Thinking European identity and Interculturality in Pandemic Times
Descriptif du projet
The pandemic affecting our world in 2020 leads us to question a centuries-old socio-cultural practice, namely the wearing of masks, and to rethink their use in light of the current context. The aim of the project is to reflect together on the evolution of this practice, under the influence of both well-established traditions and unforeseen events.
Depending on the civilizations and eras, masks have had various functions: religious, social and artistic. Contrary to Africa, the religious function of masks has tended to remain circumscribed in Europe (ancient theatre with its religious foundations, carnivals linked to the calendar of the Catholic Church). Considerable importance has, conversely, traditionally been attributed to their other functions – social (use in European courts, tradition of masked balls, etc.) and artistic (theatre, notably the commedia dell’arte, and painting, especially allegories of the Baroque age).
None of these functions corresponds, however, to the recent use of masks. To what extent is it based on custom, on the lesson of past eras ? And to what extent on the instinct of self-preservation ? The study of forms of representation (literature, drawing, etc.), but also other disciplines such as history and medicine, provides points of reference indicating that the wearing of masks is part of the long history of epidemics, starting with the plague, which originated in China and was rife in Europe at more or less regular intervals between the 14th and the 18th centuries. However, due to many factors (scientific progress, development of means of transport, appearance and development of the media, emergence of social networks), masks now become what they never previously were: namely, a real object of study, at the crossroads of several disciplines in the humanities, including philosophy, history, literature, the visual arts, sociology, and linguistics.
The philosophical dimension of this object stems from a long tradition, from Descartes’ “Larvatus prodeo” to the notion of “personalism” (from the Latin “persona”), “mask”, and Nietzsche’s affirmation that “all that is deep loves the mask”. It leads us to rethink the notions of subjectivity and intersubjectivity: what remains of self-affirmation behind a mask, and how relationships within a group change. It also leads us to analyse the behaviours that result from the most recent practice of wearing masks: dialectics of refusal and adaptability, of obedience to the law and the temptation to transgress it, of anonymity and the desire to stand out...
The analysis of the discourse organized around masks is another specific point of capital importance. If, as claimed by Stendhal, Jesuit missionary Gabriel Malagrida said “speech was given to man to hide his thoughts”, the vagaries of official discourse during the first weeks of the pandemic and in many countries, as well as how this discourse was relayed by the written and audiovisual press, present elements of a sophist nature, and allow for making the link between past and present, between ancient classical culture and political-institutional rhetoric.
This project is part of the SEA-EU “European Identity and Interculturality” theme. The wearing of masks directly affects identity, and its generalization – unusual in Europe – requires analysis according to intercultural criteria. Does it risk causing a smoothing out of cultural specificities? Or, on the contrary, will it enrich them through changes of an aesthetic nature (the acceleration of the phenomena characteristic of our time showing that masks are also becoming a fashion accessory)?
This project is led by motivated researchers from various geographical areas and scientific fields, whose work on the past allows for gaining perspective on the present day.
Porteur du programme: Sophie Guermès (UBO)
Autres membres UBO: Valérie Huet, Anne-Hélène Le Cornec-Ubertini, Yue Yue, Virginie Podvin, Anne-Aël Ropars
Membres Universités de Gdańsk et de Cádiz : Tomasz Swoboda (co-porteur université partenaire), Dolores Bermudez Medina (co-porteur université partenaire) ; Jagoda Bodzińska, Katarzyna Kotowska, Malgorzata Jarmułowicz, Stanislaw Rosiek, Ewa Wierzbowska.
Un séminaire en ligne aura lieu de février à mai 2021.
Un colloque se tiendra à l'UBO les 1er et 2 juillet 2021.
Première séance: 12 février 2021, 17h-19h en visioconférence
Jeter le masque ou se voiler la face ? Notes sur les aléas des discours et des pratiques
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