A FLAS Fellow's Semester Abroad in Amman

Audrey Dombro, an agricultural and consumer economics student and 2019-20 FLAS fellow, reflects upon her experience studying in Jordan.

Master of Arts in European Union Studies

The European Union Center at the University of Illinois offers the only Master of Arts in European Union Studies (MAEUS) program in the Western Hemisphere. Learn more here.

Reading Contagion through Boccaccio's Decameron

Dr. Eleonora Stoppino discusses the moments of social and ethical breakdown described by Boccaccio, as well as the potential for reconstruction after the plague.

Conversations on Europe

Watch the collection of online roundtable discussions on different EU issues sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh.

COVID-19 and Liberal Democracy in Hungary

Dr. Zsuzsa Gille responds to the "Enabling Act," passed by the Hungarian Parliament on March 30, 2020.

Videos of Previous Lectures

Missed an EUC-hosted lecture? Our blog's video tag has archived previous EUC-sponsored lectures.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Agitated Liberalism: Meditations on the Politics of Dissent in Turkey in the Wake of Gezi Park

On November 18, Jeremy Walton – from the CENTREN Transnational Research Network at Georg August University in Göttingen – presented his lecture, "Agitated Liberalism: Meditations on the Politics of Dissent in Turkey in the Wake of Gezi Park," inspired by the recent demonstrations that took place in Turkey this previous summer. Walton asked the question as to whether the demonstrations were borne from liberal dissent or "reactionary spasms of a crumbling elite,"and analyzed three distinct dimensions of the demonstrations: "the historical roots of the politicization of public space in Republican Turkey; the carnivalesque figure of the çapulcu that has come to define the protesters; and the resonances of the demonstrations with other recent public spectables of mass dissent across the globe."

A video of the lecture is provided below or may be viewed here:


Monday, November 25, 2013

Supporting International Knowledge Networks to Improve Domestic Programs

by Godfrey Angara

Professor Michael Kennedy, of Brown University, came to the University of Illinois on 19 September 2013 and presented, “What Can Afghanistan, Kosova, and Poland Tell Us about American Universities?” By the end of his lecture, he had provided his audience with a solid foundation of what is necessary for area studies to thrive within American universities. The thread that he wove through Afghanistan, Kosova, and Poland was the idea of knowledge networks and the importance it plays in the institutionalization of area studies programs in American universities and establishing scholarly recognition.

Figure 1 Florian Znaniecki,
44th President of the American Sociological Association
and former University of Illinois professor
A knowledge network can be described as a web of intellectual minds that are within the same fields of study that can relay, question, and challenge one another’s theories.  These networks help strengthen the theoretical significance in English scholarship. Kennedy chose to use the Polish sociologist, Florian Znaniecki, who helped contribute to the growth and success of the Polish knowledge network, which contributed to the significance of Poland in the American sociological sphere. With a mix of post World War II events, in Polish history, and a strong knowledge network, Poland has become an important topic in English language scholarship. Kennedy juxtaposed the example of Poland, the nation state and its academic community, with a strongly established knowledge network, to two nation-states (Afghanistan and Kosova) that do not have these knowledge networks and ultimately do not have the same importance within English language scholarship.

During the lecture, Kennedy had expressed how Afghanistan should be central to American academic interests. This statement is hard to counter because the United States has had a military and political influence within that country for over a decade. One would think that if Poland’s post-World War II history is so significant in the English language scholarship, then a nation-state where America has had so much influence in such a relatively short span of time would also be as significant. However, Kennedy suggested that there is not a credible academic link because Afghanistan does not have a strong knowledge network. Enter Ashraf Ghani. Kennedy emphasized how Ghani has been attempting to form an Afghani version of a knowledge network, but it has not been catching on. After viewing Ghani’s TED Talk, I find it incredible th
at this dynamic man cannot mirror the success of Znaniecki.

If American universities are interested in fostering the growth of diverse area studies, it might be necessary to start supporting international actors and organizations before a credible area studies program can be produced. Connecting intellectuals from the same fields or supporting research might enhance the build up of knowledge networks in nation-states that are lacking them such as Afghanistan. Fortunately, according to Kennedy, Europe has been riding the global wave. Europe has been so closely linked to global studies programs because the region has been continuously supportive of European studies and has a very strong and credible knowledge network. This European support can be explicitly seen within our own university’s European Union Center.

Godfrey Angara is a graduate fellow with the Department of Political Science’s Civic Leadership Program. He is currently pursuing his MA in Political Science and plans to graduate in May 2014. Godfrey’s interest in American-European relations brought him to intern at the U.S. Embassy in London this past spring. Through a combination of internships at the U.S. Embassies in London and Manila, he discovered a strong desire to join the Foreign Service post graduation.
Figure 1 graphic source: http://segr-did2.fmag.unict.it/~polphil/polphil/znan/znanie.html


Friday, November 22, 2013

Regionalism in the World Polity

On November 15, Joe Jupille – Director of the Colorado European Union Center of Excellence at the University of Colorado at Boulder – gave a lecture entitled "Regionalism in the World Polity." Mr. Jupille's lecture discussed regional trade agreements and what it meant for the script of statehoods and asked the question as to why states sign on to these agreements simply because it will legitimize them.

A video of the lecture can be viewed below or by clicking here:


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

EU Center Grants Awarded to University of Illinois Faculty and Students

Image Source
Champaign, IL   November 18,   2013 — The European Union Center (EUC) at the University of Illinois is pleased to announce awards totaling over $13,000 to University of Illinois faculty and students for research, travel, and course development related to European Union studies. Awards are made possible by generous funding to the EU Center from its US Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center grant and European Union Center Excellence grant from the EU.

The University of Illinois European Union Center (EUC) was established in 1998 with support from the European Commission, as one of the ten original EU Centers in the United States, and is currently the only one to offer a graduate degree in European Union Studies. In 2003, the US Department of Education designated the EUC as a Title VI National Resource Center. In 2011, the European Union recognized the EUC as a European Union Center of Excellence. Since its inception, the European Union Center has become the focal point on campus for teaching, research, and outreach programs on the European Union. The EUC brings together faculty and students from diverse disciplines across campus to promote the study of the EU and transatlantic relations, making it one of the most comprehensive EU centers in the US. The EUC is privileged to work with Center-affiliated faculty, many of whom are internationally-renowned experts in their fields, as well as other institutions, to provide high quality programs to a variety of audiences.

EUC Faculty Research and Course Development Grants support research proposals pursuing contemporary EU topics that meet the highest standards of excellence and contribute significantly to the advancement of EU studies and EUC academic programs at the University of Illinois. Projects draw from a range of topics addressing EU issues of special relevance and timeliness. Awards this year are in the amount of €1,000 and are made possible by the European Union Center of Excellence Grant from the European Commission. Recipients of the Faculty Research and Course Development Grants and their projects are:

  • Sara Bartumeus, Professor of Landscape Architecture, for her project on European landscape, urban development and collective housing in Barcelona.
  • Anita Chan, Professor of Media and Cinema Studies, for her project “Studying Food Networks at UIUC and KTH [Sweden]: A Sustainable Communication Course Development Proposal."
  • Adrienne Dixson, Professor of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership, for research collaboration and participation in a conference with Centre for Research in Race and Education, University of Birmingham.
  • Zsuzsanna Fagyal, Eda Derhemi, and Marina Terkourafi, for development of a new course “Languages of the Mediterranean."
  • Paul Kapp, Professor of Architecture, for his project “Post-industrial Historic Architecture Rehabilitation and Renewal in the EU” (Birmingham, UK).
EUC Faculty Conference Travel Grants support EU Center-affiliated UI faculty who will present one or more papers directly addressing the EU at an academic conference. Awards this year are in the amount of $1,000 and are made possible by the US Department of Education Title VI Grant. Recipients of Faculty Conference Travel Grants and their projects are:
  • Sara Bartumeus, Professor of Landscape Architecture, for her presentation and participation in the European Biennial of Landscape Architecture Conference in Barcelona, Spain.
  • Eda Derhemi, Professor of Italian, to present at the 36th International LAUD Symposium in Landau, Germany.
EUC Graduate Student Research Travel Grants fund travel and other expenses associated with research concerning contemporary EU topics, whether for exploring a potential thesis or dissertation topic or for conducting thesis or dissertation research. Awards this year are in the amount of €1,000 and are made possible by the European Union Center of Excellence Grant from the European Commission. Recipients of the Graduate Student Research Travel Grants and their projects are:
  • Jenelle Davis, Art History, to travel to the Czech Republic to research “Prague’s Pink Protest: Memory, Amnesia, and the Monument to Soviet Tank Crews."
  • Kijin Kim, Economics, to travel to Vienna to research “The Extended Regional Econometric Input-Output Model with Heterogeneous Household Demand System: A US-EU Comparative Analysis."
  • Rayane Oliveira de Aguiar, EU Studies, to travel to Germany to research “Building EU Multifunctional Landscape Policy within the Agro-Environmental and Energy Nexus."
  • Neil Vander Most, Political Science, to travel to the Netherlands and Belgium to research “Rethinking Integration: What We Can Learn from Social Psychology."
EUC Undergraduate Research Fellow Grants provide funds to help students produce and present research posters at relevant conferences, such as the UI Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, on EU affairs and contemporary EU topics. Awards may be used to support research for EU-related capstone projects, including senior theses. Awards this year are in the amount of €200 and are made possible by the European Union Center of Excellence Grant from the European Union.  Recipients of the Undergraduate Research Fellow Grants and their projects are: 
  • Paul Dolmon, Political Science, for his project “Improving the Efficiency of Global Food Distribution via the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy],” supervised by Professor Konstantinos Kourtikakis.
  • Megan Lindgren, Economics, for her project “Behavioral Components of the European Debt Crisis,” supervised by Professor Anne Villamil.
The EU Center congratulates all award recipients and wishes them the best of luck with their projects.

More information about these and other EU Center Funding opportunities for faculty and students is available at the Center’s website, http://euc.illinois.edu/funding/index.html. These are annual competitions and the EU Center encourages all eligible individuals to apply in future funding cycles.


Monday, November 18, 2013

European Union Day Promotional Video Released

Interested in learning more about the European Union Center's EU Day? The EUC has recently released a video highlighting past speakers and events at EU Day as well as how EU Day fosters positive relationships between students, faculty, and diplomats, bringing people together who have foundational interests who might not otherwise have a chance to interact.

More details concerning the 13th Annual EU Day will be announced in the coming weeks.

The video can viewed below or here:


Friday, November 15, 2013

Protests in Turkey: Three Firsthand Accounts

This post was originally published in the Fall 2013 Illinois International Review, Issue No. 17.

Levi Armlovich is a second year master’s student in European Union Studies. He is currently pursuing a dual degree in Law and European Union Studies and is interested in international business and trade law. He spent this past summer in Izmir, Turkey, on a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, where he observed the protests firsthand.

Night scene from Gezi Park in early June 2013,
 with celebration and dancing in
Taksim square in the early hours of the morning.
This summer Turkey was rocked by the largest protests the country has seen in decades. What started as a minor environmental protest against a development project in Istanbul escalated into nationwide anti-government protests after the police violently evicted the original environmental protestors from Gezi Park. News of the crackdown ricocheted around the social media universe and spawned sympathy protests throughout the country. As protesters battled riot police in more than 90 cities, Turkish news outlets refused to cover the protests, broadcasting instead vanilla programs including a now famous documentary about penguins.

I arrived in Izmir to begin a two-month language course the night the protests started. Those first few days were intense; I did not go out after dark. After the police withdrew and the violence died down, I was able to go out and observe the protests firsthand.

After I came back to the States, I sat down with Dr. Sebnem Ozkan, outreach coordinator for the European Union Center, and Dr. Mahir Saul, professor of anthropology, to discuss what happened in Turkey this summer and what it meant. The following is from our conversation.

Where were you during the protests this summer?

Saul: I arrived in Istanbul on May 29, Wednesday afternoon, and went to an apartment I had sublet off Istiklal Street, near Taksim Square where the protests were centered. Late Friday morning, I went to Istiklal Street to renew my local cell phone contract, but instead I found a battle zone. A dense crowd of protestors, mostly young teenagers and women, were cautiously moving toward the Taksim end of the street and occasionally surging in the opposite direction. At the Galatasaray intersection, I saw a very large number of riot police with full body shields, helmets, and gas masks. They were shooting tear gas grenades towards Taksim Square. Suddenly I found myself in a rush of people fleeing back away from the square. This whole time tear gas had been wafting throughout the neighborhood, and everyone had burning eyes and occasional bouts of coughing, but suddenly my chest constricted and I could not breathe. I was caught in a dense fog of gas, and had no idea what was happening around me. I thought I was going to pass out, and ideas rushed to my head about what might happen if I was left unconscious in the street. Luckily I was able to get away. The protests continued until late that night, but my memories of that period are hazy.

You were in Istanbul for the beginning of the protests, then traveled to Brussels. What was the reaction to the protests like in the European Union?

Ozkan: I left Istanbul for Brussels on June 16th, the morning of one of the most violent police assaults. When I arrived in Schuman Station at the heart of the European quarter of Brussels, I thought I was back in Istanbul. Turkish groups were demonstrating in front of the European Parliament in support of the protestors in Istanbul. The way the Turkish government handled the protests clearly took a toll on Turkey’s bid to join the EU. Germany took the lead in opposing Turkey’s EU membership talks, which was unfortunate because an intergovernmental conference had been scheduled for later in June to break a three-year stalemate and re-launch negotiation talks.

More discouraging to me personally, however, were the disparaging comments some EU officials made about Turkish democracy. I agree that the Turkish government failed to meet the democratic standards of the EU. However, I am deeply concerned about the observation that Turkey has yet to become a democratic country. I think the protesters proved that the people are ready to become part of the “European” public, and indeed that they are Turkey’s greatest assurance of democracy.

These protests were characterized by a huge outpouring of creativity. Can you comment on the role that art played in these protests?

Protesters repurpose a road construction machine
 covered with pink paint, displaying the impact
 of the LGBT movement on the protestors’ imagination.
Ozkan: Yes, art and satire were main aspects that set these protests apart from former instances of social upheaval. It would be wrong to suggest that this was the first time critical humor had been used by protestors, but intelligent humor, questioning the dominant political discourse, exposing its limits, and even turning the official narrative against itself, became the very spirit of the protests. This might have been the first time that protestors laughed more than they cried, despite the heavy use of tear gas. The will and imagination that protestors needed to resist the violence came as much from art and satire as it did from suffering. The role and impact of art and satire were amplified by social media. I checked social media religiously every morning to see what new wit the day brought, and I found hope for a better Turkey in that wittiness.

Saul: The wit and intelligence displayed in the protests were some of its most unexpected pleasures. The graffiti and the posters on the walls were collectively a masterpiece of ingenuity and creativity. The tensions among the constituent groups of the very heterogenous protest movement were also exposed through creativity. An early phase where crude expressions of anger found outlet in insults soon gave way to more subtle humor. Growing sensitivity to sexism and homophobia became noticeable in the slogans. I think it was a first in Turkey. I hope this will be a permanent gain from this extraordinary period.

What made these protests “extraordinary?”
Protesters in the street on the northern flank of Gezi park.

Saul: In that period in June, there was a palpable sense of camaraderie in the protest scene and a strong sense of empowerment underlying it. People were aware that they were making history. It was a moment of transcendence, goodwill toward fellow citizens, and openness to the world. One example of such openness was the embrace of LGBT protesters by football fans. Fans of Istanbul’s three largest football clubs, Besiktas, Galatasaray, and Fenerbahçe, are renowned for their violent riots at football matches and their battles against the police. During the protests, however, they made a show of solidarity, not just with each other, but with everyone at the protests. Representatives from the LBGT community complained in the early weeks that many of the slogans used against the police were sexist and homophobic. The sports fans agreed to undergo sensitivity lessons given by the LGBT community and to avoid this kind of language in the future. In return, they trained volunteers to go on the vanguard wearing special masks and gloves and to catch the gas canisters and throw them back into the police ranks. They also trained people how to evacuate the wounded from a crowd and how to avoid stampedes. The old tensions and divisions are not totally gone, but in moments when they did surface in the streets, the general character of the movement rejected them. I had never experienced anything like this before.

Ozkan: The protests constituted a key turning point in the political and social history of Turkey and will continue to serve as a reference point in the years to come. It was truly a transformative moment, especially with regards to the media. When the mainstream TV channels turned a blind eye to what was happening in the streets all over Turkey and instead broadcast documentaries about penguins, many people realized that the media might have been equally dishonest in its treatment of other politically sensitive issues. For example, some of my own relatives who have always been diehard Kemalist nationalists and approached the Kurdish movement with suspicion realized that it was the same crusader media that had shaped their understanding and view of the Kurdish “problem” over the years. Now, when my relatives come to me with an outrageous argument about the demands of the Kurdish movement, all I have to say is “Remember Gezi?”

* * *

Although the protests largely died down by the end of July, aftershocks continue to rattle the country. On September 8th, a 22-year-old man died in a protest in southeastern Turkey against another government development project. People at the scene said that police shot him in the head with a tear gas grenade. The police denied responsibility for his death. Across Turkey there is a sense of waiting, a sense that things might get worse before they eventually get better. As students return to the universities this fall protests are expected to continue. Only time will tell what the eventual impact of these protests will be.

Photos courtesy Sinan Saul

Monday, November 11, 2013

European Union Center wins Jean Monnet Module

This blog was originally posted on the Daily Illini on November 7, 2013.

by Saher Khan

Image Credit
The University’s European Union Center won the prestigious Jean Monnet Module grant on July 11, making it the only American university to do so. The grant period runs from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31, 2016.

The EU Center, founded in 1998 and funded by the European Union, promotes the study of the EU and trans-Atlantic relations at the University. One of the ways the EU Center promotes this study is by designing courses available to undergraduate and graduate students.

“As an interdisciplinary center, we don’t have our own faculty but rather tap the expertise of faculty members from various departments on campus, and they are our affiliated faculty members,” said Matt Rosenstein, director of graduate studies at the EU Center and associate director of International Programs and Studies.

Four of these affiliated faculty members came together with Rosenstein to draft a proposal that won the Jean Monnet Module grant. The faculty members include Zsuzsa Gille of the sociology department, Carol Leff of the political science department, and David Cooper and George Gasyna of the Slavic languages and literature department.

The Jean Monnet Life Long Learning Programme is an initiative by the EU that awards grants to institutions of higher education with programs that educate students on the EU. These awards are given to universities within and outside of the EU.

“We specifically applied for the Module grant, which is a category that awards learning modules, or in other words, courses (and) classes that focus on EU studies,” Rosenstein said.

This is the second Jean Monnet grant the University has won. The first one was in 2011 for the proposal on the study of the Mediterranean region and its relationship with the EU. The proposal this year was “Eastern Europe and European Integration,” which focused on Eastern Europe and European tradition.

“The first year we applied we didn’t get it. Grant offices give you feedback about what was strong and weak about your proposal, so we came right back at them and won this one,” said Leff, professor of comparative politics at the University.

The proposal centered around a class called “The Other Europe Comes Home,” and it will be offered every spring semester starting in 2014 to educate students on Eastern Europe’s integration into the EU.
It is a team-taught class, meaning that all four professors who were involved with draftin
g the proposal will be co-teaching the course with a rotating lead professor each semester. This upcoming semester, Leff will start off as the lead instructor.

“The course is a team-taught course; it’s intentionally multi-disciplinary, so people involved are scholars in literature, culture, political scientists and sociologists,” Cooper said. “All of these different disciplines treat the issues covered in class in different ways and ask different questions.”
However, the course is not just a class. On top of the lecture series, the curriculum will include learning from webcasts, lecturers, outreach programs and guest speakers.

Rosenstein, Leff and Cooper hope that all students with an interest in Europe, political science and different cultures will take the course.
“In this day and age, (students are) going to need to able to work with people from different cultures,” Rosenstein said. “It’s an essential body of knowledge to have an understanding of other cultures and other countries of the world.”

Rosenstein said that students should be educated about the EU especially, as it is a part of the U.S. national agenda. It is the country’s major trading and security partner, as well as an international ally.

Saher can be reached at smkhan3@dailyillini.com.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Conversations on Europe: Does Turkey Have a European Future? Video

On October 22, the European Union Center participated in a videoconference roundtable discussion entitled "Does Turkey Have a European Future?" The conference was hosted by the University of Pittsburgh's European Union Center of Excellence and the question "Is the decade-long rule of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Law and Justice Party leading to a “European” future or something else?" was discussed by Sinan Ülgen, Visiting Scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels; Henri Barkey, Professor of International Relations at Lehigh University; Uli Schamiloglu, Director of the Center for Middle East Studies, Professor of Languages and Cultures of Asia at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; and was moderated by Ronald Linden, Director of EUCE/ESC and Professor of Political Science a the University of Pittsburgh.

This videoconference is part of the "Conversations on Europe" series, which cover these and other related issues, with participants from several venues and input from university and community people. This event was held in collaboration with the American Council on Germany and the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.

The videoconference may be viewed below or at University of Pittsburgh's University Center for International Studies' YouTube channel.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Diseased Body Politic: Paid Sex and the State in Imperial Eastern Europe

This blog was originally posted on the REEEC website on October 9, 2013. The European Union Center was a co-sponsor for the event.

by Stephanie Chung

Prof. Keely Stauter-Halsted
On Thursday, September 26, REEEC welcomed Dr. Keely Stauter-Halsted, Professor of History and Hejna Chair in Polish Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, to campus.  Dr. Stauter-Halstead gave a presentation to a packed room titled “The Diseased Body Politic: Paid Sex and the State in Imperial Eastern Europe” as part of the New Directions in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies lecture series. Based on her current book project Reforming the National Body, her lecture discussed the issue of prostitution and the formation of a modern nation in the Polish lands during the late 1800s. The spike in prostitution rates and the increased visibility of prostitutes led to a moral panic in Eastern Europe. According to Dr. Stauter-Halsted, commercial sex became a metaphor for disease. Prostitution was a “cancer” that was spreading venereal disease everywhere.

Dr. Stauter-Halsted examined the most marginalized characters in Polish society of that time period, unmarried lower-class women. She described how the upper classes regarded those women, particularly prostitutes. The Polish elite saw prostitutes as either aggressive and dangerous, or passive pitiful victims who were “nevertheless unredeemable.” Whichever way they were categorized, prostitutes were the Other, separate from bourgeois urban life and not components of a modern Polish nation. They could not integrate into society.

However, Dr. Stauter-Halsted viewed the young women, who migrated from poor rural villages to urban centers and ended up working as prostitutes, as integral to the process of modernization. They were urban workers who helped transform the cities into areas of industrialization and economic growth. Dr. Stauter-Halsted pointed out that those young women were not only prostitutes, but seamstresses, servants, factory workers, and members of other occupations. Prostitution was merely a temporary way for them to make ends meet, a short-term or part-time job on the path to economic advancement. Dr. Stauter-Halstead argued that the prostitutes were upwardly mobile young women who were trying to challenge the status quo and improve their socio-economic standing.

A large and rapt audience

Related to the expanding reach of the medical community was the emergence of eugenics. The growing recognition that venereal disease was everywhere and the heightening realization that it was incurable resulted in a turn away from registration and into the sexual hygiene movement. The movement advocated sexual abstinence until marriage, worked to curb prostitution, and promoted chastity. The fight against venereal disease became linked with Polish nationalism, which claimed that venereal disease degenerated the Polish nation. Although the sexual hygiene movement’s leaders did not see prostitutes as merely carriers of disease and no longer castigated those young women as outcasts, they still believed that prostitution should be abolished in order to preserve the health of the Polish people and state.

Dr. Stauter-Halsted concluded her lecture with the statement that the Polish nationalists’ concern about purity was a tense consequence of Poland being an imperial subject. The Polish lands were part of the Austro-Hungarian and the Russian Empires, not a unified independent nation. Doctors became the new spiritual leaders of the Polish nation; they were intellectuals who sought to resist a centralizing empire. To them and other members of the Polish elite, the presence of prostitutes and lower-class women was an embarrassment. The women were hindrances to the development of a modern Polish nation-state. The mostly male elite’s condescending view toward those women indicate an internal colonization within the Polish lands, where one group regarded themselves as superior and more advanced than another, even though they belonged to the same nationality.

Stephanie Chung is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests are in Soviet literature and culture, Russian women’s writing, and Czech literature. She graduated with her B.A. in Plan II Honors, and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies in 2007; and her M.A. in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 2009 from the University of Texas at Austin. She plans to write a dissertation on Soviet women’s memoirs, particularly focusing on the writer and translator Lilianna Lungina.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Roundtable – “Communities, Connections, and Homelands”

This blog was originally posted on the REEEC website on October 7, 2013. The European Union Center was a co-sponsor for the event.

Panelists from left to right: Prof. Donna Buchanan,
Joe Lenkart, Ryan Haynes, Dr. Rob Whiting,
Prof. Richelle Bernazzoli, and Prof. Judith Pintar
Following the Presidential Address at noon on October 1 was the roundtable panel discussion on the topic of “Communities, Connections, and Homelands.” The panel participants were faculty, staff, alumni, and a graduate student from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Dr. Judith Pintar (Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures), Dr. Richelle Bernazzoli (Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Geography), Dr. Rob Whiting (Ph.D. graduate from the Department of Geography who is now a course mentor at Western Governor’s State University), Ryan Haynes (Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Musicology), and Joe Lenkart (Research Associate and Reference Specialist in the Slavic Reference Service). They each spoke about the Bosnian diaspora in their respective fields of specialization. The panel chair was Dr. Donna Buchanan, Associate Professor in the Department of Music and a REEEC faculty affiliate.

Dr. Judith Pintar was the first presenter. She remarked on the “beginning of a new and exciting relationship between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Bosnian community in Chicago.” The creation of a media archive on the Bosnian diaspora was a collaboration between BosTel (the Bosnian-American television station based in Chicago), and the International and Area Studies Library on campus. It will be an important addition to transnational studies, and trauma and diaspora studies. Dr. Pintar noted how the Bosnian experience is “translocal.” Bosnia is a country of multiple nationalities, where people come from and identify with particular villages. In diaspora, Bosnians organized themselves by their hometowns, no matter what part of the world they eventually settled. The Bosnian War tried to destroy everything that made a place a place, both the physical surroundings and the relationships between people. The refugees lost everything that surrounded their former life. To describe the Bosnian diaspora’s transition from their old home to their new home, Dr. Pintar spoke about a “translocal zavičaj.” Zavičaj (pronounced za-vy-chai) is the Bosnian word for homeland. According to her, the wartime damage was remade through diaspora. More accessible travel and new technologies, such as Skype and social networking sites, foster connections among people from the same hometowns. The homeland is expanded; zavičaj is created. However, the new zavičaj is more complicated because it includes new homelands. Dr. Pintar noted how the Bosnian community in St. Louis, many of whom have ties to Sarajevo, have constructed a fountain like the one in their hometown in their new home. Furthermore, Dr. Pintar observed that her student Medina Spiodic, a sophomore in REEEC who was instrumental in bringing about President Zeljko Komsic’s visit to campus, was extending zavičaj to the University of Illinois. Dr. Pintar concluded with the statement that “translocal zavičaj” is remaking a home in a new home, which is part of the healing process.

After Dr. Pintar, Dr. Bernazzoli spoke about the dearth of academic scholarship on the Bosnian diaspora. She observed how the diaspora created strong informal and social ties among the Bosnian community. It produced and reinforced the sense of homeland within the local community. Dr. Bernazzoli pointed out that the Bosnian diaspora is widely dispersed and relatively young. The rates of return to Bosnia, despite the war’s end, is low. Thus, the transnational paradigm is not the best fit to explain the Bosnian diaspora. More useful and appropriate approaches to studying it are a policy analysis on the role of the nation-state in mobilizing human capital, and the interaction of translocality and the formation of a supranational identity to analyze the mobilization of diaspora in local communities.

The third to speak was Dr. Whiting. He discussed the concept of place and diaspora, and asserted the uniqueness of the Bosnian experience. Drawing upon his U.S. army experience in Bosnia, Dr. Whiting noted how the concept of place differs from physical reality. People attach meaning to a place. Those in diaspora are “displaced.” For a long time, more than seventy years before the war’s outbreak in 1992, Bosnia was part of Yugoslavia. In fact, Bosnia was considered the “most Yugoslav” of the Yugoslav republics because of its multinational composition and cultural diversity. After the war, the feeling of “Yugonostalgia” was acute, even among people who fought on opposing sides of the war. There was a terrible sense of loss; something was missing in the current experience that was embodied before. The loss of Yugoslavia was the loss of something precious and real. The only way to knit communities back together that have undergone such trauma is through shared experience.

Following Dr. Whiting was Ryan Haynes. His presentation focused on the Bosnian community in Waterloo, Iowa. Though the city was not designated as a refugee site, Bosnian refugees first arrived by bus from Chicago in 1996 to work at the Tyson plant. Initially, there was no resettlement blueprint to help the sudden influx of newcomers who desperately needed food, apartments, furniture, immigration counseling, and English lessons. Almost twenty years later, the Bosnian community has established established roots in their new homeland, where they have made a positive cultural and financial impact. Many own businesses such as restaurants, stores, and nightclubs. Students perform dances from all over the former Yugoslavia and participate in festivals showcasing their culture. Furthermore, Bosnian-Americans have started to participate in the political process. Anesa Kajtazovic was elected as the first Bosnian-American member of the Iowa House of Representatives and is contemplating a run for the United States House of Representatives. In conclusion, Haynes observed that the Bosnian community’s gatherings in the United States seal ties to their homeland. Yet, it is still a liminal community that does not fully belong in Bosnia or the United States, but has connections to both places.

Joe Lenkart gave the final presentation. He remarked how the Slavic Reference Service has served communities and scholars, both on campus and all over the world, since the late 1950s. The University of Illinois Libraries, along with several other academic libraries in the United States, participated in acquiring Yugoslav library materials through Public Law 480,  a congressional-sponsored program that liquidated Yugoslavia’s debt by acquiring its library materials. As a result, it created space for communities. The University of Illinois acquired Yugoslavia: Peoples, States, and Societies, a collection of 100 reels of microfilm, the majority of which were in Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian. Through the International and Area Studies Library’s acquisition of the Bosnian diaspora archive and the Bosnian libraries’ growing presence in online bibliographies , he hopes to build a lasting relationship between the University Libraries, the Slavic Reference Service, and Bosnia.

The panel concluded with a lively question-and-answer session amon
President Zeljko Komsic giving
his concluding remarks.
g the panelists and members of the audience. Toward the end of the session, President Zeljko Komsic arrived to make the Presidential Remarks. He mentioned that the purpose of his visit to the United States was to help the Bosnians living here, and to improve the relationship between the U.S. and Bosnia. He expressed thanks to the University of Illinois community for their research interest in Bosnia. In particular, he appreciated all the different perspectives.  Although Bosnia is a small country, President Komsic proclaimed his pride for it and the scholarship about it. He praised the U.S. on how it has smoothly incorporated people from all over the world. He was impressed at how his host country has blended different cultures, religions, and regions into one entity. Yet, he asserted that “no matter what Bosnia-Herzegovina is, I’m happy for it.” He believed that the people of the Bosnian diaspora are happy in their new homeland. They have the “right to be who they are here” in the U.S., but not in Bosnia. He wished them all well as they integrate into American society. He encouraged them to be “good citizens of the U.S. and serve Bosnia well.” Moreover, he expressed admiration for those individuals who have become successful in their new homeland, even pointing out several people in attendance. He concluded his remarks with praise for the University of Illinois. His visit was unforgettable, and he had a “very valuable experience.” He was “very happy to be here.”

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Halloween in Europe

by Nicki Halenza and Gosia Labno

Halloween can be traced back to a festival called Samhain, which was an ancient Celtic celebration in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and northern France. This festival was celebrated on November 1 each year because it marked the change in seasons from warm summer to dreary winter - which also happened to be a time of year that many people died. Supposedly, the Celts believed that the night before, on October 31, the barrier that separated the living and the dead was lifted, and that ghosts would return to Earth. Eventually, this night would be called All-Hollows Eve and later, Halloween. Once Europeans started to migrate over to the United States, their traditions began to morph into the American version we celebrate today.

Nowadays, the holiday is widely celebrated in the United States, but its idea is spreading to other parts of the world. Although most children across continental Europe do not trick-or-treat, since the 1990s the practice of dressing up in costumes has become more common. In France, Halloween is celebrated by young children but is less fashionable for teenagers and young adults. If children trick-or-treat, they do so in smaller towns where it is safer and easier, since the Parisian apartment buildings complicate the activity.

“For us, the holiday has no cultural significance. It is just a way for businesses to make money,” said Lucie Valet, a French student currently studying abroad at the University of Illinois.

Schools across Europe host parties and parades, as well as award prizes to the best costumes. College-aged students sometimes host Halloween parties where dressing up is encouraged but is not universal. In the United Kingdom, American Halloween practices are much more common. Young children go trick-or-treating and play games like bobbing for apples. Other American cultural significations of Halloween, such as watching scary movies, carving pumpkins and decorating homes have traveled across the Atlantic but all in all, the holiday remains mostly an American one.


Friday, November 1, 2013

His Excellency Mr. Zeljko Komsic, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Addresses the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This blog was originally posted on the REEEC website on October 7, 2013. The European Union Center was a co-sponsor for the event.

President Zeljko Komsic giving his
Presidential Address to the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
On Tuesday, October 1, His Excellency Mr. Zeljko Komsic, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, gave a noontime Presidential Address to a standing-room only crowd at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The event was attended by faculty, staff, students, and distinguished guests, including the First Lady of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mrs. Sabina Komsic, the Bosnian Ambassador to the United States Ms. Jadranka Negodic, the Consul General, and leaders of the Chicago and St. Louis Bosnian communities. President Komsic’s visit came about from REEEC undergraduate student Medina Spiodic’s ambitious vision, and from the growth and greater recognition of South Slavic Studies at the University. Along with REEEC, the European Union Center and the Office of International Programs and Studies co-sponsored the event. President Komsic’s visit highlighted his advocacy of cooperation across ethnic lines and strengthening links to the Bosnian-American community.

With the help of Mirella Bajric, the interpreter, President Komsic addressed the audience in his native Bosnian. He began by expressing his “pleasure to be here at the second-oldest university in Illinois.” He praised the University Libraries, and the University’s research and teaching, particularly the blossoming interest in Slavic Studies.

REEEC-affiliated faculty, staff, and student with President Komsic
President Komsic then remarked on contemporary Bosnia. He observed that the majority of Bosnians are grateful for the help of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in stopping the war in 1995. He pointed out how Prof. Francis Boyle, of the College of Law and a REEEC faculty affiliate, was a key player in the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords. However, he acknowledged the challenges that Bosnia faces. Politically, there is a weakening of international interest in Bosnia. The international community, which had previously played a large role in ending the war and had a strong presence in the country, is now allowing local communities to lead. As a result, the Dayton Accords appear to be weakening. The country is stalled on its way to the European Union (EU) and NATO. Currently, it has not been able to fulfill the requirements for membership into both organizations. Since Bosnia lacks formal constitutional standards to equalize citizens, many Bosnians are denied basic human rights and face discrimination based on their ethnicity. President Komsic questioned how quickly and effectively Bosnia can make the necessary changes to become part of the EU and NATO.

Tufahija, a traditional Bosnian dessert,
 served in honor of President Komsic
President Komsic continued his address with a comparison between the United States and Bosnia. Both are multinational countries, but Bosnia has more work to do to repair its social divisions. In contrast, the U.S. had the strength to carry Barack Obama to the the Presidency. There were formal measures in place for him to become President, regardless of his background.  According to President Komsic, Bosnia needs a government and society based on the U.S. model of individualism, not collectivism. His goal is to end discrimination and make Bosnian society comparable to that of the U.S.

In conclusion, President Komsic spoke about the Bosnian diaspora in the U.S. He praised those who became successful in their new home, but also revealed that the majority of the adult generation that escaped the war had not really adjusted to life in the U.S. They still struggle with communicating in English and long for their homeland, despite knowing that they have nothing left there. However, the young people, their children, have adapted well and are fully integrated into U.S. society. Yet, those ethnic divisions that pit Bosnian Croats, Muslims, and Serbs against each other continue to exist even within the diaspora community. President Komsic believes in the need for drawing people to the Bosnian embassy and consulates, regardless of their ethnicity. All in all, President Komsic remains optimistic. He hopes that the media will strengthen connections between Bosnia and the Bosnian diaspora.


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