European Studies in a Global Perspective

Project Leader: Prof. Dr. Ralph Weber
Dr. Silvana Târlea, Noura Abu Ghrieqanah
Cooperation Partner: Lucie Chamlian (University of Kiel, Germany), Mukhtar Hajizada (Carleton University, Canada), Frank Mattheis (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium), Divya Balan (Flame University, India), Tamar Gamkrelidze (Ilia State University, Georgia)

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 throughout these varying contexts.

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 is even the case with professional academic societies of European Studies, where the discrepancy is readily confirmed, 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 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. To put it into a nutshell: there is hence a lot of European Studies, but very little study of European Studies. The result is not just a meta-theoretical or academic concern, which it is also, since it is at least a practically missed opportunity in terms of missing out on learning more about Europe by simply ignoring existing scholarship. But, 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.

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? But "area studies" have been criticized heavily in recent decades and understanding European Studies as an area study would almost seem regressive in this respect. 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. Yet, given the fact that European Studies has become a major instrument for the European Union, should we understand it more in terms of public diplomacy than in terms of an academic discipline? What would be an appropriate way of understanding the study of Europe in a manner that would not simply give in to the priority of political and economic power, but also not ignore it? 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 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. 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.

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.

  • Panel at CES 2019, Madrid,
    on “China’s Authoritarian Challenge to European and Global Science”
  • Workshop, 14 May 2019, Basel, “European Studies: Made in Europe?”
    Download: Event Flyer (PDF)
  • Workshop, 25 April 2018, Basel, “The Politics of European Studies in Asia”
    Download: Event Flyer (PDF)

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