Festivals: Mass Education or/through Mass Performance?
3 August 2013

On August 3, 2013 the Center for Urban History hosted the workshop "Culture at the Crossroads of Cultures: Challenges and Experiences in Approaching the Past"

The aim of the workshop was to discuss how contemporary culture and art use, reflect and refer to the multicultural heritage, and what is the role of contemporary culture and arts in "approaching the past," and dealing with "difficult history." 

Panel Three. Festivals: Mass Education or/through Mass Performance

Over the last two decades ethnic and poly-ethnic festivals have enjoyed wide popularity throughout East Central Europe, making it possible to experience varying formats, languages, and cultural traditions and immerse oneself in a multiform world, albeit one which is largely virtual. Ruth Ellen Gruber underscores the dangers of the “virtualizing” and “Disneylandizing” of cultural heritage through the vehicle of the festival. It also remains a point of dispute to what extend festivals are capable of (re)activating a given cultural heritage while also exploiting it for purposes of entertainment and financial profit. Conversely, festivals may play an educational role, stimulating a greater interest in the history of multiculturalism and elevating social consciousness regarding discrete cultural spheres, history, and our concept of cultural heritage.

During the discussion th participants considered different festival approaches to representing our multicultural heritage, and their role in the rethinking of the past and the ‘polyphony’ of the public space. For as much as mono- and poly-ethnic festivals “reveal” cultural traditions, to what degree do they contribute to cultural stereotypes and reinforce extant cultural divisions? What role do festivals play in building bridges between past experience and present generations in the context of cultural and social discontinuity of East Central Europe? Is there sense for festivals to explore the more difficult chapters of our common past or is their role defined by the mere “celebration” of multiculturalism? Finally, should festivals which promote multicultural past concern themselves with the propagation of tolerance in contemporary society?


Lilia Shutial, press secretary of  the festival “Meridian Czernowitz” Festival (Chernivtsi, Ukraine).
Monica Elliot,
project coordinator “7@Nite, Synagogi Nocą, (Cracow, Poland)
Ada Dianova
director LvivKlezFest of Jewish Culture (Lviv, Ukraine)

Moderator: Anna Susak (Center for Urban History)

The workshop program is available here.

The workshop was conducted in conjunction with the summer school "Jewish History and Multicultural Past of East Central Europe: Societies, Cultures and Heritage" .