An overview of methodological approaches in European cultural policy research

Author: Ana Žuvela

Details: CULPOL Issue Paper 2, IRMO, Zagreb, July 2017.

Language: Croatian (abstract in English)

Attachment: TD2 Žuvela Ana_Pregled metodoloških pristupa u istraživanjima kulturnih politika


The paper brings an analytical overview of the development and state-of-art in the field of cultural policy research, with the underlining narrative on the evolution of the academic discipline of cultural policy studies. Right from the outset, the paper highlights the complexity of numerous issues that are comprised in the topic of cultural policy studies and research. Those involve the inherent inter and multidisciplinary scope of the field encompassing wide array of disciplines such as political science, sociology, cultural studies, anthropology, etc., as well as relative “newness” of the cultural policy studies and research that has a short tradition of around half a century, which positions it as “less serious” discipline that is yet to find its firm grounding in the rigidly segmented terrain of academia. Some of the key and most influential theoretical thoughts and concepts are mentioned; the “governmentality” by Michel Foucault and the “public sphere” by JürgenHabermaselucidate the principal and ubiquitous contestation on power relations in cultural policy and question on the relations between the state and culture. These theoretical lines raise an open-ended discussion on what is the purpose of cultural policy research, what are the extents of measurable and reformative usefulness of cultural policy research in comparison to its proficiency to be critical and revolutionary?

Cultural policy as a theoretical and operational syntagm builds on two opposing, yet complementary concepts of culture and policy. In this line, the paper looks into diverse meanings of culture in cultural policy, as well as merging of culture with public policy, thus creating sub-field, or adjectival policy of cultural policy. After deciphering culture and policy in cultural policy, the cultural policy itself is explain not only for what it is, but for its stages of development, which are, to an extent, parallel to that of cultural policy research. The discourse on cultural policy also tackles the issue of instrumentalisation of cultural policy and the increasing usage of cultural policy as means for achieving goals that little to do, or nothing at all with arts and/or culture. For this reason, the paper looks into changes in the deportment of principal European governmental bodies towards culture in conjunction with the progression of lateral internationalisation and localisation of cultural policy research. The European “situation” in cultural policy research is explained through illustration of several programmes of applied cultural policy research such as National reports programme by the Council of Europe and the development of the network structures in cultural policy research and digital databases like Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe.

The central part of the paper features an analysis of the type of cultural policy research, which are juxtaposed with the interdisciplinary nature of the cultural policy research and sequential (wide) choice of methodological tools. For this reason, it is stressed that there is no single way to understating, analysing and researching cultural policy. However, there are several definitional approaches to differentiating cultural policy research, and those range from division on institutional and civil cultural policy research to academic and applied cultural policy research. In the domain of methodological approaches, the wide choice presents an exceptional opportunity for the researchers, yet it also brings a lots of risks, namely that of inconsistency, instability and disorder. Hence, the seeming methodological “freedom” in cultural policy research must not be mistaken for “free pass” for improvisation, but must be used for exploration of the epistemological and ontological complexities not only in conjoining culture with policy, but in the processes and implications of the scientific articulation and practical regulation of the cultural policy field.

Key words: culture, cultural policy, research, methodology, case study.