So just what is Europe?

European Democratic Culture - Europe and the Wider World - The History of the Idea of Europe - Aspects of European Cultural Diversity - The Anthropology of Europe - State and Society in Western Europe - Appetites and Identities
October 6, 1995

These are all recently published textbooks, mostly, though not exclusively, multi-authored, and they all relate to the general field of European studies, from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Considerable emphasis is placed upon the need for an interdisciplinary approach and for the crossfertilis-ation of methodologies and ideas for all scholarship, relating to issues of nationalism, national and regional identity and ethnicity in both eastern and western Europe. This need particularly applies to political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians and sociolinguists. The common theme that runs through these books is that it is diversity which gives Europe its richness.

The Anthropology of Europe reinforces the need for an interdisciplinary approach, with the comment that: "Anthropologists working in Europe ignore at their peril the quantitative and qualitative methodologies offered by sociologists and historians" (Blok, 1992). The book addresses some of the key issues affecting kinship and gender, immigration and racism, ethnicity and nationalism, state formation, national identity, citizenship and the boundaries of Europe and the effects of European integration. It poses the question: What is Europe? How should we conceptualise it, and what sets Europe apart from other regions of the world? It also seeks to address to what extent integration within the EU will act as a catalyst to greater homogeneity within Europe or whether, instead, integration will exacerbate differences between EU members and nonmembers.

Chapters also emphasise how confessional and linguistic divisions often can be seen to underlie the major ethnic cleavages and conflicts from Northern Ireland and Belgium to Bosnia and the Balkans. The chapter on Yugoslavia provides a good example of this situation, with an interesting and original Lacanian interpretation of the nature and application of nationalism, although it is rather superficial, if not inaccurate, to say that, "The Croatian language is mainly distinguishable from Serbian by the fact that the former is written in Latin script and the latter in Cyrillic."

The anthropological approach to Europe is also developed in Aspects of European Cultural Diversity, which is one of four text books published by Routledge, under the general title What is Europe?" for the Open University in conjunction with the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities. These books are aimed primarily at undergraduates in European studies.

Aspects of European Cultural Diversity contains essays on language, education, the mass media and everyday life. The books in this series may prove to be useful in seminar work, particularly since specialists would want to enlarge upon some of the comments made and might not be in full agreement with some of the interpretations. For example the essay on languages is a competent general introduction to the subject of language politics, but many points could be enlarged upon in seminar discussions. Some of the comments on the language situation in the former Yugoslavia are open to discussion, since the implication that President Tito was responsible for "the creation of a new compound language, Serbo-Croat" and the statement that: "before the recent civil war (or civil wars, if they are that?) people would maintain that they could barely understand one another, if at all", are clearly inaccurate.

Another theme common to many of the selected books is expressed in the introduction to Aspects of European Cultural Diversity: "Many European citizens feel that their national culture is threatened by moves towards economic and political unification. Some cultural communities in Europe, however, welcome this trend since their particular identities have not always been respected by nation-states." In his essay on languages, Conrad Schroder emphasises this comment with the claim that national languages have become the symbols of sovereignty and that, "the national language appears as an instrument in the power politics of the nation state", citing developments in France since the 1789 revolution as a classic example.

Although in Schroder's opinion, the survival of language is often dependent upon the practical costs of publishing and the media in general, he also demonstrates how lesser-used languages are sometimes given "tender loving care", as in the case of Sorbian in the former GDR, in comparison with other regions of Europe. Reaction to such languages is one of hatred, as in the case of Serbian in the Krajina and the Slavonias, against the onslaught of Croatian, and especially the so-called Tudjmanica being propagated, since 1991, by the Croatian government, whereby deliberate attempts are being made to emphasise Croatian national identity through language politics.

One of the drawbacks of this book, as in all the What is Europe? series is that the bibliographies often contain sources which might not be readily accessible to many European studies undergraduates in British universities, who may not have the necessary foreign language reading skills. For example, in the chapter on languages, 13 out of 15 sources mentioned are in German, which seems rather to defeat the object of having a pan-European presentation. It would have been more useful if some of these texts were either French and English language publications.

European Democratic Culture is another title in the Routledge series. It begins with an anthropological approach to analysing the conditions for the emergence of democratic thinking in Ancient Greece and ends with an account of the functioning of contemporary European institutions. By defining culture as "the organised ensemble of attitudes, values, patterns of individual or group behaviours, forms of knowledge and discourse", this book aims to summarise European democratic thought and to explore how political situations and problems are resolved against the background of stimulating a "European type of democracy" that will touch all European citizens.

The book attempts to demonstrate that despite the collapse of communism and the "peoples' democracies", western Europeans are not entitled to "preach lessons in democracy". Ultimately Europe is: "the outcome of debate, thought and negotiation". Tell that to the citizens of the Yugoslav successor states.

In Europe and the Wider World there are four essays, on Europe and the Third World, relations between the United States and Europe, relations between Europe and Russia, and the global economy. Generally speaking the book is satisfactory in its overall thrust and presentation, but there seem to be one or two inaccuracies. For example in the introductory section to the essay on Russia's relations with Europe, it is implied that it was not until the 16th century that western contacts were made with Russia. Although this point is slightly amended later in the chapter, it is a misleading generalisation, since the very origins of Kievan Rus are based upon Scandinavian initiatives. Likewise the Varangians, or Viking merchant princes, developed the Rus as a trading people from the Baltic to the Black Sea along the "water road" to Constantinople (not Byzantium).

One also thinks of attempts made by western Catholic priests to influence the conversion of Kievan Russia to Christianity, before Vladimir chose the Orthodox faith in 988, to say nothing of the incursions made by the Teutonic knights into Russian space in the early 13th century. No explanation is given of how the "Tartar yoke" came to isolate Russia from the West, and later in the text the term "Slavophilism" is employed without any clear or significant definition.

To say that the Oprichniki used the same methods as Stalin's "modern police state" is not only inaccurate, but also ahistorical. The use of a sketch map, lifted from Ian Grey's Ivan III and the Unification of Russia (1964/73) is inexcusable given the high standard of computer cartography available today. Overall, the book would have benefited greatly from the inclusion of a few more maps.

By contrast, The History of the Idea of Europe is a useful all-round introduction to European integration and would be ideal for first-year courses on integration. There is an obvious sense of flow from one chapter to another and the aims and objectives of each section are clearly presented. The book considers the competing perceptions and interpretations of the meaning of Europe, based upon period, nationality, identity, religious, political and social needs.

Supported by a good sprinkling of primary and secondary sources, this would make an ideal companion in seminar work to David Weigal and Peter Stirk's The Origins and Development of the European Community (1992).

State and Society in Western Europe will prove to be a major textbook on European institutions and developments. It is a highly readable contemporary and comparative presentation of four European democracies and their institutions. There are chapters on the economy, social structure, political cleavages, communications, political parties and groups and governmental institutions. The only drawback is that the book concentrates on Britain, France, Germany and Italy. There might be a strong argument for producing a second volume of the same high calibre on the other states of western Europe.

Sara Delamont provides an excellent introduction to anthropology for students from other disciplines and subject areas, in her Appetites and Identities. Although the author claims to "oversimplify anthropology", this must not be interpreted as a fault, since she has produced a remarkable achievement, with a book that is highly readable, clear and informative and written in a nontechnical style. It is well laid out with aims, objectives and conclusions to each chapter, with recommendations for further reading and practical activities and with an overview of research in the respective fields of her discipline. Indeed the highly detailed bibliography and directory of field sites throughout western Europe are excellent. Some of the issues dealt with are: cuisine, migration, tourism, religion, the supernatural, urban life, gender, politics, patronage and leadership, and language identity.

Delamont considers the methods of fieldwork, the need to master languages and some of the pitfalls which may be encountered during fieldwork.

There is humour too, and some of the fictitious examples in the section on going native, are particularly intriguing, such as that of Rachel, the research student who "went native", becoming more Galician than the Galicians, by being a leader of the Galician separatist movement, "leading a protest march on Madrid" and "planting a bomb in the police post".

On the problems of language and fieldwork, she quotes M. Chapman (1992): "A young man who speaks French and understands Breton . . . is normal. One who speaks French and does not understand Breton is also normal. One who speaks French and wishes to learn Breton is weird. One who does not speak French and wishes to learn only Breton is a kind of unimaginable nightmare."

Robert C. Hudson is a Jean Monnet scholar and senior lecturer in European Studies, University of Derby.

European Democratic Culture

Editor - Alain-Marc Rieu, Gerard Duprat and Noel Parker
ISBN - 0 415 12418 2 and 12419 0
Publisher - Routledge
Price - £40.00 and £12.99
Pages - 268

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