The Rise of PopulismPresentation at Conference Europa (Paris)

An Impression: Presentation at Conference Europa (Paris) of The Rise of Populism in Europe by Jan-Joseph Stok
After a nice article in French magazine 6Mois, I was invited to speak about The Rise of Populism in Europe at Conference Europa in Paris organized by EuropaNova The conference took place on October 26 and 27 at Sorbonnes University with around sixty international speakers taking part. Our project was quickly recognized by the Conference as a response from European creatives to social and political phenomenon’s happening around them, definitely important to discuss in the light of the conference’s theme: Imagine the future, make it happen.

The theme of the debate I took part in, was ‘The Challenges and Opportunities of Alterity and Diversity in Europe’; in other words: ‘unity in diversity’ with a big question mark. This was immediately a very interesting topic to me in connection with the project. It responds to our idea of creating a debate with our images, making people reflect on the questions we touch upon, among others about the seemingly growing fear of the Other, and how people react and use it in sometimes radical and aggressive ways.

In my opinion ‘populism’ is an important matter in the everyday life of Europe, especially with the European elections in 2014. The President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic opened the conference with a long speech. The core of his argument was about the Europeans having to be aware of the rise of populism in Europe and its different manifestations. Without having any connection with this politician, and throughout the conference which main themes was the future of Europe, the topic of ‘populism’ seem to come back several times.

I opened our panel debate on Sunday with a presentation of the work of all the European photographers who are part of The Rise of Populism in Europe. The presentation was being streamed live on the Internet and on the television; many journalists covered the event. Rokhaya Diallo, a journalist and activist, was moderating the debate. She is head of an organization called Les Indivisibles, a French organization that uses humor and irony to fight racism and stereotypes. Next to me was the Vice-President of the Senate Bariza Khiari. She initiated different legislations to fight different forms of discrimination and Danniel Tammet a world-renowned writer and essayist.

By showing the photographs and speaking first there was a big silence in the venue. The audience listened to what I had to say and paid attention to the images. Even though it was at a lecture hall of the Sorbonnes University, it felt we were talking to a much larger audience, a European audience, to which I feel that the core of this project concerns us all. The diversity of the work, and the things we were showing, brought up this feeling of Europe from different perspectives. Everything is connected, and if we don’t learn to live together, what kind of future are we giving to the next generation of European citizens? Where have the fundamentals of Europe, based on peace and exchanges, gone?

It really felt during my participation that the work should be traveling to as many European places as possible. Through the images the project brings more debate and reflections on the matters at stake.

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