London, May 2015
Cultural Literacy in Europe
Meeting the challenge of Cultural Literacy
What is Cultural Literacy?
Cultural literacy is an ability to view the social and cultural phenomena that shape our lives – bodies of knowledge, fields of social action, individuals or groups, and of course cultural artefacts – as being essentially readable. Cultural literacy engages with interdisciplinarity, multilingualism and collaboration. It is a way of looking at social and cultural issues through the lens of literary thinking, employing communication, comparison and critique on a scale beyond that of one language or one nation-state, and avoiding abstraction. Furthermore, it is as much about innovation and creative practice – whether scholarly, artistic or social – as it is about analysis, and it very often brings these two methods together.
Developing knowledge and shared practices in the area of Cultural Literacy must be understood and promoted as a key strategic goal for a meaningful impact on European society and beyond it, by supporting individuals and groups in the continuous effort to achieve greater social justice and active forms of citizenship.
CLE Conference 2015
The first Cultural Literacy in Europe [CLE] Conference took place in London, at the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, on April 16-18 2015. A major outcome of the conference is a shared understanding of Cultural Literacy as a key societal challenge for the future of Europe and its relationship with the rest of the world. This recognition must lead to common objectives among academics, professionals, and representatives of cultural associations and funding bodies.
The Conference demonstrated that excellent research and initiatives are already taking place in this area across Europe and beyond its borders. Whether working with methods and tools of Literary and Cultural Studies [LCS] or spanning other interdisciplinary areas, researchers and teachers in the Humanities and Social Sciences can make a key contribution to both understanding and answering the challenge of Cultural Literacy.
The aims and objectives of CLE
The CLE initiative has two main aims: to achieve a broad shared understanding of the notion of Cultural Literacy and its importance; and to increase the visibility of the challenge presented by Cultural Literacy and of the contributions which LCS scholars and their fellow researchers continue to make in this area.
To achieve these aims, CLE will bring together academics, educators, artists, policy-makers and members of the cultural industries, as well as a growing number of partner institutions from across Europe and beyond.
The CLE project plans to undertake the following actions:
- creating an international Core Group to oversee all activities;
- organizing the next biennial Conference devoted to the theme of Cultural Literacy;
- assuring an enhanced web presence, supporting the distribution of information, sharing good practice, research outcomes and communication among interested parties;
- setting up and running special interest groups devoted to key areas and initiatives;
- providing support, networks and events for early career researchers.
If you are interested in contributing to one or more of these objectives, whether as an individual or institutional partner, contact us via the website form at or by completing the conference feedback postcard.