Upcoming Conferences on Europe

A few upcoming conferences may be of interest to GCfE followers:

The first is Imagining Europe: Cultural Models of European Identity, 1814-2014 which will take place on 15 July 2015.

Imagining Europe is the final event in a programme that aims to consider the extent to which alternative politico-cultural imaginings of Europe are influenced by factors including religion, ethnicity and national identity. The last day to book your place for this conference is the 3rd of July and you can find the booking form along with the programme for the day here: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/birtha/events/imagining-europe/conference/

For more information about Imagining Europe please visit: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/birtha/events/imagining-europe/

The second event is the 24th annual conference of the European Reformation Research Group (ERRG) which will take place on the 9-11 September 2015.

The ERRG has been the UK’s principal forum for research into the religious history of early modern Europe. The conference is unthemed and invites papers connected to researchers current work as it relates to European reformations. Papers are particularly welcome from postgraduates and early career researchers, but is also open to established scholars. Abstracts of 200 words for 20 minute papers should be emailed to theerrg@gmail.com by Friday 26 June 2015.

The conference registration form can be found here: ERRG 2015 Registration Form

More information about the ERRG can be found at their new website available here: https://theerrg.wordpress.com/


Eighth Annual Conference: Wrap Up

The 8th annual conferences was one of our most intellectual engaging and smoothest operations to date. Of course it wasn’t all grand insights and

Birmingham Walking Tour


Ivor, a member of our journal team, took a reprieve from his publication duties to organise a delightful walking tour across Birmingham for our visiting delegates. Although even some of us from within the University of Birmingham found us learning a few new things about the city we currently call home.


Of course no trip to the city centre would be complete with pausing for a group photo around the famous Bullring bull.


Nor could we have in good conscience brought together so many delegates from across Europe without treating them to a bit of that beautiful English weather. The walking tour was a well enjoyed break for conference delegates, guests and organisers alike. It allowed the group a chance to see a small slice of Birmingham and an opportunity for a few informal chats and new connections.

Conference Dinner


Apparently one of the running themes for this year’s conference was to allow the publication’s teams to handle the social affairs. The dinner was organised by journal officer Enrico at Red Peppers in the Mailbox. With an ample three courses to choose from and plenty of wine the conference dinner was definitely one of the highlights of this event.


Closing Wine Reception


No conference would be complete without a farewell glass of wine. The reception was the perfect way to say goodbye to friends old and new.

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Committee Chairs

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2012/13 + 2013/14 GCfE Co-Chairs

To close the final blog post for the GCfE 8th Annual Conference we’ve included a couple of images of the committee co-chairs for both this and the previous academic year. On the left we have our Co-Chair (Events): Josie (2013/14) and Annie (2012/13) who have both done amazing jobs hosting high quality GCfE events, in particular the annual conference. On the right are our Co-Chair (Publications): Ivor (2012/13) and Gail (2013/14) who have worked tireless both to get the Birmingham Journal for Europe back on track and help expand our GCfE literary outreach, which includes this blog.

We hope everyone who was able to attend the GCfE 8th Annual Conference had a fantastic experience and that those of you following along through this blog have both been well entertained and motivated to consider sending in your conference abstract next year.

Eighth Annual Conference: Academic Panel

The conference closed with an invigorating academic roundtable that pulled together some of the many themes central to this conference. The topic was “Travelling in a Globalised World: Questions of Sustainability and Responsibility” and the discussion was chaired by our own communications officer, Tomos Davies.


Our speakers were academics who were involved in other aspects of the conference. First up was Frank Uekoetter, an academic in history from the University of Birmingham. Next we were delighted to welcome back Patrick Willcocks who was gave the keynote address on the first day of the conference. Shelly Hornstein travelling to us all the way from Toronto closed the panel.


Each panelist considered notions of sustainability and responsibility in relation to their different disciplines and backgrounds. Questions and discussion points included whether a difference exists between responsibility and sustainability, what are the requirements of a sustainable destination, how do our perspectives on sustainability differ comparing rural and urban areas, is ecotourism potentially an oxymoron, what are the advantages and disadvantages of events based tourism strategies and who bears the primary responsibility for sustainability (e.g. tourists, government, local communities, businesses). The roundtable was a great way to end the academic portion of the conference and like the plenary sessions that preceded provided an ample opportunity to discuss and debate the oft overlooked considerations of travelling.

There will be one final blog report to wrap up the social side of our travels in Birmingham. After which keep an eye on this page as we’ll shortly be detailing our final events for the year including the EU Hustings event that is being organised in collaboration with the Institute for German Studies, our 4th and final Postgraduate Afternoon and a pub quiz social to wrap up the year.

Eighth Annual Conference: Keynote

ImageThe 8th Annual Conference was delighted to announce Patrick Willcocks, European Policy and Urban Affairs Adviser (Birmingham), as our keynote speaker. For the last 25 years (until 2012) he has worked as an economist for local authorities. Currently, he lecturers and does consultancy work in Birmingham and has an intimate knowledge about European cities, particularly Birmingham.

During our seemingly too brief keynote session Patrick talked about why cities are important for Europe, the current challenges and global issues cities face, and what a successful European city might look like in the future.

Points of discussion included ‘smart cities’, areas of environmental and economic concern such as air quality and pollution, climate change, resource stress, unemployment and changing industries, and most importantly, the potential global impact of Africa, China and India’s urbanisation. The conclusion of this talk highlighted that while European cities are often seen as a problem they can also be the best motivators of progress; however, many things will need to change in order to make city life competitive and sustainable.


This session prompted a passionate Q+A session. This included a discussion of the role of the Arts in bigger issues and how the cultural sector can stimulate thought, change and reach the public at large in ways that other areas cannot. The session closed with a discussion comparing the performance of continental cities and the UK which led to a fascinating consideration of the role of privatisation in relation to resources and transport.

The GCfE was delighted to have hosted such an engaging and topical keynote address and further consideration of the future of European cities will surely be a point of interest at future forum events.

For more from Patrick please visit www.urbanpivot.com or follow him @GlobalBirminghm.

Eighth Annual Conference: Plenary Panels

Panel 1

Panel 1: “Spatial Implications of Europeanisation”

Our first panel was chaired by Dr Isabelle Hertner, a lecturer in German and European Politics and Society at the University of Birmingham and the deputy director of the Institute for German Studies. This first panel also ended up being our ‘UK’ panel with all of our presenters studying within the UK. Anneliese Hatton from our own University of Birmingham began the session with her paper entitled “Portugal, Head of Europe” – Questions Surrounding the Adoption of a European Identity by Portugal. Next was Benjamin Duke from Keele University and his paper Education, Learning and Teaching, an Interdisciplinary Europeanization Neo-Trokia: Facilitating Cross Border and Transport Aspects of Travelling Europe. The panel closed with A Bourdieusian Analysis of the EU’s “Southern” Border presented by Nottingham Trent University’s Amy Manktelow, for whom our GCfE conference was the first of an ambitious seven conference season. This collection of fascinating papers asked us to rethink the borders and roles of EU and European nations.

Panel 2

Panel 2: “(Re-) Writing Europe”

Dr Nick Martin, the Graduate Centre for Europe’s own academic director, chaired this second panel that approached our conference theme through travel diaries. Korbinian Erdmann from the University of Cologne, our thesis slam champion, presented a paper that discussed the impact of stereotypes on trips to Carniola in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Aleksandra Ziober from the University of Wroclaw had several fascinating insights to share from the travel diaries of Lithuanian Nobles in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The panel offered insight into what early tourists thought to record and how stereotypes, often influenced by religion more than nationalism, altered a travellers perception of the countries they were visiting. An insightful Q+A session at the end considered the future of the modern travel diary disseminated today across social media, blogs, and from time to time the traditional paper journal.

Panel 3

Panel 3: “Europe on the Move”

Dr Katherine Tonkiss from the University of Birmingham chaired the opening panel on the second day of the conference. Nora Siklodi (Royal Holloway, University of London/University of Portsmouth) paper considered mobility rights and their impact on identity across the EU. Her paper asked us to consider what it meant to be an EU citizen, particularly on a personal level. For Nora EU citizenship is a temporary sense of identity that varies from country to country. Giuseppe Sofo (University of Avignon/Sapienza University of Rome) motivated the discussion session with his approach to humanities in movement which involved re-defining the terms we use to discuss migration and migrants. Giuseppe’s paper closed with a moving plea for new ways of being human and new paths to coexistence. Finally, Marek Liszka (Jagiellonian University, Cracow) closed the panel with a case study of the Polish immigrants seven stage journey from Orava to the USA.

Panel 4

Panel 4: “European Sites of Memory”

This stimulating fourth panel was chaired by a guest academic flown in from across the pond, Professor Shelly Hornstein from York University, Toronto. Ievgeniia Sarapina (National Academy of Managerial Staff of Culture and Arts, Kyiv) presented ‘Travelling as Mnemonic Adventure in Ukraine’ discussing memory heterotopias, both social and memorial functions. Her paper shed light on the idea of tourism as an activity of remembrance. Oriol López-Badell (University of Barcelona Solidarity Foundation) presented his research on the Memoria Bcn project which endeavours to recover historical sites and the locations of historical events. More about this project can be found here: www.memoriabcn.cat. This panel concluded with a very welcome presentation by one of the University of Birmingham’s readers in Environmental Humanities, Dr Frank Uekötter. Frank’s paper made us pause and consider it is not just people who travel as we considered the slaughterhouse as a site of memory. This fascinating presentation argues that the slaughterhouse captures a universal experience, particularly in Chicago, and is therefore does in fact represent a site of memory.

For those particularly interested in the project outlined by Oriol in his presentation you can find here the program for the upcoming first symposium organized by the European Memories Observatory, a new network promoted by the University of Barcelona with partners from different European countries: Memory and Power Barcelona

Panel 5

Panel 5: “Europe as a Tourist Destination”

Our final plenary panel led our travels to tourism. Dr Stephen Forcer, lecturer in French Studies at the University of Birmingham, chaired this last panel. Natalia Palich, our second presenter hailing from Jagiellonian University intertwined several panel themes from borders and space to literary journeys. Her research looks at notions of tourism in Czech Contemporary Literature. Natalia’s research outlined the smaller perception of space held by most Czech citizens travelling within their own borders. However, with new poetics there are new topics and an outreach to globalised concerns as Czech writers share their new personal experiences having transgressed European boarders. Simona Martini from the University of Milan shared Litfiba’s musical journey throughout Europe. Her presentation highlighted how words and song can connect cultures across the globe. Federica Poletti from the London School of Economics and Political Science used the European Capitals of Culture (ECoC) accolade to draw attention to the importance of sustainable tourism. The primary concern with the ECoC designation is whether a country can maintain the benefits of environmental and economic tourism beyond the one year in which they hold this title.

Eighth Annual Conference: Meet the Committee

ImageThe Graduate Centre for Europe could not happen without the hard work of the postgraduate steering committee. Each member has had a hand in shaping this conference, from deciding on the theme to the food, the success of this event is due to the efforts of the largest steering committee the centre has had to date.


Josie and Gail
Josie, our fabulous Co-Chair (Events), oversaw all conference tasks and personally handled communications with presenters, booking the venue and managing the budget to name just a few of her numerously well juggled activities.

As this year’s Co-Chair (Publications), Gail is responsible for managing the publications to coincide with the event, some of the photography and applying for the extra funding necessary to organise an international event of this scale.


Who didn’t enjoy those tasty conference lunches and snacks? Ivor is the man to thank for arranging such a scrumptious spread.


Zainab has been hard at work preparing for this conference since the first round of abstracts were submitted. She also helped plan the icebreaker skills session and will be taking over as the Co-Chair (Publications) in the 2014 – 2015 academic year.

Muirhead Tower has never looked so well decorated and arranged before Daria was let loose. She handmade the black and white photography boards and procured posters to ensure we felt as if we were really about to travel through Europe. Daria also helped organise the opening thesis slam.

Enrico joined the GCfE committee this year with great enthusiasm for both events and publications and has been a tremendous assist in the lead up to the conference. He arranged our conference dinner and ensured that conference delegates were well informed about the many bars and pubs in Birmingham, both on and off campus.


Emma + Amir
Our registration duo banned together in order to bring order to chaos and ensure there was a chocolate Easter bunny in every conference pack.


Tom chaired the academic roundtable, liaising with our presenters prior to the event in order to ensure an engaging and informed presentation.

With one of the most challenging jobs of all, Ola was responsible for ensuring presenters could find the venue, the hotel, a place to leave their luggage and a warm cup of coffee. She was also sure to be available to help all other committee members with their tasks, from manning registration for an interval to catching a falling poster.

These are only some of the tasks that our committee members were responsible for in the run up to and during the event.

Eighth Annual Conference: Competition Winners

ImageThis year our annual conference was delighted to include a few new elements to our programme. Thanks to the support of Cambridge Scholar’s Publishing (CSP), we were able to award two £50 CSP vouchers and boxes of chocolate in conjunction with a best paper and a thesis slam competition.

The thesis slam opened our conference, much to the delight of conference organisers, delegates and attendees. Delegates and conference guests were each allowed to compete for the chance to take home the thesis slam prize. Everyone was given about 10 minutes to come up with a 2 minute presentation that linked their research and experiences to the conference theme. Competition was tough as there were several strong candidates sharing home experiences, their artistic talents and even working in partnership to present the idea of travelling Europe. In the end there could be only one winner, and by popular vote the winner was Korbinian Erdmann who taught us all that when we travel our numerous stereotypes are packed into our bags with us. Which countries do you think offer the best food, the worst fashion, and the most unwelcoming residents?

Announced to delegates and plenary panel chairs prior to the conference, this year our conference also featured a best paper prize. Each panel chair voted for the best paper on their panel, after which the GCfE committee chose the overall winner. This prize was to be awarded to a panelist who not only presented an informed and engaging paper, but also provoked stimulating audience engagement with their topic. This conference featured some of the best papers in GCfE history, but in the end Giuseppe Sofo came out on top. Given Katie’s quote above it’s not hard to see why.

Congratulations again to our two competition winners and stay tuned for further images and news about how this well-attended and stimulating event played out.