​​​​​​2016 ISSEI conference 

The University of Lodz, Poland

Workshop: The Role of Art, Literature, Philosophy, Politics, and Community in the New Europe

Chairs: Francisca Gonzalez-Arias, The University of Massachusetts, USA

Denise Égéa, Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan

Michèle Lemettais, Independent Scholar, USA


This workshop will explore responses to, and manifestations of, Europe’s current crises in Art, Literature, Politics, and Community. 

The European Union came into being in response to the long succession of wars between Europe’s nation states with the aim of uniting its peoples in peace. One of the tangible gestures heralding the creation of the New Europe was the opening of its national borders, which created a vast expanse of different nations which could be freely traveled and traded with. This opening of the nations to each other was symbolically and artistically depicted, for example, in the image of doors and bridges on the Union’s new currency, the Euro.

            It is thus immensely sad to witness the inexorable closing again of Europe’s national borders, with new frontiers being erected as so many impassable gates, and the continent’s unity splintering into a multitude of “new identities,” some chosen, yet most forcefully imposed on the Other. Instead of seeking peace in unity, the states are entrenching themselves behind their own borders, and that openness, so emblematic of the Union, is slowly disappearing.

            Some say that the idea of Europe first appeared in literature: “The very conception of Europe comes from the literary act, before it spread in numerous other spheres” (Pascal Dethurens, Ecriture et culture: écrivains et philosophes face à l’Europe, 1918-1950). We thus propose to examine and discuss how the idea of Europe has permeated all spheres of society—how citizens from various cultures and nations have looked to, produced art and literature and joined in community action to express these issues, their concerns and ideals. 

The questions we will discuss will include, among others, the following:

—How has the prolonged global financial crisis and the awareness of growing income inequalities impacted Europe’s citizens?

Spain’s “Indignados” anti-austerity movement, and Portugal’s Geração à Rasca paralleled the rise of Syriza in Greece and preceded Occupy Wall Street in the United States. 

—Horrific terrorist attacks in France, in January and then again in November 2015, represent an assault on the European, specifically humanistic values and way of life.

Can we speak of a north-south, or east-west divide in Europe as a result? 

—Right-wing parties and perspectives are on the rise in response to the migrant refugee crisis. On the Eastern edges of Europe, border fences are being rebuilt. Terrorism is testing Europe’s values and the Schengen project. What proposals, resolutions, and responses can we detect?

—In Spain, on the other hand, the spring of 2015 saw the rise of new political formations challenging the established two-party system, the sweep into municipal governments of coalitions of grass-root activists and of citizens fighting corruption and inequality. Just as the election results of 24 May 2015 were announced, Manuela Carmena, soon to be mayor of Madrid, praised “the imagination, the joy, the creativity” of supporters and their work, including “graphic designers, plays, poems, taxi drivers, stickers and Tshirts”—all of which manifested a “human collective . . . convinced of its power to bring about change.” 

We welcome papers on any of the above questions or on related subjects.

Please submit a 350-500 word abstract by 31 March 2016 to Francisca Gonzalez-Arias, at Fgfgarias@gmail.com, to Denise Égéa, at denise.egea@nu.edu.kz, and to Michèle Lemettais, at Lemettais9@gmail.com