For nine years NYU Prague has been organizing annual conferences, bringing faculty from other sites to discuss issues of world-wide importance. This spring, academics from several NYU global sites and other European universities came to Prague for a conference entitled Europe: Identity and Integration. Faculty from three different NYU sites attended – Prague, Berlin and New York – as well as academics from Charles University (Prague) and Central European University (Budapest) to debate topics that were particularly compelling so soon after the Russian invasion of Crimea.
Among the panelists was Joshua Tucker, professor in the Politics and Russian and Slavic Studies Departments of New York University. “Through this conference, NYU Prague is bringing people together – enhancing students’ experiences and as well as enhancing the research and educational outreach mission of the university. It is fantastic for NYU faculty who research Europe to sit down with people from local sites and exchange ideas. This is the dream of the Global Campus.“
Is it a bit strange to have American faculty from the US coming to Prague to discuss European Identity? Not at all, according to conference organizer and NYU Prague professor Petr Mucha. “This year we wanted an outside view on European identity. The European view of Federalism is different than that of the USA, which is a country of immigrants.“
“I come with a global perspective as well as an American perspective,” said John Shattuck, former US Ambassador in the Czech Republic and current Rector and President of Central European University in Budapest. Ellen Hume, journalist and currently a professor at Central European University, noted that the Central European concept of nationalism is connected to blood, not values – a paradigm that the Russians recently used to their advantage in Crimea. Professor Tucker agreed, noting that Europeans are “eons away from where we are in the US, where most people don’t identify with their states.”
Can a European identity be created? Ukraine showed that that people are willing to die for democracy, for Europe- “they dream of the ideals which we are not able to feel from the inside,” said Professor Jan Machacek (NYU Prague). “But it is disturbing that the European identity is at its most attractive at its outside,” said Larry Wolff, Director of the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies and Professor of History at NYU. “Ukrainians would die for Europe, but countries that are in Europe are frustrated.”
Both Gabriella Etmeksoglou (NYU Berlin) and Lenka Rovna (Charles University, Prague) were optimistic that education is having a huge impact on young people’s views of Europe- their ability to travel in other European countries, study, work, and then stay in touch with each other through social media is tremendous. “The future of Europe is a mix of nationalities,” said Professor Etmeksoglou.
Students, faculty, intellectuals, politicians attended the conference – which was streamed live and is still available for viewing online. “NYU is an exciting entity- there is a common academic culture but with a diversity of sites and local experience. Conferences give us the chance to think about deeper cooperation among the NYU European sites,” says Mucha. “NYU offers neutral soil where controversial issues can be discussed.“
The conference can be viewed at the following two sites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAkfOYQ_qcU