Thursday 18 January
Opening Lecture by Luuk van Middelaar
Friday 19 January
Keynote Lecture by Nico Carpentier
Luuk van Middelaar
On Thursday our opening lecture will be given by historian and political philosopher Luuk van Middelaar, author of the acclaimed standard work The Passage to Europe (Yale University Press, 2014). Between 2010 and 2015 he worked as a speechwriter and advisor for Herman van Rompuy, the first permanent president of the European Council. In these turbulent years he witnessed as an insider how the European Union stumbled forwards from crisis to crisis. Now, in retrospective, he has taken the time to reflect on this period, both personally and historically, in his recently published De Nieuwe Politiek van Europa (The New Politics of Europe).
In the opening lecture of the conference he will discuss how the European Union has tried to solve these crises (the refugee crisis, the greek debt crisis, etc.) by means of continuous “improvisations”, with both positive and negative outcomes. Van Middelaar argues that, in the past, the European Union had always been surprisingly good in developing tools to build an internal market, but now, in our times, a new “toolkit” is needed to solve the politically much more sensitive issues. In an interview for the Dutch daily Trouw, he concluded that it is necessary to “connect the techniques from the regulation-machine with the ability to take decisions that are visible and accountable for the public opinion.”
From the blurb of his new book:
“No doubt Europe has arrived in a revolutionary phase. In recent years the Brussels-regulation-machine had reached its limits. The public stood up. No-one can ignore the spectacle. De Nieuwe Politiek van Europa offers a readable and clarifying account of this exciting power-play. Luuk van Middelaar shows with élan how politicians in Brussels, Berlin, Paris, London, and The Hague tune the Union for the future.”
From Ian Buruma, Editor-in-Chief of the New York Review of Books:
“One of the most cogent thinkers about the EU is Luuk van Middelaar, a historian educated in Holland and France, and now based in Brussels. His articles frequently appear in France, as well as his native Holland. As a former member of the cabinet of the Belgian Herman Van Rompuy, the first president of the European Council, van Middelaar knows the EU from the inside out. He sees the problem of Europe mainly as a political crisis.”
Luuk van Middelaar is currently working as Professor of European Law and European studies at the universities of Leiden and Louvain-La-Neuve (Belgium). He is columnist for the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad and publishes on a regular basis for Die Zeit (DE), De Tijd (BE) and Le Monde (FR).
The keynote lecture of the conference “Tuning into the Noise of Europe” will be given by Belgian scholar Nico Carpentier, who has been conducting research into subjects of communication, narration, discourse, participation and democratization for a variety of universities and research institutes.
Currently, he is working as a Professor at the Department of Informatics and Media of Uppsala University (Sweden), and he holds two part-time positions as Associate Professor of the Communication Studies Department of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium) and a Lecturer at the Charles University in Prague (CZ).
Nico Carpentier about what he will talk about:
The lecture will be grounded in a discourse-material theoretical framework, which emphasizes the contingent and struggled-over nature of identities. In this approach, communication plays a key role in making the multitude of signifying and material practices circulate, but also in sedimenting them into discourses. This perspective allows articulating the European identity as an unstable outcome of a series of political struggles, that relate to the fantasy of homogeneity to construct their particular articulation of the European identity as hegemonic and universal.
After outlining this theoretical (and methodological) approach, I will first discuss some of the key European identity projects, starting with the radical right-wing nationalist projects that often deny the (relevance and centrality of) the European identity, but that also have been the hotbed of the European nationalism that Hannah Arendt warned for in the 1950s. A second, and significant, European identity project, very much aligned with the EU’s formal position, is the unity-in-diversity project, which aims to reconcile and institutionalize different layers of national belonging. Again, the analytical focus is the limits of this articulation and what is excluded from this project. One of the main discursive exclusions is the signifier of peace, originally a nodal point in the construction of the European identity, but also the signifier of democracy is highly particular (and contested). A second main exclusion is related to the constitutive outside(s), which are related to history, culture, religion and territory.
In the third part, the workings of the discursive-material knot and the European identity struggles will be illustrated by a series of small case studies situated in the 1/academic (European public sphere and Erasmus), 2/popular (Eurovision Song Contest and Sinterklaas) and 3/artistic fields (David Černý’s Entropa and Bernard Romain’s Statue of Europe), which will also allow me to further elaborate the main theoretical framework.
–> Read more about Carpentiers writing on the “Discursive Material Knot” in: The Discursive Material Knot: Cyprus in Conflict and Community Media Participation.