November 30, 1998
Volume 51, No. 13
First Halle Conference looks at a changing Europe
The first Halle Institute Conference, "Identities and Institutions in a Changing Europe," which took place Nov. 6 and 7, grew out of this year's Universitywide faculty seminar led by Thomas Remington, Halle Professor of Global Learning.
Over the spring 1998 semester, a group of a dozen faculty members met regularly to discuss their individual projects on topics related to contemporary institutional and cultural change in Europe. As teachers and researchers in the fields of economics, history, sociology, political science, educational studies, business and law, their work investigates many issues confronting post-Cold War Europe.
This summer seminar participants traveled abroad for further research and discussion of their projects with colleagues and specialists in Europe through the support of the Halle Institute. The Halle conference provided an opportunity for these faculty members to present their findings on subjects that ranged from challenges to traditional links between nationality and citizenship to legal shifts affecting intellectual property and family law. Invited participants included academic experts and policymakers from the United States and the European Union.
The first of four panel sessions at the conference focused on "Forming and Reforming Identities in the New Europe." Educational Studies Professor Carole Hahn discussed her research on multicultural citizenship education in Europe. She elected to work in England, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States because of their intertwined histories, democratic environments and shared levels of economic and educational development.
Hahn found that the most culturally sensitive education is inclusive in content and makes connections with students' previous experiences and beliefs.
Of the countries she studied, Denmark has the most liberal and pervasive fusion of education for democratic participation. This is supported by the country's tradition of tolerance and participatory decision-making, and by its number of bilingual and bicultural educators. At the other end of the spectrum, Germany appears to have the least successful integration of its changing population. In Germany, though all schools have civics and government classes and immigrants are pulled out of class for German lessons, there appear to be few adaptations for religious differences and little encouragement in the classroom for students to integrate their past experiences.
As the European Union leads countries toward a political and economic integration, Thomas Lancaster, associate professor of political science, found an opposing dynamic pulls citizens toward creating individual regional identities separate from state ones. In Spain Lancaster used a preference survey to evaluate political identification of Basque, Catalan and Galician citizens. For those populations, he found regional identity is preferred over European identity. "In aggregate terms, people living in Spain do not feel very 'European,'" he said.
Lancaster's analysis also tried to determine "patterns that appear to dominate individual attitudes about citizenship in such times of change." He found that, for the most part, individuals preferring to identify themselves as "European" are young, single, better educated, urban, and of a higher social class and income level.
Associate Sociology Professor Frank Lechner talked about his investigation of minority policy and national identity in the Netherlands. "I stud[ied] Dutch minority policy to understand how the Netherlands has coped with a challenge that is now common to many Western countries, namely how to incorporate a large number of 'strangers' into the national community."
Minority issues began to surface in the Netherlands 25 years ago with a large influx of Suriname immigrants. Since the early 1970s, immigrants from Turkey, Morocco and the Antilles increased the non- native population fourfold. Thereafter, issues of asylum, white flight and civic integration brought changes in national policy.
A proliferation of policies has resulted-from anti-disadvantage policies incorporated within education initiatives and hiring ratio policies to the "Civic Integration of Newcomers Act." Dutch consensus politics hold that integration is a desired outcome, but in reality the policies have not always made the difference. Recent skirmishes between police and Moroccan youth point to the fragility of the consensus.
"The Netherlands has approached the 'problem' of including 'others' by drawing on its distinct traditions but has also changed what it means to be Dutch," Lechner said.
The Halle Institute Conference concluded the first in a three-year series of Halle Institute seminars that will continue in spring 1999 with the theme of European economic and monetary integration. The final cycle, in the year 1999-2000, will focus on contemporary Europe.
Editor's note: Occasional papers encompassing the range of contemporary
European issues covered at the conference will be published by the Halle
Institute early next year. For more information call 404-727-6494.