Practicing local culture as a vehicle of integration? Creative collaborations and Brussels' Zinneke Parade.
Costanzo, Joseph M.
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Immigrant integration, and socio-economic cohesion more broadly, continue to be top priorities at many levels of governance in Europe and are long-standing fixtures of scholarly, political and public debate across Europe and North America. Although integration and culture have been dominant themes in contemporary European and American social science and humanities literatures, their intersections--particularly involving immigrant participation in local arts and cultural activities--remain understudied. Through the use of mixed-methods research, my doctoral thesis addresses how participating in such creative activities serves as a vehicle for integration. This topic is examined within the context of the European capital city-region of Brussels, and provokes further inquiry into the role of place in integration and identity-making particularly within a context in which there is no universal or normative local identity. With the onsite support of local experts, artistic and cultural actors and the public at large, I examine the `creative collaboration' of Zinneke Parade 2010--a biennial socio-cultural and urban project with origins in the Brussels 2000 European Capital of Culture Programme (ECoC). Though politicians and community organizers frequently cite Zinneke as an exemplary project of the Brussels-Capital Region, to date, no formal study has been conducted neither into its role in bridging many of the city's socio-linguistic, spatial and economic divides nor into its role as a source for building local networks, social, cultural, economic or otherwise. Finally, this work is unique in its treatment of migrant and ethnic minority identity representations in an explicitly non-ethno-cultural event. In its biennial parade, Zinneke purposefully does not re-present separate ethno-cultural pasts, but instead reflects the identities of collective and creative efforts of today's local Bruxellois. Fielded throughout 2010 and early 2011, in-depth interviews, combined with short as well as detailed questionnaires, form the basis of data which I have collected to answer the question: Does practicing local culture facilitate integration?