First CHIEF findings presented at the 14th Conference of the European Sociological Association

Dr. Ebru Soytemel, Dr. Eleni Stamou and Dr. Anton Popov  from UK CHIEF team (Aston University) presented first findings of CHIEF in their paper “Cultural Literacy in the English Curriculum: Amalgams of Cultural Conservatism and Enterprise Culture” at the 14th Conference of the  European Sociological Association in 22 August 2019 at Manchester. This paper is based on the first findings of the CHIEF project and you can find the full report here


The paper presents the findings of a review of the curriculum guidelines, regarding the provision of cultural literacy education, in secondary schools in England. It covers official documents issued by the Department for Education, applied to maintained schools at Key Stage 3 and 4. We use the term ‘cultural literacy’ to refer to the development of dispositions regarding cultural identity, cultural heritage and cultural participation/belonging. Our focus is on formal education processes, as part of our wider objective to examine how cultural literacy becomes institutionalised in secondary education. Our aim is to explore which aspects of cultural literacy are manifested in the curriculum documents and how. To this end, we selected subjects based on their relevance to the development of cultural literacy and carried out a documentary analysis, deploying thematic and content-based techniques. Our findings discuss the overall pedagogical approach, understandings of culture, European identity and aspects of cultural literacy, as these are constructed throughout the official documents. We point out and critically discuss processes of cultural restructuring, evident throughout the curriculum guidelines, as involving a paradoxical amalgamation of revived nationalism and cultural traditionalism, alongside elements of enterprise culture and free-market logics.


Dr. Anton Popov  from UK CHIEF team (Aston University) presented his paper “Re-defining Heritage and Making Sense of Brexit in the European City of Culture” at the 14th Conference of the  European Sociological Association in 22 August 2019 at Manchester. This paper is based on the first findings of the CHIEF project and you can find the full report here

In 2017, Coventry has won its bit for the European City of Culture 2021. This victory has ultimately raised a profile of the city in the UK and internationally. It also came at the time when the very meanings of Europe (as a political and cultural project) and Britain were contested. In the 2016 EU membership referendum, people of Coventry voted ‘leave’. What does it mean to be a European city of culture in the context of Brexit? The question of cultural identity is ultimately about how the local history and cultural heritage are re-defined to project a vision of the city as a community in the future. While the bid’s campaign acknowledging the city’s industrial heritage, as a cradle of British manufacturing, and its post-WWII history of being symbol of peace and reconciliation in Europe, it puts forward the image of Coventry as a culturally vibrant and divers place. Set against the background of the UK cultural policy, the paper draws on ethnographic research in the city’s two culture and heritage institutions representing an established mainstream museum and an innovative performance theatre. In particular, the paper focuses on how by embedding migration and cultural diversity into representation of Coventry’s identity, heritage practitioners in those institutions make sense of complex social, cultural, economic and political processes that led to support of Brexit in the city and nationally. The paper is based on research conducted as part of the Horizon 2020 Cultural Heritage and Identity of Europe’s Future (CHIEF) project.


Yıldırım Şentürk, Ayça Oral and Saim Buğra Kurban from Turkey CHIEF team (Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University) presented findings at the 14th. Conference of the European Sociological Association in 20-23 August 2019 at Manchester.

Yıldırım Şentürk’s presentation was titled “Breaking Through the Symbolic Battlefield of Education in Turkey.

For a while, the education setting has been a significant battlefield for two major political and cultural standings in Turkey: secular-western versus conservative- Islamic. While each side has tried to change education policies in line with their perspectives, they have developed various strategies to make their political symbols and images more visible in education. In this regard, the conservative-Islamic one has become more effective recently. However, this prevailing old-fashion political divide needs to be questioned along with its outcomes in education.

Based on the qualitative research conducted in three secondary schools in Turkey (Metropole, semi-urban and rural settings) as a part of our Horizon 2020 Research Project (CHIEF – Cultural Heritages and Identities of Europe’s Future); first I will examine how youths perceive this symbolic struggle in education. Indeed, enduring politically over-coded education program leads youths to lose their motivation and interest in learning and enriching their lives. Then, by our fieldwork findings, I will explore the daily educational practices of youths and their interactions with each other to understand in which ways and settings youths are more inclined to learn and thereby improving themselves. Meanwhile, comparing to the older generations, youths recently immerse more in various transnational cultural interactions and practices which cannot be easily labelled with the enduring political codes in Turkey. Therefore, I argue that paying more attention to these new cultural interactions and practices of youths and trying to integrate them more into education can provide us a way to overcome the prevailing symbolic battlefield in education as well as to improve the quality of education.


Ayça Oral’s presentation was titled “Challengers or Moderators of fundamentalist Islamic perspective? The “Woman to Woman Concert Group.

This paper examines the formation of the personal and communal life of young, conservative Muslim women as cultural participants and culture makers in the current social and political climate in Turkey. Nationalistic tendencies accompanying the process of Islamization, have been noticeably reflected in the cultural sphere in recent years. Based on the empirical data gathered since 2018, the concert group shows that it has the capacity to challenge how participation and production of the community are performed and to transform the sphere within which the youth exist, whilst preserving its status within the prevailing community. While the selection of the songs, largely out of step with conservative norms, emphasizes interaction with other cultures and encourages greater intercultural engagement, the backgrounds of songs are adapted to fit what is acceptable within their community. Therefore, I will argue that in their performances, singing multicultural songs to women-only audiences, and gatherings, these women are in fact creating a new way of life, escaping conservative, routine daily life.


Saim Buğra Kurban and Ayça Oral’s collaborative work’s was titled ““Ordinary life is so surprising that(*)”… : Youth formations in daily life. Goblin Game House in Istanbul.

This paper draws on ongoing ethnographic fieldwork in Kadıköy, Istanbul, which allows for a niche experiment for youth from different socio-economic strata engaged in the production of culture. Kadıköy is multi-diverse and encourages the practice, adoption, and transformation of the culture.

Goblin Game House, where manga/anime, cosplayers and board-gamers gather, facilitates an understanding of how these groups construct their own culture and space. Goblin Game House opens a rich discussion into how subcultures are formed within the given culture without being isolated. In-depth, open-ended and unstructured interviews provide evidence that gender, occupation, marital status, and age are not critical determinants in the formation of the subcultures being observed. The groups experience both Western and East-Asian cultural practices, localizing and transforming them into a new sociality. The study also questions the terms “cultural inclusion” and “intercultural interaction”, which are restricted to western cultures in Turkey. These social groups create new symbols and codes beyond the dominant and contrastive Westernized and Islamic codes.

The methodology incorporates qualitative content analysis through visual technics (photo diaries and video interviews) providing a self-portrayal of individuals within their cultural sphere as an output of the study.

* Title is inspired by Steve Jones’ sentence which is: “Ordinary life is so dull that I get out of it as much as possible” (Steve Jones, a Sex Pistol, quoted in Melody Maker)


Tamar Khoshtaria and Rati Shubladze (CRRC Georgia) presented preliminary findings on “Perceptions of Culture and Cultural Practices among Students in Georgia: Declared and Actual Engagement in Urban and Rural Settlements” at the 14th Conference of the European Sociological Association (ESA) held during August 20-23, 2019 in Manchester. The findings were based on 60 semi-structured interviews conducted with young people aged 14-18 in three Georgian schools within the Chief project.


Many studies in the past (MYPLACE, 2013; FES, 2016) have shown that Georgian youth regard preserving Georgian heritage, traditions, and identity as important for the country’s future and development. However, there are discrepancies between declared and actual levels of participation in Georgian culture (Khoshtaria et al., 2018). This paper examines how Georgian youth perceive their culture and what their attitudes are towards cultural participation and cultural events. Apart from looking at the perception of culture from the youth’s perspective, the paper also explores two heritage sites (museums) and presents young people’s perspectives on how youth collaborate with historical sites and how reported interest in culture is reflected in engagement with cultural events and historical sites. The study is based on qualitative interviews conducted with 60 young people aged 15-16 in three Georgian schools in urban and rural areas. In addition, data from participant observation at two heritage sites in Tbilisi and Gori are used. The interviews and participant observation were conducted within the framework of the CHIEF (Cultural Heritage and Identities of Europe’s Future) project. The paper argues that youth in Georgia view Georgian culture through the lenses of tradition and heritage, and they value cultural experiences. Yet, they are less involved in cultural events and visit heritage sites only as part of school activities. One explanation for detachment from cultural activities could be that while Georgians value “traditional” and high culture, they are more engaged with modern culture, despite not considering it as consensual culture.