Organised by the Council for European Studies and the University of Glasgow’s School of Social and Political Sciences, this transatlantic academic conference attracted a considerable number of scholars from a wide variety of disciplines, who took part in over 300 panels, round tables and plenary sessions, discussing the challenges facing Europe and proposing solutions that will lead to a more prosperous and politically stable European future. The conference began with the keynote “Europe. Wake Up! Sleep Walking is Over” by Prof. Judy Dempsey (Senior Associate at Carnegie Europe and Editor-in-Chief of Strategic Europe), which was followed by a debate moderated by Anand Menon (Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at Kings College London). The closing lecture, “Transforming Approaches to Conflict and Development. Where Now for Europe”, was given by Lord Jack McConnell of Glenscorrodale, former First Minister of Scotland (2001-2007) and UK Special Representative for Peacebuilding (2008-2010).
Several broad topics dominated the discussions at the conference, including democracy and values under pressure – the rise of populism in Europe and the USA, European narratives, lessons from the crisis ten years on, Brexit – opportunities and challenges as the EU27 move ahead, the welfare state in danger, international migration, borders and security, the digital revolution, and the new challenges raised by digital methods and tools for research and teaching. Alongside the conference, a special symposium entitled “Building Bridges: New Points of Intersection Between Art and the World” was held to explore the notion that “European artistic and cultural influences are integral parts of the greater understanding of […] history, as well as the tradition of sustaining and transforming cultural memory and identity.”
European studies from a transatlantic perspective: challenges and goals
Europeanism is a term that encapsulates the norms and values that Europeans have in common, and which transcend national or state identity. In addition to helping promote the integration of the European Union, this doctrine also provides the basis for analyses that characterise European politics, economics, and society as reflecting a shared identity. Opponents to the idea stress that there are various differences among European groups and that the factors seen as characteristic of this shared culture do not necessarily follow its premise.
As well as the presentations and discussions about various research projects and topics, this major European/American conference particularly focused on the current workings of European studies, exploring multiple perspectives from a variety of disciplines including political science, sociology, philosophy, law, economics, history and international relations. How has this discipline been shaped, and how will it in turn shape the citizens of the world (from Europe, America and beyond)? What professional and/or research-based approaches are employed? Four themes of interest emerged, namely the development of public policies and the European institutions; the development of the European Union and the organisation of public spaces; the future of the European Union in the context of globalisation; and the impact of art, language and culture on these processes.
The discussions highlighted the fact that the discipline of European studies is undergoing something of a “crisis” in the United States, where academics have turned their attention to other world regions – or have turned away from studying geographical regions entirely. The recent US presidential election and events and phenomena in Europe (Brexit, the rise of nationalism and populism, increasing bureaucracy in the European institutions, etc.) are closely linked to this disillusionment.
In this context, US leaders in European studies – the University of Pittsburgh (which hosts and runs the Archive of European Integration (AEI), the University of Michigan, the Council for European Studies and a number of professors, researchers and experts – have joined forces with their European counterparts with the aim of devising a new vision for the field. This transatlantic approach will involve focusing more closely on the empirical and theoretical study of the EU and comparing it with other regions and nation states – in other words, analysing Europe as if it were a state or as a regulatory, political, economic and legal player. Debates on European integration will give rise to different scenarios as part of a multifaceted, democratic process.
Those interested in investigating the field of European studies will be encouraged to adopt a multidisciplinary approach, while acquiring extensive knowledge about European history and civilisation, public and political issues surrounding the EU, its external relations and neighbourhood, etc. The aim is to develop a comprehensive, 360-degree view of Europe and its place in the world.
Interdisciplinarity, digital tools and innovative educational methods – a work in progress
In the field of European studies today, innovating means embracing interdisciplinarity, multimedia and interactive digital tools (which complement traditional approaches) and novel educational methods. This results in a cross-cutting, contextual approach to learning (from a historical, legal, economic, political and sociological perspective), one that uses multimedia methods, remote tools and IT-based strategies to engage learners actively by accessing their five senses and their emotions and perceptions. The disciplines of gamification and social network analysis are playing an increasing role. Developments in these areas will be evaluated in 2018 at the next Conference of Europeanists.