Tag Archives: Brexit

  • European Union Governance and Policy Making: A Canadian Perspective

    To mark the publication of European Union Governance and Policy Making: A Canadian Perspective, the editors, Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly, Achim Hurrelmann, and Amy Verdun, reflect on what led them to produce the first textbook on EU politics designed specifically for students who are unfamiliar with the EU, many of whom are from outside the EU.

    Achim Hurrelmann: “One thing that I found fascinating in producing our textbook is that our book is itself the product of European integration, having been edited by scholars who grew up in three different EU member states: Emmanuel in France, Amy in the Netherlands, and myself in Germany. And of course, the book also reflects on Canada as the country where we all moved to teach European politics, and which welcomed us with open arms. You both came to Canada about twenty years ago, ten years before me. How was it to teach your first courses on the EU?”

    Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly: “When I started teaching, we actually did not focus on the EU as much as on Western European politics. At the time, we used a text that focused on four European countries and the construction of the European Community and the European Common Market. Because the European construction is so much a project in the making, it is hard to understand and follow how it is progressing. As a result, the process of European integration is really obscure for many people outside of the EU. What I found fascinating was to approach this textbook on the EU from that perspective, which is also our students’ perspective. Being in Canada, and having less exposure to EU politics than most of their European counterparts, our students have a knowledge gap. Hence, having the view of an outsider peeking into the European project, I thought, was just a wonderful idea.”

    Amy Verdun: “My experience was similar, and this is how the idea for this textbook was born. I first had the idea fifteen years ago, when I started coordinating a course on the EU that was multidisciplinary. I thought: ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a book specifically for this course?’ Then, as EU scholars in Canada started to cooperate more with each other through various projects, the broader contours of what such a book might look like started to emerge. In September 2009, I approached the University of Toronto Press with the idea for this textbook and they were immediately interested. I invited Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly to join me as co-editor. In May 2010 we organized a workshop in Victoria, BC where we presented the first versions of the chapters. In 2015 we invited Achim Hurrelmann to join us as the third editor.”

    Achim Hurrelmann: “In addition to the three editors, our contributors include many leading scholars from the EU studies community, which is very vibrant and active in Canada, but also exceptionally collegial. In this sense, producing this book was really a collaborative endeavor. It was not difficult to get our contributors to buy into the main objectives of the book.”

    Amy Verdun: “For the longest time, our shared experience with EU textbooks was that they were not really ideal for students whose primary experience has been outside the EU. Most textbooks are quite detailed and provide comprehensive overviews of its history, theories, institutions, governance, and policy making. We thought that a book that reduces complexity, hones in on the key issues, and does not demand much prior knowledge would be great for the courses on European integration that we teach here in Canada. We also chose a writing style that was very ‘light’ on references and refers instead to a list of references for further reading at the end of each chapter. Also, each chapter compares the issue at hand with what the situation would be in Canada—which as a federal state has some overlapping features with the EU polity. Furthermore, we have organized the text around three major themes: that the EU was created on the ashes of World War II in order to prevent another war; that the EU today has considerably more powers than a typical international organization but it falls short of being a state; and that the legitimacy of the EU is increasingly subject to debate. With all of these features, we hoped to be able to provide a text that students from outside the EU would find more digestible.”

    Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly: “The core of our project is a text that allows students to learn about the EU with the added feature that it is written from the perspective of, and in comparison with, Canada. In each chapter, we provide a text box that details a similar process or policy in Canada. This provides students with direct references to another federal state, giving students an insider-view of the European Union from-the-outside.”

    Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly is Professor and Jean Monnet Chair in Innovative Governance at the University of Victoria.

    Achim Hurrelmann is Associate Professor at Carleton University.

    Amy Verdun is Professor at the University of Victoria.

  • Literary / Liberal Entanglements and the Brexitrump Moment

    Written by guest bloggers Corrinne Harol and Mark Simpson, co-editors of Literary / Liberal Entanglements: Toward a Literary History for the Twenty-First Century.

    We undertook this project in response to what we perceived as a crisis in the discipline in which we teach and write. That particular crisis, about how many students were studying literature and how much respect (and therefore resources) we got from the culture at large, now seems rather quaint, when constitutional crisis, nuclear war, the dissolution of Europe, climate chaos (etc.) press onto us from every side. Indeed, at the point when we were competing the book, the twin phenomena named Brexit and Donald Trump -- hereafter brexitrump -- were already revving into second gear. Although we couldn’t do more than gesture in passing toward these developments in the introduction, we had always understood that this project discerned the crisis in our discipline as inescapably entangled with the larger socio-cultural crisis unfolding on either side of the Atlantic. Hence, among other things, our book’s title, Literary/Liberal Entanglements, which strives to capture as succinctly as possible this dynamic inextricably tying the history of our discipline to the history of liberalism.

    The question that animated the project and the way we tried to frame it in the introduction is the same question raised by brexitrump: are we living through some categorical break from liberalism -- or through liberalism’s full apotheosis? One of the things we find so compelling about this project is the capacity of its essays, which do not focus on the contemporary moment but rather excavate the long history of the literary/liberal entanglement, to offer such surprising and provocative perspectives on this question. A central claim we make in the introduction to the book is that literary history can be a resource for the present, for reimagining and therefore reforming the present. We test this claim in this blog post by thinking about what these essays might offer the brexitrump moment.

    Several of these essays offer accounts of the literary/liberal entanglement that might help to explain the electoral phenomena--the level of popular support for brexitrump-- in so far as they diagnose misrecognized dynamics of liberalism that show up, that become more obvious, in brexitrump as a phenomenon. The essays by Soni, Kunin, and Ashton challenge our received understanding of the strength of three pillars of liberal politics: judgment, subjectivity, and expressive autonomy. If we understand judgment as not decision but endless deferral (Soni), if humans want to be not subjects but objects (Kunin), and if aesthetic expression is not correlative to political action but a cypher for it (Ashton), then aspects of brexitrump might have been predicted. The popular support for a leader who is a cypher of judgment, who performs decision as rhetoric rather than promise, might be the exemplar of liberal judgment and not an avatar of its demise; the political divide based on stereotyping that we take to be problematic for liberal politics might instead indicate the centrality of type-making for questions of human desire; and the explosion of expressive forms and medias that fueled brexitrump might not support political discrimination but rather predict the potency of internet silos and fake news.

    These dynamics -- expressive autonomy, endlessly deferred judgement, stereotyping -- likewise raise the matter of detail, and so the question: does detail matter? Under brexitrump, the answer must be both “no” and “yes”: a key premise of both Brexit and Trump has been that details will work themselves out later (never mind how the wall along the US-Mexican border will get built; don’t worry about how Anglo-European trade relations will unfold), yet a key refrain under each repeatedly bemoans how devilish the details prove to be (“no one knew” how complicated health care was). Several of the authors in our collection look to the matter of detail in order to emphasize just how powerful and capacious the ephemeral trace, the minor form, the marginal inscription can prove for the making (and remaking) of worlds. Thus Love finds in Patricia Highsmith evidence that care for and attention to detail becomes a vital method for living. Meeuwis analyzes the significance, for George Bernard Shaw, of relations of literary text to its paratext for political dynamics of audience, belief, and collective expression -- relations of textual detail that hold telling resonance in the era of brexitrump. And Flatley reads ephemeral textual details -- the type and layout of a strike handbill; the tone and timbre of voice over a documentary film -- in order to show how they can help to change the collective mood in ways potent enough to challenge the political dynamics in a given moment.

    One especially pernicious detail in the brexitrump moment is a tendency to demonize working classes for their supposed role in triggering these crises. We would hold that mainstream media gets this story wrong, precisely by oversimplifying the complicated and volatile entanglements among media, class, and liberal politics. At the same time, essays by McCann, Hasenbank, and Potts tell us, liberal institutions of higher education and literary history have also been part of the problem as well as a potential means for its solution. McCann offers a nuanced and searching assessment about the complex history of the relations between a “liberal elite” and a disaffected working class, condemning the ways that  mid-twentieth-century US cultural leaders abdicated issues of economic inequality and justice. Hasenbank argues that the methods of book history can counter such suppression of class concerns; she does do by recovering a Canadian proletarian media culture from the 1930s that confounds liberal narratives and values regnant since at least the early decades of the last century. Potts shows how certain kinds of cultural identifications besides class--with race and region in particular--are at once traceable back to cultural histories of US literary formation and difficult to understand, because narratives of liberalism and literary history have routinely conspired to obscure not reveal the relations among various forms of cultural identification. What these essays show, then, is that we cannot simply point the finger at caricatures of class and media -- in the era of brexitrump, we urgently need new (and newly historicized) understanding of the relations of class, race, region, and media.

    We would emphasize that the collection’s essays do not merely suggest that such grimmer histories are decisive in determining our potential engagements with the literary/liberal entanglement. In fact they show that moments of uncertainty such as our own brexitrump moment offer resources for the future. The essays by Flatley and Rahmani, for example,  analyze moments and events in the history of liberalism every bit as unclear about whether liberalism was approaching apotheosis or rupture. In these histories--of Imperial England’s world-making project of botany and of the persistence of modes of racial domination and resistance in mid-20th century Detroit workers movements--the authors find that the resources, tactics, and successes of culture work -- including the work of literary criticism -- can take surprising turns and have consequences at once subtle and significant. These two essays remind us  that liberalism’s predations can and need to be challenged via literary, aesthetic, and material practices. They exemplify what we take to be one of the lessons of the book overall: that it is a mistake for literary critics to cede to the force of politics, to deny or diminish the literary/liberal entanglement and our own involvement, complicity, and therefore agency in it.

    Corrinne Harol is an associate professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta.

    Mark Simpson is an associate professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta.

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