Past Events

 

Europe and the discovery of  its ‘otherness’

Panel at the XIX International conference of Europeanist

Boston – 22-24 March 2012

 

The discovery of the New World had a momentous impact on the construction and the evolution of Europe’s identity. Inevitably, the travel reports and testimonies of the main protagonists (Columbus, Vespucci) and the hundreds of passengers (Girolamo Benzoni, Francisco Lopez de Gomara, Jean de Léris, Andre Thevet, Giovanni Botero, the author of the famous Relationi universali) led to a debate on the nature of the ‘conquered’ people, on their savage or barbarian ways as well as a critique of the  aggressive methods of the conquerors. Las Casas firmly denounced the boundless violence of the ‘conquistadores’, while Sepulveda, on the contrary, claimed the reasonableness of an act made in Europe’s name; civilization, he argued, had to overcome the barbaric particularism of the Amerindian people in the name of (European) universalism. Even theology was called on to confirm the thesis. The Age of Enlightenment was deeply affected by the tension between these two interpretations of the New World: strong universalism and an equally strong belief that Europe was the greatest civilization, the only one capable of spreading the progress of modernity throughout the world. During the early decades of the twentieth century, the faith in Europe’s superiority faded and it became clear to many that progress could falter and even stop altogether. Decline, crisis and dawn became the most common words in the discourses on Europe. Whether with a nostalgic and reactionary tone, with an eye turned towards a mythical past (Spengler), or with critical historical awareness (Febvre, Chabod) there was the clear perception that the international order was drastically changing and, together with it, the role of Europe. The last decade of the Twentieth Century made it clear to historians, philosophers and political theorists that a ‘separation’ was underway. On the one hand, the process of economic globalization, accompanied by the globalization of the media was in act; on the other, the  claim to hegemony, to be asserted at all cost, by the West. New wars, the struggle against Islamic terrorism and the exportation of democracy were all consequences of a ‘clash of civilizations’ (Huntington) after the ‘end of history’ (Fukuyama) had shown itself to be an illusion. As a consequence, a radically critical reading of European universalism (Wallerstein) emerged together with a re-thinking of the crisis of European civilization (Todorov). The aim of the panel is to attempt to bring together historians and philosopher to shed light on the ways Europe represented and saw herself from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century, in terms of creating her sense of ‘otherness’.

 

 

The Space of Crisis and the Crisis of Space:

Europe 1914-1945 

University of Salerno, 14-16 April 2010

 

Also a panel at the XVIII International Conference of Europeanists,

BEI – Barcelona, 20-22 June 2011

 

In the first half of the Twentieth century the two world wars were interpreted by many as the definitive downfall of Europe. Intellectuals like Schmitt, Heidegger, Jünger, Spengler, Thomas Mann and Paul Hazard – just to mention a very few –  all related the collapse of Europe to the crisis of the world-views stemming out of modernity. Yet, because modernity itself was the very basis of Europe’s identity, many simply assumed that what they were witnessing was the accomplishment of Europe’s truest destiny. Many studies on the relationship between the crisis of Europe and the crisis of modernity in the inter-war period have already been made. The aim of this conference, although strongly intertwined with this issue, is yet narrower; many of the authors writing in the first half of the century on the crisis of Europe also perceived the importance of the growing discrepancy between the space of politics – represented by the nation-state – and the new and wider space of economic, cultural and social interdependence which modernity itself had created.

While our immediate purpose is to try to shed light on the way intellectuals, men and women of letters and artists, between the beginning of the First and the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, perceived the crisis and the decadence of modern Europe in relation to the growing discrepancy between the spatiality of the nation-state and the new European space which modernity was creating, this issue raises a much more fundamental question. The crisis of the space of modernity poses the need of a re-thinking of ‘political forms’, a re-thinking to which Europe is central because it has created that way of political organization, because it has created the conditions for its overcoming and, lastly, because it represents the most successful attempt to solve the crisis itself. Going back to the classics of the first half of the century from this standpoint, means, therefore, to try to understand whether or not, today, a politics of space and a space of police are possible in a modern and globalized world.

 

 

Europe before the European Community, 1918-1957

Images and Ideas 

University College London 11-12 December 2008

 

The 1920s and 30s were a moment of deep reflection on the identity of Europe. Almost all intellectuals and many artists and other writers of the time expressed their own understanding of Europe: Thomas Mann, Benedetto Croce, Lionel Robbins, Jaques Maritan, Carl Schmitt, Hugo von Hofmannstahl, Ortega Y Gasset, Miguel de Unamuno, Martin Heidegger, the members of the Frankfurt School – to mention just a few. Most of these authors survived the war and were able to see the birth of a new Europe thanks to the Schumann plan and the creation of the EEC.

The purposes of this conference is to shed light on the understanding of Europe and on representations and discourses concerning its identity between 1918 and 1957 by studying the ideas of some of Europe’s most prominent intellectuals, writers and artists. Above all, the conference aims to analyze how their perception of Europe changed between the crisis produced in the aftermath of the Great War and its rebirth with the creation of the EEC.

 

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