The Question of Identity in Contemporary Europe

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Course Information
Cultural Studies
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 

What does Europe represent today? An exception in our postmodern world? Is Europe and, in particular the enlarged European Union, on its way to a true and new cosmopolitan state with a new type of transnational citizenship and identity – a new 'imagined community' of its kind? And if so, is a European identity a pre-condition for a European society or just a side effect of the institutional constructions?

What could be common grounds for a new European identity? Where are the fringes and margins of this new entity, where its fault lines? Are the Europeans – citizens and immigrants – at all eager to gain a collective European identity or do they fear losing their old identities in a united Europe and in a globalized world? What stands behind new tensions between Muslims and Christians in Europe? Why and how do we argue about headscarves, minarets, mosques?

This course aims at analyzing new shifts in modern European identity formations since 1945, 1989 and 9/11. The course has two major focal points: memory politics and historic legacies and challenges resulting from new cultural and religious diversity due to recent migration. We will analyze hot public discourses and hybrid spaces related to identity formation between geography, ethnicity, race, religion, class, and gender and locate new spaces and forms to define identity today.

Within the course we will try to delineate how some of these spaces are interrelated and overlapping. At the end we will answer the question on what grounds a new European constitution (still to be written and to be accepted) could stand. What are the binding links between national heritages, cultural traditions, religions and economic differences? The focus of empirical reflection and research literature will be on the European city with special references to St. Petersburg, Berlin, and Istanbul.