Imagining Europe: the Ideas of Europe
Full course description
What is Europe? What are Europeans? What characterizes this continent that perhaps isn’t even a continent and a people that aren’t quite a people? This course traces the far from straightforward development of European identity over the centuries. It examines this identity not as a given but as a construct: the meaning of Europe has always been hotly contested, and these debates have had deep implications for collective relationships, exclusions, and wider political and cultural developments – both within this ambiguous landmass and beyond its fuzzy borders. For ancient Greeks Europa was a goddess; for others it was the land that was not Persia; for many medieval people Europe meant the realm of Christian civilization; while in the Enlightenment it became the cradle of modern, secular civilization. For post-colonial thinkers and revolutionaries, Europe was a source of both oppression and inspiration. Today, many identify Europe with “Brussels”, i.e. the governing institutions of the European Union. No meaning has ever gone uncontested.
The course investigates the historical processes that have helped shape the creation of European identity and it reflects on the mechanisms of identity-making, including the construction of “Others”. Special attention is paid to the relation of European identity with (equally constructed and evolving) national identities. The course alternates historical analyses with philosophical and sociological reflections on issues of collective identity and nationhood.
By the end of the module you will be able to:
- Identify key developments in the construction of European identities
- Understand the historical processes that have fed into these developments
- Understand the mechanisms of collective identity-formation
- Gerard Delanty (2013) Formations of European Modernity
- Antony Alcock (1998) A Short History of Europe