Ernst Sillem Hoeve, Den Dolder, The Netherlands Thursday 30th August – Monday 3rd September 2018
by Louisa Diana Brunner – Conference Director
PCCA has a long standing tradition in applying Group Relations methods to study the legacy of the past in the present, from the tragedy of the Holocaust to today’s enmities and conflictual societal issues through the so-called Nazareth series Conferences.
The first pioneering Conferences, two in Nazareth and one in Germany, directed by Eric Miller, addressing the relationship and relatedness between Germans and Israelis, led to the foundation of this project. It was followed by three other events in Cyprus on Germans, Jews, Israelis, Palestinians and Affected Others directed by Anton Obholzer first and the last one by Fakhry Davids and Mira Erlich-Ginor. Then the focus became Europe and understanding what is going on beneath the surface there. This European path was initiated through the work of the last three Conferences which took place in Eastern Europe, in Poland, directed by Shmuel Erlich. The 2018 PCCA Conference is to be a continuation of this stream and will be held in the Netherlands in the heart of Western Europe.
Where are we today?
Shadows are gathering over Europe once again. The European Union was built in the terrible aftermath of the Holocaust and of the Second World War partly to avoid a repetition of past tragedies and atrocities.
Exemplified by Brexit, today Europe is beset by disintegrative forces mostly powered by and manifested in the rise of reactionary nationalist movements in virtually every European nation. In many cases, this is manifest as the return of the repressed of different unaddressed historical dramas. Antisemitism, kept under the carpet for a long time, manifests itself again openly. Even in Germany, open nationalist discourses have become normalised and the far right was elected to the Bundestag in 2017 for the first time since the 1920s. In Austria, an extreme right wing party is part of the government in important roles. Paranoid ancient memories of the Ottoman menace fueled Serbian nationalism in the early 1990s just as centuries of invasions and annexations spark off Polish nationalism today. On the other hand, strong regional identities threaten to break-up the richest and more advanced parts of nation states like in Spain and in Italy, where the consequences of Franco’s regime, fascism and the alliance with the Nazis have not yet fully been collectively addressed.
De-industrialisation attending globalisation and modernisation created a largely white and indigenous social layer that was ‘left behind’. Mass migration from the war torn Middle East and impoverished Africa stretched the social fabric of several EU member nations to a breaking point or created paranoid fantasies of ‘invasion’ in others.
The roots of the financial crisis of 2008 remain unresolved and this is generating continued tension between the strong EU core and the austerity-ridden Mediterranean periphery.
The dreams of the 1968 cultural revolutionary period in most of Western European countries and worldwide, has deeply impacted the incoming new generations. There is a relatedness between that turning point 50 years ago and today’s political crises and distress.
The digital revolution enhances these processes through extremely fast information transmission and exchanges and a very bare content communication. A consequence is also a wide generational gap among IT users.
In these last years, as a consequence of the violence of terrorist attacks, many citizens experience a continuous state of anxiety regarding personal safety, national security and control of borders. Feelings of exclusion and inclusion, paranoia and mistrust dominate the personal, collective and social psyche, identity and culture. Resentments fuel these developments.
Old paradigms for understanding society are being challenged by such phenomena. This unsettling and complex context deeply troubles European and non-European citizens about what is really going on, and questions such as the following ones are often raised:
- What projections and misunderstandings undermine European cohesion?
- What are the individual and social unconscious fantasies behind the new nationalist longings?
- How do the traumas of the past disrupt relations in the present?
- How are our identities and internal worlds affected?
- How can we understand, contain and manage such complexity from the past to the present?
This residential Conference aims to create a space to address these questions to explore social and collective unconscious processes that are also generated by resentments, fears, traumas and longings of the present, and the past in the present. Away from the pressures of everyday life, the Conference provides a safe setting for such learning to emerge. It is also an opportunity to discover whether genuine movement in the real, lived experience of the relationships between people of different national groups is possible.
The Conference is an experiential event. Inner thoughts, feelings and fantasies about oneself as a participant and as a member of one (or more) of the groups within the Conference are the raw materials that every individual brings to the work of the Conference. The Conference provides a setting through different types of group work in which these can be experienced, explored and worked with, in oneself, within groups, between groups, within the Conference and society as a whole. Much of this work is carried out in the here and now. Participants and staff will be deeply involved in their different roles and tasks and in the learning from others’ experience in their presence.
Application of the Conference experience to members’ personal, professional, political and social context is an important part of the learning to enable political and social action, as well as a more active and responsible citizenship.
The staff has been drawn from diverse backgrounds and generations to represent different personal, cultural, professional and national experiences to support the work and are:
- Paul Hoggett – Associate Director – United Kingdom
- Martijn van der Speck – Administrator – The Netherlands
- Lili Valko – Associate Adminstrator – Hungary
- Mira Erlich – Ginor – Israel
- Veronika Grueneisen – Germany
- Marina Mojovic – Serbia
- Joan Roma i Vèrges – Barcelona
- Dorothee von Tippleskirch-Eissing – Germany
We hope that this Conference on Exclusion, Resentment and the Return of the Repressed Europe in a Globalized World can be of interest. We also hope for a full membership so as to have many European and non-European ‘voices’ to allow a better exploration of Europe in a Globalized World.