HERA JRP IV Public Spaces: Culture and Integration in Europe

“Public Spaces: Culture and Integration in Europe” (HERA JRP PS)

Theme and Scope

We are seeking innovative humanities-led research proposals addressing the theme of Public Spaces: Culture and Integration in Europe. We encourage applicants to consider not only the context and scope below but also the European added value of their proposed collaboration. HERA funding is very competitive and it is vital that it is clearly articulated how the research not only addresses this theme but that it demonstrates how the European collaboration results in more than the sum of its individual national parts.

Through time, public spaces have acted as open domains of human encounters and exchanges, often negotiated or contested. Public spaces are closely connected with the expression and exchange of values and beliefs and with the formation and appropriation of institutions, and thus public spaces lend themselves to cultural analysis of these processes and structures.

The aim of the HERA “Public spaces” programme will be to deepen the theoretical and empirical cultural understanding of public spaces in a European context. The programme has been designed to facilitate a broad range of cultural approaches to conceptualising public space, its structural and processual formations, and its possible outcomes in terms of integration, exclusion, disintegration, fragmentation, hybridization, amalgamation or transmission.

In relationship to the present call, public spaces are understood to encompass both material and symbolic dimensions, both the spheres of institutions and practices. These dimensions can be studied in a historical and contemporary context; across domains of expression, circulation and reception; at local, national and transnational level; and across their physical and virtual manifestations - and interlacings of all of these. Studies may include landscapes, cityscapes, institutions (including museums, libraries, galleries, cinemas) and material culture. They may also include processes and practices, such as artistic production, performance, various forms of a public discourse, dissent and protest in both physical and virtual spaces defined by media and communication. This inclusive approach will facilitate wide-ranging, innovative and interdisciplinary responses to the JRP.

The call imagines the key terms and concepts of the topic in the following way.

While cultural analysis is key to understanding the nature and role of public space itself, there is also an urgent need to understand how public spaces impact structures and processes of integration as possible results of such an interplay. To study this interplay is a particularly timely task since public spaces, both material, symbolic and virtual, ,are major scenes for a range of responses to the challenges of migration, globalization and digitization. In this process, the idea as well as the phenomenon of public space has undergone important changes, as it is a the lens to examine and to determine the process of cultural mobility, in its various forms, (e.g. differing values, traditions, ethnicities and gender identities) within overarching frameworks such as citizenship, community, cultural identity, nationality and globalisation, has been a challenge across the world and through historical time. On the one hand, the European project is seen as a way of overcoming divisive conflicts and promoting tolerance and respect, and as a source of creative innovation. On the other hand, it is also argued that in certain circumstances the effects of integration may have negative effects of disempowerment and erasure of local or pre-existing identities. The concept and practice of integration (or the lack of it) is related strongly to contemporary societal challenges involving migration, inequality, disenfranchisement, intolerance, xenophobia, extremism, and ethnic conflict. Within Europe, the concept of integration has clear relevance to the debates over the future of the European Union, and the relations among northern, western, eastern, southern and central European regions. Particular discourses around integration tend to be highly politicised and are often contested.

In today’s world, the contexts of public spaces are very often marked by processes of migration; and they have been further intensified by globalisation and digitalisation. The societal and cultural effects of such developments range from positive dynamics of creativity, renewal and innovation to more challenging experiences of tension and conflict. Integration is sometimes seen as a condition for the successful management of differences and divergences within larger cultural, political, religious or ideological frameworks (including frameworks like national or European identity, liberal democracy, or particular religions and value-systems). Yet processes of integration can also be a form of constraint and limitation, and carry complex political significance. In order to better understand these dynamics, research is needed into public spaces and the role of cultural activity in relation to integration, and into the relationship of cultural processes to varieties of public space where processes of integration / disintegration / exclusion are articulated, debated, negotiated or rejected.

We are inviting proposals that consider these challenges explicitly from a humanities’ perspective while recognising that interfaces between the humanities and other disciplines may also be relevant to this research topic area.

Scope of the transnational call

CRPs  under this topic should explore the dynamics through which public spaces shape, and are shaped, by cultural activity, and how various forms of dis/integration can be understood in relation to such spaces. This will involve investigating a variety of perspectives, for example:

•      the concepts of and approaches to public space(s);

•      historical patterns and forms of public space, and the relevance of such patterns;

•      the formation of public space(s) through institutional and non-institutional activities;

•      the roles played by culture, art and creativity in shaping public spaces;

•      the impact of migration on culture and the creation and use of public spaces;

•      the role of public spaces in both enabling or challenging models of integration.


This HERA Joint Research Programme will support innovative, humanities-led research into the relationships between public space(s), culture and integration. Whilst the programme does not preclude comparison or investigation into other regions, every proposal must have a strong European dimension (i.e. investigating a public space of relevance to Europe as a whole), or should be analysing comparative European aspects at the level of specific countries, cities, communities etc.

Knowledge exchange

Knowledge exchange (KE) is a two way process which brings together academic staff, users of research and wider groups and communities to exchange ideas, evidence and expertise. It is a process of working collaboratively, and is most effective when these relationships are established at the very start of the proposal.

Knowledge exchange activities are a crucial dimension to any proposed research project. In addition to the networking that takes place among academic partners and broader dissemination activities aimed at wider academic audiences, projects are also expected to develop links with stakeholders outside the academy in order to maximise the societal benefit of the research. For example, collaborations may include the public sector, voluntary, community and charitable organisations, policy makers, the creative, cultural and heritage sectors, broadcasters, museums, galleries, business, industry, and practitioners (e.g. in the creative and performing arts). Collaborations should be meaningful for all partners involved and enable joint learning throughout the duration of the project and beyond. Public engagement activities may also be included to promote a wide understanding of the nature and impact of “public spaces: culture and integration in Europe”.

It is recognised that you may not know the impact of your research at proposal stage. However, a knowledge exchange perspective should be included in the application, and we encourage applicants to explore, from the outset and throughout the life of your project and beyond, who could potentially benefit from your research and what you can do to help make this happen. Proposals should therefore include concrete plans for collaboration and knowledge exchange, demonstrating potential audiences, how these activities will add significant value to the research, and how your knowledge exchange activities will be monitored and evaluated throughout and beyond the project. Active inclusion of non-academic partners from the preparation phase of the project is encouraged.