Critical Area Studies of Europe

  • Critical Area Studies for Europe

    Critical Area Studies for Europe, or CASE, is an initiative of the European Studies Center at Pitt to expand the understanding of area studies research and training.


    HELMS is part of CASE initiative and stands for Historical contexts, Ethics, Language proficiency, Media literacy, and Social science methodology in Area Studies


    IDEAS is also part of CASE initiative and stands for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Area Studies


CASE stands for Critical Area Studies for Europe and is an initiative of the European Studies Center at Pitt to expand the understanding of area studies research and training. By drawing on perspectives from post- and decolonial scholarship, entangled histories approaches, and intersectional analysis, the initiative makes a case study out of today's EU-Europe and its policies in order to highlight interdependencies and relationalities, global connections and global perspectives in research, training and teaching in area studies.

With CASE we focus on area studies as such because, at least since the outbreak of the Russian War in Ukraine as a response to the expansion of Europeanization, the need for deep knowledge of the region has been underscored. Yet it has also become clear that old Cold War divisions into East and West and other area studies approaches are obsolete and problematic. Moreover, both historically and in the current world configuration the EU, as one of the largest economies, plays a leading role in global developments. Issues such as climate change, energy production and distribution, security and defense, migration and identity politics are all actively shaped by the EU and impact the dynamics of European integration and European politics as well as global affairs. However, the need for region-specific knowledge confronts the decline in research focusing on areas. The increased emphasis on problems, dynamics and policies that transcend regional and area borders has a challenging time grasping the motivations of local actors. While training in area studies is still relevant, the area studies model in the United States needs a radical update, and the EU constitutes a perfect empirical case for a new model of area studies. Besides being an academic and intellectual endeavor, this project also strives to broaden and deepen training in humanities and social sciences and teaching, learning and research on the EU to meet current economic, scientific, environmental, and social developments, such as expansion of the digital economy, issues of security, climate change, energy distribution, identity politics and populism.

CASE includes two other initiatives: HELMS and IDEAS (see below)

CASE consist of these thematic foci: 

  1. Europe today between Empire and insignificance
  2. Disinformation and misinformation in Europe and in the US
  3. Sustainability and circular economy
  4. Health and Health Ethics
  5. Security in Europe and beyond

Funding and Partners: 

The European Studies Center, funded by a grant from the Jean Monnet Center of Excellence and from the US Department of Education, is partnering with faculty and students from many programs at Pitt to develop and achieve the CASE initiative of reimagining and discussing entangled global European histories, critical legal studies, and critical Europeanization studies. Our partners include Pitt Cyber, Law, History, Engineering, Urban Studies, the Center for Health Ethics and Law, Philosophy, Humanities Engage, the Archive of European Integration, the European Union Studies Association, and the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. We are also partnering with several programs outside of Pitt, including Newcastle University, European University Viadrina Frankfurt, the Historical Archive of the European Union in Florence, and the European Culture Research Group at the Council for European Studies.  


HELMS is a way of formalizing a set of learning outcomes for K-20 students that capitalizes on the strengths of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary area and language studies. These learning outcomes/core competencies include Historical contexts, Ethics, Languages, Media Literacy, and Social Science Methodologies (summarized by the acronym HELMS). A HELMS education encourages critical thinking, ethical decision-making, and cultural sensitivity. The ESC proposes that area studies programs are ideally suited to cultivating these essential learning outcomes, which are increasingly valued as the work environment changes due to increasing dependence on technology and machines. HELMS is not a replacement for STEM, but rather a complement. Streamlining HELMS in area studies should enable formalization of a set of learning outcomes, preparing students for careers on a modern job market and helping them to navigate today's world.

The European Studies Center at Pitt seeks to expand and deepen each of the elements of HELMS in teaching and research on Europe and the European Union. At the same time, this particular perspective should be reflected on in a flexible way. Particular elements of HELMS matter with particular research questions or teaching aims or in particular research fields and contexts. Hence, they do not have to be considered all at once and simultaneously.

IDEAS stands for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity in Area Studies and is a part of CASE initiative. It seeks first and foremost to generate debate and reflect diverse opinions, by actively and explicitly internationalizing DEI work being done in other parts of the university and connecting it to area/European studies.

Area Studies typically include studies about "Other" cultures. With IDEAS initiative we strive to change the perspective, from looking at "the Other" to entering a conversation with "the Other". This means not only giving voice to marginalised and non-mainstream positions, but also to include these perspectives in our teaching, programming and research that we forge. We want to learn from these positions and include them in our epistemologies about and representations of Europe and the EU.