There is already a pressing challenge faced by the higher education globally posed by the need to answer to the needs of a knowledge society. As an emerging field, however, the EU Studies face peculiar problems. The structural differences and divergent trends within the EU integration, frequently described as a fracture along North-South, East-West or centre-periphery lines, creates a challenge to teaching and learning the EU integration in diverse settings which are at different points of the EU integration. The picture gets more complicated when it comes to teaching EU Studies at ‘the periphery’ where the EU integration is predominantly an ongoing process and a moving target and the EU Studies faces the danger of being perceived as a derivation of how the country in question is doing with regard to the EU integration rather than an autonomous scientific discipline.
Practical workshops organized by Linking to Europe at the Periphery (LEAP) Jean Monnet Network serve as a wonderful opportunity for emerging and experienced researchers in the field of European Studies to share their research outcomes and discuss them with the expert community. This year, EUVOLIA team was once again lucky enough to get selected for LEAP workshop entitled “Experiencing Europe” with an analytical report upon Europe and European identity as represented through the lens of Ukrainian popular culture.
The workshop took place March 28-29, 2021 in Tbilisi, Georgia, and united 50 aspiring researchers and powerful expert community from 10 countries of the world.
In their report based on the results of student research projects submitted as a part of EUVOLIA study course, EUVOLIA team paid specific attention to those dealing with an image of European, as well as with cultural connotations arising from Europe-relate references. The two most popular products clearly pursuing the topic of Europeanness are the Crazy Wedding movie and People’s Servant TV series largely known for the role it played for President Volodymyr Zelensky’s successful election campaign in 2019.
By comparing the strategies applied to depicting European characters in both products, EUVOLIA team demonstrated that they are largely based on established cultural stereotypes and binary oppositions, i.e. civilization vs barbarity, rational vs emotional etc. In both cases, European characters are closely associated with social protocol, politeness, rationality and intellect, and as such opposed to overtly emotional, impulsive and sincere Ukrainians. However, while in Crazy Wedding the European character is introduced to compare “real” Europeanness to a “fake” one (represented by a character of Ukrainian origin who hides his xenophobic biases under the mock-civilizational façade), in People’s Servant it is Ukrainian president Vasyl Holobrodko (played by Zelensky) who actually comes to disclose European character’s cunning and tricky ways. Thus, the product manages to advocate the Ukrainian isolationism and casts doubts upon Eurointegration process by calling the nation to “build Europe at home” rather than join the EU.