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, December 7, 2016

Immigrant and Minority Children in Public Schools: A European and American comparative discussion

By Rachel Johannigmeier

On November 14,  I had the opportunity to join in on a discussion about education with my community.  Letitia Zwickert, a Fulbright-Schuman Scholar and K-12 educator, visited the Champaign Public Library sponsored by the European Union Center and the Center for Global Studies along with the support of Illinois Humanities and the Illinois Speaks grant.  During the event, Zwickert presented the research she conducted from January to June of 2016 on education in Belgium, Luxembourg, and France and how it specifically impacts migrant children and their families. Then she opened the floor to lively audience discussion and questions.  

The development of her research began in 2014 when Zwickert wrote a proposal to study minority languages and the best pedagogical practices in different locations; from there, she wanted to use that information to compare the information and use those to improve on teaching practices in different areas.  She noted that she did not know if it would be possible to actually conduct her research, but with support from the European Union Center and the Center for Global Studies, she was able to successfully receive a Fulbright grant, and became the first K-12 educator who also was named a Fulbright-Schuman Fellow.

In her research, she found that each of the countries she researched had different approaches to their education system; she was careful to present a full picture of the education systems, rather than presenting only negatives or positives about each system. She also discussed how the political and social landscape of the communities had an impact on what she observed. For example, her arrival in France was preceded by the Paris Attacks in December, and it shaped the discussions she had with government officials.  During her research, she also visited Germany and Sweden, and she used her experiences there as comparisons to the information she collected in her research in Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.

She then provided the audience with advice she had developed based on her experience.  When approaching education, especially with regards to immigrant and minority children, she recommended the following:

  • Respect the mother tongue
  • Support all types of health (physical, emotional, and mental)
  • Connect with others with the use of pastimes and activities
  • Providing transitional academic support
  • Reach and connect with the family
After exploring her pieces of advice, she opened the floor to questions, and the audience was actively engaged in conversation.  This type of dialogue is what Zwickert wanted, as she noted that this event was meant to focus on discussion about education, and her research served as a point of discussion.  

In the end, Zwickert left the audience with a reflection on her research and the discussion.  The components of her research are a global issue, and not just a local issue.  We can consider our local viewpoint as a point of comparison, but we also should consider a global mindset as a point.  It is important that we understand and care about people and take on a global mindset so we do not label people as "other." 


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Transatlantic Relations in the Aftermath of U.S. Elections (video)

By Carlo Di Giulio

The roundtable taking place at the Illini Union Thursday, November 10 was hosted by the European Union Center of Excellence at the University of Illinois, following one of the most controversial campaigns in recent years. After an unprecedented, reciprocal exchange of accusations and allegations between the candidates of the two major parties, the President Electe Donald Trump emerged as the winner despite unfavorable polls until the very morning of the election day.

The three speakers, with the outstanding moderation of Mrs. Niala Boodhoo, were called to discuss the aftermath of the US elections and the consequences on Europe and the rest of the world. Valerie Rouxel-Laxton, Head of Economic and Financial Affairs Section at the Delegation of the EU to the US, reassured the audience on future commitment of the EU in discussing with the President Elect about the future of Transatlantic relations. In spite of bitter tones during his campaign and discouraging comments on free trade deals and the US role in NATO, Mr. Trump has not compromised the relations between the two blocks, and the US is still highly regarded in Europe by EU Institutions and citizens as a model of democracy and perhaps the most important partner in the international arena.

Professor Kourtikakis and Professor Gelbman dived deep into the technical details of the elections, sharing with the audience their expertise as political scientists. The early results of the polls, proved wrong later on November 8 after the results, as well as the possible consequences in international relations after Mr. Trump will take office at the White House.  More anecdotal notes on questions and reactions from their students in class were only a few points touched upon by the speakers.

The following reception was a pleasant opportunity for members of the audience to engage in further discussion, and approach the speakers to ask questions and exchange opinions.

The world has been waiting for the results of the 2016 US elections for months. Since the very beginning of the 2016 campaign, the two candidates have fostered curiosity, perplexities, and debate in the US and all around the world. The role of the US in the international arena is prominent for its economic and military power. As is typical with election results, almost a half of the electorate in the US celebrated a victory, while the other half was surprised with disappointment. Similar reactions were registered among US allies and partners. Yet, institutions are ready to welcome the President Elect when he takes office in January, regardless of his political affiliation and strategy to keep working for maintaining fruitful and solid relations.

To view the video of the roundtable, please visit Media Space to watch.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Populism – A Personal Reflection on the New Normal (Video)

By Carlo Di Giulio

What are the factors behind the rise of populism in Europe and North America? On October 20, as part of the Conversation on Europe video-conference series, the University of Pittsburgh hosted a debate titled “An Uncertain Future: Elections in the US and Europe.” The regional emphasis of this discussion concentrated on Canada, the United States, Spain, Italy, Hungary, France, and the United Kingdom (UK). These countries are some examples of what appears to be a shared phenomenon in Euro-Atlantic politics.

The discussion was an outstanding source of food for thoughts. It contextualized the rise of populism in relation to political mechanisms (for example electoral system) permitting historical political minorities to gather stronger consensus and on current problems in Western societies such as immigration, refugees, and financial struggles.

At the end of the debate, I wondered about the meaning of the concept of populism. Populism can be understood as a double-faceted term. On the one hand, it is a reaction towards the political establishment, a disapproval of the elite composed of people detaining institutional and economic power. It is an expression – in its most extreme adaptation – of the concept of Democracy, after all. It is surprising how this interpretation of populism is possibly closer to the idea of Democracy than Democracy itself in the modern age. With the exception of referenda, the result of a public vote in modern democratic systems is to delegate power to a restricted group of individuals, a legitimization to rule over the community. The actual government resulting from today’s elections is arguably an oligarchy. Populism opposes this idea to benefit the community.

During the debate, Professor Larry LeDuc, from the University of Toronto, pointed out how minority populist parties, once elected at the government can either face a failure in their intents of reforming the system, or become the new establishment. I could not help myself thinking about the recent visit of the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to the US. In his remarks at the Presidential Dinner, President Obama addressed him as Il Rottamatore—“the Scrapper”—a nickname suggesting his ambition to reform the Italian political system. Yet, Renzi faces considerable criticism at home, where populist movements—such as the Five Star Movement or the Northern League—consider him a member of that establishment they are opposing with such a verve.

Speaking from Paris, Jan Rovny, Assistant Professor at Sciences Po, mentioned in the debate how ideology does not appear to be principal vector behind populism, as much as populism itself. Populism is not concentrated to parties and/or groups on the right of the political spectrum. One can think of extremely different stances in the political spectrum still labeled as populist (examples in the US are Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump).

I must recognize how, on the other hand, populism represents the expression of a demagogic approach to politics; it gathers consent where discontent is stronger, acting as a catch-all movement regardless of values, but leveraging on few key ideas shared among supporters. In line with the Italian case, I reflect on the opposition by the Italian Prime Minister against the “establishment” in the EU institutions pushing for looser controls on national budget, how he is incessantly asking for an intervention of the EU on the issue of migration, shifting the complaint from the national to a supranational level, where the electorate and national opposition agree.

It is the game of politics, or what Putnam defined in his 1988 book a “two-level game.” It is a dialogue on two different, yet intertwined levels—national and supranational—balancing the results of two negotiation tables to maximize the results. This could still be a healthy form of (modern) democracy, as long as the electorate is adequately represented.

However, once detaining power, keeping a promise made during the political campaign is always a difficult task to follow through. The political realities, once at the helm of power, affect the maneuvering and implementation of ‘radical’ policies promised on the campaign trail. The risk of failure is high, and few goals are not the foundation of a political agenda (let’s think about what happened to UKIP in the Brexit vote’s aftermath). Populism itself—as an expression of Democracy—could play a positive role in the institutional landscape. The voters, however, must evaluate very carefully the promises they receive, as the expectation-reality gap tends to be undermined.

The video roundtable can be viewed below or on Youtube.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

EUC Lecture Series: Language Attitudes, Regional Loyalty, and the Implications of Regional Language Maintenance for the EU's Strategic Goals on Multilingualism

By Barbara Myers

On Friday, October 28, Professor Zsuzsanna Fagyal presented preliminary findings from an ongoing research project in her EUC Lecture, "Language Attitudes, Regional Loyalty, and the Implications of Regional Language Maintenance for the EU's Strategic Goals on Multilingualism.” In her presentation, Fagyal argued that the successful development and support of multilingualism should not overlook micro-level social factors and matters of local identity that are often missing in official governmental data.

Though EU states have adopted the Barcelona objective and Communication 566 on Multilingualism, and though the European Commission works with entities to protect Europe’s linguistic diversity and promote language learning, Fagyal pointed out that, “The EU does not have a multilingualism policy; it has multilingualism goals.” Fagyal went on to emphasize that these EU-level goals are currently more tied to market value than to culture, which is exemplified by Europol data on language use and proficiency. In these polls, regional and minority languages, such as Frisian and Catalan, “disappear” or are minimized in the rankings of language use.

This disappearance is surprising given regional and minority language speakers’ self-professed active (reading and writing) and passive (understanding and speaking) proficiency in their mother tongue. Yet Fagyal found that cultural and social factors such as age, gender, personal relationships, and regional loyalty play a role in regional and minority language use. Furthermore, “Regional loyalty corresponds to European identity,” said Faygal. “The greater the level of regional loyalty, the greater the sense of European identity.” To this listener, it would seem that, despite the dominance of state languages, regionalism could be a key to European cohesion.

For more reflections and conversations on policy and the state of European languages, please visit the EUC's blog, Linguis Europae.

The author, Barbara Myers, is a MAEUS student and FLAS Fellow (Advanced Swedish) at the European Union Center at the University of Illinois.  


Monday, November 7, 2016

Illini Everywhere: Turkish Illini, Since 1920

By Salvatore de Sando

This article by Salvatore de Sando was originally published on the website for the Student Life and Culture Archives at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign on October 25, 2016.  It has been republished here with permission.  

Since, at least 1920, Turkish students have been attending the University of Illinois. Turkish Illini have included accountants, anthropologists, architects, business administrators, chemists, civil engineers, computer scientists, economists, educational researchers, electrical and computer engineers, food scientists, materials scientists, mathematicians, mechanical engineers, musicians, political scientists, soldiers, swimmers, and teachers. Read on to learn more about early Turkish Illini!

A Turkish Student Society Group ILLIO Photo from the 1946 Illio, Page 405, found in Record Series 41/8/805 (Student Life and Culture Archives)

Life Abroad During the Turkish War of Independence, 1919-1923

Photographer and Electrical Engineer: Yussuf Zia

Yussuf Zia left the International College of Smyrna (now Izmir), during his junior year, to study electrical engineering at the University of Illinois. [1] During Mr. Zia’s two years at Illinois, he worked as an assistant in the photography department and he was a frequent speaker for campus events. In 1921, for the Asiatic Society club, Mr. Zia spoke about his experiences as a solider and army translator in 1915. [2] In 1922, for a multicultural student event, he told stories from the life of the satirical, Seljuk sufi, Nasreddin Hoca. [3] The follow year, Mr. Zia transferred to the University of Wisconsin to complete his studies in electrical engineering, before he found employment with Westinghouse Electric in East Pittsburgh. [4]

The Zeki Brothers Ali and Hassan

As the independence war loomed, Turkish novelist Halide Edib and her spouse, the Turkish politician, writer, historian, and medical doctor Adnan Adıvar, decided to send their sons abroad to study and to avoid fighting. [5] The couple knew University of Illinois Ottoman History Professor Albert Howe Lybyer, through his previous work as an instructor in Constantinople (now Istanbul) at Robert College and during his recent work on the 1919 Inter-Allied Commission on Mandates in Turkey (also known as the King-Crane Commission). [6] The older brother Ali Ayet enrolled in electrical engineering and the younger brother Hassan Hikmet enrolled in University High School. Ali lived with Mr. Zia and Hassan lived with Dr. Lybyer.

Like Mr. Zia, Ali and Hassan came to the University of Illinois to begin their studies but they did not complete degrees. [7] Their coursework was not the only challenge ahead of them. In 1921, as the Scarlet Fever passed around campus, Hassan became ill, resulting in the Lybyer home, Yussuf, and Ali being placed under quarantine for weeks. [8] To be a sick student is no joy and it is worse in a foreign country with little contact from your family. Even worse, it was the 1920s and communication from Turkey to the United States was limited. It was the next Fall, when it was Daily Illini newsworthy to report when the Zeki brothers received a letter from their famous mother and hand-delivered from the Secretary of the American Chamber of Commerce in Constantinople (now Istanbul) Lawrence S. Moore. [9] After their illness had passed, later, the Zekis gave interviews about Turkey too. [10] They were never completely alone either, as faculty and other University community members did support these students throughout the year–including holiday breaks. For winter break 1922, for example, the Zekis joined Bulgarian students at Professor Lybyer’s home for a holiday dinner. [11] What did they do for fun? For fun, Ali was reported to be a competitive ping-pong player at the YMCA. [12] Unfortunately, it was not until the summer of 1923, when the Zekis visited their parents again. [13] Upon their return, during the next Fall, Hassan began courses at the University–in commerce–but both brothers left in 1925 to continue their studies.

A May 17, 1921 Daily Illini article with photographs of Ali and Hassan Zeki, as well as their mother Halide Edib. (Student Life and Culture Archives)

Studying Abroad Between the Wars 

While early Turkish students’ educations were funded privately, many post Independence War students were funded by government scholarships or graduate employment. During the 1930s, there were at least two students on campus: Djelal Eddin Moustafa (B.S. Civil Engineering 1932) and Naci İskender (B.S. Education 1937).

Djelal Eddin) Moustafa Illio Photo from the 1932 Illio, Page 103, found in Record Series 41/8/805 (Student Life and Culture Archives)

Naci Iskender Illio Photo from the 1937 Illio, Page 86, found in Record Series 41/8/805 (Student Life and Culture Archives)

Not much is known about Mr. Moustafa except that he continued his studies and he completed a Masters of Science program in Ohio. [14] Alternatively, Mr. İskender was active in campus life and after graduation, he returned to teach math in Turkey. [15] From DI interviews, we know that Mr. İskender took advantage of local, seasonal recreation opportunities like ice skating. In fact, during one ice skating trip, a DI reporter interviewed him. [16]

“In Turkey we do not have the opportunity to skate on ice; I can’t skate; but I want to learn; I think it is a wonderful sport” he said. “The national sports in Turkey are horseback riding and wrestling [sic] [i]n the universities, the leading sports are soccer and swimming.”

After asking for details about the government scholarship system, the reporter asked Mr. İskender what he thought about the University. That response which closed the article was:

“I like it very much, I think Illinois is a wonderful school.”

Studying Abroad During World War Two

Military Officers and Civil Engineers, 1940-1945

During the early 1940s, the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department accepted a group of Turkish military officers to continue advanced studies in engineering. The first students included Captain Mehmet Fuat Tigrak (B.S. 1942, M.S. 1943, PhD 1945), and Lieutenant Mehmet Ensar Uyanik (B.S. 1942, M.S. 1943, PhD 1945).

Captain Mehmet Fuat Tigrak Illio Photo from the 1942 Illio, Page 105, found in Record Series 41/8/805 (Student Life and Culture Archives)

Lieutenant Mehmet Ensar Uyanik Illio Photo from the 1942 Illio, Page 106, found in Record Series 41/8/805 (Student Life and Culture Archives)

Initially, both officers came to complete bachelors and masters degrees; however, with the support of Department Head and Professor Whitney Clark Huntington, they completed PhDs too. In fact, under the supervision of Professor Ralph Peck, both men were involved with the development and construction of the University of Illinois – Willard Airport. [17] Future Turkish civil engineers would continue to attend the University in large numbers, and they even comprised the majority of the Turkish student population until the 1960s.

A September 9, 1943 Letter from Professor W.C. Huntington to Major Aydinalp, found in Record Series 11/5/1, Box 8, Folder "Turkish Students." (Student Life and Culture Archives)

An October 8, 1946 Letter from Professor Tigrak to Profesor Huntington, found in Record Series 11/5/1, Box 8, Folder "Turkish Students." (Student Life and Culture Archives)

Turkish Student Society (1944-49) and Turkish Student Association (1959-Present)

As the Turkish student population grew, there were increased opportunities for Turkish students to help other Turkish students as well as to share Turkish cultures with the University community. Since at least 1944, Turkish students formed at least two student organizations at the University.

From 1944 to 1949, the Turkish Student Society (TSS) was the first registered student organization (RSO) for Turkish students. Through the YMCA‘s international programs, the TSS participated in annual Turkish Coffee nights. Through the Cosmopolitan Club, TSS members found opportunities to exchange cultural knowledge with other students and community members. Turkish coffee nights and Turkish dinners can be found in the the Daily Illini.

A Turkish Student Association group Illio Photo from the 1964 Illio, Page 297, found in Record Series 41/8/805 (Student Life and Culture Archives)

Today, since 1959, the Turkish Student Association (TSA) continues the work of their predecessors, including mentoring and supporting new students, while organizing cultural events for members and the University community. By the 1950s, the first Turkish women arrived as students, thus making the TSA a co-ed student organization from its inception. With nearly a century of Turkish students on campus, the longest, Turkish, student-run campus event must be the annual Cumhuriyet Bayramı (Republic Day) which celebrates the establishment of the Republic of Turkey on October 29, 1923. As the Turkish Student Society Coffee Hour booklet suggests below, this annual dinner ball may have been celebrated on campus for almost the entire history of the Turkish Republic.

The cover of a TSS student publication for the 1946 Turkish Coffee Hour, found in Record Series 41/6/840, Box 33, Folder "Turkish Student Society." (Student Life and Culture Archives)

The fourth page of a Turkish Student Society "Turkish Coffee Night" program booklet, found in Record Series 41/6/840, Box 33, Folder, "Turkish Student Society." (Student Life and Culture Archives)

Are you a Turkish Illini? Do you know someone who is? We’d like to hear from you! Please send us a message or leave a comment below. We want to include you and your story, as we celebrate the first 150 years of the University of Illinois.

Happy First 150 everyone!

(A special thank you to the University of Illinois Turkish Student Association officers and members who invited me to their meetings and events, while supporting the development of this story and for sharing their stories too.)

[1] “Turkish Student Made Photography Assistant”, Daily Illini, February 9, 1921, page 1.

[2] “Yussuf Zia to Speak”, Daily Illini, April 8, 1921, page 1. Also see: “Zia Relates Experiences as Turkish Army Officer”, Daily Illini, April 9, 1921.

[3] The stories were part of a larger student club event at the Union Building, including Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Filipino students. “Japanese Wedding to Mark Program in Oriental Bazaar”, Daily Illini, January 5, 1922, page 8.

[4] The Wisconsin Engineer, Volume 30, Number 5, February 1926, page 168.

[5] “Mother To Sick Students Arrives As Envoy Of Turkish Government”, Daily Illini, May 17, 1921, page 8. Of course, Mr. Adıvar was their step-father; the brothers’ biological father was the Ottoman mathematician, physicist, and astronomer Salih Zeki.

[6] American Charles C. Crane may have financed their education, says Mr. Normal E. Saul in his recent book The Life and Times of Charles C. Crane, 1858-1939.

[7] Years later, the DI reported that Ali was enrolled in the University of London, Hassan had completed his Bachelors at Cornell and he enrolled in Columbia University for a Masters program. Please see: “Mother of Illini Students to Talk for Native Land” by C. R. Frederick, Daily Illini, August 9, 1928, page 2.

[8] “Lybyer Put Under Scarlet Fever Ban”, Daily Illini, April 19, 1921, page 5. This lasted for a few weeks. Mr. Zia recovered first, followed by Ali and then Hassan. Please see: “Release Quarantine Ban From Youssauf A. Zia ’24”,

[9] “Turkish Students Receive Tidings from Homeland”, Daily Illini, January 21, 1922, page 8.

[10] Ali shared a second-hand account of a friend whose home was looted during fighting in Smyrna (Izmir). “Turkish Student Goes Here from Far Golden Horn”, Daily Illini, September 27, 1922, page 7. For an account of a University faculty member’s childhood in Smyrna (Izmir), please see: Record Series 15/3/20 “George C. McVittie Papers“. Ali also spoke at a Rotary International anniversary event. Please see: “Foreign Students Assist Rotary in International”, Daily Illini, February 19, 1924, page 1.

[11] “Foreign Students to Spend Holidays with Faculty, Townsmen and Memories”, Daily Illini, December 23, 1922, page 6.

[12] He took second place, after winning 21 of 30 games in a spring tournament. “Ransdell Seizes Cup After Month’s Effort at Ping Pong Tourney”, Daily Illini, March 15, 1923, page 6.

[13] “Zeki Brothers to Visit Parents in Stamboul”, Daily Illini, April 17, 1923, page 2 and “Zeki Brothers Return from Visiting their Mother”, Daily Illini, September 19, 1923, page 2.

[14] Record of Proceedings of the Board of Trustee of the Ohio State University, Columbus, July 1, 1933 to June 30, 1934, page 135.

[15] Mr. Iskender may have been a mathematics book co-author too. Also see this Ankara Kolej Class of 1955 reunion webpage for a later photograph of Mr. Iskender.

[16] “Try, Try Again, Is Iskender’s Motto; He Thinks Ice Skating is a Wonderfully Fine Sport”, Daily Illini, November 13, 1934, page 7.

[17] Record Series 11/5/1, Box 8, Folder “Turkish Students”.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Freedom of Speech in the Age of New Media and New Publics: France, Europe and Beyond

By Katherine Brown

The French Center of Excellence and the European Union Center at the University of Illinois invited three fantastic speakers for a roundtable discussion on freedom of speech in France and beyond. The roundtable included famous filmmaker and activist Rokhaya Diallo, Director of the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics Jean-Philippe Mathy, and Christian Lequesne of the Science Politique-Centre de Recherches Internationales. All spoke eloquently and at length about freedom of speech in France, mentioning the recent terrorist’s attacks as the beginning of a new dialogue and the ongoing (and very controversial) ‘state of emergency’ throughout France.

The state of emergency was a main point consistently brought up by all three speakers. To the speakers, it appears the state of emergency is another tool by the government in an attempt to censor its people – because the state of emergency has persisted long after the actual emergency ended. The government also faces issues with international companies like Twitter having to adapt to their stricter hate speech laws. Ms. Diallo made a point of mentioning 85% of all global requests to remove hate speech on Twitter comes from France. In one of the most interesting questions of the evening she asked, “How can Twitter decide what is and is not hate speech when they lack the authority to do so?”

Jean-Philippe Mathy and Christian Lequesne also dived into the legality of laws surrounding freedom of speech. Christian Lequesne was quick to point out that criminalization of speech in France has always been hypocritical – noting that while denying the Holocaust is illegal in France, one could openly deny the Armenian Genocide and not be committing a crime. Jean-Philippe mentioned that governments imbed journalists with military instead of letting them roam as a means of censorship, or as he calls it, “damage control”.

French Journalist, Ms. Diallo, firmly believes in allowing people to be held responsible for their words, but also that preventing people from speaking worsens the problems. She believes the alt-right groups which are typically accused of hate speech do well online because they are barred from traditional media sources. Christian Lequesne believes the media can in some circumstances incite terrorism, and that some people (the ‘fragile minded’) can become self-radicalized via social media. Perhaps the solution is to ensure that if a government chooses the stricter route as France does, to follow and enforce the law equally instead of piece meal as they do now? When the law only censors minorities, the government’s legitimacy to enforce the law decreases, and makes issues worse.

It is an interesting topic, and we are probably left with more questions than answers. The censorship of citizens in France and the EU, through the state of emergency, will remain a question, and possibly a point of contention. I realize the implications of these policies as they relate to relations with other countries outside the EU. If EU citizens can be censored, what prevents other countries from doing the same or going even further and banning free speech?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Christian Lequesne Discusses Transatlantic Relations and Brexit - EU Studies Conference 2016

By Carlo Di-Giulio

The European Union Center at the University of Illinois had the privilege of hosting Christian Lequesne, Professor at the Center for International Research at Sciences Po, Paris, for the opening lecture of the EU Studies Conference “Researching and Teaching the EU: Best Practices and Current Trends in EU Scholarship.” Professor Lequesne’s lecture, titled “Future of Transatlantic Relations in a Post-Brexit Era,” offered a comprehensive overview of the context surrounding the British vote last June and possible developments in the aftermath of their referendum to leave the European Union.

The so-called “Brexit” has created a real earthquake in the EU institutions, and the implications go far beyond the EU's internal politics. Trade, for instance, is one of the main issues at stake. The weight of the United Kingdom in EU trade is significant. A strong signal that demonstrates this for instance is the Korean disappointment following the Brexit vote; their representatives have declared that a free trade agreement between South Korea and the EU (the recently signed KOREU) is less appealing without the UK. Yet, the UK cannot overestimate its trade power and should not be fooled by the illusion of entertaining special relations with external powers, such as the US, while being independent from the EU. President Obama delivered an important message on this issue stating that the negotiations with the EU are a priority, and the UK does not come first. Moreover, by observing the percentage of imports and exports between the EU and the UK, the existing divide would suggest a cautious approach for the Brexit negotiators.  This is especially important since the EU exports to the UK 19% of its total in goods and services, but the UK delivers to the EU more than the 45% of its national export.

Another important topic in the Brexit debate has been migration. Surprisingly, the refugee crisis has played only a minor role, and the main concern of pro-Brexiters was to impose limits on the influx of EU citizens into their country. British people, however, must be cautious of being under the impression of improving their welfare through methods that cut on EU migration; they might obtain an opposite result from the one expected. If we only think about healthcare, more than 25% of doctors in the UK are Polish citizens, and strong anti-migration policies could be devastating when the article 50 is activated.

It was an enlightening lecture on Saturday morning, and a great opening for an interesting day of presentations and discussion on the current status of the European Union, its challenges, and its future.

Friday, October 28, 2016

EUC Staff Member Discusses the Relationship Between the EU and Africa

Image originally from European External Action Service courtesy of Flickr

Maxime Larivé, Associate Director and Director of Graduate Studies at the European Union Center at the University of Illinois, recently contributed an article entitled “Unlocking EU-Africa security tensions: the need for cooperation” as an entry in the Friends of Europe’s Discussion Paper “Europe, China and Africa: new thinking for a secure century” to be published in November 2016. The purpose of this paper is to foster collaboration among the Friends of Europe’s large network of scholars, policymakers and business representatives on the future of EU-China cooperation in the security field in Africa. Contributions seek to present an understanding of stakeholders’ views and recommendations as China moves to a security position in Africa.

In his article, Larivé analyzes EU member states and their relationship with Africa, especially in light of Europe’s stronger focus on migration and the situations that lead to migration. From there, he reflects on the steps EU has implemented to address unrest in Africa, such as the French Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Finally, he discusses potential next steps that can be implemented by the EU.

To read the article, please visit its page on the Friends of Europe’s “Europe, China and Africa: new thinking for a secure century” website.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Freedom of Speech in the Age of New Media and New Publics: France, Europe and Beyond: A Visit from Rokhaya Diallo, Director of "Networks and Hate"

On October 21, 2016, the European Union Center at the University of Illinois held a roundtable and screening event, "Freedom of Speech in the Age of New Media and New Publics: France, Europe and Beyond."  This event was followed by the EU Studies Conference on October 22, 2016.  One of the guests was Rokhaya Diallo, a journalist and filmmaker.  Here, MAEUS student Paula Jaime Agramon covers her visit and discussion.

By Paula Jaime Agramon

French public figure and activist Rokhaya Diallo came to the University of Illinois for a series of two European Union Center events. The first was a roundtable discussing freedom of speech in a delicate era on France, Europe and beyond. Rokhaya also served as a keynote speaker during the lunch of our regional EU Studies conference where she spoke about being a transatlantic activist.

During the weekend, Rokhaya touched on very interesting and relevant topics. She discussed the risk associated with the state of emergency law that is still active in France after the series of attacks that started with the Charlie Hebdo attack. This law has been associated with attacks on the freedom of speech in France and often most of these attacks affect minorities in France. She mentioned that even though France’s law dictates that there are no minorities in France, that there are only French citizens, she also discussed the disparities and the unequal treatment of “minorities” that has only been enhanced with the state of emergency law.

Rokhaya also talked about how social movements and activism seem to follow the same steps here in the United States as they do in France. She mentioned how some people seem to follow the activism movements here in the United States because they feel they carry more weight and also seem to be more legitimate. She talked about how she does not feel the same way, but at the same time, she recognizes how it is positive that movements can expand across borders to gain more strength.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Conversations on Europe: EUC Videoconference series with University of Pittsburgh “Free Trade or Protectionism? Isolationism Amidst Globalization”

By AnnaMarie Bliss
September 20, 2016

For the first installment of the Conversations on Europe series for 2016-17, our panel of experts—Dr. Alasdair Young of Georgia Tech, Dr. Elvira Fabry of Norte Europe- Jacques Delors Institute, and Dr. David Cleeton of Illinois State—discussed the debate over free trade that has gained political traction in both the EU and the U.S. of late. What are the arguments being made for or against protectionism or fair trade on both sides of the Atlantic? How do we account for the rising hostility to NAFTA and TPP here in the U.S. and to TTIP and continued economic union in Europe? What are the post-Brexit vote implications?

Anti-free trade rhetoric is resounding in the current U.S. presidential election campaigns. Ratification of TTP is also a prominent issue running concurrently with the election race. Economists today have a consensus on the benefits of opening up markets, says Dr. Cleeton. The EU has a different framework for trade than the U.S., with small open economies and a shared currency that must maintain high productivity to maintain competition--Germany would be a prime example. We see job loss or gain through competition and innovation in the economy. Slow investment in both the public and private sectors is one issue. Technology is also impacting job skills and the supply is limited as we do not provide training for the necessary skills to utilize technology. Intermediate products, not final products, are more common in the U.S. economy. Trade negotiations will be more reliant on how we give access to service providers. We have spent decades lowering tariffs and realize that this will not make a difference.

EU general trade policy is very active and conducted by the European Commission, Dr. Fabry says. A similar backlash against trade policies is occurring with elections in France and legislative elections in Germany. Criticism of trade is more intense in some countries, including Germany and Austria, as globalization is being engaged where there is a larger mix of ideas and pro or contra sentiments. The higher level of interdependence may be more widely received, especially with reflection on the refugee crisis in Europe.

In the U.S. the opposition to trade is traditional. In Europe, the opposition to TTIP is much less traditional and more about the interlinked economy and movement of people, says Dr. Young. Protests in Germany against TTIP and CETA are prevalent. These agreements, however, differ widely in their ambitions. Globalization has to do with increased competition between partner states. Some industries have come down to minimal competitive companies and supply chains. All of the agreements try to address different issues in how we undertake competition. Trade now is likely to produce more influence with higher competition. Strong interest in multi-national corporations exists, especially with potential gains and open markets. We will continue with trade pacts in this vain. We may see some major strategic changes in TPP and TTIP negotiations in Congress following the U.S. elections.

Allyson Delnore of the University of Pittsburgh moderated the discussion.

The videoconference can be viewed on a new webpage or viewed here:


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Larry Neal Prize for Excellence in EU Scholarship Lecture: "From Single Markets to Transatlantic Markets: Lessons from the United States for Europe"

By Carlo Di Giulio 

For its opening lecture this year, the European Union Center at the University of Illinois hosted Michelle Egan, Professor and Chair at the School of International Service, at the American University in Washington D.C.

Egan was the 2015 recipient of the Larry Neal Prize for Excellence in EU Studies; this award was initiated in honor of Professor Emeritus of Economics Larry Neal, the founding director of the European Union Center at the University of Illinois, to recognize excellent research conducted by affiliated faculty of the EU Centers located throughout the United States and Canada.

Professor Egan offered an overview of similarities and differences between the EU and the US, such as their evolution and the comparable path they are following in their unity-building process. Her lecture shed lights on current difficulties in international negotiations, the stance of the two actors, and their internal struggles inevitably casting shadows on the international stage.

The EU is working through an integration process that the US already experienced in the 19th century. At that time, new territories had to be included in a common market under common rules. In the 19th century, the US Federal Government had to support states that had hard times keeping pace with financial requirements (Pennsylvania). In the 21st century, it is the EU's turn to support financially weaker states (e.g. Greece).

At the same time, differences between the US and EU exist and must be recognized. Regulatory integration is required in the EU with full acceptance of the acquis by new Member States; higher independence at a state-level is assured in the US. The difference in distribution of competences can be understood by observing the opposite perspective as well, as Federal-owned territories in the US cover a surface that would be the equivalent of multiple Member States in the EU.

The idea of independence and sovereignty is differently shaped in the EU and the US. Still, these ideas lead to similar conclusions, and fragmentation results in a decisive way for the outcomes of international negotiation and the issues being negotiated.

The 4 year long negotiation of a moribund Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is an example of irreconcilable differences leveraging on circumstances created through the process of integration. The federal/state level competence in the US, as well as the Supranational/National competence in the EU create a web of bureaucracy and conflict on rules and regulations. Issues, such as regulation of professions and authorizations or taxations, move between multiple layers and make the finalization of such a broad and comprehensive agreement nearly impossible.

At the end of her lecture, Professor Egan received the prestigious Larry Neal Prize for Excellence in EU Studies from Professor Emeritus of Economics Larry Neal, the founding director of the European Union Center at the University of Illinois, in recognition of the excellence of her research among the affiliated faculty of the EU Centers in North America.

The video of the lecture can be viewed on Media Space Illinois.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Interiorae by Gabriella Giandelli

Image from Amazon
Over the past few decades, graphic novels have become a respected form of literature. Europe, in particular, has published a wide variety of graphic novels, and these works have become available to wider audiences due to the growth in popularity. In this summer series presented by the EUC, graphic novels from a wide variety of EU members will be reviewed and discussed. 

By Rachel Johannigmeier

In this final entry in "Going Graphic with the European Union" for the time being, I read the graphic novel, Interiorae by Gabriella Giandelli.  Originally published in four individual issues, this translated collection was made available in the US in 2012 by Fantagraphics.  As I read through the story, I entered a world of reality and many dreams, and the line between these two worlds began to blur.  While not a straightforward narrative, it is still a delightful and melancholic story.

Image from Amazon
Story Information

Title: Interiorae

Creator: Gabriella Giandelli

Translator: Kim Thompson

Publisher: Fantagraphics

Audience: 16 and older

Interiorae is a story that shows two worlds.  One story is the exploration of the lives of the various tenants in an apartment building.  The other story is about the dark being living in the basement of the apartment who feeds on dreams and is assisted by a small bunny who can walk freely throughout the apartment.  The two worlds do not sound as if they really relate to each other, but as the story goes on, the narratives begin to clearly blend together.  The main conflict comes from the dwindling amount of the tenants dreams, and it appears that this lack of dreams spells doom for the apartment building itself.  As the story continues, the narrative takes on a dreamy atmosphere as it draws to its conclusion.

Interiorae is a story that does not necessarily have a deep and complex plot, but reading through it is a pleasant experience.  It is not an engrossing story, but as a reader I was able to simply enjoy the story.  There are no surprises, and for this type of story it works. 

It is also a piece that is stronger in its visuals than in its plot.  Giandelli's art is filled with a great deal of emotion, and the use of colors and shading is impressive.  She shines in the strange moments, such as the dream sequences, and she also shines in the quiet, normal moments of the story.  If the story did not have words in it, it would still be a fine story. 

I would recommend this graphic novel for readers who appreciate fantastic realism and compelling art.  It is truly an enjoyable visual novel. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Dungeon: Zenith-Volume 1: Duck Heart by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim

Image from Amazon
Over the past few decades, graphic novels have become a respected form of literature. Europe, in particular, has published a wide variety of graphic novels, and these works have become available to wider audiences due to the growth in popularity. In this summer series presented by the EUC, graphic novels from a wide variety of EU members will be reviewed and discussed. 

By Rachel Johannigmeier

Swords, monsters, heroes, and ducks make up the world of Dungeon, a very popular comic tale in its native France.  According to Time, the series by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim, started in 1998, and the volume I read, Duck Heart, is a collection of the first two tales in the "Zenith" story of Dungeon.  I did not know what I was going to be reading before going in, but as I read, I found myself laughing and enjoying the humor, both subtle and outrageous.

Image from Amazon
Story Information:

Title: Dungeon: Zenith-Volume 1: Duck Heart

Creators: Joann Sfar (writer) and Lewis Trondheim (artist)

Publisher: NBM Publishing

Audience: Teenagers and older

The world of Dungeon starts in...what else but a dungeon?  It is not as much a dungeon as it is a gauntlet of monsters, magic, and other horrors for adventurers and heroes to face (though none have succeeded in getting out alive).  However, the Dungeon soon finds itself under siege, and it is the power of a barbarian that they need. What they get is a less than effective duke (and duck), Herbert, who miraculously manages to stop the siege.  In the next tale, which is told in a series of vignettes, Herbert and one of the Dungeon's guards, a dragon named Marvin, go on a quest to teach Herbert how to actually be a hero.  What results is a journey that is both comedic and slightly poignant.

Duck Heart is never afraid to poke fun at its characters, but it is also not afraid to consider the more serious feelings of these characters.  Herbert seems like a hapless loser, and for the most part, he is one, but when you learn about his banishment due to a duel to his father, I felt invested in the character.  It is farce, but it is farce with heart behind it.

The art is also fun and cartoonish, and one could read the story multiple times and find something new to notice in the background of the panel.  It is to the story's strength that it's characters are bizarre creatures and not humans, since this allows the artist to be creative.  While locations can look simple, it is an art style that works for the type of story that it is trying to tell.

One area that could have worked better would be the pacing of the second half of the story.  It felt as if it was over too soon, and it also jumped around at a pace that sometimes made a confusing read.  It ends on a note that leaves the reader wanting more.  This is a good sign though, that I want to continue the story.

I would recommend this graphic novel for people who love a well-done spoof and comedy with a hint of fantasy.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Blacksad by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido

Image Courtesy of Comics Alliance
Over the past few decades, graphic novels have become a respected form of literature. Europe, in particular, has published a wide variety of graphic novels, and these works have become available to wider audiences due to the growth in popularity. In this summer series presented by the EUC, graphic novels from a wide variety of EU members will be reviewed and discussed. 

By Rachel Johannigmeier

Noir...with human-like animals?  While it is not a typical story combination, Blacksad by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarrido proves that it is a combination that works as a story that is both compelling and complex.  Created by two Spanish creators and published originally in France as three different bande dessinée, the publisher Dark Horse Comics has collected these three stories in one English translated graphic novel.  The stories collected are Somewhere Within the Shadows, Arctic Nation, and Red Soul.

Image Courtesy of Comics Alliance
Story Information

Title: Blacksad

Creators: Juan Díaz Canales (writer) and Juanjo Guarnido (artist)

Translation: Anthya Flores and Patricia Rivera

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Audience: Adults

The three stories in Blacksad follow the adventures of the title character, John Blacksad, a black cat who has seen many things in his life.  The stories take place in the United States of the 1950s, and even though all the characters are depicted as animals, real historical events and problems are addressed within the stories.  For example, World War I, the atomic bomb, and racism are all significant points of the plot.  Each story provides insight into the main character, a private investigator with a rough past, as he interacts with a colorful supporting cast.  In Somewhere Within the Shadows, Blacksad is tasked with investigating the death of a starlet (and former lover).  In Arctic Nation, Blacksad looks into the disappearance of a child in a town strongly influenced by race politics.  Finally, in Red Soul, Blacksad encounters an old teacher with a dark past that is causing problems in the present.

Crime comics can sometimes rely too heavily on stereotypes, plot points, and genre elements that make the whole story feel as if it is a cliché. I have read many noir comics, and I can say that the three stories presented in Blacksad, are excellent examples of a superior crime comic narrative.  It still utilizes the trappings of the genre, but the emotions and ideas of the story set it above the average story for its genre.

Another area of praise for the story is the artwork.  The characters are incredibly distinct, and the coloring makes the features of the artwork stand out.  These characters are animals but they are incredibly human-like, with a wide variety of expressions and appearances.  The creators have developed a unique world with characters that seem incredibly realistic.

Sometimes the stories feel short which is understandable as they are around 50 pages long, but even with that in mind, the stories definitely work well as short stories.  I would definitely recommend this graphic novel for fans of noir comics and well-crafted narratives. 


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: The Incal by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius

Image from Comics Alliance
Over the past few decades, graphic novels have become a respected form of literature. Europe, in particular, has published a wide variety of graphic novels, and these works have become available to wider audiences due to the growth in popularity. In this summer series presented by the EUC, graphic novels from a wide variety of EU members will be reviewed and discussed. 

By Rachel Johannigmeier

If you have ever seen David Lynch's Dune, you may be aware of the troubled history of the production, including the version of Dune by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Jean Giraud (also known by the pen name, Moebius).  According to Comics Alliance, the two had collaborated on the incomplete vision of the project, and eventually, from 1981-1988, they collaborated on a work known as The Incal.  What they created is a work that stands strong as an example of what the science fiction can accomplish in graphic novels.

Image from Amazon
Story Information

Title: The Incal

Creators: Alejandro Jodorowsky (Writer) and Moebius (Artist)

Publisher: Humanoids

Audience: Adults

The Incal is a work that follows its protagonist, the unlikable detective John DiFool, as he becomes a part of a group saving the universe with the power of an entity known as the Incal.  He is not the chosen one of the story, but almost every segment of the story requires his involvement in some manner.  Whether it involves beating a thousand of other trained competitors in winning the honor of ushering in the Golden Age of the race the Berg or stopping the Darkness from corrupting the Emporess, he is always a reluctant, but necessary part of the fantastic journeys he finds himself on with his companions. 

The story begins and ends in the same way, but the journey in between is what adds power to the story's ending.  It is clear that the story was originally serialized, as the plot bounces at a rapid pace that sometimes left me confused as to what was exactly happening.  However, the art is astonishing, and makes up for any plot points that might have been missed along the way. 

It is a story that is set above average by the art, as many of the familiar cliches of sci-fi appear in the story.  Whether or not they were cliches when the story was created is debatable, but it is still an enjoyable story to read. It is a fantastic world, and as a reader, it is a treat to see into this interesting world. 

It also provides commentary on society and the corruption of those in power and those who are not in power.  There were incredibly cartoonish moments, but they serve to address issues of power.  I laughed at these moments, but I also thought about the implications of the source of humor.

I would recommend this graphic novel for fans of classic sci-fi that also provides social commentary on the world. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life by Ulli Lust

Image from the Comics Journal
Over the past few decades, graphic novels have become a respected form of literature. Europe, in particular, has published a wide variety of graphic novels, and these works have become available to wider audiences due to the growth in popularity. In this summer series presented by the EUC, graphic novels from a wide variety of EU members will be reviewed and discussed.

By Rachel Johannigmeier

While Ulli Lust may have been scared of dying when she was a child, by the age of 17, she was living by the motto, “live as if every day was my last” (Lust 70). In her graphic novel, Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, Austrian-born comic artist Ulli Lust relates the experience of her summer across Europe in 1984. The journey is not only physical; it is an emotional journey uses the experiences of the author as landmarks. It also is a story that is conveyed with “honesty,” and no topics are considered too sensitive; Lust mentioned in her interview with Comics Journal that she had to be honest to create “a better story.”

Image from Fantagraphics
Story Information:

Title: Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life

Creator: Ulli Lust

Translation: Kim Thompson

Publisher (English Translation): Fantagraphics Books

Audience: Adult

Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life is the tale of Ulli Lust’s travels from Vienna to Italy with her “friend” who is simply called Edi within the book. The two girls travel without passports, traveling supplies, and money, and throughout their trip, they encounter various ways of surviving on the streets and avoiding the police. Ulli Lust and Edi are both a part of the Punk scene of the time, and they meet a variety of people who share their interests. They are separated for a while, and in that time, Lust must survive on her own. Eventually, the two girls are reunited, but their reunion is impacted by Italian crime. Eventually, Ulli returns home, weary of her travels, but more aware of the nature of the world.

It is hard to summarize the plot of Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life. It is a real story with true facts and events, but it is also an odyssey of emotion. With her simplistic style of art, Lust manages to do a wonderful job with portraying her trip to Sicily. Lust’s art also helps convey the emotions of her teenage self and the art, while  cartoon-like, really captures the essence of each scene. Lust never draws herself the same, and it’s fascinating to see how she changes along with the story.

It is also a refreshing story in that Lust does not tone down her message or the events of her past. The graphic novel discusses feminist topics such as rape culture and gender roles. It is never gratuitous in its portrayal of sexual violence, but it presents it in a blunt manner; as a reader, I felt Lust’s recollections had strong emotional power.

It is a longer graphic novel than previous books I have read for “Going Graphic with the European Union,” but it is a tale worth reading. I would recommend this book for audiences interested in feminism and memoirs. I would also recommend it for readers who enjoy travel stories such as On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Snow Piercer Volume One: the Escape by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette

Image courtesy of Comic Book Resources
Over the past few decades, graphic novels have become a respected form of literature. Europe, in particular, has published a wide variety of graphic novels, and these works have become available to wider audiences due to the growth in popularity. In this summer series presented by the EUC, graphic novels from a wide variety of EU members will be reviewed and discussed.

By Rachel Johannigmeier

“Across the white immensity of an eternal winter, from one end of the frozen planet to the other, there travels a train that never stops. This is the Snowpiercer, one thousand and one carriages long” (Lob 3). This is how Snowpiercer Volume One: the Escape, or (in its original French title) Le Transperceneige begins its journey.

Created by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, along with help from Benjamin Legrand, this dystopian graphic novel presents a society forced to live in the train, the Snowpiercer, to survive. Humanity, morality, and politics are addressed and challenged in the narrative, and by the end of the journey, it is unclear who or what will survive in this future.

Image courtesy of Comic Book Resources
Graphic Novel Information:

Title: Snowpiercer Volume One: the Escape

Creators: Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette

Writer: Jacques Lob

Artist: Jean-Marc Rochette

English Translation: Virginie Selvay

Publisher: Titan Books (English Translation)

Audience: Adult

Snowpiercer Volume One: the Escape takes place in a future that is a snow-filled wasteland, and the human survivors aboard the Snowpiercer are starting to run out of necessities. The train is divided into different classes, and our protagonist, Proloff, is an escapee from the “Tail,” the end of the train with the poorest of this society. Along with an activist named Adeline, Proloff is escorted by the law enforcement of the train to the front of the train to meet with the President. As they travel through the different passenger carts, the readers can see the different types of living styles along with the hypocrisy and corruption of the train’s occupants. Ultimately, Proloff, Adeline, and the reader learn the true history of the train’s origins; by that point, the train is besieged by sickness. In the end, Proloff is the only one alive and it is clear that his story will not have a happy ending.

In an interview with the LA Times’ HeroComplex, artist Jean-Marc Rochette discusses the influences behind this 1982 graphic novel; interestingly enough, it was the concern about “ecology” and not “politics” that influenced the message of the book (Clark). However, in covering the concerns about the environment, it also becomes a story that critiques the people who shape the environment. It is a story about man cut off from nature, and after destroying nature, it begins to destroy itself through social class.

The message also becomes clear as the writing and the art depict the different sections of the train, and one cannot help but be drawn to and repulsed by the scenes and characters. A great achievement of this graphic novel is that it uses art to mimic travel and the repetition of the text about the train’s movement drew me into the story. I felt as if I was really going through the train, and I could see the differing lifestyles of the characters.

One concern I had was my lack of interest in the main characters. I find dystopian fiction lacking in interesting characters and instead focusing on people as symbols. No characters are truly memorable, and the sole female character serves as a love interest rather than an individual.

Snowpiercer Volume One: the Escape is a graphic novel I would recommend for people who enjoy philosophical discussion about human nature and are incredibly interested in the creativity of the dystopian genre.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn by Hugo Pratt

Image Courtesy of Comic Book Resources
Over the past few decades, graphic novels have become a respected form of literature. Europe, in particular, has published a wide variety of graphic novels, and these works have become available to wider audiences due to the growth in popularity. In this summer series presented by the EUC, graphic novels from a wide variety of EU members will be reviewed and discussed.

By Rachel Johannigmeier

While Hugo Pratt’s character, Corto Maltese, has been a prominent player in the European comic scene, it is only recently that new translations of the stories have been available in English. In an interview with Michael Lorah of Comic Book Resources, Dean Mullaney notes that the graphic novels were written in Pratt’s native language, Italian, and published in French. Previous English versions relied on the French translations; EuroComics is currently working on a project to translate all the Corto Maltese stories to best re-create Pratt’s intent. While Mullaney states that it is the third volume of Corto Maltese’s tales, Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn, is the first volume of a 12 volume translation project.

Image Courtesy of Comic Book Resources
Story Information

Title: Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn

Creator: Hugo Pratt

Translation: Dean Mullaney and Simone Castaldi

Publisher: EuroComics and IDW Publishing (US Edition)

Audience: Teen and Up

The best way to describe Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn  is to describe it as a series of short adventures that are connected through various plot points and characters. The locations also change throughout the story as the characters travel to the Dutch Guianas, Brazil, Saint Kitt, and Honduras in 1916. The story concerns a young boy named Tristan Bantam who is looking for his half-sister, Morganna, as a part of protecting his recently deceased father’s company. Corto Maltese is recruited by Tristan as transportation and guide in his quest. Rounding out the cast is Professor Steiner.  During their travels, they run into magicians, rebels, immortals, lawyers, colonial soldiers, and even old enemies of Maltese.

Based on the praise on the book jacket and the information provided in the introduction and author’s page, it is clear that Hugo Pratt was an influential figure in the field of graphic novels. The character of Corto Maltese has continued to endure even after Pratt’s death in 1995. While I had never heard of Pratt before beginning my research into European graphic novels, I can see why his work is well respected. The artwork is distinctive, and the dialogue, while short, contains a great deal of wit and creativity. It is also a graphic novel that takes chances in its storytelling, as dream sequences stand side by side with adventure and political intrigue.

Another interesting aspect of the story is the depiction of the world. While there are areas of the graphic novel that may not work as well today as they did back then, it is clear that Pratt has a respect for different cultures;  He also has a political message of anti-colonialism in his works. It is a world filled with people from different walks of life, but the main antagonists are a part of imperialistic forces.

However, there were some concerns I had during reading. Since this is technically the third volume about Corto Maltese, I was confused at mentions of Maltese's past. I also felt as if the story could be improved if annotations regarding the locations and references were provided. It was an entertaining story, but I felt as if I missed parts of it due to lack of information.

I would recommend this graphic novel and the further adventures of Corto Maltese, for anyone who likes  adventure comics of the 30s, 40s, and 50s. I would also recommend it for audiences interested in exploring European comic culture.

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