Culturelink Newsletter Special Issue / July 2013

Hommage to Colin Mercer

The life of a generous man, an exceptional expert, an esteemed colleague and, above all, our great, true friend, Colin Mercer, has been extinguished. Never again will we hear Colin's story, which he liked to tell, about how he, having left Australia to return to England, did not feel 'dépaysé': "... in Australia, I relied principally on hard copy versions of the journal Culturelink and the Circle newsletter Circular to be informed about what was going on in the cultural policy world elsewhere. That's where I learned about the Culturelink Network and IMO, about Circle, Interarts and ERICarts to the extent that when I returned to Europe in 1998 I could find my way around quite quickly and feel grounded and among friends..."

Colin's knowledge, his approach to key developmental issues in the field of culture, his thoughts and opinions about new forms of subnational and transnational cultural identity, convergence and creative industries, cultural diversity, and cultural networks (or 'culturelinks', as he preferred to say), were to all of us an invaluable source of inspiration and support for our own work. We were especially honoured when Colin served as Guest Editor of the Culturelink book on Convergence, Creative Industries and Civil Society: The New Cultural Policy, into the preparation of which he invested all his effort and dedication.

Colin broadened the horizons of cultural policy: in the context of globalisation, transnational flows of people and cultural goods, the development of diasporas, and the virtual mobility produced by the Internet, the national frame and policy remit is proving inadequate to address the realities of cultures which are both subnational and transnational in their allegiances and belongings. According to Colin, these are realities which are beyond or below the horizons of visibility of established national policy frameworks.

Colin also introduced a new approach to cultural diversity. To him, cultural diversity is not simply a 'policy obligation' to which we have to be attentive: it is dynamically constitutive of the contemporary cultural field in both ethical and economic terms. This means both diversity of content and references and the diversities of uses and technologies.

Colin devoted arguably his most significant writings to cultural networks, networking and cultural policy in the digital age. As he put it, for cultural networks to be effective in the new and heterogeneous environment they will need to do a lot more netting, lacing, weaving and twisting of some of the weak ties, especially in the development of a stakeholder research and knowledge-producing agenda.

Colin was inquisitive and open for many challenges, underlining that, from the point of view of cultural policy, broadly and strategically conceived, many doors were opening... And Colin was indeed opening many doors, not only in the field of cultural policy, but in the field of culture in the broadest sense, repositioning culture as a mainstream issue in the context of both globalisation and regionalisation, culture as communication. For him it was always important to move towards new ways of thinking the cultural issues and questions together rather than in separate 'boxes', and he believed that there was a basis for a more conceptually unified set of responses.

Colin will be sadly missed by the entire Culturelink Team.


© 2013 Culturelink, Network of Networks for Research and Cooperation in Cultural Development

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