Research Priorities

As one of the core academic units of the Keough School of Global Affairs, the Nanovic Institute is poised to make significant contributions to a deeper understanding of Integral Human Development and to the intersection of humanities and policy.

Such contributions will continue to come from its unique set of strengths. With deep expertise 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), the Institute and its faculty fellows offer rich perspectives of historical, ethical, religious and aesthetic dimensions of Europe. These perspectives contribute to a deep understanding of Europe and to the discussion of policy in Europe today.

The Institute has identified core research priorities that have and will continue to shape Europe in profound ways. The Institute encourages faculty and students to bring their training in the humanities, arts, sciences, or social sciences to bear on questions and topics that are of particular interest to the Nanovic Institute:

Big Questions about Europe and Humanity

The Nanovic Institute, with its tradition of research in the humanities and continuing interest in the intersection between humanities and policy, is particularly interested in analyses of and responses to “big questions” about Europe. These fundamental questions pose major moral challenges with implications for European identities and values, politics and society, and the history and future shared by European nations and peoples. Since European issues are global and human issues, these “big questions” also have implications for the world and humanity. These may include normative and spiritual traditions in Europe, European colonialism and its legacies, racism and inequality, migration and the ethics of borders, ecological responsibility and the climate crisis, resilient democracies, issues of intergenerational justice and poverty, the arts and storytelling, and an understanding of the common good. We welcome research on these “big questions” from many different perspectives and disciplines.

Human Dignity

As part of the Keough School of Global Affairs with its commitment to integral human development and human dignity, the Nanovic Institute is particularly interested in exploring the meaning and implications of the idea of the dignity of each human person. In 1948, the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) established the idea of human dignity as a central element of our global ethics. The Nanovic Institute is concerned with research on the respect and safeguarding of the dignity of all, especially the most vulnerable (migrants, children, people with disabilities). Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”) speaks to human dignity and we are interested in the corresponding literature and legislation. European traditions can offer important contributions to the concept and institutional translation of human dignity. We must also acknowledge that Europe’s history contains many terrible instances of human dignity violations, which we also see as moral reference points and an invitation to learn. We support research that deepens our understanding of human dignity and its contemporary challenges. Our strategic plan explicitly asks the question: What does it mean to respect the dignity of each person, especially the most disadvantaged, in Europe and in the context of European Studies?


The Nanovic Institute is committed to enlarging the map with research and dialogue that encompass the lived experiences of all people in Europe, including those marginalized by geography, poverty, policies of citizenship, and difference, in order to explore the humanity of those people and places Pope Francis has called “the peripheries” (Evangelii Gaudium 20). Within the context of European studies, questions about peripheries, borders, and rural development (especially in Southern and Eastern Europe) have been a more prominent point of discussion and study over the past decade. This interest has gained renewed urgency with the war in Ukraine, itself a periphery (the name Ukraine meaning “borderlands”). Despite this added attention, in European studies, the theoretical concept of “peripheries” remains controversial and understudied. Recognizing this gap in scholarship, the Nanovic Institute has made "peripheries" a focus of its new strategic plan with the aim of creating a more diverse and nuanced understanding of what it means to be European. The institute aims to develop a theoretical framework for understanding peripheries, including spatial, structural, social and political, and epistemic peripheries, as well as to establish a methodological and ethical approach to the study of areas or groups underrepresented or “forgotten” in research and the public perception. Areas of interest include marginalized populations, borderlands, underexplored regions and traditions, and marginalized languages of Europe.

Memory and Remembering

The Nanovic Institute is interested in projects investigating the politics and ethics of remembrance in Contemporary Europe. Our focus on memory includes national memories of racial violence and injustice, memory and reconciliation in postwar societies, and contested memory spaces, such as monuments. We are interested in studying cultures of remembrance broadly in Europe, including post-Holocaust and Socialist memory, to understand how and why communities in Europe represent their diverse histories. What are the stakes of memory and representation? How have individuals fought for recognition of their experiences as a part of local and national memory?

Faith and Religion in EuropeAs a Catholic university, the University of Notre Dame has a particular interest and expertise in matters of religious faith, in faith-based actors, and in the interaction between religion and state. What can we learn about Europe by looking at its faith traditions? What is the role of faith in Europe today (for example, in regions where secularism or irreligion predominates, in fragile democracies, in areas where religion and national/political identity are linked, etc.)? How do religious traditions and institutions continue to shape Europe?

These core research priorities give a sense of the Institute’s long-term research portfolio. The above topics and questions are not intended to be exhaustive, nor are they intended to preclude other areas of research. The Institute also recognizes and values the ways in which new research priorities emerge in ways that nuance the five areas outlined above. In this spirit, the Institute extends a broad welcome to research topics and projects that articulate a clear connection to European Studies.

Talk with Us

For information about faculty grants or fellowships, please contact:

Grant Osborn
Associate Director

For information about graduate and undergraduate student grants or fellowships, please contact:

Anna Dolezal
Student Programs Assistant Director