Participant Testimonials 2018 (in alphabetical order)
Derrick Angermeier Graduate Student, History (University of Georgia) Why Europe now is a question that presses me as elements within the United State contemplate moving on from our European allies. I am a historian and at UGA I generally am involved in the survey course of European history that runs from 1500 to the Present. That time period is defined by warfare brought about by intrigue on the European continent, warfare that spread across the globe until 1945. After that the U.S. took a firmer hand and Europe worked towards greater cooperation. I enjoyed participating in this seminar because it gave me an even clearer understanding of the ways that Europe is connected and how those connections have helped encourage less war between European countries. Many issues still remain, among them breakouts of regional wars, but the direction Europe is moving is positive and I will put the information gained from this seminar towards helping American students understand not only the path that led Europe towards greater reconciliation, but the value of that reconciliation along with the threats to those efforts.
More specifically this Seminar has encouraged me to rework various phases of the survey course I am teaching this fall. I intend on including more on Poland, Ireland, and the Balkan region thanks in large part to the panels and speakers we observed. Additionally, this seminar has helped me sharpen my comprehension of Transnational History, a talent I am already putting to use as I hit the job market this year. My job portfolio is very much themed on me being a Transnational Historian and this seminar assisted me in gaining the appropriate jargon and experience to market myself. I have a few ideas for programs to benefit UGA related to the seminar, but those depend on my assignment for the Spring. If I were to have my own course, I would like to have students present publicly on a transnational aspect of the course I teach. Regardless of my assignment, I want to say that I valued this experience and wherever my academic path takes me I would very much like to cooperate with and duplicate the success of this seminar and UGA’s Transnational European Studies program. Thank you so much for this amazing and tremendously beneficial opportunity.
Charlie Coughlin Graduate Student, Business (University of Notre Dame) I cannot say enough great things about my experience with the University of Notre Dame and The University of Georgia at the Berlin Seminar in Transnational European Studies. The way in which the organizers combined educational and cultural events to create such an enriching week was second to none. It was a privilege to be exposed to not only the speakers during the seminar, but also the fellow participants. I not only gained knowledge of complex issues facing the European Union and fell in love with the city of Berlin, but also built what are sure to be long-lasting relationships with the people I was lucky enough to spend the week with. The first Berlin Seminar in Transnational European Studies was an astounding success and I believe that the best is still yet to come with this phenomenal program.
Ben Ehlers Associate Professor, History (University of Georgia) The Berlin Seminar in Transnational European Studies proved invaluable for the advancement of European Studies at UGA, particularly in the area of research. The faculty from Notre Dame complemented the strengths of the UGA participants well in terms of expertise and methodology, and I have continued to correspond with several of them since June. The group met with an impressive array of scholars, artists, politicians and others, examining a range of themes from multiple perspectives. I was struck by the different angles from which we viewed the question of cosmopolitanism and nationalism, or the tension between the dream of Europe – reduced tariffs, ease of travel, collaboration in diplomacy and trade – versus the rise of parties in Hungary, Italy, and elsewhere devoted to defining themselves in opposition to Europe through language, culture, and history.
The Berlin Seminar also promises to enhance UGA’s membership in the Council for European Studies in several respects. I presented a paper on Brexit at the CES conference in Chicago this spring, and revised it for publication extensively as a result of conversations with scholars in Berlin (particularly Fintan O’Toole). Our discussions in Germany have also helped to shape my thinking on the subject of the 2019 CES conference in Madrid, on “Sovereignties in Contention: Nations, Regions and Citizens in Europe.” Having joined a new working group in the CES dedicated to cultural approaches to European Studies, I am planning a panel submission on the theme of Catalonia, Scotland, and centripetal forces in Western Europe. The CES also offers grants for faculty and graduate students for which we are now eligible as members of the group. These projects and applications will be much stronger on account of our participation in the stimulating seminar on European Studies in Berlin.
Korey Garibaldi Assistant Professor, American Studies (University of Notre Dame) My time in Berlin participating in the Transnational European Studies Seminar was invaluable. I met several senior faculty (including several scholars from the University of Georgia, who I would not have met in any other venue) who I now consider colleagues and active mentors, the latter of which will be incredibly helpful as I begin my third year as an assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame. In addition to an intellectually generative week of meeting key thinkers, artists, and leading professionals across Europe's government sector, my time in Berlin was instrumental in furthering a number of current and future research projects. Multiple colleagues from our seminar gave advice on writing my first book proposal. Another colleague helped identify several archives I now plan to incorporate into a future transatlantic monograph (and which also improved my research statement for the inaugural Yale Humboldt Travel Grant for scholars working transnationally on European history).
In sum, it would be difficult to overstate how useful the time in Europe was. In addition to visits to several state museums in Berlin, with assistance from a German language scholar I toured central areas of the Holy Roman Empire, all of which will figure into an undergraduate course I am teaching this fall, "Integration in the U.S. and Europe." Ambitious in scope, the course will trace the history and concept of "integration" from Rousseau's Social Contract (1762) up to the so-called global revolutions of 1968. I have no doubt that I have crafted a stronger course -- that, in turn, will generate more student interest -- thanks to the curriculum, scholars and experiences unique to the inaugural Transnational European Studies Seminar.
Spencer Hawkins Postdoc, German Studies (University of Notre Dame) The Transnational European Studies Seminar (TES) stages a dialogue between scholars and thinkers working in Europe outside of the academy. The three main reasons for the program’s success were the selection of speakers, the residential model, and the engagement with contemporary Berlin as an educational site. Most TES speakers were not academics, but rather engaged with the public through arts, media, and politics. TES’s residential model encouraged us to think analytically about experiences we were having in Berlin. Many events showed us features of Berlin that speakers had discussed: we saw a hybrid 1920s period-appropriate/post-Gastarbeiter setting of Ödön von Horváth’s Glaube Liebe Hoffnung at the Maxim Gorki Theater, and the next day we met the theater’s artistic director who described her goal of promoting a less elitist theater culture in Germany, and the value she saw in state sponsorship for achieving this goal. She opened the discussion by informing us that the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) political party made defunding her theater their first item of business after securing a number of seats in the Bundestag. Because we had a chance to experience the kind of intercultural dialogue that the AfD found threatening, we have a more robust background for understanding the resurgence of the right in Germany.
The day before we saw the play, I had entered into a conversation about the role of theater and cinema on public perceptions of nationalism and multiculturalism with University of Georgia German Professor Brigitte Rossbacher. We had both watched Fatih Akin’s new movie about Neo-Nazis on the flight over to Berlin, and discussed representations of the German right while we walked through Kreuzberg. We were feeling particularly aware of Berlin’s left-wing, non-conformist reputation, since we had just finished a city tour about Berlin’s street art, small business models, and urban squatters. Such moments will continue to inspire my thinking on how to design socially relevant courses for students and how to produce research that is relevant to a public beyond the ivory tower.
Jonathan Haddad Assistant Professor, Romance Languages (University of Georgia) At a moment when the U.S. political landscape resembles increasingly that of Europe, where the current administration reflects the populist politics and white nationalist ideology that have long simmered in Europe and the American Left seeks to revive programmatic elements from currently foundering social democratic European parties, the past and future of Europe concern more than ever the direction of the United States. Moreover, the centrality of migrants and asylum-seekers in current discussions of European identity and borders provokes a broader, more universal question about nationhood that inform a variety of fields from History to the visual arts.
As a scholar that seeks to challenge the cultural distinctions that define French and Islamic identities from a literary and historical perspective, I benefited greatly from the Berlin Seminar in Transnational European Studies. In particular, the performance at the Maxim Gorki Theater and the subsequent discussion with Sasha Marianna Salzmann inspired me to reflect on multilingualism and identity in literary texts. This is particularly important as I plan a doctoral seminar on theories and representations of “foreign language” in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French literature in Spring 2019. I also intend to participate in welcoming Salzmann to the UGA campus, as several of my colleagues had expressed this desire during the seminar. In addition, I gathered significant information, from discussions of immigration policy to meetings with refugees in a teacher-training program that will allow me to expand my France and Islam curriculum for French students to a more generalized Europe and Islam First-Year Odyssey Seminar. Finally, the opportunity to meet with scholars from Notre Dame and the time allotted for discussions with my UGA colleagues from across disciplines makes me eager to maintain these connections within a formal working group at UGA.
Dianne Pinderhughes Professor, Political Science and Africana Studies (University of Notre Dame) The Berlin Seminar in Transnational European Studies, May 27 – June 3, 2018, was an unparalleled opportunity to explore a fully dimensioned social, economic, political and cultural space. The Seminar provided an interdisciplinary group of scholars and graduate students from three institutions, the University of Georgia, public, Emory University and the University of Notre Dame, private, the chance to visit, live in, and make full use of Berlin, East and West, and the artistic developments that have evolved within its environment. The Seminar introduced the participants to photographers, artists, journalists, diplomats, academics, political scientists, actors, and writers in Berlin, an exciting and complex city. As the significance of the Trump Presidency, and Brexit took clearer shape in the first half of 2018, the Seminar’s agenda positioned the group to interact with and to discuss in a serious and extended way, nationalism, populism and migration with Germans, Poles, French, Irish, and Eastern Europeans. I could not imagine a more exciting educational framework. I commend the organizers for having designed the Berlin Seminar.
Ivanka Pjesivac Assistant Professor, Journalism and Mass Communication (University of Georgia) Berlin Seminar in Transnational European studies provided a unique opportunity for me, as a scholar of international and cross-cultural communication, to get inside perspectives from knowledgeable speakers on processes that are currently shaping European socio-political, economic, and cultural surroundings. The discussions that arose among the participants of the seminar and invited guests, on issues such as populism, immigration, relations among the European Union members, and trans-Atlantic relationships, produced not only enticing intellectual debates, but also created important new knowledge applicable to academic teaching and research contexts. In current political and social happenings which challenge the coherence of the European integration, stability of trans-Atlantic cooperation, and overall Western values, it is important that scholars and experts from various disciplines critically assess those challenges in order to provide meaningful analysis and offer potential solutions. It was evident that the organizers invested substantial efforts in meticulously preparing the program, making sure that each activity enriches the experiences of the participants and contributes to the overall goal of the seminar. I was impressed with organizers’ dedication and engagement into the program, with the variety and the quality of the speakers and participants, and with organizers’ extreme attention to details, including the selection of accommodation and food for participants and visits to the city. It is my impression that the seminar was an excellent start of a larger dedication to the study of trans-national European issues that hopefully will last many years.
I will use the knowledge and the ideas generated in this seminar when teaching international and cross-cultural communication. In my future classes, I plan to dedicate a class on lecturing transnational European issues as applied to cross-cultural communication. This could also benefit my mentoring of graduate students, both Masters and Ph.D., some of whom are comparatively examining American and European issues. For my own research agenda, I would like to move forward with the examination of populism in news media across Europe and the United States, and potentially establish a collaboration/cooperation with the UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs, Dr. Cas Mudde, as well as with Sudha David-Wilp from the German Marshall Fund, and Atika Shubert from CNN. Finally, I would like to propose to Grady’s administration to invite some of the speakers from Berlin seminar to visit our college. Particularly, I think the work of Viktoria Sorochinski, who mixes documentary photography and fiction, could be of interest for Grady photojournalism and multimedia students, while the writings of the award-winning Irish author Fintan O’Toole on Brexit could be a valuable journalistic example.
Jed Rasula Helen S. Lanier Distinguished Professor, English (University of Georgia) The Berlin seminar was a stimulating experience all around. It provided sustained and meaningful interaction with a choice group of faculty and students not only from various departments at UGA but from the University of Notre Dame. This level of interaction with members of another institution was vital, I think, to the success of the seminar—a rare and welcome opportunity for professional contact outside the usual venues provided by conferences and meetings of specialized research interests. The multi-disciplinary focus was clearly the fertilizing agent behind the seminar’s success. The visiting speakers were judiciously selected and they consistently enriched the ongoing discussions with the wealth of perspectives they brought to the table. The topics selected by the organizers proved to be an effective way of focusing on the subject of transnational Europe. The agenda was so fruitful, in fact, that it could easily be extended beyond the week devoted to the seminar. This certainly portends well for the same or similar enterprises going forward. It was, above all, invigorating, and I use that adjective to mean something uncommon, welcome, and memorable.
Brigitte RossbacherAssociate Professor German Studies (University of Georgia) The Berlin Seminar in Transnational European Studies presented a remarkable opportunity to increase knowledge of current European politics and culture from a transnational perspective. I was particularly impressed by the careful organization of the seminar, which allowed participants to learn about and discuss current European political, social and cultural issues through various interdisciplinary lenses. These ranged from political explications of European and US populism to photographs by a Ukrainian-German visual artist of her childhood memories of a Ukraine village to the voices of Syrian immigrants training to work in the German school system. Beyond the scheduled events, the seminar offered time and space for more informal intellectual exchange with colleagues in other departments and from other disciplines and institutions. The seminar thus succeeded in laying the groundwork for increased interdisciplinary collaboration, which is particularly important at an historical juncture marked by mass immigration, the rise of right-wing populism, decreased stability of post-WWII alliances and an increasingly adversarial relationship between European countries with the US.
The seminar helped to provide me with new perspectives on my own research and teaching in German studies. For example, I will focus my graduate seminar this spring on transnational memory studies, which represents a shift in the theoretical approach and literary texts that have informed my research to date. An article I am currently writing on Katja Petrowskaja’s German-Russian-Polish-Ukrainian memory work Vielleicht Esther will also reflect this transnational perspective. The seminar has also led me to rethink the organization of my First Year Odyssey course on the Berlin Wall, in which I foresee taking a more explicit transnational perspective and including a unit on post-Wall gentrification and Berlin street art and graffiti, inspired by the guided alternative tour the seminar offered. I returned to Athens with renewed energy and greater excitement about collaborating with colleagues in research and teaching initiatives and increasing the knowledge and presence of Transnational European Studies on our campus.
Meltem SafakGraduate Student, Comparative Literature (University of Georgia) The Berlin Seminar was a truly informative as well as an engaging experience. People with different backgrounds from different disciplines and cultures came together to understand what Europe is today and to identify the major conflicts and possible negotiations inside and outside of Europe. Both academic and non-academic guest speakers also brought completely fresh perspectives into our discussions.
In everyday life we are most of the time exposed to the mainstream perspectives of political issues. Having the representors of leading political parties along with the refugees, who are the ones experiencing the political conflicts directly, in the same environment was a unique opportunity. The seminar itself kept the focus on the most contemporary conjunctures of Europe such as the refugees, the conflict between the U.S. and Europe, so I believe there is still a lot more to discuss and explore about Europe in regard to its inner dynamics and its relations with the rest of the world. Hopefully, the atmosphere we set in Berlin will stay with us in Athens to maintain the interest we raised and the discussions we cultivated. The Berlin Seminar certainly enriched my current and future academic endeavors.
Mary Shiraef Graduate Student, Political Theory (University of Notre Dame) At the beginning of this summer I was fortunate enough to participate in the inaugural weeklong Transnational European Seminar (TES) in Berlin, a joint product between the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and the University of Georgia.
It was truly a remarkable conference because, in addition to inviting faculty and graduate students from many disciplines, the organizers made an intentional effort to ask speakers from all areas of European society. From artists to journalists to politicians to refugees to ecologists to political scientists, TES gave them equal platforms to have a conversation with us from their perspectives. The result was that we caught a glimpse of some of Europe’s most pressing issues and each took away a broadened perspective of our own to illuminate our own research in many different academic fields.
There were several highlights, but perhaps my favorites were the two opportunities we had to have a discussion with Fintan O’Toole, a columnist and literary editor for the Irish Times. O’Toole’s insightful but unassuming contributions on the problems facing Europe and Ireland provided an important context for our conference. He first delivered a public lecture on Brexit and resurging nationalism(s) in Europe; and the following morning he took on a public conversation at the Embassy of Ireland with Michael Collins, the Irish ambassador to Germany with discernment and grace. For instance, he even responded to a question from the audience about the relationship between the press and politicians, and despite his shared platform, he stated should be one of enduring enmity.
Another highlight for me was our two sessions with political scientist Cas Mudde, who explicated for us his very concise definition of populism, avoiding the ambiguities of that term and instead giving us a lens to think about both European crises and ones in the U.S.
In addition to our daily discussions, one evening we attended a play called “Ödön von Horváth” at the gorgeous Maxim Gorki Theater. It was the best play I have ever seen, and it grew my interest in German theatre a great deal. The following morning we had the privilege of hosting the director of the theater at our seminar, just one example of how each event tied together beautifully and built upon the last.
I was amazed throughout the week and as a graduate student who has attended many a conference, I can say this one was the most helpful to my personal academic growth and research. Following the conference, I went to Greece to design my dissertation and having the context of transnationalism and the European Union in mind from the conference has shaped my thinking in a very productive way.
I want to thank the directors, William Donahue, Cavanaugh Professor of the Humanities and Chair of the Department of German and Russian Languages and Literatures at Notre Dame; Martin Kagel, A.G. Steer Professor of Germanic and Slavic Studies and Associate Dean of the Franklin College at the University of Georgia; and Nicholas Allen, Franklin Professor of English and Director of the Willson Center at the University of Georgia, as well as the graduate student assistant, Sandra McGury. Their combined efforts are what allowed the participants to sit back, absorb, and engage with such crucial and stimulating information in our troubled political time. I also want to thank the many donors who made it possible for us to get there in the first place. It was time well spent which I recommend to any graduate student interested in European Studies; if I’m lucky, I will remain a part of the TES (hopefully annual?) summer event.
John Short Associate Professor, History (University of Georgia) The Berlin Seminar stands out to me for its careful thematic layering, opening up a topic in lucid, head-on fashion, then coming at it again from an altered perspective, both deepening and expanding understanding. The problem of populism in contemporary Europe––the transnational phenomenon par excellence––is first laid out concretely and generally in group readings, and this knowledge then obliquely structures encounters with representatives of competing political visions of the national and supranational, the local and cosmopolitan. A discussion that begins primarily around continental developments is reenergized by a turn to, for example, Anglo-Irish perspectives. Successive layers reinforced by continuing group discussion ultimately make it possible for scholars across disciplines to work in a shared analytic framework and to meaningfully discuss the most disparate themes, from Ukrainian photography and Irish reactions to Brexit to Polish national history and contemporary German theater––among many others. As a historian of modern Europe, it is no stretch to connect this kind of work to my efforts both in the archive and in the classroom––and above all, I think, where those meet. The contemporary transnational perspective is currently reorienting European studies around questions of migration, globalization and integration and this appears for me most urgently in my teaching, where I am moving to reshape courses to help students grasp what is at stake in the intensifying discussion of the post-war European order. Just as important, I think, among the after-effects of the seminar will be the intellectual reverberations back in Athens, where faculty and students will share a sense of challenge and stimulation and will work to institutionalize it within and across departments.
Alexander (Sasha) Spektor Assistant Professor, Russian Studies (University of Georgia) To speak of Europe as it was conceived by the seminar is to speak of different voices, cultures, and positions that remain distinct as they try to come together. In this sense, the concept of Europe proposed at the seminar approaches Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of polyphony – a chorus of independent participants, whose truths about the world refuse to be subjugated into a single vision. Be it the migrant crisis, the rise of European populism, Brexit, or global warming – the cracks that threaten the idea of Europe as a coherent entity appear as an integral part of its design, generating friction that is both inexhaustible and productive. This friction’s impact on the lives of individuals whose geographic location far exceeds the European continent is hard to overestimate and demands our urgent attention.
Of particular importance to me was entering into conversation with European artists. The work of these nomads-by-choice interrogates the lines of tension that lie at the very heart of Europe as the space whose boundaries are in a state of constant formation and dissolution. Their work accounts for the gains and losses associated with attempts to co-exist in a common space, while remaining connected to one’s origins. The exposure to artists whose cultural affiliation does not fit into national boundaries forced me to think about the boundaries of my own discipline and will certainly affect the choice of material for my future courses. Most importantly, the seminar allowed me to enter into a conversation with other colleagues from different fields and invited open interdisciplinary collaboration.
Heather Stanfiel Graduate Student, History (University of Notre Dame) I found the TES Berlin seminar to be exceptionally great preparation for teaching my interdisciplinary summer course this year on the history of conflict and commemoration in the Western world. Thanks to the thought-provoking readings, lectures, and discussions with colleagues, I was able to incorporate a better understanding of populism into my class lectures, as well as more fully engage my students in class discussion about issues of European identity and national (and transnational) ideologies. The wide array of examples that I could offer as a result of my experience with TES helped my students to grasp core concepts and make broader connections between the course material and the “real world.” In addition, the seminar afforded me the opportunity to visit relevant commemorative sites in Berlin in the context of broader interdisciplinary discussions, which encouraged me to think more deeply about the context and impact of EU-funded memory projects. On the whole, the seminar offered a rare opportunity to engage with like-minded colleagues from across the disciplines to explore familiar topics in new and exciting ways. This experience most certainly improved my summer class and will continue to aid my thinking as I complete my dissertation this year as a Nanovic Dissertation Fellow.
Anré Venter Professor, Psychology (University of Notre Dame) I attended the TES in Berlin together with my colleague, Lucien Steil (Professor in Architecture). Lucien and I have been co-teaching a series of seminar classes examining the relationship between the environment (built and unbuilt) and human experience typically set in European contexts (Paris, Berlin, and Rimini). These courses have been truly interdisciplinary not simply because they have combined architecture (Lucien's field) and psychology (my field) - but rather they have included issues of art, literature, theatre, politics, anthropology, neuroscience, and sustainability for example.
The TES seminar was particularly useful and enriching to us because of two major factors. First, its focus on understanding populism (one aspect of the human experience) from a broad interdisciplinary perspective - encompassing political science, literature, art and theatre, history, and German studies. This rich intellectual experience provided us with new insights into the issues we have been covering in our courses. Second, the rich intellectual diversity and the quality of conversation among the participants was as, if not more, valuable to us both personally and professionally. Too often nowadays academics are cutoff from those in other disciplines and do not benefit from cross-disciplinary input. This seminar provided an immersive interdisciplinary experience that has proved to be a fertile source for new insights and ideas for our upcoming course this fall.
Jakub Wondreys Graduate Student, International Affairs (University of Georgia) Berlin Seminar in Transnational European Studies was truly a unique experience. Unique in a way that it brought together very diverse core of people, both speakers and attendees, ranging wide across different disciplines of social sciences, around one common theme. That is Europe today. This sort of set up and a possibility to hear opinions on very familiar issues from very different perspectives was very enriching and certainly useful for my future career in academia.
“Why Europe now?” was a surrounding question during the whole seminar. I feel that through many talks we have attended, we could have clearly find a different set of answers to this question. I believe that from an American perspective, we have observed some sort of calls to get back to Europe, and specifically to Germany, as the main point of reference given a crisis of liberal democracy in the United States. On the other side, I believe it was important that we have seen that Europe itself is facing many transformations and challenges. We are witnessing these crucial changes and new tasks, and they are directly affecting us. Therefore, I believe it is very important to pay attention to them, be able to process them, and react to them.
Magdalena Zurawski Assistant Professor, English (University of Georgia) The Seminar in Transeuropean studies could not have been more timely. Given our nation's own shifting relationship to Europe, the seminar's focus on current affairs served as a strong reminder of the historical alliances that are currently under stress. As I prepare now to teach 20th C. American poetry, the transcultural, multinational exchanges that have enriched our 'national' literature affirm the cultural exhibits and practices showcased in the Berlin Seminar. As a creative writer, I was struck by the multinational life stories of the artists presenting contemporary literary and artistic works to the seminar. The writing and photographs were the products of both literal and imaginary uprootings that compose the stories of both European and North America Culture.
Practically speaking, the seminar facilitated intellectual relationships with faculty from other departments, who I imagine will be valuable colleagues in developing my own interests in Eastern European studies. The seminar's location in Berlin allowed me to arrange a reading independently of the program together with one seminar participant from Notre Dame, a reading attended by two of the seminar's guest speakers from earlier in the week. In this small way, we had our own exchange of work and were able to see our own writings in an international light. In the near future I hope to co-host with the Wilson Center and Russian Studies a campus visit by the playwright Sascha Marianna Salzmann who visited our seminar.