From the Director

William Collins Donahue, director
William Collins Donahue
Rev. John J. Cavanaugh, C.S.C., Professor of the Humanities
Professor, German and Russian Languages and Literature
Concurrent Professor, Film, Television, and Theatre
Director, Nanovic Institute for European Studies

Dear Colleagues in European Studies,

As I write these words, the story of the riots against foreigners in Chemnitz is still unfolding.

These are sobering and indeed deeply troubling times for Europe. Right-wing populists and nativists are threatening the fabric of European unity and integration that many of us had taken for granted as the status quo. And the United States -- especially in the wake of Trump’s targeting of the EU as a “foe” and his questioning of the very foundation of NATO -- is simply no longer the solid partner many Europeans had assumed we were. 

As one of the core academic units of the Keough School of Global Affairs, the Nanovic Institute is deeply committed to the principle of “integral human development,” particularly as it impacts Europe. In line with the School’s focus on policy and practice, we seek to shed light and understanding upon issues of contemporary urgency. 

To facilitate this commitment, I have announced a pivot to policy project. We will earmark $100,000 this year to support students and faculty who through their research and teaching can illuminate these issues that so urgently threaten the human dignity of our sisters and brothers.

A hallmark of the Nanovic has surely been its longstanding support of the humanities, fine arts, and the interpretive social sciences. Embracing policy -- which to some extent the Institute has always done -- does not supplant this time-honored practice. But it does present a new opportunity.

As an Institute of European Studies with extraordinary strength in the humanities, we are poised to make signal contributions also to the study of contemporary European policy. With considerable research strengths in history, theology, philosophy, political science, the fine arts, and many of the European languages and cultures -- to name just a few of our partnering departments -- we can offer rich perspectives of historical, ethical, and aesthetic dimension. 

In not a few cases, this would only mean asking you -- our Fellows -- to reflect on the contemporary implication of your current research. Without altering your research agenda, you may be able to provide greatly needed depth and nuance to contemporary discussions, which always run the risk of becoming thinly “presentist.”

Will all future supported projects be required to be policy-oriented? By no means. The amount I have earmarked represents just a portion of our resources, and this particular project will mainly affect undergraduates.

We will indeed continue to support a wide variety of endeavors to maintain our distinctive profile as the only European Studies institute that has deep roots in the humanities.

Below you will find the policy clusters we are proposing as we open the undergraduate and graduate grant proposal portal.

Best wishes for the start of a new academic year,


Immigration and the Challenge to National Identities

The arrival of migrants, immigrants, and asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa directly fueled the rise of right-wing populist leaders throughout Europe. How can such challenges be met both effectively and in a way that respects human dignity? 

Islamophobia, "Christian" Identity, and the Secular State

In Europe today, it is impossible to ignore religious prejudices, assertions of religious identities  (spurious or otherwise), and the role of the secular state as a mediating institution between such tensions. How have definitions of religious identity affected definitions of political identity in Europe, and what can be done to defuse such tensions?

Threats to Democracy and European Integration

After the catastrophe of two major world wars, political leaders sought to create supranational economic and political institutions in Europe (the European Union, EFTA, European Court of Human Rights, etc.) that would integrate nations and thereby reduce the incentives for conflict between them. What has been the fate of such projects, and how can they be improved? How has political populism affected European democracy and peace? How are such changes affecting Europe's relationships around the world?

The above topics and questions are not exhaustive, nor are they intended to preclude other topics of research. The Institute welcomes other, more traditional topics in European studies and will support them as well.