Euroculture in Göttingen
At Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, we see Europe as an ongoing process of constructing institutions and meaning on different levels. Social, cultural and political processes are closely intertwined. In our teaching and scholarship, we try to uncover these processes using rigorous scientific methods. Our basic assumption is that new approaches can predominantly be found in interdisciplinary exchange.
As for the academic culture in Göttingen, the Georgia Augusta has a history of being a university of Enlightenment that has always focused on interactive and research-centered learning. We only seldomly use textbooks, but rely on research-based teaching at the cutting edge of current scholarship, including experimental approaches to teaching (e.g. simulations or research labs). Students are encouraged to actively participate in class and to be open to group-work.
Our structure allows students to develop their individual profiles and to specialize according to their interests. Students take responsibility for their learning process under guidance and with feedback given by Euroculture and university staff. Students are expected to work diligently and independently. If you are the type of student who prefers to work anywhere but home, the University of Göttingen offers plenty of different study areas. One of these is the Lern- and Studiengebäude (LSG) which allows you to rent a room for several hours for yourself only or a group of people, free of charge. The campus library SUB – one of the largest libraries in Germany – holds around 9 million items and is open until midnight during the week. The configuration of its online system is accessible and makes the search for sources rather easy.
The number of contact hours throughout the semester is typically 24-28 hours per 5 ECTS-seminar, which allows students to work autonomously on their own projects and research. Students are encouraged to actively participate in class and to be open to group-work. German academic culture can still be hierarchical at times, while the Euroculture Programme in Göttingen is rather open and informal.
CLICK HERE to see the course overviews for the four semesters as well as for the institutes affiliated to Euroculture in Göttingen
CLICK HERE to find out more about our yearly summer school, the Intensive Programme, held for all students.
The universities of the Euroculture Consortium have defined "Core Concepts" that guide their teaching programmes. Below, you will see the way we have outlined these concepts further in Göttingen. They do not correspond to specific teaching modules, but they inform the approach we are following in our core classes concerning the given topics, especially in the courses of the "Core Concepts of European Society, Politics and Culture" of the first semester (for more information on the classes please follow the link above):
Constructing and Contesting European Institutions
The European institutions consist of the Council, the European Parliament (EP), the Commission, and the European Court of Justice (ECJ). A major research question concerns the logic of their interaction: Is the European Union dominated by member states´ interests (intergovernmentalism), or is there a distinct logic that gives the integration project a momentum of its own and benefits supranational actors (supranationalism)?
The Council consists of the representatives of member states and is often seen as the most powerful institution. Its logic is that of intergovernmental bargaining, and one of the main research questions is how we can explain power dynamics between member states and the outcomes of negotiations (Moravcsik, 1998; Bailer, 2004). Over the years, the EP has gained power in European affairs and is a co-equal legislator, on equal footing with the Council (Hix and Høyland, 2013). However, the right to initiative still lies with the European Commission. This has lead many scholars to assume that the Commission is a major driver of integration that can in effect pursue its own agenda of ever-deepening integration (Stone Sweet and Sandholtz, 1997), often in tandem with the European Court of Justice (Burley and Mattli, 1993). This thesis is called the neofunctionalist or supranationalist logic.
Political Integration, Disintegration and Conflict
The question of political integration, disintegration and conflict starts at the societal level with different preferences that citizens have about national and European political outcomes. For a long time, the main assumption about public opinion was that European integration is governed by a “permissive consensus”, however, current scholarships argue that this has given way to a “constraining dissensus” (Hooghe and Marks, 2009).
The main organizations responsive to these societal demands are parties. They are supposed to aggregate societal demands, formulate policies, compete in the electoral arena and at the same time shape and be responsive to public opinion. In the European multi-level setting, parties can be seen as multi-level entities, connecting the national and the European level, and linking national parliaments to the European Parliament (Wonka and Rittberger, 2014).
The main mechanisms linking citizens and parties are elections. The logic of electoral competition is supposed to connect societal preferences to government policy. However, on the European level, EP elections seem to follow a logic of second-order elections, that is, their legitimacy-generating function is impeded by the fact that citizens vote not according to a European, but according to a national logic (Brunsbach et al., 2012).
The major phenomena currently characterising the interaction of societal preferences and party strategies seem to be populism and euroscepticism. That is, parties of both the left and the right see electoral gains in arguing against European integration (Rooduijn et al., 2014).
Cultural Diffraction of Europe
Euroculture is still sometimes misunderstood as a programme on ‘European culture’. While cultural representations and cultural artefacts are dealt with in the programme, the overall approach understands culture in a different way. Analog to Cultural History in Germany, for example, Euroculture as approach and teaching programme is understood as critique of and alternative to approaches to studying Europe, which either focus on institutions only or social and economic structures, which leaves aside actual interaction between people.
When addressing ‘cultural diffraction’, we deal with different understandings of ‘culture’ and its relevance also on a political and social level. Discussing ‘culture’ thus means to discuss questions of religion, diversity (multi-, inter-, transculturality), cosmopolitanism, postcolonialism, (supra-)nationality and globalization. In doing so, we obviously reach into the other fields of the programme, because these discourses of culture are politically and socially relevant.
Dealing with ‘cultural diffraction’ also means to look into the many ways that Europe is represented in media and arts (novels, movies, cartoons et al.). This means to analyse not only how certain issues are discussed differently in different parts of Europe, but also to see what ‘Europe’ means for Indian media, for example.
Historicising European Multiplicity
There is not – and presumably cannot be – one common ‘European identity’. Europe can rather be understood as a project that is always in the making. It includes inner-European processes as well as for the interaction with other parts of the world. Both must be taken into account, as they ensure that the meaning of "Europe" is constantly being renegotiated. Even those who regard Europe and the EU as synonymous will have to acknowledge that, as Ulrich Beck has noted, the EU manages to include those neighboring countries in its process of becoming that are not (yet) member states. What is true for the state-level is also true for the social level. On the one hand has the EU made mobility of its citizens one of its core principles. On the other hand, the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ has proven that it is equally important to integrate expectations towards Europe as well as images and ideas of what this ‘Europe’ actually is into any debate on the issue.
This means that mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion have to be constantly renegotiated. We hereby understand Europeanness as a fluid concept which includes the Social as well as Cultural and Political. In trying to understand ‘European multiplicity’, we therefore look into the discourse on ‘European Identity’ and the turns it took as one important strand of the debate and the one on ‘citizenship’ in Europe as another.