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.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Is the EU Conflating Integration with Mobility? Assessing Erasmus after 30 Years

By Adalric Tuten, EUC Staff

During the monthly installment of its Conversations on Europe series, the University of Pittsburgh’s European Union Center (EUC) hosted a video conference entitled “European Integration through Study Abroad: 30 Years of the Erasmus Program.” Panelists included Dr. Sabina Von Dike (University of Pittsburgh), Dr. Theresa Kuhn (University of Amsterdam), Dr. Christof Van Mol (University of Antwerp), and Dr. Florian Stoeckel (University of Exeter). Dr. Jae Jae Spoon, Director of the EUC at the University of Pittsburgh, moderated the panel.

The purpose of the conference was to assess the accomplishments of the 30-year-old Erasmus Program, the European Union’s (EU) billion-euro student and scholar exchange program.  More specifically, the discussion focused on how the Erasmus Program has contributed to increasing European integration through support for international study abroad within the EU.

While all of the participants emphasized the positive nature of the program as a whole, there was division on the kind of impact the program has had on European integration. Based on his 12-country research of the Erasmus Program, Chris Van Mol argued the program has not only had an overstated impact on EU integration, it has even worked in the direction of dividing the EU. This is because those participating in the Erasmus Program have traditionally been university students representing a small, privileged group within the overall EU population. Theresa Kuhn confirmed this point by highlighting that this relatively small and privileged group of Europeans shows a selection effect in favor of the EU and its deepening integration, since this group already approached the program with a favorable view of the EU and its institutions. To remedy this situation, both Van Mol and Kuhn argued in favor of broadening the Erasmus Program to include members of society not traditionally associated with university students, such as vocational school students and government administrators.

Although supportive of this idea of greater program inclusiveness, Florian Stoeckel argued that in his research on Erasmus, he did find a positive correlation between program participation and a stronger sense of EU identity. Yet, he cautioned that his findings stressed a stronger experience of being European, versus possessing an EU political identity. Here, Sabina Van Dike made an important distinction that has evolved over time between a cosmopolitan identity and a European one. Van Dike suggested the cosmopolitan identity reflected a neoliberal and instrumental view of study abroad, grounded in the belief that participation in Erasmus means professional advancement. In this way, she hit on an underlying and unresolved question of the conference: does the Erasmus Program conflate EU integration with increased mobility? Given current political trends within the EU, including the rising popularity of Eurosceptic and nationalistic political parties, one could also ask whether fostering special programs for an already privileged part of the EU population, as the Erasmus Program currently does, has the inadvertent impact of dividing the EU by exacerbating societal differences, for example, along class and age lines?

Watch a recording of the videoconference below:


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

When Boxers Take to the Soccer Field: How Populism is Confounding the Game of EU Integration

By Adalric Tuten, EUC Staff

On November 16, the European Union Center (EUC) of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign co-sponsored a lecture by Emilia Zankina, Associate Professor in Political Science and Provost of the American University in Bulgaria. Dr. Zankina’s talk, Theorizing Populism East and West, was part of the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center’s (REEEC) New Directions lecture series and addressed the nature of populism in today’s Europe.

The focus of Dr. Zankina’s talk was on the problem of defining and theorizing populism and on discussing her new theoretical approach to the subject. According to Zankina, populism has found renewed interest among scholars due to its success in Europe and around the world. Yet, populism defies easy articulation, because it exhibits chameleon-like traits, making it visible across the political spectrum, in rightwing, centrist, and leftwing forms. Despite this resisting of easy definition, Zankina argued that populism does exhibit some important commonalities that make it a meaningful term for analysis. These include, for instance, reliance on charismatic leaders for political direction, avoidance of specific plans for executing policy, and aggressive assault on the political rules of the game that populist parties see as inhibiting easy resolution of major social crises, such as immigration or economic decline.  In other words, no matter the political message of a particular populist party, be it left, right, or centrist, the party sells itself as the savior of society, because it can bypass the political status quo to rescue the country from ruin and peril.

Here, Zankina forwarded her new theoretical approach for studying populism. Since all political parties sell themselves as able and ready to solve pressing social problems, Zankina distinguishes populism as a political strategy that relies on informal institutions and informal means to do so. Hence, populism promises to reduce political transaction costs by sidestepping formal political processes, such as use of vetoes and checks and balances, to expedite the saving of the nation. By informal, top-down means, Zankina noted, one of Bulgaria’s populist parties promised national salvation within 800 days.

So, what happens, as several audience members inquired, when populist parties win and win within the context of the European Union (EU)? Zankina responded that populist parties adapt to the formal political processes already in place, or they fail to survive. This is because the platforms of the parties are often highly emotional, lacking substantive policy foundations. Only when such parties form coalitions with traditional political parties are they able to carry out sustained policy changes. However, as Zankina further noted, because populist parties succeed through their rejection of formal political rules of the game, they pose challenges for the EU, even when they do not win elections. This is because the EU has no effective means for stopping these parties. As Zankina concluded, harsh reports and sanctions do not work against these parties, causing them to “freeze” the process of EU integration. Subsequently, then, these parties appear to be like boxers taking to the soccer field. They are successful at what they do by not complying with the rules of the game.

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Gallery Conversation on "Propositions on a Revolution (Slogans for a Future)"

By Cassia Smith

l-r: Kristin Romberg, Jaleh Mansoor, Tameka Norris, & Terri Weissman
Though the Ten Days event series features several individual events such as lectures and performances, it also includes longer exhibitions dedicated to the themes of revolution and change. One of these exhibitions is the "Propositions on a Revolution (Slogans for a Future)" exhibition at the Krannert Art Museum. Morgan Shafter, a Ph.D. candidate in Slavic Languages and Literatures, has written up this exhibition and a gallery conversation featuring it for REEEC's E-News blog. The gallery conversation, which took place September 22, 2017, featured curator Kristin Romberg, as well as contributing artist Tameka Norris, Dr. Jaleh Mansoor, and Dr. Terri Weissman. The exhibition is still running at KAM through December 22.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Universal Prostitution and Concrete Abstraction: The Biopolitics of Abstract Art, 1888-2008

By Cassia Smith

Edouard Manet's "The Balcony" (1869)
On September 21, Dr. Jaleh Mansoor gave a talk on "Universal Prostitution and Concrete Abstraction: Labour and the Biopolitics of 19th-Century Abstract Painting" at the Krannert Art Museum as part of the Ten Days event series. The lecture considers two paintings, one by Manet and one by Seurat, within a Marxist-feminist theory framework. LeiAnna X. Hamel, a Ph.D. candidate in the Slavic Languages and Literatures program, has written up Dr. Mansoor's talk for REEEC's E-News blog, complete with an overview of the main arguments and images of the two main paintings under discussion.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Library Exhibition on 1917

By Cassia Smith

Did you miss the Main Library's September exhibition on the 1917 Russian Revolution? While your chance to have your photo taken with a cardboard cutout of Lenin may be lost to time, you're still in luck! REEEC's e-News blog has a brief writeup of the exhibition and a gallery of images, including the one at left. See display cases, photographs, propaganda material, and yes, a Lenin cutout. Read up on the exhibition, or check the EUC's calendar for upcoming 1917-themed events.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Revolution and Renewal: A Review of the Revolutionary Poetry Slam

By Cassia Smith

Valeria Sobol and David Cooper
In late September, the Ten Days event series co-sponsored by the EUC hosted a revolutionary poetry slam, featuring a combination of classic and original poetry on the theme of revolution. First-year REEEC grad student Jesse Mikhail Wesso attended the poetry slam and wrote about it for REEEC's e-News blog. Click through for pictures of the performers, additional information on Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Wesso's own reflections on the nature of revolution. For other upcoming events, check the EUC calendar and the Ten Days website.

Researching and Teaching in European Tongues: Reflections on the European Union Center's Working Conference for Regional College Faculty

By Adalric Tuten, EUC Staff

How does one study or teach about something as complex as the European Union (EU), a political entity made of 28 different countries (soon to be 27, once the UK leaves), each with its own particular social, economic, cultural, and political complexities? This was the question guiding discussions during the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s European Union Center’s (EUC) conference, “Researching and Teaching the EU: Best Practices and Current Trends in EU Scholarship.” The answers varied, highlighting the rich, innovative, and interdisciplinary direction that study of the EU currently takes, not only in the US, but also around the world. That is, while the majority of faculty and students participating in the conference came from the local region, including from the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago, several came from as far away as Virginia, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Taiwan.

The conference held on October 21, came one day after the EUC’s celebration of EU Day and provided scholars and students the opportunity to present their research on the EU. The discussions were diverse and animated as when, for example, Dr. Judith Pintar of the University of Illinois described how she teaches the subject of conflict resolution by using the historical context of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. In her talk, “Restaging the Classroom for War: Teaching nationalism through immersive play,” Dr. Pintar captivated audience members with an account of how she utilizes immersive role play by students to teach them about the emotional, psychological, and political complexities associated with war and postwar reconstruction. As Dr. Pintar noted, since the former Yugoslavian countries are already EU member states or slated to be so, her students learn about the challenges related to political, social, and economic integration by countries that formerly fought wars against one another, thus, providing students with a more tangible and visceral learning experience than traditional textbook learning alone offers.

Other presentations that pushed the boundaries of traditional scholarship or that highlighted the variety of approaches to studying and teaching the EU were many, including discussions on immigration and refugee resettlement, language politics in the Balkans, economic growth after the sovereign debt crisis, and the state of EU education in Asia. For example, Achim Hurrelmann, Associate Professor of Political Science at Carleton University, utilized statistical content analysis to reveal significant insights into the durability of the EU’s democratic institutions by showing how the Eurozone crisis failed to prompt a legitimacy crisis within Europe’s media outlets.

Finally, the conference ended with an exciting look into the future of EU scholarship and teaching by current graduate and undergraduate students from the European Union Center’s MA program and from the University of Chicago’s European Horizons Program. Topics covered a wide range of critical subjects, from projections about the economic aftermath of Brexit to EU-South America relations in the sphere of education and labor. In sum, the main takeaway from the entire conference is that current and future EU-related scholarship and teaching is dynamic, innovative, multidisciplinary and most promising.

Bagpipes, Shawms, and Songs About Knights: Stary Olsa at the Illini Union

By Cassia Smith

Stary Olsa's drum

The Belarusian band Stary Olsa performs medieval, Renaissance, and early baroque music from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and western Europe. They use only period instruments (painstakingly handcrafted from historically accurate materials), such as cistra, Baltic psaltery, shawms, rebec, and Belarusian bagpipe. Over at REEEC's e-News blog, Master's student Sydney Lazarus describes a recent Stary Olsa performance at the Illini Union. (This performance was co-sponsored by the EUC as well as by other units on campus.) In addition to giving insight into the kinds of songs they perform and the instruments the band uses, the article includes pictures of the performance and links to their music.

You can see more Stary Olsa tour dates on their website. To keep up with EUC co-sponsored events, visit the Center calendar.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Studying the European Union in Asia: A Perspective from Taiwan

By Adalric Tuten, EUC Staff

On October 21, 2017, one day after the European Union Center (EUC) of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) held its annual EU Day events, the EUC hosted a daylong conference on various topics related to the European Union (EU). Among these, was the keynote lecture that dealt with the burgeoning Asian interest in the EU.

Titled “Development of EU Studies in Asia-Pacific and Its Prospects,” by Dr. Su Hungdah, Jean Monnet Chair Professor at National Taiwan University and Director General of the European Union Center in Taiwan, the talk focused on how the Asian educational system approaches teaching and research related to the EU. According to Dr. Su, Asian interest in the EU emerged relatively late, in the early 1980s, and largely in step with an increasing number of Asian students and scholars traveling to Europe for educational and professional development purposes. As these students and scholars returned to Asia, they realized the need to establish a formal institutional framework for research on the EU that would facilitate the production of knowledge about the EU as well as professional networking opportunities within Asia and with Europe.

Subsequently, EU studies in Asia grew to the point that, by the late 1990s and early 2000s, a number of EU centers, much like the EUC in form and mission, developed. Today, these centers thrive and link a diverse group of Asian countries, from Singapore to Japan, together with the common goal of promoting EU studies. Yet, as Dr. Su highlighted, there exists an asymmetry in focus and concern throughout Asia, namely, that of concentration on EU-China relations. According to Dr. Su, this has to do with China’s rise as an economic powerhouse and emerging global military and political power. Moreover, Dr. Su noted an asymmetry in terms of subject matter focus, with Asian EU centers concentrating mostly on economic and political concerns related to international trade and intergovernmental governance. For example, in terms of Taiwan specifically, Dr. Su noted the predominance of EU studies as a supplementary course of study for political science students.

Hence, based on Dr. Su Hungdah’s enlightening talk about Asia’s interest in the EU, a number of questions arise related to the future of EU studies in Asia, including about the growing importance of India’s relations with the EU and new frontiers for scholarly and professional inquiry, such as in cultural studies. Whatever the direction the future takes, EU-Asia studies in Asia appears to remain dynamic.

The Russian Revolution as the Mirror of Third World Aspirations

By Cassia Smith

On September 6, Dr. Vijay Prashad kicked off the Ten Days that Shook the World event series with a lecture on the Russian Revolution of 1917 as it was seen by and influenced the Global South, particularly in India. Comparative and World Literature Ph.D. candidate Meagan Smith wrote about the lecture and opening gala for the REEEC e-News blog. She includes a summary of gala festivities as well as an in-depth discussion of Dr. Prashad's arguments and the resulting dialog during Q&A. If you missed the lecture or were hoping for a helpful overview, it's worth checking out!

Visit the Ten Days event series website for more information on upcoming events and the series goals. Visit the EUC's calendar for more co-sponsored events.

Friday, November 10, 2017

In the Service of International Education and Diplomacy: EU Day at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

By Adalric Tuten, EUC Staff Member

Ambasador Lepik at the European Union Center
On October 20, 2017, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) hosted its annual European Union (EU) Day event. This event celebrates the distinguished role of UIUC’s European Union Center (EUC) in promoting transatlantic relations between the US and the EU and in fostering the university’s commitment to serving as one of America’s leading-edge institutions for the study of EU affairs.

The highlight of the celebration is the 'State of the EU Address” and it is the EUC’s tradition to invite the Ambassador of the country holding the presidency to deliver remarks. In honor of Estonia’s current Presidency of the Council of the EU, the EUC invited His Excellency Lauri Lepik, Ambassador of Estonia to the United States, to participate in a number of EU Day activities. These included a roundtable meeting with the EUC’s faculty, staff, and MA students, as well as a “State of the European Union” keynote address open to the public. Following his keynote, the EUC hosted a luncheon with Ambassador Lepik, giving UIUC faculty, students, and the public a chance to visit one-on-one with His Excellency.

Although Ambassador Lepik’s work demanded his return to Washington, DC, after lunch, EU Day festivities continued with a roundtable panel discussion on the subject of the EU’s sovereign debt crisis. UIUC’s Professor of Political Science and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Dr. William Bernhard, moderated the insightful discussion about the economic, social, and political impacts of the EU’s sovereign debt crisis and its impacts since 2009. Panelists included, Dr. Hannah M. Alarian, University of Virginia, Dr. David L. Cleeton, Illinois State University, and Dr. Achim Hurrelmann, Carleton University.

Writing from the vantage point of a EUC insider present for all of the day’s activities, I was impressed by EU Day as one of UIUC’s signature international events open not only to the UIUC community but also the public, highlighting UIUC’s position as the state’s flagship university. For example, even for those residing in the DC area, it is difficult to have direct access to foreign embassy staff. Yet, this is what EU Day offered. Not only did EU MA students have a rare opportunity to meet with Ambassador Lepik to ask questions about Estonia, the EU, and EU-US relations, ranging from Estonia-Russia relations to the development of its digital economy, the public also had the chance to visit with His Excellency directly to learn about one of EU’s most technologically innovative member states . Similarly, EU Day provided the UIUC community and public with an engaging expert panel discussion on one of the world’s most significant economic crises in recent years. In sum, EU Day proved to be a success for both the EUC and UIUC, highlighting the university’s role as a regional and national leader in international studies.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Reflections on "Living Through" the Russian Revolution in The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty

By Cassia Smith

Director Esfir Shub
If you've been following the EUC's calendar, you might have noticed the Ten Days That Shook the World event series taking place around campus. One of these events, part of the Films of the Revolution film series, was a screening of the silent film The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (1927). On REEEC's e-News blog, history undergraduate Rachel Thompson describes her experience attending this screening. In particular, Thompson discusses what she learned about director Esfir Shub and how that context enhanced her experience of the film.

For more on the events in the Ten Days series, check the series website or the EUC calendar (look for events marked [1917/2017 series]).

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Mountains of Butter, Lakes of Milk, and the Weird World of EU Agriculture Policy

By Adalric Tuten

What is weirder than agricultural policies? EU agricultural policies, according to Dr. David Bullock, Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

On September 22, the European Union Center at UIUC invited Dr. Bullock to give a talk on the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The talk was an engaging tour through the policy history of the CAP that, indeed, had audience members confirming Bullock’s conclusion about the eccentricities of EU agricultural policies.

Bullock, an expert on international agricultural economics, explained that the EU’s dramatic agricultural policies are important to understand, since they help explain a wide range of social, economic, and political aspects of the EU. For example, 40% of the EU budget goes into agriculture, with 27% of that going directly to EU farmers. This means about 48 billion Euros goes to farmers. Prior to CAP reforms, especially since 2007 when the EU decoupled price from production quantity, the numbers were even higher, with 60% of the EU budget going toward agriculture. Consequently, these heavy subsidies are a source of heated conflict, especially when the EU threatens to reduce them. The outcome, as Bullock noted, can be mayhem, with angry farmers fearing lost wages pouring milk onto city streets, releasing chickens into the urban wild, or setting tractors on fire, blocking traffic for hours.

But as Bullock also emphasized, CAP has EU integration embedded in its policy core. Subsequently, CAP has improved farming conditions for many EU countries. Today, when we think of EU nations such as France, Denmark, The Netherlands, Poland, or Italy, we immediately think of world-class agricultural products, from fine wine to cheese to cured hams to olives. We even think of the EU’s lead in rural, eco-tourism, with its signature groomed landscapes and quaint and cozy accommodations.

Yet, problems generated by CAP persist and continue to vex EU policymakers. One such problem is the industrial overhaul of farms, leading to loss of farming jobs and heavy migration of unemployed farmers to cities or other EU countries to find work, as happened in Romania.

To conclude, it is these ups and downs created by CAP that Bullock regards as vital for understanding today’s EU. To learn more about Dr. David Bullock’s insights into CAP, you can watch the subtitled video below.


"Gloomy Finland" and the Russian Imperial Gothic

By Cassia Smith

On September 26, Dr. Valeria Sobol gave a talk based on a chapter of her book-in-progress Haunted Empire: The Gothic and the Russian Imperial Uncanny, 1790-1850. Olga Makarova, a graduate student in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, has written up the lecture for REEC's e-News.

Professor Sobol's book explores the connection between the Gothic and empire in Russian literature, focusing on the portrayal of Northern and Southern imperial borderlands as uncanny spaces. The lecture offered a brief analysis of Vladimir Odoevsky’s novella “The Salamander” (1844) meant to demonstrate this function of Finland in Russian Gothic literature. Makarova covers Dr. Sobol's main arguments and includes some contextual information for the topic. If you missed this lecture or just need a refresher, the article is worth checking out!


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