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Imagining Europe Workshop I

Our first workshop takes place 28-30 August 2019 at the University of Munich and we will be discussing the following papers.

Seminar discussion in Munich

To read the full abstracts, click on the arrow the expand the text.

Back to the Roots

Voices on “Asia” and “Europe” from Ancient Greek Drama.
Only a few years after the Persian defeat against the Greeks Aeschylus named and staged his influential tragedy ‘the Persians’ in Athens (472 BCE). In this drama, the poet imagined and created the Persian court, the actions and reactions of the former (now dead) king Darius and his wife and in particular of his successor on the Persian throne Xerxes. Through multiple voices and characters, this drama explicitly focuses on the important, but also ambivalent dichotomy of ‘Asia’ and ‘Europe’ and their identities in the Ancient world. In my paper, I will analyse at first how the Greek poet stages and (re)presents Persian culture and Persian identity through various voices and characters. In a second step, I will focus on the question how the image of the ‘Persian other’ indirectly reveals and shapes ‘Greek’ and pre-European identity.
Andreas Schwab

Beyond the Edge of the World: Anglo-Saxon Britain, Chaos and the Continent.
This paper will reflect on the topographical imagination of an Anglo-Saxon mappa mundi (Cotton MS Tiberius B V/1, f. 56v) (11th century). This map locates Britain at the bottom corner of the world, adrift from the continents, curled-up in the chaos-waters of Oceanus. This paper will tease-out the origins of this mappa, and the likelihood that it depicts a continental (Roman?) view of the place of Britain in the world. How did this image inform Anglo-Saxon Britain’s understanding of its place, and what insights might the reception of this image have for contemporary re-imaginings of Britain’s mental-map of itself and the continent?
Sean Ryan

The Road to Nowhere: A Critique and a Re-imagining of Europe in Sir Thomas More’s Utopia.
image utopia

The publication of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia in 1516 holds up a mirror to European governments through the fictional imaginings of the political, religious, social and economic life of a fictional island. This paper will look at the views held in Utopia then and will examine the ways in which it continues to inspire political thought in modern Europe.

Ann Jeffers

Looking at Europe from Outside

Imagining Europe at the Early Modern Mughal Court.
Kesu Dás, Crucifixion ink, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, circa 1590 British Museum, No. 1983,1015,0.1 Trustees of the British Museum.

The court of the Mughal Padishas, who after conquering Delhi in 1526 became the most powerful dynasty on the Indian subcontinent, was a religious and cultural melting pot. In the last quarter of the 16th century the Mughals intensified their contacts with Europe inviting diplomats as well as missionaries to their court. The paper asks for the concepts and ideas of Europe that the European visitors communicated at the Indian court and the understanding of Europe and the “farangi” (literally “Franks“ i.e. “Europeans”) the Mughal sovereigns and courtiers developed through this contact. One of the most important aspects in these definitions of a European identity was the Christian faith. The paper will lay a focus on the role of art and visual representations in shaping the image of Christian Europe. Did the missionaries and diplomats introduce a normative concept of Europe? How did the Mughals react to the presentation of a Christian-European identity? What implications had the Christian religion for these images of Europe?

Alberto Saviello

Tibetan Imagination of Europe.
Flying monks, Yeti, the snow monster, or the mystery land of Shangri-La – these are only some of many myths and stereotypes that people imagined – and still imagine – when it comes to Tibet (Lo Bue 2014; Brauen 2000; Dodin/Bishop 1997). In the 20th century another very strong narrative developed, that undermines our image of Tibet until the current day: the grand narrative of a remote area, closed to outsiders, conquested only by a hand full of daring women and men, a poor, underdeveloped peasants state dominated by religious authorities. Even though this grand narrative has long been criticized as being all too compatible with the propaganda of Chinese Communist Party of todays People’s Republic of China (PRC), it dominated the understanding of Tibetan history and culture until very recently. Only after 2010 scholars in Tibetan Studies started to discover and describe the far reaching connections of Tibetan intellectuals and scientists in the modern history of Tibet (Gyatso 2011; Pollock 2011; Schaeffer 2011; Tuttle 2011). Looking at the history of ideas in 19th century Tibet Lobsang Yondgan (2011) found, that Tibetans «imagined back»: In 1820 the 4th Btsan po No mon han ’Jam dpal chos kyi bstan ’dzin ’phrin las wrote a «Detailed Description of the World» (’Dzam gling rgyas bshad) according to Spanish, Portuguese and British maps as well as accounts from and encounters with German, Russian and Chinese scholars and diplomats. Based on translations of the «Detailed Description of the World» by Wylie (Btsan po No mon han ’Jam dpal chos kyi bstan ’dzin ’phrin las 1962), Yondan (2011) and Martin (1990) this article focuses on Btsan po No mon han’s representation of Europe, it’s countries, costumes and religious traditions. Thereby, the article will contribute to the volumes’ exploration of local and specific representation of Europe and their normative agendas in countries outside of Europe. As a trace I might follow the narrative of Shambala as nucleus of mutual imagination: Until today European scholars try to «discover» the mythical kingdom of Shambala somewhere in the Himalayas, whereas Btsan po No mon han located it in Spain (Martin 2012; Wylie 1970).
Dolores Zoé Bertschinger

Borders in Europe

A Shattered Whole? Imagining Europe in Pieces.
In recent socio-political discourses and the right-shift across a number of European countries, the ideas of “borders” are increasingly invoked as harbingers of a new utopia. These borders are both “real borders” (borders of the nation state) that can be physically imposed and made visible through border controls as well as imaginary (who should or should not be able to penetrate those borders). After the fall of border barriers across Europe rendering borders almost invisible, a number of European countries, e.g. Austria and Germany, have recently started to enforce these again. They are presented in political discourse not only as necessary evil but moral good to ensure the integrity of the nation state. After decades of moving closer together, it seems Europe is shattering into pieces again. Yet, this shattering into pieces is perceived as a process of “making whole” again. This paper will attempt to explore underlying ideas and how religious Versatzstücke might contribute to the contemporary attractiveness of a “shattered whole”.
Alexander D. Ornella

Mormonism in Europe: A Complex and Ongoing Adaption Process.
Frankfurt Tempel, offene Tage, Friedrichsdorf bei Frankfurt/M, 24. September 2019, Fotos: Marie-Therese Mäder
Frankfurt Tempel, offene Tage, Friedrichsdorf bei Frankfurt/M, 24. September 2019, Fotos: Marie-Therese Mäder

Academic scholars agree that “the story of the interrelationships between Mormonism and American culture is reasonably clear (Jan Shipps 58).” The religion has been founded in 1830 in upstate New York. Soon after, namely in 1837, the first European mission opened in England and in 1840 the first mainland mission in Germany (‘LDS Statistics and Church Facts | Total Church Membership’, Today more than half a million Mormons live in Europe. But how did this religious community adapt to Europe and what is left of their American heritage?

Frankfurt Tempel, offene Tage, Friedrichsdorf bei Frankfurt/M, 24. September 2019, Fotos: Marie-Therese Mäder
Frankfurt Tempel, offene Tage, Friedrichsdorf bei Frankfurt/M, 24. September 2019, Fotos: Marie-Therese Mäder

Until today the challenge for the LDS Church in Europe is not only to acquire new converts but also to adapt their worldview that is tailored for the United States to an European standard. The question what an US American compared to an European standard means in the context of this adaptation process is at the core of the contribution. From a contemporary perspective the contribution looks at teaching documents, mission statements, video- and audio sources, and other church materials used in Europe to analyse how the LDS church communicates their messages to their European members and possible converts.

Marie-Therese Mäder

Economical Representations

Immaterial Materiality: Money as “Absolute Aean” and the Temples of Monetary Authority.
Money has been described as ‘absolute mean’ by Simmel as early as 1900. Money is immaterial, it is even considered an ‘earthly god’ and its value is based on the belief, that value is associated to it. History has shown in times of monetary crisis that this believe may also be shattered or destroyed. At the same time the believed value of money creates wealth and more money. Thus something immaterial as an ‘absolute mean’ produces material (as well as other immaterial) goods. Therefore the concept of ‘immaterial materiality’ is presented and discussed in the presentation. Implications on more recent fiat money currency systems and the institutions that bring them about such as central banks, are discussed. 
Peter Seele

Performing Representations

Arab Media Representations of Drone Technology and Europe’s Visible and Invisible Connections to the Global War on Terror.
 Graffiti in Sana’a, Yemen (Source: New York Times, 20  December 2013)

Ever since the pictorial turn (Mitchell 1994), it has been widely acknowledged that major political and social events are interlinked with visual culture. The terror attacks of 9/11 are a case in point. However, in this project I’m interested in a diametrically opposed, but related phenomenon, namely the increasing usage of drone operations and “targeted killings” in warfare, especially in the so called global war on terror, and their almost invisibility in (mass) media representations.

European countries provide technological assistance to the American war on terror, for example with the satellite relay station at the Air Base Ramstein (Germany, headquarters for the US air forces in Europe). Without it, the drone warfare would technically not be possible. Consequentially, victims of drone attacks hold European countries responsible for their harm and losses (Starski 2015).

I will explore Arab media representations (Satellite-TV talkshows, newspaper article, text-, video- and audio material) regarding the drone killings in Yemen since the year 2002 (when the first person was killed this way) in connection to it’s relationship to Europe.

Hence, I will deal with the image of Europe and Europe as an imagined ally in the war on terror and against it. Arab media representations of Europe in connection to the global war on terror are especially interesting because they address Arab speaking populations (in the Arab regions and elsewhere) that are not only spectators but are also supposed to be victims of those drone killings.

Bettina Gräf

Europe in Children’s Literature: Religions, Legends and Customs through the Eyes of Music.
My contribution to the project Imagining Europe. Normativity, Identity and Diversity in Visual and Material Culture focuses on the role of religious motifs in the German children’s book Europe in 80 sounds. A multicultural journey in Europe with songs, dance, plays and customs[1], which was published in 2002. The book advocates the unity of Europe by means of music, perceived as medium of intercultural communication. Offering characteristic songs, rhymes and legends of several countries, the anthology imagines the idea of Europe based on cultural coherence. Religious symbols and narratives are represented in texts as well as in illustrations, especially Jewish traditions are highlighted. The contribution centers four key aspects:

  1. How does the book constitute an idea of Europe? What kind of elements partake in the representation of Europe?
  2. To what extent are religions relevant to the generation of Europe? Are religions represented as connecting or separating phenomena in an equal or diverse imagination of Europe?
  3. How does the anthology frame concepts of culture, folklore, religion and custom? How are the terms connected to each other?
  4. To what extent are country-specific and common European identities imagined? What kind of “identity-markers” are presented (e.g. nationality, religion, history)?

The project focuses on representations of religious symbols, communities and customs in the construction of European identities. The theoretical approach embeds religions as systems of symbols in cultural surroundings. Supposing religion to be a system of communication, the interaction of representation, production, consumption, regulation and identity becomes important regarding medial transmitted and transformed interdependencies. The analysis focuses particularly on representation and identity and aims to reconstruct normative ideas of a European unity.

Verena Eberhardt

The Image of Europe Seen Through the Lens of Festivals of European Film, in Europe and Beyond.
In our contribution we will analyze festivals specializing in European film, both in Europe and abroad, and their programming in order to investigage the “image” of Europe that is constructed through the events and the films they show. In particular, we are interested in whether and how festivals and films reference religious traditions as part of their idea of Europe. Given the multitude of films produced every year in “Europe”, the selection of films chosen for a festival is expected to be suggestive of a certain idea (ideas) of Europe that a festival that focuses on films from this context wishes to promote.
Stefanie Knauss and Jacob Given

European Rock’n’Roll Angels: The Band Lordi as an Example of the Staging of Religion in the Eurovision Song Contest.
Lordi (filmstill Eurovision Song Contest)
Lordi (filmstill Eurovision Song Contest)

The Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) is a music competition held among the members of the European Broadcasting Union. This show was created in 1956 and has regularly been broadcasted to European televisions since its inception. In the ESC Europe is on the one hand constructed as unity of different and diverse countries contesting each other; on the other hand Europe is staged as a supranational, perhaps “common” popular culture. References to religious traditions play various roles in this competition: For example since 2002, the show is framed by different slogans that contain religious references and point to an exceptional or even supernatural sphere. Such slogans include “A Modern Fairytale” (2002); “Magical Rendezvous” (2003) or “Dare to Dream” (2019). Also different artists have included religious motifs in their performances (lyrics or the show on stage) since the beginning of the ESC. I want to analyse in my paper one particular example of such a performance that links entertainment, a promise of an extraordinary experience and explicit references to religious motifs: the Finnish Hardrock-Band Lordi who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006 with their hit “Hard Rock Hallelujah”.

Anna-Katharina Höpflinger

'Many Tongues, One Voice': Bruegel’s Tower of Babel as Multivalent Symbol of Europe and the EU.
Pieter Bruegel - The Tower of Babel, ca 1563
Pieter Bruegel – The Tower of Babel, ca 1563

My contribution, in line with my usual methodology as a visual reception historian, will explore one strand of the complex reception history of Genesis 11.1-9 (The Tower of Babel Narrative). In 1563, Niclaes Jonghelinck commissioned Breugel to paint (among other subject matters) a painting of the Tower of Babel for his private collection, which was bequeathed to the city of Antwerp shortly thereafter. The painting can be viewed on two levels, as both an ambiguous evocation of the biblical Tower of Babel prior to its collapse and as a reminder to the rulers of the rapidly growing international metropolis of Antwerp of the need for good communication and a common purpose. Within this second ‘reading’ Antwerp can be read as a symbol of Europe as a whole, which was also undergoing rapid development at this time. Although The Tower of Babel has been visualised by many other artists (see Lucas van Valkenborch and Gustav Doré to name but two well-known examples) it is the Breugel image that has had the furthest reach, not least because it was used as the inspiration for the EU Parliament Construction poster of 1992 and because the building itself bears a striking resemblance to Breugel’s unfinished tower. Although the poster was later withdrawn after complaints from Christian groups, the image had entered the popular imagination, in both positive and negative ways. For supporters of the European project, the EU Parliament building and the ‘Many Tongues, One Voice’ Poster of 1992 are a symbolic representation of the whole enterprise, which might be seen as an (albeit secular) attempt to ‘reverse Babel’ and demonstrate the positive effects inter-European collaboration and dialogue. At the other end of the spectrum, for a whole array of ‘end times’ Christian groups, bloggers and polemicists, the appropriation of both Breugel’s image and by implication the Genesis Babel narrative by the EU, is yet further evidence that the EU is a representation of the Beast of Revelation 13 and the Antichrist. Thus this contribution will explore the normativity of the Babel image as a symbol of Europe (as primarily expressed in the Breugel image) within two very different world-views.”

Natasha O’Hear

A Woman, a Bull, and a Horn of Plenty – or Twelve Golden Stars: Representations of Europe.
The discussion about the aesthetic and design to be chosen for Euro coins and paper money was as national as it was trans- and supranational. It remains indeed a challenging topic and worth analyzing on many grounds. One possible approach would be looking at allegorical, or, more broadly, symbolic representations of “Europe” through time, be it the flag of Europe with stars set in a circle on a blue field, the number of stars “invariably set at twelve, the symbol of completeness and perfection” (Council of Europe, Paris 1955), be it the countless representations of the continent based on the Greek mythological tradition of Zeus’ abduction of the Phoenician maiden Europa or, after the late 16th century, the equally popular pictorial theme of the “four parts of the world,” featuring Europe as a woman of aristocratic appearance, surrounded by paraphernalia indicating her achievements for culture and civilization.  We suggest looking at graphic media such as print series, continent maps or printed books, maybe also at paintings and tapestries, at architectural elements or sculptures. This will allow raising questions about the spaces and places chosen for such personifications and thus tackling issues of accessibility and communication. Conventions and conceptions will be analyzed through the study of iconographical details, their recurrences and variations, highlighting historical, political, and religious functions and roles of such representations in constructing and conveying ideas of Europe.
Natalie Fritz and Paola von Wyss-Giacosa

House of European History in Brussels: Constructions of Memory and Identity in a Museum.
House of European History Brussels. Image by Pezzoli-Olgiati
House of European History Brussels. Image by Daria Pezzoli-Olgiati

Our contribution focuses on the role of the museum as a specific place in society. In a dialogue  between philosophy and the study of religion we are dealing at the House for European History in Brussel, a museum initiated by the President of the European Parliament in 2007 and inaugurated in 2017.  In our analysis, three aspects of the museum are highlighted: First, the museum as a place of bodily performance, were visitors are reconstructing pieces of European history by means of walking through the building; second, the material objects displayed in the museum and their references to religious historical aspects; third the  concepts of memory and European identity suggested by the permanent exhibition. The analysis of the museum aims at deepening the representation (or negation) of religious diversity, the concepts of plurality and the values linked to the suggested construction of a common past and future for Europe.

Carla Danani and Daria Pezzoli-Olgiati

Eating What We Are, Being What We Eat: Imagining Europe Through Food.
Food, in the last decades, has become a object of study in several academic fields – as a product, but also as a producer, as an element and marker within identity processes. Cooking traditions, declarations of origin, specific eating habits and culinary practices are perceived and conveyed, often quite emotionally, as expressions of a cultural heritage; they may be used to define others and oneself, both in an inclusive or exclusive manner. As such, food may be perceived and studied as a reflection of social, political, religious, ideological, economic, and, not least, physical expressions, influences and changes – of the past and of the present.

There is, in today’s multicultural and multimedia society, an intense preoccupation with foods and health, with different approaches to nutrition, multiple ways of preparation and increasingly complex discourses of (in)tolerance. Museums dedicate elaborate exhibitions to different aspects of food and drink cultures, research is published that praises the virtues of some foods and condemns the negative effects of others. Highly frequented blogs, sophisticatedly designed cookbooks, popular television shows and documentaries discuss food as cultural heritage as well as the latest gastronomic and dietary trends.

Focusing on “Europe” as a frame of reference that was and remains highly complex and contested, we suggest approaching this broad topic as an open experimental space within visual and material communication and culture. This may allow including empirical dimensions as much as theoretical and methodological considerations, and the use of heuristic tools and epistemologies from different disciplines on religion, food, identity and normativity. Possible questions could deal with historical and present-day representation of food, with the media discourse on nutritional beliefs and the norms regulating them, with congruencies between a dietary self-optimization with super foods and a spiritual search, with individual and collective ways of orientation and identification offered by preparation methods and ingredients.

Natalie Fritz and Paola von Wyss-Giacosa

'To be the Soul of Europe' Analysis of Pope Francis’ Interventions in the Debates and Discourses about the Future of Europe.
In 2018 the Vatican Publishing House published a collection of Pope Francis’ speeches about Europe. The last speech within the publication was held in 2017 during the meeting «(Re)thinking Europe: Christian Contribution to the Future of the EU», organized by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE).

The speech addresses the role of Christianity in Europe and begins with the following question: «What is our responsibility at a time when the face of Europe is increasingly distinguished by a plurality of cultures and religions, while for many people Christianity is regarded as a thing of the past, both alien and irrelevant?» According to Francis, the two main contributions that Christians can give to Europe is to recall to memory, first, that Europe is not only an Institution but also made up of people and, second, that personal  identity is primarily relational and thus can be realized only within a community. Person and community are (or should be) the foundations of Europe. Pope Francis continues by exposing what he calls «integral conception of man» (an evident reference to Jacques Maritain’s «Integral Humanism»), arguing for a inclusive European community capable of assuming moral responsibility «especially when faced with the tragedy of displaced persons and refugees.» Finally, the Pope concludes arguing that Christians have «to be the soul of Europe» and «to revitalize Europe and to revive its conscience, not by occupying spaces – this would be proselytizing – but by generating processes capable of awakening new energies in society.»

Starting from this speech, the paper aims to highlight and critically inquire into the Pope’s strategy of intervention within political discourses and debates about the future, problems, tasks and objectives of the European Union. The main questions are: what image, what vision of Europe is presented by the pope in his speeches? What figures of speech and narrative/communicative strategies does he use to present his idea of Europe? How do the mass media and political representatives react to his speeches?

Baldassare Scolari