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Access Type

Campus Access

Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



heritage; Spain


This thesis looks at a European Union cultural initiative, the European Capital of Culture (ECC), and how the contest has become a way for the European Union (EU) to encourage a shared sense of European heritage among EU states while also leaving room for diversity within and across EU nations. It describes the ways in which the ECC delineates and constructs the acceptable boundaries of shared cultural expressions and cultural difference. The argument put forth here is that the EU’s focus on shared problems is becoming an important part of European identity, one that permits countries to maintain certain kinds of marketable difference, such as food or music, while also encouraging a common outlook on handling problems. I examine how heritage is being redefined in the European Capital of Culture contest. I analyze the ways in which the ECC contest strives for heritage that is less exclusive–although not completely inclusive–and how this heritage is defined more in terms of process than product. In aiming to create cross-EU bonds, the contest eliminates some boundaries while reifying others. Through the use of both document analysis and fieldwork, this thesis contributes to a better understanding of ways in which European identity is constructed through the contest, focusing specifically on how a discourse of shared problems has become a way for countries to live up to the EU motto “United in Diversity.”

First Advisor

Elizabeth S. Chilton