Project facts

Duration: 2018-04-01 - 2021-10-31
Project consortium: Aalborg Universitet (DK), Aarchus Universitet (DK), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (BE), Universitatea din Bucuresti (RO), The Queen's University of Belfast (GB), Université de Limoges (FR), Debreceni Egyetem (HU), Link Campus Uiversity (IT), Miso Film Aps (DK), Panepistimio Ioanninon (GR), Umea Universitet (SE), Fonden Visit Aarchus (DK), Bibliocite (FR), Université Paris Nanterre (FR), Freie Universitaet Berlin (DE), TV 2 Denmark AS (DK), Deutsche Fil-Und Fernsehakademie Berlin GMBH (DE)
Funding bodies: H2020-EU.3.6. - SOCIETAL CHALLENGES - Europe In A Changing World - Inclusive, Innovative And Reflective Societies MAIN PROGRAMME H2020-EU. - Study European heritage, memory, identity, integration and cultural interaction and translation, including its representations in cultural and scientific collections, archives and museums, to better inform and understand the present by richer interpretations of the past CULT-COOP-04-2017 - Contemporary histories of Europe in artistic and creative practices
Subject areas: Community involvement, Crime narratives, Heritage values - Identity, Humanities and social sciences, ICT tools, Popular culture
Budget: € 2 518 443,75


DETECt –Detecting Transcultural Identity in European Popular Crime Narratives –addresses the formation of European cultural identity as a continuing process of transformation fostered by the mobility of people, products and representations across the continent. Because of the extraordinary mobility of its products, popular culture plays a decisive role in circulating representations that constitute a shared cultural asset for large sectors of the European society.

The project examines examples of crime fiction, film and TV dramas from 1989 to present, to learn how mobility strategies such as co-production, serialization, translation, adaptation, distribution, and more, have influenced the transnational dissemination of European popular culture. It also investigates how the treatment of specific ‘mobile signifiers’—including representations of gender, ethnic and class identities—affect the ability of European narratives to migrate outside their place of origin, and be appropriated elsewhere in different and variegated ways. Researching the contemporary history of the crime genre in Europe, DETECt aims to identify the practices of production, distribution and consumption that are best suited to facilitate the emergence of engaging representations of Europe’s enormously rich, plural and cross-cultural identity.

The knowledge acquired through a detailed research programme is used in cultural, learning and public engagement initiatives designed to prompt the elaboration of new transnational formats for the European creative industries. These activities profited from a set of experimental research and learning resources and innovative collaborative tools, aggregated and organized on DETECt Web portal. A range of activities have been addressed to the general public. In particular, the development of a Web mobile app tools will allow users to contribute to the creation of a collaborative atlas of European crime narratives.

Impacts & Results

Out of varied outputs, 8 mais findings have been selected to offer guidance on how EU policies can sustain the growth and expansion of contemporary narrative cultures and traditions in ways that benefit the development of local economies and the transnational circulation of their cultural products.

1. Crime stories across Europe contribute to the development of local CCIs and new forms of cultural tourism. 

DETECt has revealed the existence all over the continent of a rich multitude of well-established local narrative traditions that have flourished during the last 30 years thanks to the universal, transcultural appeal of crime stories. These genre-inspired local traditions are intangible cultural assets that uniquely contirbuted to the development of local Cultural & Creative Industries and services (CCIs), playing a significant role in promoting a move of TV filming from central production hubs to geographical peripheries, thus fostering a trend towards the creation of local creative hubs.

Among the local initiatives inspired by local crime narrative cultures, is important to mention the remarkable dissemination across the contient of new forms of cultural or screen tourism, such as thematically structured itineraries based on, and popularizing, local narrative content.

2. The potential of European crime media products to circulate is still under-exploited.

Due to the universal appeal of their narrative structures, European crime stories, both in print and on screen, have shown to possess a huge, yet still arguably under-exploited potential to circulate transnationally, both within and outside the continent.

Nordic noir in particular has proven able not only to reach a global audience, but also to inspire the formats and styles of European, and even global, seriality. However, the European television market is still largely hegemonized by US productions, and Europe's linguistic fragmentation remains a key obstacle to the expansion of both the infra- and the extra-EU consumption of the European audiovisual programmes.

Similar problems are faced in the publishing sector. While the increasing diversity on the map of European crime fiction speaks of the genre's transcultural value, our study found a sore spot with regards to the infra-European circulation of crime novels from both the Eastern and the South-Eastern countries.

3. The potential of VoD services to increase audience exposure to European diversity is still under-exploited.

VoD platforms are supporting and fostering the creation and dissemination of original RML (Regional and Miority Languages) audiovisual products. However, current discussions about RLM media tend to disregard the potential of VoD platforms. New digital distributions channels are de facto not fully recognized as strategic to promote these diverse European idioms and make them more visible at either local national, or international level.

Our study of also revealed major knowledge gaps in researchabout RMLs audiences.

4. Negative stereotyping of minorities and social groups is still an issue.

The crime's genre aptitude for realism and social critique, alongside with its universal appeal and potential for transnational circulation, has contributed to foster reciprocal knowledge among European audiences. Current societal problems - such as class inequalities, gender, violence, political corruption, immigration and human trafficking, the activity of transnational criminal networks, to name just a few - are extensively represented. These narratives typically involve transcultural encounters between characters with different national orignis, gender, identiites, sexual orientations. While the spectrum of these identities has grown wider, negative stereotyping of minorities and social groups is still in many cases an issue.

The representation of women in European crime fiction has undergone important changes in the last decades, with many series featuring female investigators in leading roles. However, classic stereotypes of femininity that deprive female characters of full agency are still present even in the portrayal of strong, emancipated women.

A few ethnic, career, disabled and neurodivergent detectives have achieved narrative agency in European crime stories. These positive heroes and heroines offer important identificatory figures for both minority and majority audiences and attest changes to the 'us' vs 'others' paradigm that long defined Europe's self-understanding. At the same time, a problem persits with the way in which these diverse identitites are still too often represented according to patterns of criminality, sexualization, victimization and cultural homologation.

5. The North/South, East/West divides need to be adressed.

The two major strands of contemporary crime stories by European authors and producers, Nordic and Mediterranean noir, reflect enduring cultural, historical and economic lines of divisions across Europe. In particular, we found that while Nordic noir, as both a brand and a mode of production, has been insturmental in generating European co-funding for TV series , the same cannot be claimed of Mediterranean noir, despite an important cultural prestige. Research has also shown that complex media sustemic factors put the North-Western regions in a favourable position, compared to the South and East-European area, to benefit from European funding, such as in particular from the support measures for the audiovisual industry in the MEDIA programme of Creative Europe.

Data indicates that the MEDIA programme's composition, as well as the goals to support cultural products with a European collaborative profile and distribution potential, have effectually incited a North-Western European bias. The new avluation criteria of the current Creative Europe TV programming scheme  have introduced correctives, which however would need to be further extended to significantly redress geographically imbalances in the attributions of funding.

6. The potential of cultural economy in Eastern Europe is still under-exploited.

Although a wealth of original content is being produced in Eastern  Europe, crime stories from these countries are rarely distributed, translated, or adapted in other European languages. Due to their dimensions, the Easter-European countries suffer from all the typical industrial as well as linguistic limitations that plague all small nations in their efforts to develop their domestic industries and the international circulation of their cultural products.

Over the decade, HBO Europe productions in this area have contributed in a significant way to improve the quality of TV crimes dramas, causing an unprecedented mobilization of local creative talent in the field, similar to what has happened with Netflix in Spain.  While this has had important positive consequences in terms of local talent development, shedding light on the potential of these markets, it also raises concern as to the real benefits in terms of original cultural expression, for especially HBO Europe has practically been able to colonize all East-European markets through processes of format localization. Such a prominent role of global operators in these countries' production environments raise concern regarding its consequences on local producers and opportunities for co-production.

7. Digital educational tools are today mostly provided by private platforms based outside the EU.

The teachers-researchers in the Consortium have experimented with a variety of digital tools for knowledge sharing, knowledge mapping and knowledge transformation.

This experience has disclosed problems in therms of availabillity and local integration of "smart" online pedagogical tools that are today accessible on the web. In fact, a large majority of these tools are provided by private, pay-for-service platforms based outside the EU. This is just a small yet revealing finding in a more general picture that sees today practically all Eurpean universites still depending upon private services for their digital educational activities.

8. Although symbols of Europe rarely appear in contemporary European cirme narratives, their Europeanness can be appreciated on different levels.

Symbols of Europe and its institutions appear very rarely in contemporary European crime narratives? Most of the stories usually take place in a remarkably local dimension, although disturbing representations of transnational, actually global crime networks are often involved?Only a few procedural series featuring supra-national police teams and organizations, such as Europol, have been co-produced in Europe in over 30 years, not always with encouraging results in terms of audience ratings.

While explitcit references to Europewere not easily found in research corpus, narrative and stylistic trends have emerged that allow to appreciate the Europeanness of contemporary Europe crime narratives on different semantic levels. Common narrative content includes the representation of transnational political issues (such as the migrant crisis or the survival of Fascist and Nazi ideologies in extreme right terrorism), the use of either infra-European borders or liminal territories with non-EU countries as narrative locations, the fundamental contribution or literature in providing inspiration for quality TV adaptation, and the increasing ethnnic, gender and disability diversity of the leading characters role.

The DETECt Screenwriting Contest has revealed a wealth of transcultural imagination in the TV script concepts submitted for evaluation to an international jury of professionals from the creative industries. The remarkable quality of many proposals demonstrates that the younger generation of European creatives is only waiting for opportunities to express their cosmopolitan culture in original storylines involving the European territories and identities in novels ways.