Organising event
Conference: European nar­rat­ives of crisis
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?

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.

Last updated on 2018-13-06 at 19:22