Europe and the Nation as Historiographical Frames of Reference
Europe was defined as a culture in the singular for the first time in the 18th century.1 The concept of Europe as an entity no longer depended on Europe being equated with Christianity. Instead, Europe was viewed as a historical and cultural entity which played a specific role in human history. Essentially, Europe was viewed as leading the way in terms of progress. The definition of Europe was therefore still essentialist in nature and remained based on an essentialist geographical definition of the continent, which also informed definitions of the borders of Europe's culture and history.
Geographical essentialism made it possible to integrate a diversity of states, languages, religions, civilizations and nations in spite of Europe being perceived as an entity. The idea of Europe was subdivided by imagined and often cartographically visualized linear borders, which defined the sub-entities of states, national cultures, languages, and confessions or religions. But these borders did not call into question the imagined commonality in human-historical progress.
Gradually, however, asymmetrical concepts entered into Europe's happy concept of itself. The slower pace of modernization in east-central Europe, southeastern Europe and in eastern Europe as a whole resulted in a feeling of superiority in western Europe and central Europe (now referred to as the "West"). The "West" was generally industrialized and transformed by the effects of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era. The nation-state began to become the dominant paradigm and became linked with constitutionalism, which contributed to the stabilization of this new type of state. Throughout the West, the pre-revolutionary feudal society was transformed into a post-revolutionary society of citizens.
In the "East", on the other hand, the traditional social structure governed by the landowning aristocracy remained far more dominant for far longer. In general, industrialization did not play a significant role in the East. After the partitions of Poland, three empires ruled eastern Europe: the Russian Empire, the Austrian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Initially at least, neither the nation-state nor constitutionalism could establish themselves in these empires. This divergence between western and eastern Europe also manifested itself in other indicators of modernization: literacy, diversification of the system of education (into primary and secondary levels, with third-level institutions which provided a range of distinct courses and studies, which were either general or professional training), the reduction of differences between rural and urban areas, the rapid and pervasive technologizing of everyday life, the expansion and development of the various kinds of infrastructure, and others. There was a degree of convergence between western and eastern Europe during the second half of the 19th century, but the asymmetrical gaze of western Europe on eastern Europe had become a long-established habit by then. An increasingly prevalent racism denigrated the Slavs and reinforced the imagined hierarchies.
The collapse of two of the empires in eastern Europe – the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire – and the transformation of the Russian Empire into the Soviet Union, the instability of the nation-states that were founded under the peace treaties of 1918/1919 and pervasive political and ideological conflicts (which gave rise to frequent violence) did not discredit the idea of Europe as a culture in the singular, as described above, but this idea no longer corresponded to the objective reality.
However, one concept did gain general currency throughout Europe: the nation-state with its assumed coterminosity of ethnic group, state territory and national culture. Though initially a fiction, by 1945 the culturally and ethnically homogeneous nation-state was made a grim reality by means of ethnic cleansing, expulsions and the Holocaust. Nearly 70 years later, migration and other factors have reduced the presumed homogeneity of nation-states in 1945 to fiction again, though states continue to assert this fiction, albeit in a milder and – in most cases – less aggressive form than before.
As a result, the nation-state has been an essential frame of reference in historiography. The view of Europe has been, and continues to be, defined by the conglomeration of nation-states which remains predominant in Europe. At the same time, over the last three decades various methodological approaches have been employed which challenge assumptions regarding the nation-state without denying the influence which the nation-state has had. Cultural transfer research is one such approach.
Cultural Transfer Research: Approach and Foundations
Among the seminal texts of cultural transfer research are a number of articles published by Michel Espagne (born 1952) and Michael Werner (born 1946) in the mid-1980s.2 Both authors pointed out the connection between cultural transfer research and research into colonial cultures, which, just a few years before the five-hundredth anniversary of the landing of Christopher Columbus (c. 1451–1506) in America, was in itself political. The attempt to research transfers between national-cultural spaces and between regional-cultural spaces was also political in nature. However, these cultural spaces were not treated as objective incontrovertible facts. Instead, the broadly held assumption that these spaces are incontrovertible facts, which is at the core of national myths in Europe, has been – and continues to be – contested, if not dissolved, by cultural transfer research.
To this extent, the approach of cultural transfer research is conceptually emancipatory and – to a certain degree – political in character. For this approach, effectively everything that is connected with the debordering of categories plays an important role, like for example interconnections and the formation of networks. This is stated most radically by Zygmunt Bauman (1925–2017) in his book Liquid Modernity, in which he describes a "process of liquefaction" in the history of modernity and in contemporary history.3 Without making the approach of "Liquid Modernity" a child of cultural transfer research, he further developed the basic idea which the latter research had tried to implement during a period when the national frame of reference was still very prevalent in the historical cultural sciences, its primacy being supported by universities and other institutions. Then, as now, cultural transfer research focused on the "non-national" aspects of the national, on the genuinely intercultural or métissage character of every culture, which has been – and continues to be – systematically denied or excluded for national-political reasons. This also shifted the parameters of "foreign cultural influence": The transfer of cultural references or, to put it materially, of culturemes or structuremes4 of various dimensions, becomes a basic technique of all European cultures, which are consequently – contrary to regional, national and continental (self-)identifications – always intercultural or métissage in character. The debate about so-called alien influences in the first half of the 20th century, however, which was often very ideologically coloured, assumed the existence of fixed cultural identities, to which these influences were – depending on one's ideological standpoint – either a danger or enriching. This attitude remains common to this day, and there should be no illusions concerning a supposedly fundamentally positive attitude towards that which is "alien" in the culture.
Cultural transfer research can therefore have an enlightening side, which remains useful and appropriate. This means that all discussion of what cultural transfer research should focus on today, and what it can and should be oriented towards, must remain cognisant of this enlightening purpose. None of the academic disciplines is socially or politically neutral. All of them are context-related and enmeshed with their broader contexts. Additionally, cultural transfer research that proceeds empirically can prove that there is no culture that is not intercultural or métissage.
It is also the aim and purpose of cultural transfer research to give answers to the question: What is culture? The concept of culture employed also depends on the different kinds of information that are being pursued and on individual political goals and contexts. In the context of cultural transfer research, the debate has settled on the categorization of culture as a "way of proceeding" or "modus operandi". Consequently, the Viennese sociologist Lutz Musner understands cultural transfer research as research into processes of exchange:
Die Kulturtransferforschung hat das wissenschaftliche Interesse seit den 1980er Jahren jenen Austauschprozessen zugewendet, die zwischen Kulturräumen und kulturellen Systemen ablaufen. Bei diesen Austauschprozessen handelt es sich um Vorgänge der interkulturellen Übertragung und Vermittlung von Texten, Diskursen, Medien und kulturellen Praktiken, die durch je spezifische Muster der Selektion, Mediation und Rezeption gesteuert werden.5
Musner points to interest in researching
eigensinnige, subversiv und ambivalent verlaufende Austausch- und Aneignungsprozesse zwischen den Kulturen, [die] unter den Stichworten 'Kreolisierung', 'Hybridisierung' und 'cultural flows' verhandelt [werden]. … Diese Begriffe … indizieren einen Übergang von einem lokalen zu einem mobilen Paradigma des Kulturbegriffs, da … Metaphern 'einer Welt in Bewegung' entworfen werden, die den globalen Austausch von Ideen und Ideologien, Menschen und Waren, Bildern und medialen Botschaften, Software und Hardware umschreiben.6
He develops this line of thought to the point where culture can be described as a "Transfervorgang" (transfer process).7 However, he warns against interpreting the concept of culture in too one-sided a manner by citing Jacques Derrida's (1930–2004) dictum that there is nothing outside the text8 and continuing:
Konzentrieren wir unsere Forschung jedoch zu sehr auf das Imaginäre, so verlieren wir allzu leicht die materiellen Rahmungen menschlicher Vorstellungswelten aus dem Blick und richten wir unsere Aufmerksamkeit zu sehr auf das, was als hybrid, diasporisch, translokal und transitorisch erscheint, so übersehen wir schnell das, was gleich, starr und träge bleibt.9
Thus, cultural transfer research must engage with that which is inert as well as that which is fluid, as well with interferences of both. If one keeps this formula in mind, cultural transfers via family networks (for example) remain just as relevant as cultural transfers between national cultural spaces.
Macro-History and Micro-History of Cultural Transfers
In the early modern period, it was initially non-state networks of various kinds (families, humanist and economic correspondents, artists, musicians, craftsmen, etc.) which initiated cultural transfers. Most of these transfers were connected with the Italian Renaissance, which had created an all-encompassing cultural model. The high tide of French cultural transfer, which began in the latter part of the 17th century during the reign of Louis XIV of France (1638–1715) and which had a particularly pronounced effect in various regions belonging to the Holy Roman Empire, worked differently. Under this king, France was the first European country to deliberately stage culture as a national culture, with the aim of cultural transfers; it therefore encoded French transfers simultaneously as national transfers into other national contexts. This development can be traced back to the 16th century, during which an unmistakable resistance to Italian cultural transfers emerged, even though the term "France italienne" has subsequently been applied to the period.10
In addition to this macro-context of cultural transfers in the Renaissance and the early modern period, there were also a myriad of subordinate processes of cultural transfer from the 15th century up to the French Revolution, which included other models of medium extension and range (Spanish court, Dutch art, English constitutional law, etc.). As in other areas of research and knowledge, the existence of a macro-history, which is interconnected with the many micro-histories of cultural transfer, can be identified within cultural transfer research. The relationship between macro-history and micro-history has been, and remains, the subject of a controversial debate, which re-ignites regularly under different names, e.g., in the context of "Eigensinn" (self-will) as a research category which Musner had already alluded to.11 However, macro-history and micro-history are not two mutually exclusive means of interpretation; the one depends on the other.
If we retain Fernand Braudel's (1902–1985) umbrella term "modèle italien" for the period of 1400 to 1600,12 then we must ask why with the Italian Renaissance for the first time a cultural model emerged which gave rise to such massive cultural transfers over the course of two centuries that it can be described as a comprehensive process of cultural Europeanization. While it has been acknowledged for a long time that cultural transfers occurred in the medieval period also,13 there was no comparable model culture in the Middle Ages. The reasons why the Italian Renaissance was the first comprehensive European cultural model are to be found in Italy itself and in its Mediterranean context, but also in the formation of a European society which gradually developed a European consciousness, and perhaps even a European identity.
Let us imagine ourselves in Moscow in the year 1474. At the behest of Grand Prince Ivan III (1440–1505), the Russian envoy in Venice, Semion Tolbusin, engaged the services of Aristotele Fioravanti (1415–1485), an architect from Bologna, to rebuild the Uspensky Sobor (Cathedral of the Assumption), which had been under construction since 1472 and which had collapsed in 1474. The cathedral, which Moscow master builders had begun in 1472, was modeled on "der gleichnamige Sakralbau in Vladimir aus dem 12. Jahrhundert, der von byzantinischen Baumeistern gebaut worden war und eine besondere sakrale und symbolische Bedeutung als Stütze des Christentums gegen die Tataren besaß. Die Übernahme dieser Form sollte … fortan Moskau und nicht Vladimir als Zentrum des sich konstituierenden Staates inszenieren."14
Even though Catholics, and subsequently Protestants, frequently – though not unanimously – disputed the Christian character of the Russian Orthodox Church during the early modern period, this example demonstrates the connection between cultural transfers and discourses of alterity, differentiations and the self-definition of Europe as a space which has a cultural identity. After the Ottoman Empire had expanded and conquered Constantinople in the late 15th century, the historical fear of the Tatars and Saracens, archetypes of the powerful pagan, was replaced by fear of the Turks and the related alterity discourse. Following various guiding themes, eastern and southeastern Europe (Poland, Moscow, the Danubian Principalities, Croatia, etc.) began to see itself as an antemurale christianitatis, as the bulwark of Christendom. In central and western Europe, there also emerged affirmative identity discourses which characterized Europe as a unit using metaphors such as "Europe as a house" and "Europe as a body". The confessional divides and conflicts that existed did not prevent this. While it was repeatedly denied that Russia was part of this unit, Russia indeed belonged to this understanding of an entity called Europe, within which cultural transfers from Italy occurred, even before the 18th century which developed a more inclusive attitude.
On the other hand – and on the other side of the continent geographically – the sea voyages along the west coast of Africa in the 15th century and the subsequent so-called discovery of America created the conditions for further alterity discourses which influenced how Europeans perceived themselves and their continent. At the same time, the social configuration which can be referred to as "European Society" took shape. The ruling dynasties throughout Europe were intermarried with one another and interwoven with one another by multiple familial ties. Connected to this network were the court societies, the clientele, office holders, religious orders, the churches, artists and scholars. All aspects of power were gathered together in this network: political, economic, social, cultural and religious power. The massive Italian cultural transfers were connected with this European Society.
The relationship between Europe as a definable entity and Europe as an identity, between European Society and cultural transfer were reciprocal – i.e. they were dependent on one another and supported one another – from at least the second half of the 15th century. Let us look at another example, that is, that of the Italians at the Polish court in the early 16th century.15 In 1518, Sigismund I (1467–1548) married Bona Sforza (1494–1557), who was accompanied to Poland by 287 Italians – this is also a very good example of the central role that women played in cultural transfers.16 A substantial number of Italians lived at the Polish court up to the mid-16th century:
Sie nahmen feste Plätze in der höfischen Hierarchie ein. Als Schreiber der Kanzlei und Sekretäre sowie Erzieher der Kinder … spielten sie eine bedeutende Rolle in der höfischen Gesellschaft. ... Zahlreich waren auch Stallmeister vertreten und, ebenso bedeutend, Apotheker, Ärzte und Küchenmeister, die auch andere Funktionen übernahmen wie etwa die Beschaffung von Luxusgütern.17
This points out a type of transfer which was very common in the early modern period. Bona Sforza and the Italian cultural intermediaries whom she brought with her also established music and dance at the Polish court, and her son Sigismund II August (1520–1572) retained these. Italian musicians also appeared at the court of the bishop of Kraków. Over time, more Italians were brought to Poland, including the "Kupferstecher, Medailleur und Juwelier" Giovanni Giacomo Caraglio (1500–1565), who managed to campaign successfully "um die Anerkennung seines Adelstitels", which enabled him to acquire a church benefice in Poland.18
It is possible to trace the histories of many of these Italians, even into the subsequent generations. Important characteristics are their mobility between Poland and Italy, the acquisition of prestigious offices – for example the office of guild master as occurred repeatedly in Kraków –, their marriages with Polish women, and a few cases of ennoblement. However, the Italians in Poland did not integrate so completely into Polish society – particularly in Kraków – that they disappeared. Complete assimilation thus does not appear to be a prerequisite for the occurrence and success of cultural transfer.
The Polish example also proves that – as one would expect – various courts played intermediary roles, such as the courts of the families of Sforza and d'Este. It is possible to speak of a transfer network which was organized through the courts. Even without further details, it is possible to demonstrate the European Society and its connection with cultural transfer in this way. Phenomena such as conflicts with master builders and other experts demonstrate that cultural transfer is concentrated in areas of innovation and that innovation is not conceivable without cultural transfer.
Did this process endure? There was no guarantee of this either in the Polish case or in other cases. From the beginning of the 17th century, efforts to differentiate Poland – which are generally referred to using the term "Sarmatism" and which minimized cultural transfer – became increasingly strong. A similar development occurred in Russia in the 16th and 17th centuries, and substantial cultural transfers did not occur again until the reign of Peter the Great (1672–1725). In central Europe, which can be described as roughly corresponding to the territory of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and in western Europe, cultural transfer usually had longer lasting effects. "Bis ins 17. Jahrhundert bestätigen dabei die in der Forschung vorhandenen Kartographierungen der erhobenen Daten, dass die größte infrastrukturelle und Vernetzungsdichte im Gebiet des Heiligen Römischen Reiches und seiner direkten Nachbarn erreicht wurde. Man kann ungefähr eine Außenlinie ziehen, die von Stockholm über London nach Lissabon, von Lissabon durch Spanien nach Rom und Neapel, von dort zu den Adriatischen Küstenstädten, über Venedig und Triest nach Buda und Ofen, von dort nach Krakau und wieder in den Norden in den Raum Danzig-Marienburg-Königsberg führt. Dies ergibt ein ausgedehntes Zentrum, um das herum sich eine breite Peripherie zog, die keineswegs vom Geschehen abgekoppelt war. In dem darin liegenden Raum waren Infrastruktur, Handel und Kommunikation am dichtesten, hier fand sich die Mehrzahl der Druckereien, der Höfe, der Universitäten, in diesem Raum spielte sich der Grand Tour ab, verbreitete sich die Gewohnheit des Kaffeetrinkens, befand sich der größte Teil sämtlicher architektonischer Zeugnisse der Renaissance und auch noch des Barock, um nur einiges aufzuzählen."19 Thus, by means of multiple cultural transfers, the European Society triggered a process of Europeanization, which was summarized in metaphors of the unity of Europe.
In terms of content, cultural transfers were extremely diverse. "Art" – here art refers to much more than the visual arts – brought together the social groups listed above, who made up the bulk of the European Society. Put another way, the European Society became visible through "art", it made itself visible in this way. This "becoming visible" and "making oneself visible" must be viewed as a basis for the creation, maintenance, extension and public display of power. Thus, cultural transfer must be viewed in connection with the history of power and the formation of trans-spatial societies, an aspect that has received too little attention in research to date.
An important objection could be made that the connection – between the European Society, the definition of Europe as a unit and an identity, and cultural transfer and art – which is being constructed here excludes the broad mass of the urban and rural populations. This impression is partially due to a lack of research, and partially to a lack of sources. The social interconnections of the European Society were admittedly not limited to the social groups directly involved. In view of the fact that each transfer does not only require infrastructures of all types but also has a material side, i.e. is not possible without a multiplicity of suppliers and auxiliary services, we can assume that the social interconnections and networks which supported transfer extended far out into the broader society. The interconnections only become insignificant when there is no longer any influence on the creation, maintenance, extension and public display of power.
Cultural Transfer Research in the Context of Other Cultural Sciences Approaches
Cultural transfer research cannot avoid assuming the existence of entities which can be distinguished from one another, but which must properly be described as coherences.20 However, distinguishable from one another does not mean distinct from one another in a linear way, as coherences are connected with one another in all directions. Coherences can form clusters or macro-coherences in which entities such as the "nation", a "culture" rooted in a particular space, or even "Europe" can be recognized as time-specific encodings of material and historical relationships.
More recent approaches such as histoire croisée21 or "entangled history"22 do not solve any problem in as much as they replace the operative unit "culture" in cultural transfer research, which is difficult to define and which can mean either a cultureme or a complex culture, with another operative unit which is just as difficult to define: "history", or "histories" in the plural. What all approaches have in common is the aim to think in a manner that is as "de-bordered" as possible. This does not refer to geographical spaces alone, but also to social, cultural and other complex spaces, such as the early modern court, the nation or the historical region. This need to see and understand in a de-bordered way is clearly rooted in the current period. Without this way of seeing and understanding, history would become increasingly incomprehensible to us, as we would not be able to use the categories of de-bordered understanding –including that which is fluid, that which forms a network, that which is interconnected and that which intersects – to translate history into our current world of perception.
For a number of years, there have been attempts to use the concepts of "cultural exchange" and "translation" instead of cultural transfer.23 The term "translation" can be used both in the usual sense of the word as linguistic translation and in the sense of cultural translation. "Cultural exchange" emphasises the bi-directional and pluri-directional nature of cultural transfer, and in some cases its reciprocal nature. Cultural transfer, on the other hand, places the emphasis on the process of concrete change at a specific location, which can be either a specific home, or a regional, trans-regional, national, imperial or any other large context.
Contextualization plays an important role in cultural transfer research. The individual studies can be categorized according to general research questions and knowledge requirements. The work Italien in Sarmatien: Studien zum Kulturtransfer im östlichen Europa in der Zeit der Renaissance by Marina Dmitrieva (born 1953) referred to above is a good example of how cultural transfer research can look into the question of the Europeanization of eastern Europe and east-central Europe, a question which is important in the current debate about the role of the countries of east-central and eastern Europe in and for Europe as a whole. This does not involve fixed parameters, as cultural transfer ebbs and flows and therefore usually does not last for an extended period of time.
The contextualization of cultural transfer opens up a broad field. Due to the obvious issues of the availability and accessibility of sources, a preponderance of transfer research must be called "history from above", while cultural transfer as "history from below" has remained weak. Cultural transfer is also closely interconnected with the history of human consumption. However, while this interconnection has become established knowledge, it is not sufficiently taken into account.24 It is important and indeed useful to integrate the context of European Society, Europe, power, cultural transfer and art, which is described in more detail above, into research, as this context changed in the 18th and 19th centuries, and again in the late 19th and 20th centuries.25
In the research landscape of the historical cultural sciences, cultural transfer research constructs a bridge between research approaches of diverse origin. For some of these approaches, the epistemological de-bordering goes too far because the historical actors who are responsible and must be made responsible appear to get lost between the concepts of networks, connections, interconnections, and hypertexts of history. Conversely, research strategies which work with delimiting entities such as nation, elite society, and ethnic group seem no longer sufficient. In terms of disciplinary development, cultural transfer research inhabits an intermediate space which is best described using the concepts cited above: coherence(s), macro-coherences (instead of "national culture", for example), or clusters of coherences or macro-coherences ("Europe" can be placed in this category).
Cultural transfers can be found in all historical periods, but it is possible to discern distinct phases. The Italian Model and the French Model have been identified as two successive large periods of cultural transfer, which functioned in different ways. The French Model by no means replaced the Italian Model completely, and, as described above, both of these models had competitors. With the independence of the North American colonies and their unification in the United States of America, a new model emerged, which for a long time served primarily as a cultural reference for the practicability of democracy in a large state. As a result, the phenomenon of Americanization presented itself in the 20th century, particularly after 1945.
With the acceleration of modernization in the 19th century, the volume of transferred structuremes, culturemes and references multiplied. In the period of the European Union, we again have a large cultural model, which has been defined in the EU treaties and in EU law and which, in contrast to previous history, all countries wishing to join the union must adopt. These norms are legally binding, but they also have the properties of culturemes and structuremes. The example of Turkey provides a good illustration of what this means: The transfer of European culture as defined by the EU in its norms would have involved a new cultural revolution on a scale almost comparable to that brought about by Kemal Atatürk (1881–1938).