TUNING INTO BEAMS
Diversity makes one of the strengths of Europe, but discrimination – overt or covert – continues to plague coexistence at social, cultural and economic level. Racism and xenophobia are among the most widespread forms of discrimination that individuals experience because of their origin, culture, language, or lifestyle.
The media and entertainment industries – simply referred to as “popular culture” – are powerful agents of stereotyping. They have a fundamental role in replicating societal trends, shaping public opinion, producing and reproducing stereotypical representations of groups, communities and individuals, and “fixing” their characteristics and identities over time and space.
BEAMS (Breaking down European Attitudes towards Migrant/Minority Stereotypes) brings together 15 partners from 11 different EU states to better understand the link between popular culture stereotypes of migrant and minority groups and discriminatory attitudes of the consumers/citizens, which still prevent such groups from obtaining full rights of citizenship in many respects.
The partners also join force to raise awareness and educate young Europeans to “stop watching and start seeing” stereotypes and the different mechanisms underpinning them, and to use an informed and critical look to break down the negative correlation between stereotypes and discriminatory behaviors towards specific migrant and minority groups.
UNRAVELING BEAMS’ AMAZING PLOT
EPISODE 1: Clips and material from TV, fiction and other shows, movies, sports, comedy, music, photography, the Internet – to mention the most widespread forms of popular culture and media – are analyzed to identify the mechanisms of creation / perpetuation of stereotypes in the involved partners’ countries and areas. To substantiate the analysis, interviews with producers and relevant experts are also conducted.
EPISODE 2: This is where the BEAMS partners reach out the “real” world. They gather discussion groups to further assess the impact of popular culture on public perception. Small groups of citizens from all walks of life look, interpret and give a feedback on their understanding of the collected materials, and help partners to better understand the perception of stereotypes and their links to attitudes towards others.
EPISODE 3: “Seeing” becomes “doing”. With the direct involvement of migrant and minority groups of citizens, partners strive to develop educational actions in school and communities. In this part, the younger generations, cultural operators, educators and community groups become protagonists of creative experimentations that help them and other citizens to enjoy the production of a less stereotypical culture. They recognize diversity as an added value for society, and work against discrimination, racism and xenophobia by organizing public events to share this new vision with society at large.
TO BE CONTINUED… The project has started in January 2013 and will run until the end of 2014, but this is not the end. The tools and methods used in the project are planned to inspire other actors locally and Europe-wide, and to become a viable example to stop watching, start seeing and acting on fundamental rights for all citizens.