Mapping the Mental Landscapes of Eurasia



    Mapping the Mental Landscapes of Eurasia

    To conceive Eurasia as one continent is a challenge. Geographical distances, political borders and quite a detached historical development have made us look at Asia as a separate entity, more different from us than is necessarily the case, and internally more homogenous than a closer inspection would support.

    A huge challenge between Europe and Asia in the new millennium is to establish a broader, deeper and more coherent idea of the historical and contemporary Eurasia, in order to determine the potential for increased interaction and cooperation.

    The research program's approach, and what distinguishes it from many of the previous Asia-related projects, is the program's comparative and innovative point of departure.

    Hence, the process of involving a broad and diverse range of Asian partners will be of pivotal importance to the research. The second characteristic is that research will go beyond studies of individual countries and culture to focus on the relations between agents, agencies, countries and cultures; in other words, what are the nature and implications of the cultural encounters?

    Understanding these cultural relations will be of crucial relevance for businesses and governments with relations to Asia.

    As we entered the new millennium, the prevalent conception was that cultural differences would be leveled out in the maelstrom of globalization to a point where they eventually would become obsolete. However, history indicates that this point will probably never occur, and experience from the past decade strongly suggests that the development has rather been moving in the opposite direction. Increased activity on the international scene, stronger economic integration, and much improved opportunities for people to travel and experience other cultures, have in fact lead to a greater appreciation of one's own background, one's home ground, the country where one lives and the ways of coexisting: the culture.

    Any given existing culture should not be considered as the result of a conscious individual choice; rather the choice has been made by history. Culture is the result of human interaction, and hence is in a continuous state of change, but it does not represent something that can be freely formed by individuals. Such is the nature of culture in Denmark as well as in Korea. Across the world, cultural boundaries generate implicit guidelines of how one should behave, what is right or wrong, good and bad, true and false. Cultural boundaries even influence and shape political programs, business plans, family behavioral patterns, the practice of law and the perceptions one has of oneself and the outside world.

    This understanding of culture constitutes the rationale for this type of research program aiming to synthesize existing knowledge and to shift attention from the study of individual countries and cultures to the study of cultural relations and encounters.

    A more nuanced understanding of cultural relations between Europe and Asia is imperative. It is relatively easy to generalize existing cultural regions: the Confucianist East Asia, the Islamic Middle East, the Protestant Northern Europe and the Catholic Southern Europe, etc. These types of comparative studies focusing on societal values and norms as well as political have been helpful in our efforts of understanding 'the other'. Still, insights into the more complex cultural relations - transcending the 'us and them'-dichotomy implicit in most comparative studies - are limited in existing academic literature. Even though consensus dictates that cultural relations are complex and dynamic and that an understanding necessitates innovative tools and conceptual frameworks, most existing mainstream globalization theories fail to capture these cultural relations. A multi-disciplinary approach appears to be a necessary stepping stone in mapping and understanding cultural relations.

    The project is multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary, where knowledge-sharing between different academic institutions in Europe and Asia is key. Every two years, the project will result in a new publication that will contain different thematic variations on the overarching subject of cultural relations between Europe and Asia.
    Effektiv start/slut dato01/12/201001/01/2014


    • Nordic Institute for Asian Studies - NIAS (Projektpartner)