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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds In the introduction to this course, we emphasised that these are interesting times to study Europe. We argued that the ongoing challenges faced by the European political project cannot be reduced to the failures in the institutional and policy structures of the European Union only. Yes, the EU can be viewed as a bold experiment in establishing a post-national democracy. And yes, the rise of the radical right in many of the EU member states can be interpreted as a backlash of the post-national integration.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 seconds At the same time, to claim that the Europe of today faces such challenges as citizen alienation on the one hand and the rise of populism and extremism on the other simply as a result of improperly managed monetary integration oversimplifies the problem. The central premise of this course was that in order for one to understand the challenges faced by the Europe of today, one needs to know how Europe was negotiated and constructed over time. We started by asking a deceivingly simple question, what is Europe? This question, however, proved impossible to answer with a simple one-liner. We saw that Europe is much more than a continent.

Skip to 1 minute and 29 seconds The meaning of Europe also goes way beyond the usual set of stereotypes that connect Europe to attributes such as old, white, originary, rational, tolerant, progressive, Christian, democratic, powerful, peaceful, et cetera, et cetera. We therefore asked colleagues from various universities, cultural and disciplinary contexts, to give us their own interpretation of Europe. We further asked them how Europe as a system of meaning is linked to the European Union as a political project. And we finally asked them if they see the current problems as linked to these various imaginaries of Europe. The task they have received was not simple, and neither were their answers. This is what they said. In Week 1, Dr.

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 seconds van der Waal from the University of Groningen examined Europe as a cultural project. She explained how European culture is imagined and constructed by European institutions via the use language policy or the capital of culture programme, but also how these top down interventions into the meaning of Europe are challenged by the very local, grassroot cultural practises and interventions. In eek 2, Professor Tamck and Dr. Klein, our colleagues from the University of Gottingen, discussed Europe’s uneasy relationship with religion.

Skip to 2 minutes and 56 seconds Using the debate and the inclusion of references to religion in the European constitution as a case in point, they argued that the substitution of the direct reference to Christianity by the more abstract concept of universal values says very little about the openness of European society. Drawing from Casanova, they define a secularisation as part of the development of religion itself, and call for a more open and honest debate on the role of religion in Europe, which would not exclude those who use religious language from the public discourse.

Skip to 3 minutes and 36 seconds In Week 3, a multidisciplinary team from the European Languages and Cultures Department of the University of Groningen examines how Europe is imagined through the modernity project. They start with a working definition of modernity as a questioning of authority and tradition in the spirit of progress in society and culture. And they examined the cultural and sociopolitical resonance of this process in a European framework. In an effort to translate this very abstract notion to an empirically observable form, they explain how modernity is realised in, for instance, equality or urbanisation, and what the discontents of these processes are. In Week 4, Dr. Marek Neuman from the University of Groningen discusses how Europe is constructed as a political project.

Skip to 4 minutes and 26 seconds He focuses on the relationship between national statehood and Europe as a post-national entity growing in Europe in general and the EU in particular are presented as a threat to the nation-state. With this in mind, Dr. Neuman reintroduces Milward’s thesis on the European rescue of the nation-state. He continues by asking critical questions about what kind of statehood is being echoed in the European project, and what the contemporary challenges to this project are. In Week 5, Dr. Couperus from the University of Groningen and Professor Mach from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow examine how Europe is constructed as a democratic space. Dr. Couperus starts by arguing that democracy is a term so used and misused that it can mean anything, and ultimately nothing.

Skip to 5 minutes and 18 seconds This week examines how European political integration has been legitimised through a particular reading of democracy. A particular focus is placed on challenges and possible solutions to the construction of democracy in a post-national society.

Skip to 5 minutes and 36 seconds Hence, through these past five weeks we have learned that any particularity of a European way of doing things is very difficult to grasp. We learned that although there are some attempts in codifying what Europe is in the EU’s treaties or cultural policies, for instance, that these remain heavily contested and are far from inclusive. So still now, six weeks into the course, it proves impossible to give you a simple one-liner on what is Europe. The alternative is, therefore, to examine what Europe was claimed not to be. For that reason, in the rest of the week, we will examine how the European identity is constructed by practises of othering, claims of what Europe is not.

Skip to 6 minutes and 24 seconds By addressing the question of Europe’s other, we will not only gain a better perspective on how Europe is imagined, but also whose voices remain silent, marginalised in this process. If we want to build a more inclusive Europe– and we do– critical questions of who is Europe’s other and how is Europe imagined by this other need to be addressed.

Looking back - and forward

In this video, Dr Senka Neuman-Stanivukovic summarises what had been discussed in earlier weeks and looks ahead to this week.

We’ve made quite the journey together in the past weeks. You have looked at and discussed Europe from the perspective of culture, religion, modernity, the nation-state and democracy. In this week, we propose to look at Europe from the perspective of ‘the Other’, or what Europe is said not to be.

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European Culture and Politics

University of Groningen

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