority cultures in democratic states. The workshop proposed is structured in two wide sections, one each day, with a general link: one on conflicts arising in diverse societies; and another one on different strategies that are implemented in those societies to potentiate and guarantee the right to cultural diversity. Following this arrangement, we have decided to begin the workshop with two papers which set the tone for the discussion of culture within the realms of the law, followed by papers that present different cases in which diversity enters into conflict within social processes and regulation. This section places cultural struggles within political action and in the discussion over the meaning and permissibility of diversity in different institutional settings. The following day and section explores the field of possibility through the analysis of strategies that have been used by different actors to give a space to diversity. This section offers reflections regarding heritage and the media, but also on less suspe cted influences such as the environment; and it portrays the different ways in which state institutions and actors negotiate collaborations in the context of diverse societies. The day and workshop end with a visit to the ELTZIA building, where a project of cultural promotion in Oñati, which will be presented in the context of the workshop, is carried.
Our experience in Oñati
It was a great pleasure for the organisers to have coordinated this wonderful workshop on the Policy of Cultural Rights in the IISL, in Oñati. We had excellent scholars coming from different countries – Canada, USA, Australia, Italy, Colombia and Mexico among others, and also presenting very interesting papers on theoretical aspects as well as practical cases. Therefore, we first would like to thank all the participants for joining us and particularly to Malen Gordoa from the Institute - who did a great job in supporting us to create this meeting.
The workshop started on Wednesday night with the screening of the Basque-language film Loreak (2014) in Kultur Etxea – the culture house in town, followed by a Q&A session with the scriptwriter of the film Aitor Arregi, from Oñati. On Thursday and Friday we made efforts in articulating theoretical dimensions, the regulative sphere and where culture locally lives - film distribution, copyright, and the mechanisms of regulation for instance. Indeed, thanks to Mirari Sagarzazu and Ekain Muñoz – two of the board members of Eltzia - the participants had the chance to go on a tour to the Eltzia building in Oñati. It is a specific space created by the town hall where all the different local culture groups live together.
The workshop enjoyed an excellent working atmosphere due to the good nature of the group. We even appreciated to have had some disagreement on certain issues since it is a reflection of having promoted debate on this research area. As the participant John Birgham said, "it seemed too short even with the movie and our extra day in Bilbo". For these reasons, we look forward to remaining in touch.