The Integrative Power of Non-Representationalism in Urban Spaces: Creative Collaboration and Local Identity among Immigrants and Ethnic Minorities in Brussels

    • Lucca November 2017
    • Presentation speakers
      • Joseph M. Costanzo, Independent Researcher, Geneva, Switzerland


    European scholarship has begun paying greater attention to the social and economic nature and impact of creative expressions in urban spaces (Delhaye, 2008; Küchler, Kürti and Elkadi, 2011; Salzbrunn, 2007; Selberg, 2006; Spangler, 2007). Furthermore, borrowing the term from Bramadat (2001), the literature concerning immigrants and ethnic minorities and creative art forms focus on expressions of local ‘ethno-cultural’ groups (allochtoon or not). Such spectacles are expressions that, for a brief moment, recall and re-present traditional notions of foreignness in their dress, music, cuisine and so forth as reminders of the way things were (or are perceived still to be) in a distant homeland. My interest here is in the non-ethnically representational spectacle of cities. In other words, events that, instead of re-presenting a history of a people, culture or place, are born out of the people and culture in place today—a (temporary) contemporary expression of local diversity and local identity. Here, as in Brussels’ Zinneke Parade, the emphasis is on creating and presenting (not re-presenting) the contemporary local. I suggest that immigrants and ethnic minorities and their art are not merely re-presenting their migration histories, but also are part of the ongoing local discourse, influencing identities and expressions not as ‘immigrant artists’ (read: artists of immigrant origin who create ‘immigrant art’), but as artists full stop. Such creative spaces and interactions may serve as a place without a priori (assigned) social and economic personal value, valuing individual abilities and interests, creating collaboration through tension and discussion, allowing human error and generating social, psychological and economic benefits for those involved.