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                                                                       Photograph courtesy of Wiki Commons 

A notice board at St. Matthew’s Church In Perth, Scotland, shows conflicting signs promoting the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum. On the left is a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Love is the only thing that can turn an enemy into a friend.”


Politics, Environment, and States of Union: Germany, Ireland, and Scotland in 2014

 

by Dr. Andrew J. Strathern and Dr. Pamela J. Stewart

Department of Anthropology University of Pittsburgh

Last summer, we engaged in research and lecturing projects in Germany, Ireland, and Scotland.  We were struck by the surprising ways in which issues of union and energy are being raised and becoming intertwined throughout the European Union.  From June 16 to July 5, we were based at the University of Augsburg in Germany.  We gave an intensive, full credit course to a diverse set of Master’s students on Peace and Conflict Studies.  Our visit was a renewal of the long-standing exchange relationship between the University of Augsburg and the University of Pittsburgh.  We appreciated the continuation of this friendship, which was made possible by a travel grant from the EUCE/ESC.  We were thankful for that, as well as other arrangements that were facilitated through contact with Professor Klaus Dieter Post and the UCIS Director Larry Feick’s office. 

            During one lecture in Augsburg, we discussed the European Parliament elections and the renewed emergence of Euro-skeptic candidates, notably in England, where the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has gained traction among Conservative voters.  Our students declared a feeling of shock by this trend.  Germany is a strong economic presence at the heart of the European Union and has led in the process of finding responses to the Eurozone financial crises.  What would happen if the next crisis questioned the Euro and the ‘state of union’ that this has implied?  Germany has also taken a strong environmental lead in refusing to resort to nuclear power stations.  It also announced anti-fracking policy due to its feared potentialities for environmental destruction.  Germany’s decisions contrast with the introduction of widespread fracking in Pennsylvania. 

            In Ireland, we found that controversies over fracking are just starting up, with a potential venture involving County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland (which belongs to the UK).  Opinions have been polarized along political party lines on the issue, mirroring contentious debate in England and Scotland.  Proponents extol fracking as a source of energy, revenue, and jobs, while opponents warn of its possible ecological downsides.  In Scotland, fracking became a factor in the debate over Scottish independence leading up to the September 18 referendum.  Fracking was a sideshow in the performance theater of arguments about whether an independent Scotland could put major reliance on North Sea oil supplies for its sources of finance.  The No (or Better Together) campaigners argued that the oil will run out (incidentally after many years of profits from drilling going ‘south of the border’ to companies based in London).  The Yes campaigners pointed to the differing views among experts on how much oil can be extracted and argued that in any case Scotland could depend on many other sources of revenue and power.  The upcoming pilot project of introducing underwater turbines in the Pentland Firth in order to harness tidal power added another element to this debate.

            The fracking proposal in Northern Ireland is another example of contradictory processes of separation.  It has possible implications for the Republic, as well as the wider region of Ulster, which bridges Northern Ireland and parts of the Republic.

            As the fracking debate in Ireland is just beginning, the general perception of the economy is that the worst of the recession and Eurozone crisis is over, with improving employment figures, a stress on the encouragement of new small businesses, and a projected growth of 3.4% in GNP for 2014.  However, in many local areas, small towns are suffering from closures of local shops (while large scale chains proliferate).  Russia’s ban on food imports from EU countries in response to an ongoing escalation of EU sanctions over the political and military crisis in the Ukraine has produced a problem for farmers in Ireland and Scotland.

            Major discussions continue in Scotland and Ireland about the changing provisions of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy.  The Westminster-based UK government negotiates on behalf of all the UK for benefits under the policy provision, and this has become a major part of the arguments on independence.  The Scottish National Party (SNP) government’s Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Richard Lockhead, was pictured on the front page of the Scottish Farmer Journal on August 6 with four former Presidents of the National Farmers Union for Scotland campaigning for the ‘Yes’ vote.  Among many points, this group referred to the fact that 85% of land in Scotland is ‘less favored’ (LFA) by contrast with 15% in England (see our discussions in our 2010 edited book, Landscape, Heritage, and Conservation: Farming Issues in the European Union, for the results from the 2008 EUCE conference on this topic).  They also made the point that if Scotland’s government could negotiate directly with the EU (as the Irish Republic government does) it could secure a better deal for its farmers.  The following week, the Journal published a contrary statement from another set of elders for the No vote, arguing that devolution of powers gives Scotland all the benefits it needs and guarantees access to UK markets.  George Lyon, one of the No campaign leaders, claimed that the UK government had secured viable deals for Scotland and the EU.  A spokesperson for the Yes vote, Jim Walter, pointed out in reply that the UK government had negotiated Scotland to the bottom of the league. It was reported in the Irish media that 132 business persons had written to the Scotsman newspaper opposing Independence. Hard on the heels of this obviously orchestrated event came an announcement that 200 business people had written to the Herald newspaper espousing the cause of Independence. 

            The Referendum produced a great political awakening, but the No voters prevailed (55% for No against 45% for Yes).  There has been a huge ferment of discussion in all sectors of the society, amounting to an invaluable process of national political education.  What happened in the immediate aftermath of the result was very interesting.  Just prior to the day of the vote, leaders of the three main parties in Westminster, England, all appeared together in Scotland, pleading in a seeming panic for a No victory, “to save the Union.”  Gordon Brown, a Labor party former leader and previous Prime Minister of the UK, made an impassioned speech in the same vein.  These leaders promised more devolution of powers for Scotland if the No vote prevailed.  Their protestations and promises probably tipped the balance for No in many instances. 

            After the referendum, arguments set in about how many further devolved powers would now be given to Scotland and when. George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced a round of freezes in benefits including pensions; and Prime Minister David Cameron announced that further Scottish devolution would actually have to be combined with discussions about the future of the UK as a whole. Yes and No voters alike were perturbed by all of this.  Yes voters were genuinely sad, but the only violence came from No voters rioting in George Square in Glasgow.  Meanwhile, Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, at once announced he would stand down as First Minister in Scotland in November, paving the way for the orderly succession of Glaswegian Nicola Sturgeon, his Deputy, to be elected in his place. SNP membership then surged to more than twice what it had been before the referendum (instead of dropping).  It was rumored that a movement of “the forty-five percenters” (Yes voters) would be formed to carry the flag for Independence forward. So it is not over!  We are thankful for the EUCE/ESC’s support, as we made a huge harvest of observations from this crop of political events and the sequels to this drama promise to be equally interesting for our continuing study in the next decade.

 

In Review

This fall, the EUCE/ESC commemorated the 25th anniversary of Fall of the Berlin Wall by sponsoring several events at the University of Pittsburgh.  Throughout the semester, German Film Studies Professor Randall Halle ran a tastefully curated German film series.  All five films were in German with English subtitles, and 175 students attended the screenings.  On Oct. 3, German Unity Day, the EUCE/ESC continued its monthly virtual roundtable series, Conversations on Europe, with a videoconference devoted to, “25 Years of the Berlin Republic.”  Co-sponsors for these events included the German Department, History Department, UCIS, REES, World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, Film Studies Program, and World History Center.

From Nov. 1 to Dec. 14, Hillman Library displayed an exhibit of special collections material related to the Fall of the Berlin Wall.  The exhibit included a piece of the Berlin Wall (left) that is partially covered in spray paint, a map of Berlin during the Wall’s 28-year existence, and photographs of President John F. Kennedy’s June 26, 1963 speech in West Berlin.  President Kennedy visited the city 22 months after erected the Wall and expressed solidarity with all Berliners when he famously said, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” 

On Sept. 25, the EUCE/ESC welcomed author and journalist Peter Schneider (sitting far left).  Schneider, who moved to Berlin in 1962, read from his book, Berlin Now: The City After the Wall.  Schneider’s book is a collection of perceptive and witty essays about modern Berlin, and the audience relished his presentation.

On Oct. 9-10, the Center sponsored a workshop entitled, “(Re)Imagining and (Re)Interpreting Spaces, Symbols, and Sites: The Baltic Region from the 19th to the 21st Century.”  The second day of the workshop was designated the EUCE/ESC’s Jean Monnet Symposium and was devoted to exploring, “1989 and Beyond - Contested Sites of Memory in Post-Communist Space.”  Pictured left: Daina Stukuls Eglitis, Associate Professor of Sociology and International Affairs at George Washington University, presents a lecture titled, “The Baltic Way 1989-2014: Revolution, Remembrance, and Regret in Post-Communist Latvia.”  Jeffrey Sommers, an Associate Professor in Global Studies and Africology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, was the workshop’s keynote speaker.  

On Nov. 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall was opened.  To celebrate the 25th anniversary, on Nov. 11, the EUCE/ESC presented, “Zeitzeugen: Eyewitnesses to the Fall of the Wall.”  The roundtable panel was comprised of Pittsburghers who witnessed the Fall of the Wall.  The panel included (from left to right): Karen Laurenen, Director of Development at the Andy Warhol Museum, who was living in Berlin when the Wall fell; Ron Linden, EUCE/ESC Director, who was Director of Research for Radio Free Europe in 1989; Katja Wetzel, DAAD Visiting Professor of History, who had just moved from East to West Germany in 1989; and Gregor Thum, Associate Professor of History, who was a student and a cab driver in West Berlin when the Wall came down.  The panelists’ reflections are also available on the EUCE/ESC blog at euce-escpitt.tumblr.com/eyewitnesses​.

 

Upcoming Deadlines

 

European Research Grants for Faculty

The European Union Center of Excellence, with support from the Office of the Provost and the European Union Delegation to the United States, is pleased to announce that EUCE Faculty Research Grants are available for University of Pittsburgh faculty doing research related to any aspect of post-World War II European Integration.  The European Studies Center is also awarding grants for faculty research that is focused on Europe—but not necessarily on the European Union—through the Faculty Grants for Research on Europe.  For more information regarding grant guidelines, please refer to www.ucis.pitt.edu/euce.  Deadline for both applications: January 5, 2015. 


EUCE/ESC Klinzing Grant

Competition in EU Studies

The European Union Center of Excellence/European Studies Center is proud to announce this year’s dissertation and pre-dissertation grant competitions, named in honor of George Klinzing, former Vice-Provost of Research. Grants are meant to facilitate graduate study on topics related to post-World War II European integration, broadly conceived. The dissertation grant will support dissertation research or the writing of a dissertation between May of 2015 and April of 2016.  Pre-dissertation grants are available to students who have not yet completed their overview and who wish to do research or undertake an internship in Europe during the upcoming summer.  Visit www.ucis.pitt.edu/euce to apply fora grant or to see a list of last year’s winners, along with their research topics.  Please read application materials carefully before applying.  Deadline: received or postmarked by 4:30 p.m., March 6, 2015.

 

EUCE/ESC Spotlight:

Margo Lynch

This month, EUCE/ESC newsletter editor Gavin Jenkins interviewed alumnus Margo Lynch, who is earning a Territoires Européens MA (TEMA) at the Università di Catania in Italy.  This spring, she will spend the semester studying at Eötvös Lorand University in Budapest, Hungary.  A native of Chambersburg, PA, Lynch graduated from Pitt in 2012 with degrees in Italian Language and Literature and History, as well as certificates in Western European Studies and Medieval and Renaissance Studies.  While at Pitt, she studied abroad in Sicily and Turkey and was involved with the Italian Club and the English Language Institute.  Before enrolling in grad school, she was an editor for the Revista Iberoamericana.

 

Q: Growing up in Chambersburg, how did you get interested in Western European Studies?

A: I initially became interested in Western European Studies after a trip to France, Italy and Spain as a student ambassador in high school.  Chambersburg is a small, rural town and, although I had traveled pretty extensively in the States, it was my first time out of the country.  Despite a pretty nasty bout of food poisoning that landed half the group in the hospital, I was hooked from day one.

 

Q: Where in Turkey did you study, and after taking courses in Sicily, how did you decide upon Turkey?

A: While in Turkey, I studied at Koç University in Northern Istanbul on the Bosphorus Straight.  Although it was an amazing experience, I only ended up there after being evacuated from Cairo during the 2011 protests, where I had initially elected to study.  My international studies have been an integral part of my formation.  Studying and volunteering at various refugee centers in Sicily definitely inspired me to apply to TEMA.

 

Q: Tell me about the Revista Iberoamericana.  What was it like being an editor there?

A: As far as first “real” jobs go, working for the Revista Iberoamericana was the best I could have asked for.  On a daily basis, I was in contact with scholars from every part of the world and was exposed to the ins-and-outs of academic publishing, which definitely helps in this masters program.  In the year and a half I worked at the RI, I was lucky enough to travel to the Latin American Studies Association conference in Chicago as a representative, as well as our own “IILI” (Instituto Internacional de Literatura Iberoamericana) conference in Mexico City this past summer.  I am eternally grateful to the IILI team for all the opportunities and experiences they provided me.

 

Q: What is the TEMA program like at the Università di Catania?  Do you enjoy living and studying there?

A: The TEMA program is a bilingual English-French masters degree path associated with the Erasmus Mundus European Union scholarship fund.  Living in Catania is a bit of an old hat for me after living in Siracusa in the past.  I enjoy it a lot, although it is still frustrating when the busses are an hour late and the power goes out in the middle of studying.  As part of the program, I will spend the spring in Budapest for my “mandatory mobility semester,” an integral part of the program.  I am excited to begin fieldwork on my thesis upon my return to Sicily next fall; I plan to investigate the sordid underworld of forced, clandestine prostitution in the Sicilian countryside.  There are approximately thirty students from more than twenty-five countries currently enrolled in the program, so to say the experience has been enlightening would be an understatement. 

 

Q: What are your plans after you graduate?

A: After the program, I hope to pursue a Ph.D. in a similar field, maybe even in Pittsburgh. 

 

Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who want to pursue a path similar to yours?

A: For undergraduates hoping to pursue similar goals, I cannot stress how important knowing another language (or more) is.  If it were not for my language skills, I would never be in the position I am today.  Also, no matter how small or impossible an opportunity may seem, take advantage of it.  Also, being a student at the University of Pittsburgh has so many perks; my alma mater has definitely aided me on my current path.

 

 

October Conference a Success

 

by Sylvia Grove, PhD Candidate

Department of French and Italian

On Oct. 10, the Department of French and Italian hosted an interdisciplinary graduate conference in Alumni Hall entitled “Short Fuse.” This conference, sponsored in part by the EUCE/ESC, celebrated the department’s 50th anniversary and featured 19 graduate, undergraduate, and faculty presenters from 14 universities in the U.S., Canada, and France, including keynote speaker Dr. Jan Miernowski from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Over 100 graduate and undergraduate students and professors attended the event, which included presentations and questions from the audience.

            The theme “Short Fuse” found various interpretations within the presenters’ fields, ranging from political events involving anger – such as the tension between the Protestants and Catholics in sixteenth century France, as explored by Janée Allsman of the University of Illinois at Chicago – to frustration between individuals, like the mother-daughter tension in the Italian novel The Time of Indifference by Alberto Moravia, as highlighted by Sabrina Righi of the University of Michigan.  Dr. Miernowski’s keynote address, entitled, “The Beauty of Hatred,” after his recently-published book of the same title (La Beauté de la haine, 2014), concluded the conference by exploring the controversial aesthetics of strong emotion. 

According to Dr. Giuseppina Mecchia, Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of French, the exploration of anger as both feeling and action is crucial to intellectual and political study.

            “[Understanding anger] forces us to break away from the subdued and standardized language of everyday social relations and to invent new forms and means of expression,” she said. “In literature, anger, or at least resentment, are often vital creative impulses.”

            She was particularly pleased by the conference’s quality of presentations, which confirmed “the national and international presence of our graduate programs” at the University of Pittsburgh.