Intellectuals and artists open “Europa21. Thinking tomorrow's society” at Leipzig Book Fair
Stuttgart, February 18, 2016 - Due to the large numbers of refugees and immigrants, Europe is facing its most complex restructuring process since the mid-20th century. At the same time European governments have never been as divided as they are in regards to the handling of the refugee crisis. There are many uncertainties within the population as well: What do we really know about immigration in Europe? What concepts for integration are there? What could Europe look like in the future? Between March 17th and 20th, intellectuals and artists will come together in Leipzig to put their analyses, facts, experiences and future scenarios up for debate within the focus of “Europa21. Thinking tomorrow's society”.
“Europa21. Thinking tomorrow’s society” is a cooperation between the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Leipzig Book Fair. “Europe’s future will be distinctly influenced by the way it handles migration and refugee movements, and the integration of immigrants will remain a central challenge over the next decades,” explains book fair director Oliver Zille. “The debate has to be held at European level and within the wider public. The Leipzig Book Fair is an ideal setting for this.” Professor Dr Joachim Rogall, Chief Executive Officer of the Robert Bosch Stiftung, also emphasizes the importance of a European dialogue: “The Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Leipzig Book Fair want to offer an international platform where experts from the cultural sector, the sciences and the general public can come together in a constructive dialogue about Europe’s future in the context of refugee movements and migration. Common perspectives for a united Europe and a viable society can only be developed on the basis of knowledge, understanding and engagement.”
While Europe’s current challenges may at times seem threatening, they also provide an opportunity to deliberately shape society from the bottom up once again. Curator Dr Insa Wilke explains: “This development is already in process. On the one hand we have thousands of volunteers, and we have cultural initiatives working towards an asylum policy based on solidarity. On the other hand there are right-wing demonstrations and political gains of the right-wing conservative parties. Both tendencies show a struggle with the question of which society and which Europe we want to live in.”
Platform for the European dialogue: Analyses, facts, experiences and future scenarios
Europa21 will host six discussion rounds in Café Europa (hall 4, stand E401) at the Leipzig Book Fair. Intellectuals and artists from Germany, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland and Syria will have their say. They will present analyses and facts, share experiences and debate possibilities of shaping Europe’s future. At the New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus), scientists, politicians and the audience will discuss the current challenges and their visions for tomorrow’s society. Asylum seekers will have their voices heard in brief profiles at listening stations in the Glass Hall of the Leipzig Book Fair.
Context: History, causes and significance of the refugee movements from the Middle East
The first discussion will be held on Thursday March 17th, at 12 noon and will be titled “Context: History, causes and significance of the refugee movements from the Middle East”. The refugees of the Syrian civil war and the threat of the so-called ISIS are at the focus of current debates on asylum policy and European external borders, integration services and security policy. But which contexts to we need to be familiar with to understand the events in the Middle East and the reactions of international politics in all their complexity? Above all: What interests are at stake and how are other world powers involved in these conflicts? And how do they influence the refugee movements reaching Europe presently? What is left unsaid or has not been discussed sufficiently?
These are the topics discussed by Syrian philosopher Sadik al-Azm, German author and political and economic adviser Michael Lüders and journalist Karim El-Gawhary, whose latest book “Auf der Flucht. Reportagen” (“Reports from the Refugee Movements”) will be published this spring. The discussion will be led by Lothar Müller from the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Change: How has Europe changed and still must change
“Change: How has Europe changed and still must change” is the topic of the discussion round held on Friday March 18th at 12 noon. It will be moderated by Jörg Armbruster, freelance journalist and author. How has our society already changed in recent years and how can we think its future? Possible answers to these questions will be given by journalist Christian Jakob, Borka Pavićević, director of the Belgrade Centre for Cultural Decontamination and Ulrike Guérot, director of the European Democracy Lab. Christian Jakob will present his latest book “Die Bleibenden. Wie Flüchtlinge Deutschland seit 20 Jahren verändern” (“Staying. How Refugees Have Changed Germany for 20 Years”) at the Leipzig Book Fair, and Ulrike Guérot will introduce her manifesto “Warum Europa eine Republik werden muss. Eine politische Utopie” (“Why Europe Has to Become a Republic. A Political Utopia”).
Facts: Refugees in Europe – Europe and the refugees
On Friday March 18th at 1 pm Jörg Armbruster will moderate another discussion round titled “Facts: Refugees in Europe – Europe and the refugees”. What models are used for the organization of refugee reception in different European countries? By which methods or programmes are immigrants integrated in Europe? Do public opinions on immigration and integration differ from those held by the European governments? And how important are the experiences with immigrants made by some countries in the second half of the 20th century? Basil Kerski from Poland is the director of the European Solidarity Centre. He will debate these questions with Stefan Jonsson, professor at the Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society at the Linköping University in Sweden and with Christine Langenfeld, chairwoman of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration.
The art of language and narrative: Who, about whom and how? – Literature and Responsibility
“The art of language and narrative: Who about whom and how? – Literature and Responsibility” is the central topic of the debate on Saturday March 19th at 12 noon. The narrative of our present day is often one of refugee movements, displacement and exile. Sri Lankan-born author and philosopher Senthuran Varatharajah deliberately uses a precise and just language in his debut novel “Vor der Zunahme der Zeichen” (“Before the Signs Increase”). Shida Bazyar, author of the novel “Nachts ist es leise in Teheran“ (“Quiet Are the Nights in Tehran”), is a more traditional story teller.
What possibilities does the German language offer to describe the space of asylum? What are its limitations? Both of the young authors have made direct or indirect experiences within this space and they have come to different literary conclusions. Insa Wilke, literary critic and moderator, will lead the exchange between the two writers.
Rhetoric: The fourth power and its own asylum policy
Journalism insists on objectivity. But right after the Paris attacks one could have easily doubted this claim while watching the German newscasts “Tagesschau”, “heute-Nachrichten”, “heute spezial” or some of the regular German talk shows. What considerations are made in the editing offices and what responsibility does the Fourth Estate currently have when it comes to the power of language to construct reality? These are the questions discussed by curator Insa Wilke on Saturday March 19th at 1 pm under the title of “Rhetoric: The fourth power and its own asylum policy”. Insa Wilke will be joined by MDR chief editor Stefan Raue, Bernd Ulrich, chief political editor of German weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT, and Michał Kokot of the Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.
Controversy: The return of religion?
Emotions were running high when Navid Kermani invited the audience to pray with him during his acceptance speech for the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Reactions in Germany tend to be at times almost hysteric when it comes to religion. But is has long been obvious that the hypothesis of the End of Religion has been made prematurely. But is religion really threatening our way of life? Or is the “Return of Religion” maybe an opportunity for a cultural diversity as it existed before the Second World War? On Sunday March 20th at 1 pm, Reinhard Schulze, professor of Islamic Studies at Bern University, will discuss these questions with Martin Urban, German physicist, journalist and publicist, and Halina Grzymała-Moszczyńska, professor of Psychology of Culture and Religion at the Jagiellonian University Krakow. Sebastian Engelbrecht from Deutschlandradio will moderate the discussion.
Neues Rathaus: A Round Table with Audience Participation
On Friday March 18th at 8:30 pm, guests and audience together will turn their attention to Leipzig in the context of “How we lived, live and want to live together! A Round Table with Audience Participation”. 4.230 asylum seekers newly arrived in Leipzig between January and December 2015. Ulrich Hörning, mayor for General Administration in Leipzig, Armin Nassehi, professor of Sociology at the LMU Munich, Michail Ryklin, Russian author and professor of Philosophy, and Georg Teichert, Commissioner for Equal Opportunities at Leipzig University, will discuss what degree of openness our society needs. They will evaluate our current situation by considering the past experiences as well. Led by moderator Carsten Tesch (MDR), the discussion round aims to provide a general overview, answer questions, make space for wishes and visions and try to think into the future together with the audience.
Listening stations in the Glass Hall: Asylum seekers tell their stories
Thousands of new asylum-seekers from different countries have been arriving in Leipzig since summer 2015. Which life stories are hidden behind these numbers? Where do these people come from and what expectations do they have here and now? Asylum-seekers will be given a chance to tell their stories in mini-portraits produced by Johanna Hemkentokrax in cooperation with the culture radio station MDR FIGARO. Their voices will be heard during the duration of the fair at the listening stations in the Glass Hall in Magnolienallee.