Event Highlights: Works in Progress Meeting “The Thorn in the Side: How Six US Presidents Dealt with the Challenge of Charles de Gaulle.” by Professor William Keylor

October 26th, 2017 in Event Highlights

Last Wednesday, October 18th, Professor Keylor presented his research on America’s leaders’ perspectives on the often controversial Charles de Gaulle. The research, which spans from the Second World War to the late 1960s, touched on several US presidents and how they dealt with their French counterpart.

Professor Keylor discussed FDR’s chilly attitude towards de Gaulle and France’s shunning from the “Big Three” in post-war negotiations. Despite this, France was able to secure a zone of occupation in Germany and a permanent seat in the UN security council due to Western European concerns that the US would leave Europe alone in the face of the threat of Eastern Communism. His research continues through the Truman era and various shifts in the tone of US-French relations and ends with de Gaulle possibly finding a friend and partner in the Nixon-Kissinger administration, but public discontent with de Gaulle in France saw the end of de Gaulle’s influence in French politics. Professor Keylor ended by summing up US relations with de Gaulle as a “thorn in the side of US foreign policy.”

The talk also bled into current hot topics with Professor Keylor pointing out that “Brexit is the ultimate outcome of what de Gaulle was doing in Europe.” in reference to de Gaulle’s deep seated distrust of Great Britain and his desire to bar them from the conversations on European cooperation and unity.

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Event Highlights: Addressing the Recognition Gap: Destigmatization and the Reduction of Inequality – A Lecture by Michèle Lamont

September 29th, 2017 in Event Highlights

Last Monday, September 18, Boston University’s brand new Center for Integrated Life Sciences and Engineering building was host to one of the world’s most influential current sociologists, Michèle Lamont. Lamont is a Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies, and Director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, as well as former president for the American Sociological Society.

As a cultural and comparative sociologist, Lamont has written a dozen books and edited volumes and nearly one hundred articles, chapters, and features on sociological topics ranging from racism and stigma to culture and social change. She was recently awarded the 2017 Erasmus prize for her devoted contribution to social science research into the relationship between knowledge, power, and diversity.

Her lecture at Boston University not only allowed attendees a peek into her past research (she spoke about one of her most recent publications, a book called Getting Respect that she co-authored that sets a new global agenda for the comparative analysis of race and ethnicity). With a focus on how vulnerable populations defend themselves from oppression, Lamont explored the interconnectivity between two crucial parts of inequality: recognition and distribution.

From the achievement gap to the recognition gap, Lamont states that there are dire consequences when social groups lack recognition and distribution. “For example, the poor are more stigmatized in the United States than in other industrialized societies. There is little compassion, little solidarity for the poor. They feel alone, and out of luck.”

“It’s not only about feeling good,” Lamont shares. There are more consequences for people who don’t have a strong sense of this sort of groupness, on top of feeling ostracized from society; Lamont names health disparities like chronic stress, limited access to material resources, and an overall silencing of their voices as just a few of the costs of these inequalities.

How, then, are these messages being perpetuated? “Institutions contain messages about who’s in and who’s out,” Lamont posits. That facet is in direct contrast to what the goal of a successful society should be: “to extend cultural membership to the largest possible number of people.” In short, we should be making everyone feel like they belong.

This extension of cultural membership doesn’t just mean grandiose acts of mutual respect; it means the little things too. “Often times,” Lamont explains, “these groups face assaults on worth.” They are insulted, ignored, and overlooked. “These are things you can’t sue about,” she adds, because often the problem lies in things that do not happen—like exclusion, for example.”

Sharing her own research for her aforementioned book Getting Respect, Lamont discussed how inequality and stigmatization have yet to be fully grasped by both sociologists and the media. “The media talk and talk, but they don’t have the analytical vocabulary required to develop an empirical sociological outlook on the recognition and stigmatization processes,” she posits.

In an interview about Getting Respect, Lamont said it best. “I believe we can create inclusion in the context of the law, through narratives, through social policy, and by using institutional tools and cultural repertoires together to create shared notions of solidarity.”

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Event Highlights: Irish Voices – A Reading & Conversation with Irish Poet Harry Clifton

May 1st, 2017 in Event Highlights

On Tuesday, April 18th, Irish poet Harry Clifton was the guest speaker at the Center for the Study of Europe, reading from his collection of poems, Secular Eden: Paris Notebooks 1994-2004. Clifton started the conversation by briefly describing different types of Irish poets and the complex emotions arising from the placement of Ireland within the broader interpretation of what it means to ‘be European’. Joking he said, “as an Irish poet you are caught – as they say in the economic debate – between Boston or Berlin, and you are asked to choose ‘are you on the Berlin side or are you on the Boston side?”

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Clifton then gave the background of his poem “Euclid Avenue,” which was written 30 years ago while Clifton was a visiting fellow at the Iowa International Writers Conference. While the poem is a reflection upon his university days, Clifton explained his childhood experience, “growing up in Ireland in the 1950s and ‘60s, you were part of a post-independence Ireland where the poetry was part of what you might call the ‘pedagogy’ – it was coming from above down and it was lots of early Yates, lots of folk identity – very beautiful poetry but if, as in my case, you grew up in a city and you had other roots, cosmopolitan roots, you found that you had to go looking for a voice somewhere else.” He then delved into describing his exposure to two things during university which profoundly influenced his writing: European philosophy and modern American poetry. After discovering the fantastic spectrum of 20th century American poetry, Clifton explained his fascination with Hart Crane’s work, including the intriguing fragment of a poem. Introducing his poem, “Euclid Avenue,” Clifton commented that the “words ‘Euclid Avenue’ were like a poem in themselves,” and continued by admitting, while a common name in suburban America, the ‘Euclid Avenue’ had an “energy…like a coiled spring” and that there was something “quite American, and different” about the words. Clifton added “I often feel –when I’m in America – that I’m in a society that’s in perpetual movement, and that I’m always in the presence of an undertone of automotive power. I can hear a sort of ground base of American life in the background all the time and it’s an energy that’s going outwards, whereas Irish energy is often going inwards – it’s an introverted sort of super-historical energy.”

The poet then talked about transitions, and his experience moving from Ireland to the continent at the end of the 1980s, a time when Europe had “come to be considered a museum – a very beautiful place, but somehow frozen.” Clifton continued, “the ice broke in 1989 and the old energies that had been buried emerged from the permafrost of all the Cold War years,” something he identified as a crucial juncture in the re-establishment of Europe. He complimented Europe in its “capacity for dying and resurrecting itself,” and commented on the immortal energies that thrive in Europe. He then read several poems related to his experience in the Apennine Mountains in Italy.

Clifton paused in his readings to discuss his fascination with the mixture of light and darkness in the energy of Europe, stating “I often think of Europe as the conscious of the world, because it has lived through things that other parts of the world might yet live through but haven’t lived through,” emphasizing how his interpretation of ‘conscious’ encompassed both its positive and negative connotations, viewing the idea as an “incubator of things that often come to terrible fruition in other places, as well as in Europe itself.” He then moved on to described the timelessness of Europe in his reading of “The Landbridge” about the pilgrimage route from Paris to Rome, followed by a discussion of the climate and natural environment in Europe before reading “Citrus” and “Daffodils”.

Clifton then explained the relationship between poets and their audience as an “active friendship,” and then opened the floor to a conversation with the audience. After several minutes of Q&A, Clifton transition back into reading from his collection of poems, focusing on those related to Ireland, including a description of a traditional dark humored Irish joke. Clifton read from his poem “Burial With Your People,” which describes a fluid landscape, “half night, half day; half water, half sky – you would not know exactly what side of existence you’re on” and tied the piece back to the “great statement of the melancholic nature of the Irish mind in its approach to things that are life giving, life affirming.”

After a second period of conversation with the audience, Clifton ended by highlighting his personal favorite Irish poetry: the elementary writing of hermits who wrote about the delicacies of nature and raw untouched island. He finished by reading “After Ireland,” his own interpretation of Ireland before the modern era, a piece which, Clifton explained, was his attempt to capture the tone of the early Irish poets he was inspired to emulate.

You can watch the entire conversation here:

This year’s European Voices events are organized in collaboration with the literary journal AGNI and the Goethe-Institut Boston and are taking place as part of EU Futures, a series of conversations exploring the emerging future in Europe. The EU Futures project is supported by a Getting to Know Europe Grant from the European Commission Delegation in Washington, DC to the Center for the Study of Europe at Boston University.

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Event Highlights: Which Future for Democracy in a Post-political Age? A Lecture by Chantal Mouffe

April 25th, 2017 in Event Highlights

On Tuesday, April 11th, the Center for the Study of Europe welcomed Chantal Mouffe, a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster. Beginning with an assessment of the present state of democracy, Mouffe described our contemporary period as a “post-democracy” era in modern democracy is a façade of true democratic principles and values, whereby institutions are controlled by privileged elite members of society. She explained that “emergence of neo-liberal policies has led to the colonization of the state by corporate interests” and how crucial political decisions are being taken outside democratic political channels and thus undermining the transparency expected in a democratic system. Mouffe claimed that the origin of the “post-political” age is loss of legitimacy in democratic institutions and subsequent process of de-politicization in Europe. Agreeing with the generally accepted analysis surrounding the emergence of the current political order, she emphasized the necessity of examining the consequences of the phenomenon and the role of the left in forming possible solutions.

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While her previous book examined the reason for a “post political perspective” in liberal democratic societies, Mouffe talked about its connections to the strategy of the “third way” as conceptualized by sociologist Anthony Giddens. Discussing the approach of Giddens, she explained how his theory argues the necessity of thinking beyond left and right and instead envisage a new type of politics in which a “radical center” transcends the traditional left right divide. Mouffe said that the trend of social democratic parties moving toward the center of the political spectrum in Europe reflects this idea, and added, “according to that approach western societies have entered a second stage of modernity, one they call ‘reflexive modernization’.” She described the now obsolete first state of modernity, referred to as the era of “simple modernization,” and characterized how it was replaced by the adversarial model in which the social democratic leaders believed that adaptation to an increasingly globalized world demanded a movement toward the “center left,” a trend which spread from the UK to Germany and then across Europe. Under the pretense of modernizing the social democratic project, these leaders instead abandoned the project and capitulated to neo-liberalism, “convinced there was no alternative to the current form of global financial capitalism those parties have accepted the framework established by neo-liberal hegemony”.

Mouffe criticized the abandonment of the social democratic project by party leaders, noting the self-imposed limitations of trying to “humanize neo-liberal globalization”. She acknowledged the lack of interest in politics and blurring of policies presented by the center right and center left has led to the emergence of of populist groups appearing “to be the only ones offering an alternative to the existing order.” Mouffe talked the question of traditional democratic elements – rule of law, declarations of human rights, and the idea of popular sovereignty – being declared as obsolete and resulting in the abandonment of the struggle for equality by the center left parties in favor of liberal values. She discussed the precarious position of working class people and their role in the post-democratic European order. Demanding democracy beyond representation, Mouffe described the movements within various sectors of European society which seek to actively participate in the democratic system. Today it is a “crisis of representative democracy,” and she presented her view that the refusal to accept the post-political order and subsequent protests “can be read as a call for radicalization of liberal democratic institutions not for their rejection.” Mouffe continued that the overarching goal is more inclusive representation, and said that the political system must be transformed to one in which the individual is offered a voice. She condemned the desertion of existing democratic institutions, and instead presented the idea of citizens engaging with institutions in order to profoundly transform them, a “strategy of the radicalization of democracy,” which “requires the emergence of a progressive project that will offer an alternative to the post-political liberal consensus which is dominant in center left parties.”

Mouffe discussed the debate between horizontalism and verticalism within the left, and added “if we are thinking of having some impact it is necessary to transform institutions, necessary to articulate these dimensions with some form of channeling toward institutions some form of an electoral war machine.” She articulated her belief that, in order to address the crisis of representative democracy, there must be a formulation of a progressive project offering an alternative to the status quo, an aging monument of neoliberalism. Commenting on the kind of political movement that such a political movement would require, she argued that there must be framework in which the people can establish an open dialogue with the establishment, something she termed “left wing populism.” She explained how the reestablishment of a democratic core in the post-political age demands the construction of a populist movement that promotes an agenda of left-wing values. Mouffe noted how “we are – all of us – subjected to the logic of capitalism,” and then added “the ‘us’ of the collective will that is going to be organized by the left wing is much more transversal, it can bring together – around the idea of collective will – many more groups than those traditionally associated with the left.”

Mouffe emphasized her deep conviction that her interpretation of an emergent “left wing populism” is the only feasible solution to fighting right wing populism. She insisted that this left wing populism should have a European dimension because “it is obvious that if the end is to offer an alternative to neoliberalism, this is not going to be possible only at the national level.” Convinced that the left wing populist movement demands an “agonistic confrontation about the future of Europe,” Mouffe alleged “many people on the left are beginning to dodge constructing a future within the framework of the EU alternative to the neoliberal model of globalization.” She continued “the EU is increasingly perceived as being an intrinsically neoliberal project – a project that cannot be reformed.” Mouffe condemned the perspective carried by many European leaders today that exiting the EU is superior to reforming it, and blamed such pessimistic anti-European sentiments for feeding into the rhetoric used by right-wing populist groups. Rather than turning toward Euroscepticism and the abandonment of the European project as whole, Mouffe told the audience that legitimate criticisms of the current neoliberal policies would lead to the reformations necessary to transition the EU toward a democratic future.

In Mouffe’s view, “what lies at the bottom of the disaffection toward the EU is the absence of a project that could foster a strong identification among the citizens of Europe and provide an objective to mobilize their political passion in a democratic direction.” She explained how the EU is formed around people “as consumers rather than citizens,” and claimed that the lack of a common will as a central weakness of the project. Mouffe argued that in order to foster popular allegiance to the EU, there must be “an elaboration of a social political project offering an alternative to the neoliberal model…the old model cannot continue, but the new one is not yet born.” She placed responsibility upon European institutions and national governments in contributing to the current crisis and discussed the failed attempts of using neoliberal solutions to solve a neoliberal crisis. To stop the growth of right wing parties and the spread of anti-European sentiments, Mouffe concluded with a warning to the audience, questioning a future in which right wing populists succeed in destroying the European project. She ended by calling upon leaders to unite “European citizens around a new vision…a project that could give them hope for a democratic future – establishing, at the European level, a synergy between left parties and social movements…[which] could make possible the emergence of a collective will and radical transformation of the current hegemonic order…to mobilize people’s hopes and passions toward a more just and equalitarian society.”

You can watch the entire lecture on the EU for You YouTube channel:

This event takes place as part of a new initiative entitled “Interferences,” a series of events on issues pertinent to democratic politics in the US and Europe. Organized as part of EU Futures, a series of conversations exploring the emerging future in Europe. The EU Futures project is supported by a Getting to Know Europe Grant from the European Commission Delegation in Washington, DC.

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Event Highlights: Reconfiguring European States in Crisis – A Lunch Talk by Patrick Le Gales

April 19th, 2017 in Event Highlights

Patrick Le Galès, a CNRS Research Professor of Sociology and Politics at Sciences Po Paris, spoke at the Center for the Study of Europe on Wednesday April 5th, about his recently co-edited book. “Reconfiguring European States in Crisis” offers a ground-breaking analysis by some of Europe’s leading political scientists, examining how the European national state and the European Union state have dealt with two sorts of changes in the last two decades. The central argument of the book is that the processes of Europeanization and globalization have been the main factors undermining state capacity to exercise authority, to control their economics, and to defend their territories.

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As European states become primary policy states, Le Galès explained that internal reforms have occurred as a direct result of democratic pressures and the interdependence within globalizing financial capitalism. He emphasized how Europe has been the continent where states have mattered the most and for the longest time, noting the Treaty of Westphalia in the 17th century as the critical juncture for the emergence of states as the dominant form of political organization. Addressing the multidimensionality of the state, Le Galès spoke about the duality of the European political system and highlighted the hierarchal authority struggle in the management of challenges and crises. Since the early 1990s, Europeans have experienced the state in two forms – within their nation-state and as members of the greater European Union. He noted that the question of state capacity has been brought to the forefront of conversation in Europe, as EU institutions continue to gain authority while Member States fight to retain sovereign control over domestic policy and governance.

After a brief evaluation of the debate surrounding the epistemology of “the state”, Le Galès turned the discussion toward the issue of governmentalization in European states and argued that public policies are major drivers of state reconfigurations because “not only do policies make politics, but policies also help to make or transform institutions and states.” He described the internal and external contemporary challenges facing European countries, and discussed the blurring of state identities resulting from migratory trends in the EU and the role of mobility in shaping both states and policies. Le Galès then discussed how the book interprets how European states have been reconfigured through five processes: globalization, new public–private relationships, policy crises (and the subsequent reform and expansion of institutional authority), the changing scale and number of regulatory agencies, and shifting internal security concerns. He ended by acknowledging how the current crises in fiscal policy, Brexit, security and terrorism, and migration through a borderless European Union have had dramatic effects on European states and offered several “futures” which may emerge in the near future given the rise of nationalistic populist movements across the continent.

This event was organized as part of EU Futures, a series of conversations exploring the emerging future in Europe. The EU Futures project is supported by a Getting to Know Europe Grant from the European Commission Delegation in Washington, DC to the Center for the Study of Europe at Boston University.

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Event Highlights: How Will Capitalism End: Reflections on a Failing System – A Lecture by Wolfgang Streeck

April 18th, 2017 in Event Highlights

Director Emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Wolfgang Streeck gave a lecture at the Center for the Study of Europe on Tuesday, April 4th about his recent book. While his book is about the failings of the contemporary capitalist system and not specifically about the European experience, Streeck began by emphasizing how any discussion of Europe today must embed the subject of the general transformations of global capitalism in recent years. He warned that simple solutions, such as blaming the Germans for imposing austerity, are dangerous as “it’s not that easy – capitalism is more complicated and we [Europeans] are dealing with one of the embodiments of the general crisis of the capitalist system.”

Streeck explained how his book is not a systematically built grand theory, but instead a raw collection of essays. It is an attempt at explaining “to my colleagues in the social sciences that today our disciplines can no longer be productive unless we work in a good part of political economy and unless we begin to understand…the process of material production in its modern form, and that is modern capitalism.” He continued by explaining how his overarching goal is to demonstrate that a return to the late 19th century tradition of blurring the disciplines of economics, political science, and sociology would promote greater analysis of the current world order.

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To summarize the book Streeck said “capitalism is an unlikely social formation – it took, and takes, a lot of effort to institutionalize it and make it work,” and continued by underlining how capitalism is simply “the infinite accumulation of accumulating capital.” He explained how there is no end in sight, as monetized transactions continue to replace traditional transactions and how the process has expanded both horizontally (moving from the center toward the periphery and absorbing as the system spreads) and vertically (as more spheres of life are being identified as potential sites for commodification and monetization).

The lecture then moved to a discussion on the complexities of capitalist dynamics, as Streeck returned to the previous summary of his book, adding that the infinite accumulation of capital is accumulated for the sole purpose of further accumulation. He noted that all major theorists of capitalism have struggled to capture this trend in a conceptual framework, including Marx who described capitalism as a system that is permanently restive, replacing subsistence with maximization. Streeck identified proof of capitalism being an ‘unlikely’ social formation in the theoretical attempts to explain it, noting that “all major theorists of capitalism expected that during their lifetime capitalism would come to an end,” including John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, and Max Weber.

He highlighted his personal interpretation of what he identifies as the ‘three-and-a-half crises of capitalism’ since the 1970s. Beginning with the inflation crisis, Streeck explains how his analysis links this original global financial challenge to the public debt crisis of the 1980s, the private debt crisis of the 90s and early 2000s, and finally to the collapse of the private debt mechanism in 2008. He described how each of these periods had mechanisms which were inventions created to keep the system going after the end of post-war growth and the breakup of the post war regime, and then continued with a discussion of how each crisis transitioned into the next in the past 45 years. Streeck warned that the ‘rule of the central bank’ is limited in time, arguing that we are in the early stages of a fourth period of crisis, in which central banks are dangerously buying up debt and in turn becoming the primary owners and “creditors of last resort” in many countries.

Streeck then began broader discussion of the historical emergence of central banks and the evolution of capitalism in an era of increasing globalization. He added an analysis of the linkages between current political leadership and global capitalism, and explained how many countries have bought into the mentality that “there is no alternative – we have to open up we have to liberalize you have to struggle you have to fight and in the end you’ll do better.” Streeck noted that the reality has been much different, as large chunks of the world population did not flourish but instead suffered, both culturally and economically. He highlighted how in less than 2-3 years he witnessed a strong reversal in opinion in many countries (including the U.S.) as there was a backlash against – and ultimately a destruction of – center-left moderates by the working class population who felt betrayed by the global capitalist system. Streeck then went through the varying experiences of different countries in managing this reaction to modern capitalism, transitioning the conversation to a more specified discussion of the challenges facing Europe.

He ended by asking “where is this beast to be governed?” questioning the role of national sovereignty in the future and the interplay between the managerial positions of political and economic institutions. Streeck described some of the different perspectives and opinions on the fundamental problem of “what is the optimal size of government in the world in which capitalism is global but politics is local or regional or national?” He claimed that no nation has figured out a solution to this major question, and concluded by saying “the interregnum is a time in which the dead body of capitalism is still lying around, but nobody has the power to push it out of the way so that there is a new future.”

The event then transitioned into a Q&A portion, which began with two questions from the moderator Cornel Ban, Assistant Professor of International Relations and Co-Director of the Global Economic Governance Initiative at Boston University, and then opened to the audience.

You can watch the entire lecture on the EU for You channel on YouTube:

This event takes place as part of a new initiative entitled “Interferences,” a series of events on issues pertinent to democratic politics in the US and Europe. Organized as part of EU Futures, a series of conversations exploring the emerging future in Europe. The EU Futures project is supported by a Getting to Know Europe Grant from the European Commission Delegation in Washington, DC.

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Event Highlights: Make the World Think Again: Reason, Hope, and Faith in an Age of Populism – A Lecture by Tomas Halik

April 12th, 2017 in Event Highlights

“A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism,” was the dramatic quote Tomas Halik used to begin his lecture on March 28th, a line taken from the opening page of The Communist Manifesto. Halik started the discussion by speaking about the 150 year legacy of communism in Europe and the world, emphasizing how after the non-violent 1989 revolutions many nations were determined “to build a new democratic, just, and free society.” He spoke about post-communist countries finding the concept of a powerful and united Europe immediately attractive, and how they believed their future advancement was centered upon joining the European project and promoting Western liberal democracy.

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Halik, however, said that these grand ideals have not been fulfilled, warning that and that the world is in the most dangerous place it has been since the end of WWII. He gravely noted “a new spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of populism, nationalism, terrorism, and political extremism.” Halik asked the audience whether these monsters were really unique to the contemporary environment, citing the 1930s era of fascism as a comparative global environment where financial pressures produced such negative social and political reactions. He announced that the greatest consequence of these extremist views is the emerging “crisis of confidence” in which people believe that the present system is incapable of fulfilling expectations.

After discussing the dissent of many populations across Europe and the cynicism in existing institutional frameworks, he turned to criticizing the role of social networks in the fundamental breakdown of the space traditionally reserved for public debate – a centerpiece of classical democracy. Groups of people become “entrapped in their bubbles,” only consuming information that supports their existing convictions and emotions, isolating them from any alternative visions and perspectives on the world. Halik emphasized that such narrow-minded thinking has been exacerbated by the traditional media. He explained how the press has been contributing to the same polarization in reporting on contemporary issues, especially in regards to the phenomena of extremist violence. Halik claimed that the media has inadvertently become the principle allies and tools for terrorists, given that the prime concern of these individuals and factions is not the killing of innocent people but the dissemination of the event to the broadest audience possible.

He then turned to a brief discussion of the interrelationship between politics and religion and the rise of extremist elements in both arenas. In discussing the question of guilt, Halik harshly criticized those who remain complicit during political turbulence, claiming that the the “silent anonymity” of those who stand by the controversial decisions of their leaders are also responsible. He clarified that he cannot condone the usual paths of coming to terms with guilt (witch hunts and displacement of responsibility), instead arguing that a balance between the two extremes is “necessary to seek and to implement a tenuous process of reconciliation and genuine healing.”

Halik then transitioned into a discussion of modern Czech democracy after the fall of communism, explaining some of the difficulties the nation faced with a metaphor: “institutions are like bodily organs – if they are to live and function properly they need blood to circulate, and that role is performed by civil society.” He spoke about the rising tide of populism around the globe today, citing how the 2016 elections in the UK and USA demonstrated that “even the Anglo Saxon world is far from immune to populism.” Arguing that the crisis of real democracy is not only a crisis of confidence in the democratic system, credibility of liberal ideas, and contemporary type of capitalist economy but instead a more profound crisis of confidence in general, Halik analyzed the trend of society becoming increasingly centered upon the individual. He explained how the lack of social cohesiveness leads individuals to feel isolated, resulting in a broader crisis of identity which causes people to turn toward a collective group identity centered upon strong emotions, such as anger and fear of the unknown.

Halik ended the lecture portion of the event by speaking on what he believes to be the greatest division in society today: the access to education. He argued that people without educational advantages feel left behind by those profiting from globalization, resulting in individuals feeling lost, frustrated, and isolated in communities all over the world. These people receive their information from social media, seeing the platform as an opportunity to share their voice and views (which Halik reminded the audience is a dangerous negative feedback loop cycle that feeds isolated groups information that supports their established preconceptions and opinions). Announcing the need to build bridges between the various schisms in society, he specifically called upon the Church to bring the Islamic world and Western liberal societies together. Pope Francis has transformed the Christian Church from an impenetrable and foreboding fortress into what Halik referred to as a ‘field hospital’, reacting to contemporary global issues and adopting opinions on modern challenges. He stressed that Christianity should be a hope for the future, remaining flexible to transform and adapt to contemporary conditions in an effort to actively respond the varying emerging threats facing the world today as “liberal democracy also needs a moral vision.”

You can watch the entire event on the EU for You channel on YouTube.

This event was organized as part of EU Futures, a series of conversations exploring the emerging future in Europe. The EU Futures project is supported by a Getting to Know Europe Grant from the European Commission Delegation in Washington, DC to the Center for the Study of Europe at Boston University.

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Event Highlights: Europe in the Age of Popular Nationalism, a Lecture by Erik Jones

February 24th, 2017 in Event Highlights

– February 10, 2017 –

On Friday, February 10th, the Center for the Study of Europe hosted a lecture by Erik Jones, Professor of European Studies and International Political Economy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Director of European and Eurasian Studies at SAIS Bologna.

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Jones started by saying, “What is going on right now in Europe is pretty alarming. You feel an acceleration of events.” He then continued with a discussion on the current hopeless outlook for the European project and the growing force of nationalism around all of Europe. After offering an analysis of the Brexit decision, Jones cited three key features of current European integration: 1) European integration does not go in just one direction, but instead is bidirectional; 2) Sovereignty is unconstrained in Europe; 3) Nationalism is popular.

Erik Jones elaborated on this wave of nationalism across many countries by describing the shifts in perspective in the UK and then his personal experience in Italy, the place he now refers to as home. He explained that as nationalistic inclinations rise across the EU, confidence in the European project continually decreases. Popular nationalism gives individual countries a reason to promote national sovereignty and independence from EU institutions. For Europeanists, creating an integrated vision that can be spread across the EU is a complicated and difficult process as nationalism remains a strong undercurrent in the public dialogue.

Boston University Professor of Political Science, Graham Wilson (Director of Initiative on Cities at BU), began the second session by proclaiming, “my practice is usually not to wear my politics on my sleeve… but I have to start by saying I believe that Brexit is an unmitigated disaster for the United Kingdom.” Prof. Wilson briefly explained his qualms about David Cameron’s leadership in the U.K. leading up to the British vote to leave the EU, and eloquently stated that evidence exists demonstrating Cameron’s underestimation of both the public opinion and political environment leading up to Brexit, explaining how it was “not a happy story in Britain.” Moving away from the specific topic of upcoming Brexit-related decisions facing the U.K. and the EU, Prof. Wilson argued that there is an emerging trend towards nationalism for one’s home country rather than toward a Europeanized vision for the future.

Prof. Wilson then discussed how Brexit can potentially be seen as a reason why other countries would actually not want to leave the EU. He explained the positive interpretation of Brexit, arguing that countries may benefit from the lack of British influence and instead prosper from the opportunities made available under the conditions of a U.K. withdrawal from the EU. Graham Wilson and Erik Jones ended their conversation by noting the importance of continuing the discussion on European integration. As nationalism takes hold throughout Europe, the view of the EU will inevitably change, and European leaders must prepare to face these challenges in the upcoming years.

Watch the event on BUniverse:

This event was organized as part of EU Futures, a series of conversations exploring the emerging future in Europe. The EU Futures project is supported by a Getting to Know Europe Grant from the European Commission Delegation in Washington, DC to the Center for the Study of Europe at Boston University.

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Event Highlights: “Europe, Religion, Integration” a Lecture by Olivier Roy

February 17th, 2017 in Event Highlights

On Friday, February 3rd, the Center for the Study of Europe hosted a lecture led by Olivier Roy, a Professor of Social and Political Theory at the European University Institute, a Senior Researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, and a professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.

02.03.17

The discussion was centered around the intricacies of religious integration in Europe, and Olivier Roy began by dissecting the rising Islamophobia across Europe in recent years. He connected the disturbing trend to the contemporary surge of secularization in the EU, arguing that there is a direct correlation between the rising security concerns and Islamophobia in Europe. Roy analyzed the current movement away from Christianization in Europe, and how “the left” resents Muslims bringing religion back to the forefront of dialogue in Europe. Overall, while liberals believe in integration, issues have arisen when individuals seeking to integrate into local European communities have strong connections to their traditional religious customs and practices. For conservatives, Roy cited how the feeling of opposition arises from the perceived threat of another religion gaining influence in regions where the presence of Christianity is diminishing. Roy stated that the underlying issues of these fears is Europeans figuring out what the future will emerge when a singular religion is no longer a major part of the local culture.

As a whole, Roy explained that Europe is becoming increasingly secular; even countries such as Ireland and Spain are becoming significantly less dependent and focused on religion. The trend toward secularization has its origins in the 1960s, when absolute freedom became a major part of social movements. Today, however, there are no longer truly traditionalist Christian leaders in Europe. Roy noted the more secularized a society, the more visible religion becomes in everyday life. Therefore, he argued that the surge of Muslims into European countries has caused some to feel threatened by an increasing foreign cultural presence. European societies must learn how to integrate immigrants within a secular society, as Christian majority must accept the growing presence of a Muslim minority in the local population. Roy explained how communities must work to fight stereotypes and prejudice, as multiple faiths need to work together to reconcile and construct an environment in which varying cultures can coexist peacefully. Concluding with statement about the rise of secularization over religion, Roy emphasized how Muslim immigrants need to navigate the process of settling into communities in which traditional Christian values are still strongly present. He argued that smooth integration can only occur when a balance is found between their own cultural values and the absolute freedoms encouraged by secularization.

You can listen to the entire conversation here

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Event Highlights: European Voices: A Reading & Conversation with Lola Lafon

November 3rd, 2016 in Event Highlights

On Thursday October 27th, The Pardee School of Global Studies’ Center for the Study of Europe partnered with the Association Francophone de Boston University to bring French author Lola Lafon to Boston University. The conversation with the author was moderated by AFBU Faculty Advisor Liliane Duséwoir, Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies and Senior Lecturer in French and Spanish in BU’s Department of Romance Studies.

10.27.16

Culturally, Lafon’s background is a mélange of French, Russian, and Polish. She was also raised in the diverse cities of Bucharest, Sofia, and Paris. In addition to her multiculturalism, Lafon is also an author with a multidisciplinary skill set. A dancer and musician turned author, Lafon came onto the scene with a natural talent for writing. “I wrote because I needed to write,” says Lafon. “I wrote because I liked to write, because it was my way of talking to people.”

“I think writing is very physical,” explains Lafon. “So, for me with dancing you are in front of yourself, so what you see in the mirror is exactly how you are, it’s not better it’s not worse. It’s the same way with writing. It’s humiliating in a very good way; it keeps you in reality.”

Her most recent novel, The Little Communist Who Never Smiled, is the fourth she has published. Combining themes of politics, capitalism, and feminism, this fictionalized account of Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci ties together Lafon’s writing prowess with her several social and political collectives, especially feminism. “In France we have this thing called la littérature feminine, or woman’s writing,” details Lafon. “I’m not sure I like this because that would mean that, if you had to add ‘woman’, writing is ‘man’.”

“I wasn’t sure that I was going to do this novel, and then I saw this French newspaper who wrote about [Comaneci] when she was eighteen… [the author] said ‘the little girl became a woman. Verdict? The magic is off.’” The use of the word verdict here strongly impacted Lafon, as she re-imagines Comaneci’s childhood under scrupulous investigation. “When I read this, I knew I had my novel, because for me the subject is this trial, made on women’s bodies.”

In The Little Communist Who Never Smiled, a critique on perfectionism, Lafon skillfully blends together fact and fiction. While the names, dates, and events of The Little Communist may be true, Lafon explains that her writing mixes the historical with the creative. “I don’t write my life,” says Lafon. “I believe in imagination.”

-Toria Rainey ‘18

Watch this event on YouTube!

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