Why is Abuab necessary?

The immigration phenomenon has become increasingly important in Europe in recent years. The integration of the new arrivals in their host societies is currently one of the main challenges for governments and civil society. In Catalonia, Law 10/2011 of 7 May, on the reception of immigrants and people returning to Catalonia, establishes in its preamble that migration must be accepted by Catalan society as “another social process to be managed”. At the same time, as stated in the Bases for Reception of Barcelona City Hall (Immigration Technical Office, 2007): “reception requires the involvement not only of the newly-arrived population but above all of social services and resources (public services, organisations, companies, etc.) as well as society as a whole, which ultimately conditions the possibilities of social integration”. The cultural contrast between immigrants and locals is sometimes the cause of tension for both communities (tension is usually caused by xenophobic movements; local conflicts between migrant and national populations tend to have economic and political foundations rather than cultural ones). With this background, cultural heritage may represent a powerful tool for social integration, as the materiality of cultural successes in the past are able to strengthen awareness of belonging to present society.

Abuab, or Doors, is a project that aims to work on the use of cultural heritage as an instrument of social integration for Arabic-speaking refugees/immigrants. It has been proposed by the Institution Milà i Fontanals of the CSIC and Girona University and will depend on the essential participation and collaboration of museums in the city of Barcelona. With this objective, we propose the development of a multi-disciplinary project that will work on the management of heritage, anthropology, art history, education and archaeology, with specialists mainly from the Institution Milà i Fontanals of the Higher Council of Scientific Research and Girona University, with the collaboration of staff in the different museums that join this initiative.

The proposal aims to help to resolve a socio-political problem of great importance at the present time, which is the conflict between Islamic fundamentalism and the West, by collaborating in the construction of a tool for mutual understanding that consists of encouraging intercultural dialogue on the values represented in cultural heritage. The aim is to have an impact on both the new-arrivals and the local populations. The former will discover the values of the host society through their heritage creations, at the same time as they appreciate the heritage contributions that their countries of origin have made to universal culture. The latter will discover the interest of the arrivals in understanding what the host society values. This dialogue can help to create complicity in the construction of a society undergoing change.