European Studies in a Global Perspective

Project Leader:
Prof. Dr. Ralph Weber
Dr. Silvana Târlea, Noura Abu Ghrieqanah, Polina Lukicheva, Imad-Eddine Soualhi, Noureddine Wenger
Cooperation Partners:Lucie Chamlian (University of Kiel, Germany), Mukhtar Hajizada (Carleton University, Canada), Frank Mattheis (United Nations University CRIS, Belgium), Divya Balan (Flame University, India), Tamar Gamkrelidze (Ilia State University, Georgia); Nicole Shea (Council for European Studies, Columbia University, USA)

The goal of this project is to screen and evaluate European Studies around the globe, offering analyses from sociological, economic and political perspectives, and interrogating the concept of Europe researched, taught, and propagated in these varying contexts.

Premise: Discrepancy between the awareness of European Studies and the realities on the ground

There is a considerable discrepancy between the awareness of the places where European Studies are pursued and the realities of it. While many centers from Europe, the United States, Australia and New Zealand figure prominently in the dominant institutions of academic research, there is evidently much research undertaken outside of Europe. This discrepancy is readily confirmed with professional academic societies of European Studies, where, e.g. by the global course finder of UACES (the University Association of Contemporary European Studies), where (with one exception, namely the University of Nottingham campus in Ningbo, China) only courses from the aforementioned regions are listed. The reality of European studies, however, is markedly different.

Across the globe, researches are busy studying and teaching Europe (Masters of European Studies are e.g. on offer at the University of Karachi or at the International University of Africa in Zanzibar) in a variety of ways and for many different purposes. In the People's Republic of China, European Studies has been institutionalized at universities across the country for more than 30 years. Whereas many European Studies institutions outside of Europe find their origin in some connection to the colonial heritage or the Cold War, more recently, the European Union has stepped in and has become the single most important agent at the global level, e.g. through the Jean Monnet programs, thereby effectively turning European Studies into European Union (EU) Studies. How is Europe studied today across the world? What drivers can be identified? Who funds the research and teaching activities, and with what purpose in mind?

These new global realities of European Studies have thus far been largely neglected in the scholarly community. Ignoring relevant sources of knowledge about Europe is more than a meta-theoretical or academic concern, but also a practically missed opportunity. Philosophically, it might constitute a case of epistemic injustice, and lend itself to a discussion in the contexts of lingering Eurocentrism, Postcolonialism and Global Knowledge Production. Moreover, it might be politically highly unwise for European policy-makers to ignore the knowledge base at the hands of their negotiation partners at the other end of the table, as practitioners of European Studies inform and advice the respective policy-makers in their home countries as to what Europe is all about.

Interdisciplinary Project

The project is highly interdisciplinary (in both its contending multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary senses), using disciplinary perspectives for analysis, but also transcending disciplinary boundaries if necessary. Several subprojects are linked to this project.

Ralph Weber and Silvana Târlea

At a more intellectual level, these new global realities of European Studies might lead to changes in how we think of European Studies. Is it still - if it ever has indeed been - a privileged object of study that differs importantly from area studies? Or has it become an area study like African Studies or Latin American Studies? "Area studies" have been criticized heavily in recent decades and understanding European Studies as an area study would almost seem regressive. More recent re-conceptualizations of European Studies range from various regional approaches to Global Studies. Of course, there are also European Union Studies, which is globally in any case a more realistic label if one follows the money funding the various institutions. Here, our guiding conceptualization follows a relational approach, which would advocate a change away from European Studies understood in a container view to European Global Studies.

The project is committed towards keeping an open eye towards the status of research about Europe outside of Europe. On the one hand, there is a risk of unduly culturalizing and othering European Studies outside of Europe as always only providing a view on Europe and never ascending to constituting proper academic research about Europe. On the other hand, the risk is to turn a blind eye towards economic, political and other interests that obviously drive European studies (its existence, promotion, funding and purpose) outside of Europe. Openness in this regard means to keep the possibility of one or the other risk in mind as a methodological check against bias and premature assessment.

Working Paper: The Study of Europe in Asia (under review)

Silvana Târlea and Ralph Weber

Given the fact that European Studies has become a major instrument for the European Union, should it be understood more in terms of public diplomacy than as an academic discipline? What would be an appropriate way of understanding the study of Europe?

The project draws on various databases (UNESCO, university rankings, and professional associations), policy papers by relevant actors (EU, AU, USA, China, India, etc.) and strands of literature, from among which that on changes in international education and transnational initiatives (e.g. the recent Pan-African University system), that on research policy (e.g. the EU's new report on the three O's: open innovation, open science, open to the world), that on the political economy of higher education, and that on reforming Area studies in sociology, anthropology and philosophy stand out.

Original Data collection: Semi-structured Interviews in Beijing, 2017, 2018 and forthcoming 2019.

Working Paper 1: European Studies in China: A European or a Chinese Soft Diplomacy Tool? (Silvana Târlea)

Working Paper 2: Knowledge Production about Europe in China. Think-tanks versus Universities (Silvana Târlea and Ralph Weber)

Noura Abu Ghrieqanah

PhD-Project (Committee: Ralph Weber, Wiebke Keim)

The study of contemporary Europe has experienced growth of interest in mainstream political science and international relations (Wallace, 2000). Beyond Europe, European Studies has gone through intensive development in the last two decades, also in the MENAT region (Santagostino, 2004). The MENAT region has been of great geopolitical and economic significance to the EU (EUISS, 2017). An immediate geographic neighbour, a crucial passage for goods traveling to and from Europe (in particular energy resources), and its potential to export instability make it strategically an important area for Europe. This explains the Union’s desire to contribute to regional stability through different tools such as the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), the Barcelona Process and the Union for the Mediterranean (EUISS, 2017). The specificity of the meaning of European history, politics, and culture to different parts of the world make the development and growth of European Studies a multifaceted and complex global affair (Calhoun, 2003). This requires as much critical effort as is undertaken in other Area Studies and Social Sciences disciplines. This research attempts to analyze the recent state of European studies in the MENAT region as an area of increasing academic interest in various universities and research centers. It outlines the process in which the profile of European studies has undergone changes in terms of both scholarly publications and teaching activities and investigates the relationship between research and the political realm. 

Imad-Eddine Soualhi

PhD-Project (Committee: Ralph Weber, Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou)

The primary goal of the study is to map and analyze the development of European Studies in Arab Maghreb Union universities. European Studies have been of interest to academia for the past three decades due to myriad of factors: be it the colonial heritage or cultural influence and entangled political, economic and security interests, in addition to the large quantity of research this field has generated in the Maghreb region since the beginning of the last decade. Moreover, it traces the origins and institutionalization of European Studies in Maghreb universities by highlighting the links that the main actors have forged in Europe with the academic world and the European institutions. It will attempt to highlight the internal factors specific to each university and North African societies, as well as external factors, such as the Commission's initiatives and the tensions of European politics, which have influenced their development. At the crossroads of these factors, the challenge of establishing a critical and independent research program within an institutional framework that is primarily aimed at promoting the European Studies will be discussed. It will also highlight the partial weakness of teaching Europe in law and economics and other disciplines, mainly in comparison to its place in Political Science and International Affairs. Beyond this quantitative observation for which various explanations can be put forward, the teaching of "Europe" offers a fairly complete inventory of the debates that traverse the discipline around this theme, and proposes keys of reading relating to the circulation pattern of the modes of "thinking Europe" from one country to another.

Noureddine Wenger

PhD Project (Committee: Ralph Weber)

This dissertation project deals with the diverse images and perceptions of "Europe" articulated in academic and intellectual discourse in the Arab world of the past and the present day. In addressing such a broad and expansive subject, focus will be placed on a specific case, namely the case of "Postmodernism" in the Arab world. A closer examination is to be conducted of the scholarly engagement and the different stances adopted by Arab intellectuals towards the influence of European "postmodern" thought since the 1970s.

Although the dissertation builds on the disciplinary foundations of "intellectual history", at the same time it seeks to enhance the scope of discussion, incorporating the analytical sensibilities that have been brought to the fore by more recent research within the domain of "Global Knowledge Production". In doing so, particular attention will be paid to the following two analytical premises:

First, in order to avoid one-dimensional and culturally biased patterns of interpretation, this thesis will put an emphasis on tracing what may be considered the multilayered, multidimensional and multilateral nature of entanglements between Europe and the Arab world.

Second, to avoid analytical parochialism and regionalism, an attempt will also be made to adopt a global frame of reference that goes beyond the geographical boundaries of "Europe" and the "Arab region".

In adopting such an analytical approach, this project will consider both the more conceptual and epistemological aspects of global knowledge production as well as the more practical and material ones.


Ralph Weber and Silvana Târlea, "The Politics of Studying Europe in China". Together with Silvana Târlea. In: Europe Now, Issue 18, June 2018, online:

Ralph Weber and Silvana Târlea, "Politics of Immobility: Global Knowledge Production and the Study of Europe in Asia". In: Journal for Common Market Studies 59, Issue 1, 2021, 371–387, online: