It is commonplace to present the concept of Europe through a narrative. The concept has been depicted with a story of the beginning, decline and resurrection of “civilization”. As notable illustrations of Europe are the narratives of the emergence and crises of “reason”, or Europe as a provider – and later denier – of some fundamental and universal rights. The history of the idea of Europe is a history of narratives, all incomplete, yet built on an assurance of some future trajectory.
The fourth annual conference of EuroStorie – Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence in Law, Identity and the European Narratives at the University of Helsinki – will concentrate on the futures that have been used and continue to be created in an attempt to define Europe and all that it represents. What kind of ideological structures have guided and restricted the projections of the future in the past? What might be the unreflected principles that determine our contemporary anticipation of times to come? And most importantly, how to break off from Eurocentric conceptualization of time and outline the tomorrow of Europe within the global future?
The different approaches on the topic of the conference will evolve around themes that characterize the three subprojects of EuroStorie. First, Europe in the 20th century was indisputably a home for a variety of conceptualizations of functioning society, of which most drew from the past in their aim of constructing a virtuous future community, or, of warning of a prospecting dystopia. What were the real-life consequences of this intellectual time-travelling, for example in the field of law? What is left from them and what can we learn from those examples?
Second, often “Europe” stands for a dream of a better future, and vice versa, not seldom “Europe” symbolizes a havoc of some virtue or a noble principle in the global political and economic reality. Is it reasonable to perceive Europe anymore as an advancing project, allegedly forever proceeding nearer to perfection, and built around an elusive ideal of universalism? Should we abandon the initial concepts with which Europe was defined in the 20th century, or rather just reframe them?
Third, the actualization of “European freedoms”, for example the freedom of movement, is a yardstick with which Europe evaluates its own success or failure. Yet, it is obvious that the values and freedoms at the core of the European project are under scrutiny on a daily basis. Would a future without the free movement be European at all? Or is it that the projections of Europe have never been built in consideration of free movement?
The conference brings together scholars from a variety of backgrounds and across disciplines. Rather than diminishing the future-oriented stories of Europe as side issues in the political and economic world, we will focus on the common feature that unites all conceptualizations of Europe: the strife to bring one’s idea into life by giving it a past and a future. Centering the presentations around that phenomenon, we argue, opens up a wide horizon for discussion between different aspirations, values and real-life challenges in the context of Europe.