During this critical time in transatlantic relations between the United States and the European Union, few subjects stand out as relevant and important as the study of transnational Europe. The rise of populism; the challenge of mass migration and the integration of refugees; the reconfiguration of political and economic relationships in light of failing economies, trade wars and Brexit; climate change and international environmental policies; the cultural negotiation of hybrid or fluid identities; new policies focused on terrorism and security – all of these phenomena play out in the European theatre, almost always triangulated, that is, in relation to the United States. Accordingly, ample attention is being paid here in the U.S. to developments, negotiations and changes taking place in Europe, including in the American national press, yet the discussion of European Affairs on U.S. campuses is rarely as vibrant, diverse, informed and comprehensive as that of the correspondents who write about Europe or that which is taking place in Europe itself.
The European project, as German author Robert Menasse maintained (winner of the prestigious 2017 German book prize with his Brussels-centered European novel The Capital) was from its inception aimed at overcoming the nation state, which is why the consideration of European nations within national boundaries creates artificial barriers to the understanding of the transnational movement of people, goods, and ideas, as well as new political or social formations. “In this period of renewed populism and nationalism,” Menasse was cited in a January 2018 profile in the New York Times, “it sounds crazy to develop a new transnational European democracy.” Yet, he added, “all the big challenges we face today are transnational.”
Because the transatlantic relationship between the U.S. and European countries is both of greatest significance and, at the moment, extraordinarily fragile, extending and deepening the study of Germany through Europe, and of Europe through Germany, seems imperative for leading public and private institutions of higher learning with strong German programs and research faculty in European studies, such as the University of Georgia and the University of Notre Dame. This is why we proposed a week-long residential seminar in Germany’s capital that would allow faculty and advanced graduate students to engage in issues related to European affairs with experts from different societal sectors.
The inaugural seminar took place from May 27 – June 2, 2018 and brought together a total of twenty participants from the two institutions, representing no fewer than fourteen different disciplines, ranging from German, Russian and French studies, History, Psychology and English to Business, Journalism, Architecture, Political Theory and International Affairs. The program featured speakers hailing from countries such as France, Poland, Hungary, Great Britain, the Ukraine, the Netherlands, Russia, Ireland, Bulgaria, Syria, the U.S., and, of course, Germany who represented expertise in international affairs, art, literature, environmental history and policy, political science, economics, government, and journalism.
During the regular sessions, speakers gave short introductory presentations followed by extensive discussion with seminar participants. The seminar also hosted two public events focused on transatlantic relations and Brexit respectively. Several times we left the seminar room to visit the Heinrich-Böll Foundation, the Irish Embassy, the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, and Berlin’s first post-migrant theatre, the Maxim Gorki Theater. Finally, the seminar also used the city of Berlin as a location exemplifying transnational Europe through a walking tour of Kreuzberg.
The diversity of participants and presenters, the carefully sequenced presentations and interlocking discussions, as well as the thorough preparation of participants through pre-assigned readings led to highly engaging seminar, which included sessions that were energetic and probing, substantive and productive, driven by the desire to learn about and consider the many current issues that affect Germany, Europe, and transatlantic relations.
Please click here for a detailed seminar schedule.