We gathered 127 participants from Italy, Lithuania, Albania and Germany

The final convention of the EUIMAGE project, funded under the Europe for Citizens – European Remembrance Program, was held in Gorizia, at the headquarters of the Department of Political and Social Sciences of the University of Trieste, on the 20th and 21st November 2019.

The convention aimed to retrace the salient historical moments, from the First World War to the present day, which have made national stereotypes in Europe crystallize in the common mindset.

To intervene, the representatives of the project partners: the Albanian association Art Kontact, the Italian-German Center for European excellence Villa Vigoni, the University of Trieste, the Sapienza University of Rome, the University of Berlin (Germany), the University of Kaunas (Lithuania).

After the welcome greetings by Profs. Giulia Caccamo and Diego Abenante of the International and Diplomatic Sciences and Diplomacy and International Cooperation study courses, Massimo Capano, Head of the Youth Projects Service of the Cinisello Balsamo’s Municipality, introduced the objectives and activities of the project.

Since the beginning of the EUIMAGE project, launched in November 2018, our Service has chosen to involve 60 young people of 18 years of age, from three classes of the Institutes Cartesio of Cinisello Balsamo, Spinelli and Erasmus of Rotterdam of Sesto San Giovanni in each of the actions. Through non-formal education activities, we accompanied the youngsters in a reflection on the history and on the use of images in propaganda, in the preparation of a travelling exhibition and in the conduct of interviews with young people, elderly people and foreigners residing on our territory. The specific methodologies and the choice of the target constituted the specificity of the activities carried out in our city compared to those proposed by the other partners who, on the contrary, developed the topic within the universities.

To intervene during the conference there was also Dr. Francesca Zilio, a researcher at Villa Vigoni, known for the first time in 2017 as a coworker in the Cofò space, with whom we have collaborated since the conception of the project. Francesca delved into the issue of stereotypes existing between Italy and Germany, how they are influenced by the Nation Branding approach and how they only affect partial European integration. Curious to note is how some adjectives attributed to Italy since the Second World War, are still particularly current in Europe.

It was then the turn of Dr. Andrea Griffante, researcher at the University of Kaunas, who retraced the stereotypes related to Germany, Italy and Ukraine typical of the Polish imagination. The intervention made us reflect on how these stereotypes are always “banal”, simple, through the selection and mystification of historical elements that seem to become “inevitable” for common sense.

Andi Tepelena, president of the Tirana Art Kontact association, focused his speech on the theme of stereotypes attributed to the Albanian people and the Albanian people to the European states (especially in the Balkan area), telling it through cartoons and caricatures. The fundamental message of his speech was to underline the way in which it is possible to respect one’s national identity and, at the same time, adhere to a wider European identity and citizenship.

Three different contributions came from Sapienza University of Rome, brought by the researchers Arrigo Bonifacio, Giulia Bianchi and Giovanni Lella, who dealt respectively with the relationship between Italy and Yugoslavia from the Great War to the twentieth century and the legitimization of violence within politics, of Italy in the twentieth century in the eyes of Russia between politics and culture (and how the former went from being the idyllic and wonderful country of Dante and Petrarch, to an image of “sadness, indecision, hypocrisy, falsehood”) and stereotypes and clichĂ©s in Italian-French relations.

Prof. La Mantia also spoke, who explored the theme of the perception of the Balkans in Europe before the First World War, and how the political choices and the construction of the imagination was founded on the myth of the “Memory of Spilled Blood” in the numerous wars that shook the East, and Prof. Pietro Neglie, on Russian identity in front of Europe. From the Institute for the history of the Resistance and of the contemporary age in the FVG, Prof. Luca Manenti has instead retraced the stereotype of the Jewish mason in the Great War between the lodge, ghetto and trenches, telling how this imaginary had been built on the basis of sources false or untraceable, liars or unrealistic, which made those who read the news feel as belonging to a privileged minority convinced of having access to hidden truths. Prof. Giulia Caccamo of the University of Trieste has instead deepened the image of Italy in the Austrian panorama from the Great War to the present day, of how the idea of the unfaithful and traitor Italian crystallized starting from their refusal to fight in Gorizia, about how General Konrad’s love for a Triestine who will later become his wife will make him change his opinion on the Italian people (who “inherited the racial characteristics of the ancient Romans”), but not on his government, and how the constant fear of invasion has been radicalized since the second post-war period.

To conclude the speeches, Thursday 21, was instead Prof. Oliver Janz of the Freie Universitat Berlin, who exhibited their collective editorial project “International Encyclopedia of the First World War”: a free and multi-perspective archive that collects material and research on the Great War from over 50 countries around the world. A very precious resource which, however, underlines prof. Janz has to deal with the risks of every online archive and with the doubt that they survive like paper over time.

At the end of each conference day, space was given to interesting comments and stimulating questions from the public, represented by over 100 students. The ability to link the topics discussed in the interventions to current events confirmed the high level of attention and interest on the part of the students.

Click here for an overview of our conference on the website of our project leader (in Italian)