Arts Education in the Age of Cultural Diversity – A Basis to Gain Cultural Identity in a Risk Society


von Susanne Keuchel

Erscheinungsjahr: 2016

Welche Anforderungen stellt Kulturelle Diversität an die Kulturelle Bildung im Spannungsfeld von Globalisierungs- und Lokalisierungsprozessen? Der Beitrag reflektiert hierzu in einem ersten Schritt unterschiedliche Gesellschaftsmodelle auf ihren Umgang mit „Künsten“, ästhetischen Ausdrucksformen und Kultureller Bildung. In einem zweiten Schritt werden diese Reflexionen genutzt, um eine Vision zu entwickeln, wie eine zeitgemäße diversitätsbewusste Kulturelle Bildung aussehen könnte im Zeitalter einer „globalisierten“ und individualisierten Gesellschaft.


The “arts” are subject to continuous change in society and this change of the “arts” in turn has an impact on organization and contents of arts education. “Arts” that escape traditional evaluation systems, that evolve from works of art to processes, that cannot be systematized in sectors but go beyond individual artistic sectors as “Gesamtkunstwerk” (synthesis of the arts), place new demands on concepts of arts education.

Arts education does not only use the “arts” as a reference system but also the dimension of education, and the educational discourse itself is just as much subject to continuous change in society.

Therefore, this essay is going to stretch things even further: It will not discuss the open question about the need for new concepts of arts education solely from the perspective of changing art practices but from the perspective of changes in society. In order not to lose sight of the subject-matter, it will put the focus on one aspect of change in society, that is, “cultural diversity”, exploring how cultural diversity influences arts education and which requirements it imposes on arts education in the social field of the tension between an increasing individualization on the one hand and the need for a sense of belonging on the other. The perspective of cultural diversity raises a question to be discussed controversially: In view of an increasingly globalized and differentiated society, are we still allowed to talk about a changing art practice and/or the “arts”, or does this reflect a dominant Western European Anglo-American perspective which is not tenable in view of migration and globalization along with a trend towards localization and/or regionalization (Buß 2002), or which at least needs to be broadened? For the globalization process promotes two contrasting trends: A trend towards global cultural practices that, detached from specific national or regional peculiarities, become established predominantly through economic and medial power processes, and a resultant opposite trend towards one’s own and regional specifics promoting processes of regional identity and alternatives to the global mainstream.

The following essay does not understand cultural diversity only as a cultural-geographic cross-border phenomenon but in the way it was originally defined as referring to a diversity of milieus, age, ethnicity, religion and region (Yildiz 1997:13).

In order to answer the questions posed, different models of society will be explored in terms of their influence on how societies deal with the “arts”, and different means of aesthetic expression and arts education, in this case with particular reference to processes of inclusion and exclusion. These reflections will then be used in a second step to develop a vision of what a contemporary arts education that is conscious of diversity could look like in an age of “globalized” and individualized societies with a multitude of cultural life styles and forms of artistic expression: Arts education in the age of multi-dimensional art perspectives.

“Arts“, arts education, and group-specific cultural identity in different models of society

The “arts”, here understood as forms of artistic-creative and aesthetic expression, take on different functions in our society, for instance, documenting the productivity of a society, a “desire to become immortal”, or an engine for innovative change in society (Kugler 1842:1). Seen in this light, the “arts“ as cultural symbols of a society may also promote processes of group-specific identity, for instance in the form of rituals and common codes, as portrayed, among other things, in the model of cultural identities by Jan Assmann (Assmann 2005:139). Assmann assumes that collective identity “does not exist “as such”, but only to the extent that certain individuals commit to it” (Assmann 2005:132). To make such a commitment, according to Assmann, they need a system of common cultural symbols which does not only comprise language but also “rituals and dance, patterns and ornaments, traditional costumes and tattoos, food and drinks, monuments, pictures, landscapes, landmarks and milestones” (Assmann 2005:139). In line with this model, cultural activities and/or the “arts” serve as an important basis for the creation of cultural identities, which, according to Assmann, require continuous reproduction and updating. In this context, it is necessary to bear in mind that, as mentioned in the introduction, a cultural community can be defined on different levels: National, regional, based on age, education, class, milieu or specific interest, for instance.

One example of the role played by the “arts” in processes of cultural exclusion, which is not geographically intended, is the phenomenon of youth culture(s) with its (their) own forms of artistic and aesthetic expression. The fact that youth is seeking its own forms of art is a fairly new contemporary phenomenon. Discovering the importance of a certain age between childhood and adulthood and translating it into a theme led to creative processes of exclusion. At the beginning of the 20th century, Germany saw the evolution of its first youth cultures. One of the pioneers was a movement that called itself “Wandervögel” (migratory birds); in an age of increasing mechanization, it wanted to return to the qualities of nature (Rüth 2008:34ff). In the process, “youth cultures” were “invented by every new generation” (Lissek 2011). Even though the current hip-hop, emo or other special groups of youth culture are completely different at first glance, they all share similar goals. It is important for young people to stand out from adults and, in an increasingly diverse society, also from other adolescents, which can be achieved by developing and cultivating similar styles of music, fashion and other forms of aesthetic expression together with like-minded youngsters. Consequently, processes of inclusion are always linked with processes of exclusion.

The following chapter will reflect on different models of society and how they deal with the “arts” and arts education, more specifically in reference to processes of inclusion and exclusion in society. These deliberations will provide useful input at a later stage when the consequences for a new concept of diversity-conscious arts education will be formulated.

“Arts” and arts education in homogeneous social structures

Which role do the “arts” and arts education play in homogeneous societies with flat or virtually non-existent hierarchies, for instance in primitive societies, in relation to processes of inclusion and exclusion? In this context, Woermann claims that a cultured society promotes a pluri-form naturalist art expressed in various disciplines and techniques, while primitive or semi-cultured peoples do not (Woermann 1915–1922). Conversely, these are rather “singular forms of art”. In the sense of the theoretical model by Assmann outlined above, such a society has defined and generally accepted systems of cultural symbols, including forms of artistic and aesthetic expression which every member is familiar with, which are being cultivated by common rituals, for instance, and are being reproduced. Observing the presence of rather homogenous forms of artistic and aesthetic expression that are stabilizing a community is not the same as arguing about why artistic forms of expression emerge in the first place. There are completely different theories on that. For instance, Kugler regards the “need of man to translate his ideas into something more permanent” in the sense of a culture of memorials handed down by rhetoric, which envision the eternal in something mortal, as the origin of art (Kugler 1842:1). However, the question of the origin of the “arts” will not be discussed in this essay, which focuses on the question of the diversity of forms of artistic expression in relation to individual groups of society in a community. In relation to homogenous communities, like primitive people, one would assume that cultural activities and/or forms of artistic and aesthetic expression homogeneously cultivated are an important basis for the creation of a common cultural identity within such a community.

Regarding the didactics and terms of reference for arts education in such a homogeneous social structure, this means more specifically that society has to ensure that every individual learns how to apply the cultural codes available, which in our case would be the forms of artistic expression. In this case, there is a defined canon in form and content for arts education. Here, the focus is explicitly not on the development of new artistic perspectives.

“Arts” and arts education in hierarchical social structures

A “cultural canon” can also be found in societies with hierarchical structures. The medieval estate-based society would be an example of a hierarchical social structure. “In general, estates claim to fulfill a certain function in society, which they try to monopolize […] In doing so, they form a group awareness and group conduct” (Bahrdt 1985:128) and there are “criteria that define inclusion in the group” (Bahrdt 1985:139). This sense of inclusion becomes also manifest in cultivated forms of aesthetic and artistic expression, such as courtly poetry or “Minnesang” (Nestler 1962:80) among knights and nobility, “Meistergesang” (master singing) (Nestler 1962:86) by the crafts guilds or popular farce or folksong for the common people (Wiora 1950). In this context, the forms of art of the elite or the ruling estates are often highlighted as special achievements of society. This can be observed in monarchies but also in bourgeois society. Hence, the bourgeoisie cultivated the reception of artistic-creative works and performances that had been enjoyed by the nobility in the past to demonstrate its inclusion in a privileged educated class in the newly emerged social structure.

In reference to the bourgeoisie, Bourdieu developed his theory of “cultural capital” as an important theoretical reference in the 1970’s in which he explores the motif of cultivating forms of artistic expression as a “distinction gain” (Bourdieu 1982) which is a manifestation of being included in a particular social class. According to Bourdieu, forms of artistic expression serve as a means to demonstrate a particular taste and lifestyle to stand out from other social classes. “Aesthetic preferences, both in the objective and subjective sense, which are expressed through cosmetics, fashion or interior design demonstrate and underline one’s own status and exclusion of others in the social structure” (Bourdieu 1982:107). By building a bridge between this theory and Assmann’s theory of cultural symbols, once again, special forms of artistic and aesthetic expression are used as shared symbols of understanding, communication, reproduction and actualization to deliberately highlight inclusion in a particular elitist group and at the same time, exclusion of other social groups.

Regarding the didactics and terms of reference of arts education in such a hierarchical society, this means providing different offerings of arts education for individual social groups. Regarding social groups of this society that cannot claim inclusion in an elitist group, these offerings convey a cultural canon which underlines the importance of the forms of artistic expression cultivated by the elite and labels them as having a higher “artistic value” than other forms of artistic expression cultivated in society. In doing so, these offerings have to be designed in such a way that they do not convey a deeper understanding and consequently no specific access to this canon, this analysis, reception and in particular artistic reproduction to this group, for instance, only basic music and art education in primary schools and limited classes at secondary schools that merely lead to basic school-leaving qualifications. On the other hand, for the elite of this society it is even more important to deal intensively with this cultural canon on a receptive and artistic-creative level in the context of arts education processes in order to acquire “cultural capital“, this way excluding other social groups. Examples of such offerings include music schools with tuition fees, private teachers or more in-depth art and music education at grammar schools.

“Arts” and arts education in heterogeneous and complex social structures

The dissolution of a multitude of binding social standards in a society that governs day-to-day life creates new opportunities for individual behavior and challenges his/her position in society. These opportunities are also conducive to the formation of complex heterogeneous social structures. The sociological change from a hierarchical society to a heterogeneous one is not clearly definable. Considering, for instance, a layer of society model (“Schichtgesellschaft”) which claims to be an “open society” where social status is the result of “individual performance and ambition” rather than being ”granted because of one’s background or inheritance” (Korte/Schäfers 2008:216), there are certainly opposite positions here. They emphasize that the “unfair distribution of assets in a layer of society model” (Korte/Schäfers 2008:216), in this case, professional hierarchy and qualification, is the “most critical dimension of social imbalance”. In the spirit of Bourdieu, one could argue in this context that the cultural capital and/or cultural assets are spread unevenly in the different classes, which in turn leads to certain assets such as e.g. attending music schools being a privilege of specific classes with some exceptions only due to outstanding musical talent. Consequently, the connection between status and recourse to “arts” and forms of aesthetic expression would still prevail in a layer of society model. This is because profession and qualification - to a large extent - now replace inherited social status. Social models become particularly complex when there are no longer clear causal connections between social status, inheritance or professional contexts, when “class or status become separated … from lifestyle, preferences of conduct, political convictions …” (Korte/Schäfers 2008:205) and thus also from cultural activity such as recourse to special forms of artistic and aesthetic expression. To do so, however, requires challenging causal connections. Historically speaking, the so-called generation of 1968 represented, in this sense, an important movement, by challenging social as well as existing artistic and aesthetic standards.

Consequently, the dissolution of a shared cultural canon leads to freedom and choices for different forms of aesthetic and artistic-creative expression. As a result, clear artistic values such as certain forms of art being more valuable than others vanish. At the same time, an individual’s choice to deal with specific forms of artistic expression is not so much motivated by his/her ambition to increase his/her value in society but rather by individual interest and/or, in the sense of Assmann, by demonstrating his/her inclusion in a particular group of this multi-faceted society. What is important to note in the context of a heterogeneous social structure is that inclusion in a group is not determined by one particular characteristic such as one’s professional situation but, for instance, by shared values or lifestyles, which may also differ within a professional or educational group.

Stuart Hall (1996) who is a representative of “culture studies” pursues an approach in this direction, which does not focus on inclusion, but rather on exclusion processes. Hall claims that in view of increasingly heterogeneous and pluralist social structures large systems of meaning are no longer able to create a sense of belonging; rather, deviation from cultural standards becomes the basis for cultural identity (Keupp 2008:172). The first InterKulturBarometer (Keuchel 2012), a study that explored the influence of migration on art and culture in Germany in the framework of a nationwide survey, identified this model as a possible explanation for the importance attached to the country of origin by groups with a migration background, as established by the survey, as an alternative characteristic of identity aside from profession and school education. The study found that individual social groups showed a strong interest in artists and works of art from their region of origin. At the same time, the results showed that social groups with a migration background do not define identity on the basis of a single characteristic such as origin but use various references to define their identity which is, for instance, reflected in a wider range of cultural and artistic interests which, aside from a focus on artists and works of art from their country of origin as outlined above, also includes artists and works of art from the culture of their host country.

The continuous increase in different social groups with their own cultural codes, forms of aesthetic expression and lifestyles that cannot be reduced to a single specific characteristic of social inclusion is also reflected by the increasing importance of milieu studies such as the Sinus-Migranten-Milieu-Studie with currently ten different milieus in Germany or, for instance, Gerhard Schulze in his corresponding cultural-sociological approach. Schulze (2005) distinguishes five different milieus based on a contemporary, hedonistic and individual expression of one’s own lifestyle. In this rather individualistic approach based on individual experience that is not so much aimed at exclusion and/or distinction, the entertaining aspect of “arts” e.g. in the entertainment milieu plays a greater role, but also the sense of belonging in the integration milieu or in the harmony milieu, though it does less so to ensure the cohesion in a group but rather to strengthen the individual’s sense of inclusion in a group (Schulze 2005).

Such perspectives highlight the fact that establishing one’s social position by resorting to specific forms of artistic and aesthetic expression became more difficult in recent years due to the multitude of choices, lifestyles and milieus. This causes the dissolution of two-dimensional systems of cultural reference, in this case, the contrast between the “art” of an elite vs. other forms of artistic and aesthetic expression, in a sense, the dissolution of values in forms of artistic expression along with a cultural canon. More than likely, this also shifts the direction of valuation in art along with the cultural canon away from a dominant elite towards a legitimation of a majority society as an indicator for the relevance of “arts“ and a cultural canon.

Arts education in response to the generation of 1968 and a critical discourse with social as well as artistic standards led to new fundamental principles in arts education, thus the claim of a “non-instrumental reference to arts and cultures with a value of their own, to the aesthetic in the broadest sense from every day to high culture” (Zacharias 2001:70). Wolfgang Zacharias describes the practice of arts education to date, “old school arts education“, by distinguishing it from the new direction …as introduction and induction to the respective dominant and applicable systems of symbols and rules for life in terms of rituals and communication with the objective of value preservation, realization and strengthening ... the formative substance” (Zacharias 2001:71). He sees one of the objectives of new arts education in “liberating oneself from an orientation towards a hierarchical and dominant high culture while striving to learn the art of living” (Zacharias 2001:219). This shows that arts education, as it was newly constituted in the 1970’s in Germany was understood as a model contrasting with the “arts” of hierarchical and unfair social structures. Hence, arts education has the task of exposing cultural standards and values in the elitist sense with regard to Bourdieu and raising the profile of forms of aesthetic and artistic expression in one’s own environment. What is important in this context is to strengthen the individual in the capacity to experience oneself through art and creativity. As an alternative model to social standards in the “arts”, it puts the focus on the subject and the development of his/her personality as a reference model for artistic-creative processes. Hilmar Hoffmann’s (1984) demand for “culture for all” reflects this approach in cultural policies though it was not until 2004 that efforts towards nationwide programs of arts education developed in cooperation with schools became evident to ensure equal opportunities. In 2004, for example the nationwide initiative “Kinder zum Olymp“ of the Federal States’ Cultural Foundation was launched, in 2006/2007 the North Rhine-Westphalian program on culture and school, in 2007 the first measure “Jedem Kind ein Instrument“ in North Rhine Westphalia, and other Federal States will follow suit. The cultural agents’ program of the Federal Cultural Foundation started in 2011, and the alliances for education “Kultur macht stark“, sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in 2013. One of the drivers, among others, was the first “Jugend-KulturBarometer” (youth culture barometer) (Keuchel/Wiesand 2006), a nationwide representative survey among 14 to 24 year olds on cultural participation and cultural biographies in Germany. The survey found, for instance, that only 15% of pupils or graduates from lower secondary schools had visited a cultural event such as a museum, theater or concert with their school class, while by comparison 50% of students or graduates from grammar schools had done so (Keuchel/Wiesand 2006:78).

The negation of a “classical cultural canon” for the sake of a subject’s forms of artistic expression lived and experienced in his/her daily life, however implies, in the final analysis, an “experienced” existence of a cultural canon in society. Otherwise, there would be no need for such an alternative model. This also raises the question whether Bourdieu’s alternative model is still relevant in society or if other cultural “power structures”, respectively alternative models, have been probably established. In an age of migration, do we need to address new “power structures” in arts education? Is a new cultural canon becoming legitimized on the basis of aesthetic experience of a majority society, in this case, in relation to the Western European Anglo-American cultural sphere?

And if this were not the case and if manifold different forms of artistic expression coexisted equally in the framework of manifold cultural lifestyles, this raises the question of how arts education could provide guidance: Does it suffice for arts education to simply capture forms of artistic-aesthetic expression in an individual’s environment or – to ensure the individual’s choice - should it not convey different aesthetic perspectives and approaches to allow for individual artistic-aesthetic decisions and positions also beyond one’s own direct social environment? It is at the same time, not important to enable the individual to live with different aesthetic positions in his/her own society and to come to terms with that. In this spirit, Max Fuchs (1999) claims that “it is probably... politically the most critical problem to account for the plurality of 2,000 cultures which exist worldwide according to the UN in such a way that neither conflictual opposition nor forceful assimilation is the result.” In the final analysis, what could the didactics and substance of arts education look like in a society of cultural diversity?

Excursus: Arts education in a risk society

Before concluding with an outline of views on the requirements arts education has to meet in an age of cultural diversity, we are going to explore a specific model of society in the sense of Beck’s risk society, evaluating its significance for arts education. The trend, in the current discourse on arts education, to see it as a “panacea” for resolving current social problems provides the background. An international political position paper, for instance, states, “Art is a tool for tolerance, social cohesion and peace building in our multicultural, interconnected societies” (Manhart 2014:18). A paper by the Mercator Foundation underlines the importance of the “arts” for an active conduct of life, for surviving on the job market and acquiring basic competencies: “Arts education definitely boosts personal development and expressiveness and creative competence of children and adolescents. Music, drama, painting, sculpture, film, dance or literature open opportunities for children and adolescents to better understand themselves and their environments and acquire basic competencies for an active way of life and work now and in future” ( At the same time, extensive programs of arts education are aimed in particular at young underprivileged and less educated groups of society in deprived areas in order to improve their situation in general. One of the first large-scale programs of arts education along those lines was “Sistema“ ( in Venezuela, which aimed at giving young people from poor families an opportunity to play an instrument, thus “for the first time” giving them a perspective in life. Thanks to its huge success, this program has become a role model for many other transfer programs of this kind in South America and Europe. The German program “Jedem Kind ein Instrument” (An instrument for every child) is also based on the Venezuelan example, which has been going on for over 30 years. To associate arts education with the aspiration that it improves young underprivileged individuals’ creativity and competencies for an active life may also be considered critically. In view of youth unemployment in Europe in the context of arts education, Michael Wimmer, for instance, comments critically: “These young people need creative room to grow; but they also need security, predictability, understandable perspectives. What matters most to them is not only creativity but improving the circumstances in which they are able to realize their creative qualities.” (

In this sense, Beck’s (1986) theoretical model of a risk society does not only underline the opportunities implied in increasing individualism in society and the dissolution of social standards but also the risks specifically. According to Beck, an increasing individualism leads to freedom of choice for the individual on the one hand, while on the other, it shifts society’s responsibility for the individual to the individual himself/herself. Consequently, the individual rather than society becomes responsible for making his/her biography a success and, applied to cultural matters, for his/her own cultural biography. “One essential expression of individualization is the mode of personal accountability that is, holding oneself accountable for all positive and negative results” (Beck 2007:63). Giddens for instance, points out that “traditional cultures ... have no definition of risk” (Giddens 2012:35) In these cultures, the path of life was predetermined in detail. This raises new questions for the concept of arts education. While it was an important step for arts education in the 1970’s to stress that there is a multitude of forms of aesthetic expression as alternatives to the cultural canon generally accepted by society in the sense of Bourdieu’s cultural capital, now there is probably a need for didactics that help the individual to select ways of making his/her own choices from this diversity. How can arts education provide aid in decision-making and contribute to the development of an individual’s cultural identity in view of a multitude of opportunities and an absence of valence and/or requirements defined by social standards in the “arts”?

Arts education in times of cultural diversity, globalization and individualization - ideas for a new approach

Above we discussed questions of designing arts education under the influence of diversity, globalization and individualization. These questions focus in particular on three different aspects:

  1. Does arts education need to take a critical position on the value of arts within existing social structures also in times of cultural diversity?
  2. In view of the perspective of “culture as a notion of plurality”, is it necessary for arts education to address not only forms of artistic and aesthetic expression of one’s own environment but stress cultural diversity based on different forms of artistic and aesthetic expression? How to select the contents to ensure choice for designing one’s own biography and at the same time avoid a “clash of civilizations” (Huntington 1996)?
  3. In view of cultural diversity and an absence of social standards and values, does arts education have the task to provide support in decision-making and guidance to design one’s own cultural and artistic biography? What could such guidance look like?

All these questions do not address the “arts” as an autonomous form but forms of artistic and aesthetic expression within different cultural lifestyles and “cultures”, and the way in which they relate to one another. The interplay of different “cultures” in the sense of plurality may be described in the framework of different patterns of interpretation. In the current discourse, three central patterns of interpretation (Göhlich 2006:20ff.) are dominant which, in practice, are often marked by different political interests and control processes as polyculturality, interculturality and transculturality (Welsch 1995:39ff.).

Polyculturality as one pattern of interpretation emphasizes manifold different environments and cultures existing side by side in a sphere of mutual perception. Interculturality as another pattern of interpretation emphasizes a perspective of dialogue and the interaction between manifold different environments and cultures, as well as the self-definition in relation to the respective other(s). Transculturality as the third pattern of interpretation emphasizes in particular the fusion and new manifestation processes of different environments and cultures (hybridization) and the possibility of multiple and variable orientations.

The following part will reflect on the questions raised above in the context of these patterns of interpretation to point out possible new concepts for a diversity-conscious arts education.

Polyculturality and questions of values

Chapter 3 highlighted the fact that cultural diversity is a fundamental principle of a new arts education as it evolved in response to the generation of 1968 claiming a “non-instrumental reference to arts and cultures with a value of their own, to the aesthetic in the broadest sense from every day to high culture” (Zacharias 2001:70). This claim responds to the cultural theories by Bourdieu.

However, cultural practice in society has been changing considerably since the 1970’s. These changes in society were previously illustrated sociologically, among others, by models of society, such as the transformation from a layers model of society towards models of milieus (Sinus-Milieu-Studien 2008 or Schulze 2005), which provide an individual with a multitude of possible forms of cultural expression and lifestyles, regardless of certain status symbols such as job or education. This implies opportunities as well as risks in the sense of the sociological model of a risk society outlined by Beck (1986), in particular the question of guidance for the individual in view of a multi-dimensional character of the forms of aesthetic expression in different environments. The question addressed earlier is still relevant: Do we need didactics in arts education that help the individual to select ways to make his/her own choices and design his/her own cultural biography from this multitude of choices? In order for this decision to be taken, it is necessary to know about the choices. Argumentum a contrario, for a contemporary concept of arts education this could mean that it addresses different forms of artistic and aesthetic expression from different milieus, cultures or, for instance, age groups.

If we take another step and assume that values are not longer socially relevant in the “arts”, arts education could support decision-making by highlighting current, existing exclusion or identity processes, resorting to forms of aesthetic and artistic expression. If possible, this would support the individual in exploiting and designing his/her individual world of experience and a conscious choice from “diversity”.

Provided that there are still different values of artistic and aesthetic expression in the contemporary society, this raises the question about the need for arts education to expose and discuss the corresponding “balance of power” and “hierarchical-dominant” patterns. Previously, we raised the question whether “hierarchical-dominant” patterns in the “arts” have changed in society, e.g. also due to globalization effects. Today, social “narrowness” can possibly be observed not so much in the sense of a high culture generally accepted by society but rather in the sense of a dominance of Anglo-American Western European culture. In the context of a new concept for arts education, we should, if possible, address the aspiration of analyzing “hierarchical-dominant” patterns in the “arts” anew with a view to change in society and critically challenge the relevance of previous power structures.

Interculturality and dialogue

As we are confronted with many different cultural lifestyles, with different aesthetic and artistic experiences, the question arises as to whether these groups and individuals are able to engage in dialogue. This ability to engage in dialogue could, on the one hand, be fostered in the framework of concepts of arts education by conveying different forms of aesthetic and artistic expression as addressed earlier that help to make the individual aware of cultural diversity along with differences. In doing so, it is necessary to put across that the individual’s background; his/her own artistic and aesthetic experience may differ radically from the aesthetic background of others. This realization of not transferring one’s own aesthetic background and perceptions on to others is particularly important for the mediators of arts education – assuming a diverse social structure. Some specific examples from different geographical and cultural perspectives include, for instance, the completely different musical background in relation to Arabian quarter tone music or Beijing opera compared with European classical music oriented towards half-tones or aesthetic differences in artistic object displays in Europe compared with Arabian cultures. By contrast, an increasing globalization can be observed in contemporary arts (Belting 2011). Different previous aesthetic experiences may be observed in groups with and without access to experimental and avant-garde forms of art.

Hence, mediators in arts education increasingly need concepts that help them account for different aesthetic backgrounds in their target group. (The Remscheid Academy for Cultural Education for example is currently developing a continuous training program “Diversitätsbewusste Kulturelle Bildung“ (Diversity-conscious cultural education) in cooperation with Münster University aimed at creative artists in cultural education, which is sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).) The ability to change perceptions, to consider something familiar from a new non-functional perspective is rooted in the fundamental principle of the “arts”. The ability to change perceptions may also be fostered by directing specific attention to widely differing forms of aesthetic and artistic expression. In this context, it is necessary to raise the awareness of mediators in arts education for different perceptions in their target group due to individuals’ aesthetic backgrounds that differ from those of the majority society. In return, arts education should also expose and address possible cultural and artistic stereotypes (Groot 2008: 33)[see also Fiedler 2014:100]) of minorities.

Transculturality and questions regarding the creating of personal biographies

Aside from providing decision-making aids by conveying a rationale for the individual or for groups to resort to specific forms of aesthetic and cultural expression, a focus on transcultural processes (Welsch 1995) also fosters our ability to actively create our own cultural biography. The first step in arts education is to realize choices for developing our own aesthetic and artistic position and the possibility of acquiring different means of expression, and to foster these. The second step is to promote a playful artistic-creative approach to different existing forms of aesthetic and artistic expression, this way developing new forms of expression. To strengthen this process in arts education, it is useful to analyze transcultural creative processes by comparing them to existing works of art. The pilot project “Kulturgeschichten aus dem Museum für Islamische Kunst“ (Cultural stories from the museum of Islamic art) which the Museum for Islamic Art at Berlin’s Pergamon Museum realized in December 2011 with the support of the Federal Government’s Commissioner for Culture and Media and Bahcesehir University is one example. The project, for instance, addressed the story of the Central Anatolian Dragon/Phoenix carpet from the 15th/16th century which made it possible for children to follow the tracks of the silk route, understand international exchange as it already existed at the time and reflect on today’s globalization processes (Keuchel 2012:180). In different contexts, it has been possible to observe that recognizing and initiating transcultural processes oneself fosters in particular a positive approach to cultural plurality and diversity. (Keuchel 2012:179) [see also Keuchel/Larue 2013:220]). In this field, pioneering is required to develop specific concepts for “transarts” education, in the sense of diversity through the arts.

Conclusion: towards a new approach of a diversity-conscious arts education

Focusing on cultural diversity in the context of perceptible aesthetic and artistic dimensions does not necessarily provide a conflict-free but, given existing differences, more than likely a peaceful and productive platform in particular as non-verbal art as a “third language” across existing language barriers is able to build bridges between different language groups. At the same time, transcultural processes, as outlined earlier, provide new potential for generating cultural diversity. Hence, a diversity-conscious arts education can on the one hand contribute to strengthening cohesion in a diverse cultural society, while at the same time, providing the individual with decision-making aids and freedom of choice for his/her own cultural biography. In terms of its contents, a diversity-conscious arts education could focus on:

Mediating and addressing manifold forms of artistic and aesthetic expression from different milieus, cultural environments etc., consciously taking into account marked aesthetic differences;

Mediating common (historical) creative and decision-making processes for different forms of artistic and aesthetic expression in society (questions of identity, exclusion mechanisms, historical backgrounds, globalization effects etc.);

  • Definition, disclosure and continuous reflection on “hierarchical-dominant” patterns in “arts” with a view to social change, elites or majority societies
  • Strengthening one’s own freedom of choice in establishing one’s aesthetic and artistic position
  • Enabling young people to deal with and acquire different forms of artistic expression from different cultures or milieus in an artistic-creative way
  • Promoting analysis and initiation of transcultural creative process in the “arts”, in the sense of “diversity through the arts”

Verwendete Literatur

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Gerne dürfen Sie aus diesem Artikel zitieren. Folgende Angaben sind zusammenhängend mit dem Zitat zu nennen:

Susanne Keuchel (2016): Arts Education in the Age of Cultural Diversity – A Basis to Gain Cultural Identity in a Risk Society. In: KULTURELLE BILDUNG ONLINE: (letzter Zugriff am 15.01.2022).

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