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Research Workshop June 2009

The aim of the research workshop which was funded by the IAS and took place at the 4th and 5th of June 2009 was to further specify the coherence of our theoretical framework and to explore ways in which it can be applied in practice within the context of a developing research programme. 

The groundwork for the programme has already been laid in a joint research workshop held at the University of Siegen in June 2008, involving delegates from LSE (Martin Albrow) and Aberdeen (Roland Robertson). After the Research Workshop in Lancaster in 2009, the next one in 2010 will be held in Siegen, again, and planning has started already.

The immediate objective of the programme in 2009 was to extend our network by including experts from other leading European institutions in collaboration with colleagues and research students from Lancaster and other universities. The workshop lasted two days, with speakers from Lancaster University and other institutions from the UK and abroad. We discussed our new framework as such as well as how the revised view on Europe can be and is applied in more concrete research projects. Accordingly, this relates, on the one hand, to the basic ideas which structure our approach, for instance 'glocalisation' (Robertson), 'conflict' (Dubiel) and 'Europeanisation' (Outwaite, Lahusen). On the other hand, we asked which concepts are used or usable within this frame, and to what extend they can be linked to potentially be made even more fruitful? How can, for instance, 'sport' (Giulianotti) or and roles of 'law' – human rights in relation to European law, in particular (Schraten, Lindemann, Butler)– be imagined and opened up conceptually in the European context, in order to describe situations more adequately and to make them comparable?

All papers have been commented on by a discussant from our Lancaster Group, in order to link research perspectives directly.
One main aim has been to systematically introduce research students to the frame via more applied work on the topic. Therefore, a core element of the programme has been a master class involving PhD-and post-doctoral students from several universities institutions and a range of different departments who got the opportunity to introduce their research perspectives and debate it with the other participants.


Joint Textbook: Europe in the Context of Globalisation


Originating from our research cooperation, 23 colleagues from 13 subjects and three faculties at Lancaster University are currently writing a textbook. The following is our draft introduction.


At a time when the sense of belonging to a world community is increasingly becoming a reality which is felt in an ever greater number of forms, it is crucial to realign our ways of looking at familiar frameworks and concepts.  This textbook bears witness to this change of perspective and contributes to it.  It offers a new pedagogical point of reference for teachers of European Studies and advanced students in this rapidly changing field, one which frames and analyses Europe in a context beyond itself.  The fascination with globalisation and the increasing focus on 'Europe in the World' can be observed outside as well as inside the Academy.   Nevertheless, an adequate theoretical framework for the emerging position of Europe in the world to be satisfactorily understood has not yet been developed.   The main objective of the Research Group on Europe and Globalisation at Lancaster University has been to explore the basis for such a framework and it is this investigation which forms the basis for this book.  

Existing paradigms for representing Europe, such as national comparisons, analyses of the European Union as a political system or classical area studies, restrict and 'exoticise' the object of investigation.   By contrast, our approach acknowledges the complexity of the field.  Our selection of topics is not one typically found in textbooks on Europe or, more specifically, on the European Union.  Rather than emphasising factual description, the book seeks to engage representatives from a wide range of disciplines in a more open-ended discussion about Europe than usually discipline-led approaches have so far allowed.   It will offer students the opportunity to study Europe from a fresh angle, to see its particularities and, simultaneously, to understand their relationship with the global environment.   With this objective in mind, the book follows a common set of principles and practices, both in the selection analysis of subject matter and in the format in which it is presented.

Firstly, our approach is multidisciplinary.  Our contributors come from diverse backgrounds, have been trained in different research methodologies, and approach their subjects from specific perspectives.   At the same time, each section of the book comprises an extended introduction in which the interdisciplinary dimension of the various papers is explored and discussed.  Secondly, all the chapters in the book follow the same underlying structure.   Each opens with a definition of the particular concept under consideration before reviewing its application initially within a European and finally in a global context.   Given the latitude of the chosen topics, the authors have approached them from the perspective of their own discipline, some subjects such as history or identity for example, being inherently broader and more epistemological in character, while others, such as migration lend themselves to a more empirical, case study approach.  This move from the general to the specific is reflected both in the overall organisation of the chapters into three sections: Culture and History, Society and finally Politics and Policy, as well as in the order of the chapters within each section.  

Thirdly, all the authors conform to a precise framework of terms, beginning with an agreed understanding of the concepts Europe and globalisation.   The debate on globalisation is open-ended.  Although not necessarily seen as either 'mantra' or 'threat' (Lechner and Boli 2005, 23), it has without doubt become "the leitmotif of our age" (Held and McGrew 2000, 1).   The main task when defining a working definition of such a broad and fluctuating term is to maintain specificity of focus while doing justice to the complexity of the issue itself.   As Urry (2003) points out, there is a risk of misrepresenting globalisation as some kind of novel, linear superstructure rather than as "diverse, historical, fractured and uncertain".   As he puts it, it is "necessary to examine how emergent properties develop at the global level that are neither well ordered and moving towards equilibrium nor in a state of perpetual anarchy" (Urry 2003, x).   This is certainly in line with Held and McGrew's warning that globalisation should not be seen as "prefiguring the emergence of a harmonious world society or as a universal process of global integration in which there is a growing convergence of cultures and civilizations"  (Held and McGrew 2000, 4). Accordingly, we take issue with Lechner's more economically grounded view of globalisation as "the ways in which, as people become more connected across larger distances, they create a new world society in which they do more similar things, affect each other's life more deeply, follow more of the same norms, and grow more aware of what they share" (Lechner 2009, xiii).   This rather one-dimensional view appears to us reductive.

Our perspective on globalisation is a cultural one.  This might not seem to be the most obvious stance to take in a situation of a global (sic!) financial crisis.   However, the cultural perspective offers a multidimensional potential which entails economic factors.   Rumford (2009) echoes the point of view of Jean Monnet, who "is reputed to have said, when reflecting upon the creation of the original European communities, 'If I could start again, I would start with culture.'  If we could begin European Studies again would we want to start with integration?  Or should we too opt to start with culture, as Monnet suggested? Broadly the answer to the latter question is 'yes'" (Rumford 2009, 2).   

We may agree with Lechner and Boli, who state that "the very fabric of the global economy is part and parcel of world culture.  Economic integration is more than a material juggernaut.  It is, at least in part, the realization of ideas [...].  To seek material advancement through economic activity freed from social constraint, to encourage endless technical progress for the sake of competitive advantage, to pit workers and countries against each other in ceaseless battle, all that is part of a distinctive world-view.  By the end of the twentieth century, that view had become second nature to many people around the globe" (Lechner and Boli 2005, 9; italics ASK). However, we cannot overlook the fact that, at the same time, economy is certainly more than ideas and "real enough in its consequences" (Lechner and Boli 2005, 8f.).   In this sense, it is beyond doubt that the reconfiguration of power is a core feature of globalisation, politically as well as economically.  Together with their 'socially felt' consequences, the interpretations which result in the development of 'common knowledge' and specific forms of deliberations and actions are functions of culture and can in our view be analysed and understood from that perspective. 

The risk of over-complexity too is an issue which any textbook on globalisation needs to confront. Robertson's definition of globalisation: "Globalization as a concept refers both to the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness about the world as a whole" (Robertson 1992, 8), directs attention towards two lines of investigation: first, factual processes of linkage and second, a growing 'awareness' or interpretation of (individual and collective) selves as part of a whole, the globe.  Both elements are crucial for our joint approach, particularly the latter which relates to the Thomas and Thomas theorem that "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences" (Thomas and Thomas, 1928).  This is the interface where theoretical and 'real life' consequences can be shown to meet.  Robertson sees glocalisation as a process "through which ideas and practices spread all over the world, by adapting to local or particular conditions and 'find a place' there" (Robertson 2003: 583).   Globalisation does not imply homogenisation, but rather a continuation of difference in principle that has to be approached with reference to local conditions.

With Europe as the working context to which we are referring when we seek to define globalisation in mind, we follow Robert Holton who assumes that the quality of any socio-spatial phenomenon in the broadest sense to be global "is not the complete absence of any sub-global connection within it; its 'global' characteristics stem rather from the social and spatial qualities with which it is associated. Global in this sense refers to action that (a) takes place across political and cultural boundaries; (b) that creates intensive as well as spatially extensive interconnections between a range of institutions and actors; and (c) that creates transnational processes, institutions and ways of interpreting the world as a single space. None of this necessarily precludes the reproduction, persistence or re-invention of national or local spaces, processes and identities, or of networks that operate within such arenas" (Holton 2008, 6).   Through our cultural lens, we define globalisation as a process (i.e. unavoidably characterised by change) taking place on a variety of grounds of tension that develop between simultaneously existing integrative and fragmenting streams.  These lead to multiple and often contradictory processes and outcomes, but nevertheless can be traced theoretically and empirically to linkages operating simultaneously at and between global, national and local levels. 

Defining Europe itself remains a difficult task.  This can take many forms.  It can be grounded for instance in broad brush, essentialist notions of 'a Christian Europe', 'a set of European values', 'a community of fate' etc., in problematic ideas of 'a European cosmopolitanism', or it can be too narrowly focussed on 'European Union institutions'.   All three types of definition are inappropriate for our purposes.  What needs to be stated at the outset is that Europe is not one-dimensional.  In line with the above definition of globalisation, homogenisation cannot be the determining perspective.  "European integration has given Europe a clearer cultural and political identity, but it has not led to a more homogeneous Europe or a common political project.  [Rather], europeanization has led to greater contestation over the meaning of Europe" (Delanty 2006, 2). Accordingly, the persisting complexity of variegated internal and external relations have to be taken into account, as does the coexistence of global, national and regional levels and the interaction between them.   The porous, multiscalar nature of Europe raises the associated question of its borders.  What exactly are the borders of Europe and where do they lie?  What is Europe's inside and outside?   As Chris Rumford suggests: "The point of studying Europe is to explore its multiple constructions, meanings, histories and geographies.  Europe is constantly changing in its geographical scope, self-identity, cultural heritage, and meaning to others [...]. Europe is not a given and cannot be reduced to an institutional arrangement " (Rumford 2009, 3).

On this basis, it makes much more sense to explain our common approach to Europe rather than to attempt to define Europe as such: "European Studies should be studying Europe, in the broadest and most inclusive sense possible: it should never presume to be able to answer the question 'What is Europe?' in definite, once-and-for-all terms" (Rumford 2009, 3).  Our analysis therefore offers a multi-disciplinary, non-essentialist, and process-led focus on Europe that actively opens up space for different approaches.  This is reflected in the chapters' mutual acknowledgement that perceptions and their potential impacts are increasingly relevant in a context where "new expressions of European self-understanding" (Delanty 2006, 1) are constantly emerging in response to forces which can only be explained with reference to the world as a whole.


Research Workshop June 2010

In June 2010, Siegen University will hold the Research Workshop again. As soon as the programme is finalised, you will find it here.


Research Programme 2010/2011

We are currently working on a seminar series for the coming academic year. As soon as the topics and dates have been decided you will find more information here.

Lancaster University

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