Call for Papers: European narratives of crisis

17-18 May 2018 by the CoE in Law, Identity & European Narratives (EuroStorie)

17-18 May 2018

The University of Helsinki, Finland

Organised by the Centre of Excellence in Law, Identity and the European Narratives (EuroStorie)

In his 1919 essay The Crisis of the Spirit Paul Valéry wrote: ”We civilizations now know ourselves mortal.” What the French philosopher captured was a prevalent mood of the post-war era: a sense of finitude not only of particular peoples but of European culture as a whole. In these years it was particularly the concept of crisis that became one of the central symbols to describe the sense of an acute turn, the loss of foundations, or even an irreversible demise.

However, as a political and cultural concept ’crisis’ is by no means neutral. It may be used as a device of political demagogy or a call for passiveness. As Foucault once put it, crisis may also imply a “heroization of the present” in order to elevate a particular historical moment into an absolute turning point in history. Historically speaking, crisis is an ”empty signifier” that is open to various interpretations and meanings. It has supported both optimist and pessimist narratives on the course of history, and provided several opportunities for active intervention on behalf of intellectuals, politicians and the like. In today’s Europe, the euro crisis and the so called refugee crisis have significantly strengthened political divisions; however, the moral, legal and institutional implications of these events are yet to be analyzed.

In this conference we explore the many sides of the concept of crisis in the 20th century European context. We seek to address the phenomenon of the crisis both as a concept and as a form of experience that tells us something of our relation to culture as a whole. We are interested in interventions that tackle this concept in relation to historical narratives, political institutions, legal culture, and social divisions. How do Europe and European history appear as they are viewed through the lens of the crisis? What political, moral, or ideological purposes does the concept of crisis serve?

Confirmed keynote speakers include Jayne Svenungsson (Lund University), Marco Duranti (University of Sydney), and Anthony Pagden (UCLA).

Possible topics include:

1) Crisis as a philosophical/theological concept (e.g. philosophy of history, social ontology, theology of crisis)

2) Crisis as a cultural concept or a mechanism of cultural critique (e.g. crisis of European ideals)

3) Crisis of European (or national) political institutions (e.g. the contemporary crisis of the European Union, euro crisis, the so called refugee crisis)

4) Crisis of European legal culture (e.g. crises of legal identity and legitimacy, harmonization projects, constitutionalism)

5) Crisis as an interwar/postwar European experience (e.g. immigration, exile, statelessness)

The conference is organized by the The Centre of Excellence in Law, Identity and the European Narratives (EuroStorie, see, funded by the Academy of Finland and hosted by the University of Helsinki. EuroStorie seeks to critically investigate the foundations of the European narrative about a shared heritage of law, values and ideals. We are interested in the development of conflicting narratives of Europe in 20th century thinking and its impact in contemporary policies and popular perceptions.

Please send your abstract (max. 500 words) and short CV to the address: The language of the meeting is English. There is no registration fee. The organizers are unfortunately unable to aid in the travel arrangements or accommodation of participants.

The deadline for submissions is: January 21, 2018.