East-Central Europe, the European Union, and the United States

This project, directed by Irena Grudzinksa Gross and Elizabeth Amrien, encompassed the core programs of the Institute for Human Sciences (IHS) at Boston University between 2002 and 2008, most notably a longer-term lecture series on the transatlantic relationship.

The IHS was established in 2002 in response to growing tensions between the United States and Europe, with the goal of exploring the differences in culture, values, and national experiences between the United States and Europe and improving international cooperation and understanding. Our particular interest was in the intersection of international relations and culture. Funded by Boston University and by two grants from the Ford Foundation, this project set out to organize a continuous debate on the transatlantic relationship, on the role and image of the United States in Europe, and on the impact of “New Europe”—formerly East-Central Europe—on US foreign policy and, therefore, on international peace and security.

Over several years, this project served as a forum in which representatives of European institutions could informally speak, with the collaboration of their American colleagues, about the steady improvement of their relations. While the transatlantic relationship was always our primary focus, we organized events around several other topics including European integration, tensions in the former Soviet bloc countries between their alliance with European Union and their loyalty to the United States, militarization in both the US and the EU of political attitudes toward the rest of the world, the misuse of questions of migration and minorities, and differences in religion and lifestyles within the new societies. One of our objectives in the project was to redefine international relations in a way that encompassed but was not limited to “politics.” We attempted to take political discourse in new directions by expanding the range of topics under that heading, for example, the role of religion in society and the role of literature (or language) in defining national interests.


Between 2002 and 2008, we organized over 70 events (lectures, panel discussions, international conferences, exhibits, and film screenings) under the auspices of this project. Speakers included well-known politicians (European prime ministers, foreign and defense ministers, parliamentarians, commissioners, and ambassadors), policy experts, journalists, and academics, as well as artists, poets, and human rights workers. Please visit our event archives and people directory for details.