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Identity and Belonging in the New Europe

The European Union represents a bold, unprecedented political experiment that was designed to bring the states of Europe together economically, politically, and socially—to forge a cosmopolitan community that would transcend the divisions and differences among member countries. In so doing, the EU project has challenged long-held notions about the role and importance of national sovereignty and identity—what it means to be “French,” or “Polish,” or “Italian,” and how such identities contribute to (or clash with) what it means to be “European.” This internal debate about identity is further magnified by a rising tide of immigration, asylum seekers, and refugees whose attempts to enter the EU has sparked intense public debate about who has a place in this cosmopolitan project and who does not. 

This program explores these tensions by inviting students to think about the nature of what it means to belong to a political community in the context of contemporary Europe. Students will consider how people define and experience their national communities, whom they exclude (and why and how), and the consequences of this exclusion for those individuals, as well as the community at large. 

We will start the program in the UK, and use our base in Edinburgh to explore the concept of nations and nationalism, and how states have historically used these ideas to build a sense of political community. Scotland will be in the midst of preparations for a referendum in Fall 2014 on whether to seek independence from the rest of the UK—a historic event that will give us a front-row seat to debates about national identity and autonomy. We will situate these debates in a larger European context and investigate the role of the EU in these discussions, especially when it comes to immigration policy and protection of minorities. 

In the second half of the program, we will be based in Budapest, where we will re-examine our core concepts from the point of view of a relatively new EU member. We will explore the dynamics of internal migration in Europe, particularly economic migration from Eastern Europe to Western Europe, and the tensions and challenges this poses. We will also compare state policies dealing with immigration, citizenship, and social cohesion in various EU countries, underscoring the differences in approach and outcomes.

  • Spring 2014

    Faculty Director Devashree Gupta, Associate Professor of Political Science