EUtROPEs: The Paradox of European Empire

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As a heterogeneous group of historians, linguists, cultural scientists, musicologists, and scholars of philosophy, urban studies and film studies, whose common denominator is a hermeneutical dissection of Europe, we chose an open semiotic emblem for our capstone conference. While many historical connotations came to mind, we thought mainly of the literary and semiotic term "trope," the rhetorical use of figurative imagination.

EUtROPEs, then, refers to the many meanings that Europe has held for different actors at different times. It is understood as a discourse, an idea, that is attached to a geographic region, the boundaries of which have constantly shifted as various protagonists have considered themselves part of Europe or not­­­—and as they have been perceived by others both inside and outside of the physical boundaries of Europe. As a result, varied and perhaps mutually exclusive perceptions of Europe have emerged, and the way in which the term Europe is endowed with meaning and significance depends on the time, the speaker, the target audience, and the political goals behind the discourse.

Our conference intends to contribute to this complex understanding of Europe as a shifting idea that is linked to one of world history's most outstanding drives for hegemony and domination. During this three-day conference, we will approach the paradoxical empire of Europe from different angles, and try to discern what makes it tick.

This conference—made possible through the generous support of the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation—is part of an ambitious initiative that fosters innovative research and supports interdisciplinary exploration of the complex relationship between the regional, the national, and the supranational in contemporary Europe. This program has established a network linking young scholars from leading institutions of higher education and research in Paris, Vienna, St. Petersburg, and Eastern Europe with Chicago’s traditionally strong programs in European history, society, and culture in order to promote a rethinking of the conceptual outlines and analytic categories customarily used to organize our understanding of Europe.