Everybody's talking about ‘Europe’ – in politics, in public debate, in academia, and not least in schools. Yet the idea of Europe is difficult to grasp, and the large variety and diversity of views expressed on this subject bear witness to its complexity and the difficulty of pinning down what it actually 'means'. As Europe continues to grow together, a single European educational space is emerging, taking shape most clearly in those areas of Europe which are part of the European Union. Institutions in European countries are evidently creating a European focus to their historical and political education, attempting to forge curricula which are compatible with Europe. In this context, the objective of our research area on Europe is to provide a scientific basis and objective, constructive support for Europe as an issue in education by conducting analysis, promoting curriculum development and acting in a consultancy capacity.
This research area comprises three fields of work, whose core topics are as follows:
Europe and the national factor
What future lies in store for the nation state? On the one hand, visions of Europe range from a loose confederation of states to a single-state entity. On the other, the concept of nationhood will doubtless continue to influence our notions of Europe for a long time. We are engaged in exploring the impact of this tension on teaching practices across Europe.
Europe viewed through the prism of its regions
This field of our research goes beyond long-held conceptions of Europe as an amalgamation of nation states and explores new ways of understanding what Europe is. Although the role of Europe's regions has been a focus of political and academic debate for some time now, what they are and what their role is have yet to be specified. However, evidence is already emerging that regions are not merely ‘mini-states’ or ‘surrogate nations’; instead, they are spatial constructions with specific characteristics. Precisely because the boundaries separating them from their surrounding context are frequently unclear, they are a significant site of the evolution of multiple identities.
Europe: the global dimension
Our third field of research encompasses projects which relate to Europe as a whole or engage with issues whose significance extends beyond Europe’s confines. Textbooks are particularly stubborn bastions of essentialistist ideas on Europe and frequently compound the issue by presenting their content from an Eurocentric perspective. Recent research has indicated that people’s identities and their ideas of their history are more complex than such depictions in textbooks might suggest; they go beyond national and continental boundaries, intertwined with ideas and identities from elsewhere. Perceptions of space, narratives and images which continuously reveal new constructions of 'Europe' are often influenced particularly strongly by the 'outside' world, whether an identity is rooted in being 'European' or defined from without, precisely by not being part of 'Europe'. For this reason, we place particular emphasis in our research on discourses taking place in those regions of Europe which interact literally or metaphorically with areas outside the continent and on global cultural differences in the perception and interpretation of key tropes on 'Europe'. Processes and occurrences which originally unfolded in Europe and which have had a decisive impact on the course of history, acting as catalysts for global series of events, affect images of the self and the other within Europe to this day; our research examines exemplary instances of such effects in depictions of Africa and in the diversity of responses to the so-called colonial question within Europe and beyond.