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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), which he specifically referenced during a 2024 greeting to the president and officials of the University of Notre Dame:

“We cannot stay within the walls or boundaries of our institutions, but must strive to go out to the peripheries and meet and serve Christ in our neighbor. In this regard, I encourage the University’s continuing efforts to foster in its students zeal for meeting the needs of underprivileged communities.”

The Keough School of Global Affairs seeks to accomplish just this mission. Furthermore, within the specific 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.

Despite this added attention in European studies, the theoretical concept of “peripheries” remains contested and, as a result, understudied. Some scholars, for example, wish to eschew a center-peripheries framework that might hearken back to the era of European colonialism. Others argue for the study of peripheralization as a process rather than the peripheries as fixed people or places. Recognizing this gap in scholarship, the Nanovic Institute has made “peripheries” a focus of its 2021-2026 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 and the processes of peripheralization, including spatial, structural, social and political, and epistemic peripheries. It also aims to establish a methodological and ethical approach to the study of areas, groups, and ways of knowing that are underrepresented in research and public perception. Areas of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Marginalized populations,
  • Borderlands,
  • Underexplored regions and traditions,
  • Persons with disabilities, and
  • Understudied languages of Europe.

To pursue these research questions, the Nanovic Institute will partner with its faculty fellows, staff, students, and partners, as well as academics around the globe. By considering European studies through this lens, the Nanovic Institute will solidify Notre Dame as a distinctive institute for research on topics relating to the peripheries and the peripheralized, a process of “rethinking” Europe from the peripheries.

Peripheries Research Case Studies

Currently, the Nanovic Institute has begun research in three pilot projects to gather data related to peripheries for scholarly attention.

  • Partizánska Ľupča, a rural village in Slovakia (pictured in the header of this page)

  • Gaelteach (Irish-speaking) communities in Western Ireland

  • L'Arche communities in Italy

The findings from these projects will form the basis of the institute’s deepening conceptualization of peripheries, including definitions and applications. Ultimately, the goal is to publish a handbook on the concept of peripheries in European studies, as well as a related book series.

Reimagining Europe from Its Peripheries

One of the highlights from this research priority so far has been the conference "Reimagining Europe from Its Peripheries," held April 27-29, 2023. This conference welcomed scholars, practitioners, and policymakers from across the United States and Europe to discuss Europe's "peripheries" and related topics, including migration, integration, colonialism and decolonization, law, and literary analysis. As a whole, this gathering and its contributors examined the political and cultural "structuring" of European belonging, from the perspective of its ever-shifting, often-precarious peripheries — and its peripheral subjects. It was a fruitful way to nurture the conceptualization of peripheries and peripheralization.

Additional follow-up activities and further contributions are expected in the months and years ahead, including a virtual workshop in fall 2023.

Read more about the event and its speakers

Contribute to this research priority

Have you read through this page and believe your research, project, publication, or proposal fits with the theme of peripheries? Do you want to be involved in the Nanovic Institute’s work in this area and engage with our partners and audiences?

If so, you are invited to fill out the form below to let us know. It should take less than five minutes.

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Student and Faculty Projects

More Peripheries Projects