About CECS

Welcome to the PhD Program in Critical European Culture Studies.  This is a new kind of PhD program that offers the following:

  • A selective, rigorous, and forward-thinking investigation of the various languages, literatures, and cultures of Europe with a foundational focus on the idea of Europe;
  • A flexible interdisciplinary curriculum that appreciates the idea of Europe as a historically dynamic discourse. This new graduate program offers students discipline-specific training while fortifying it with a focus on broader issues such as transnationalism, migration, and cultural identity. It allows students to work across disciplinary boundaries to explore in depth the culture of Europe and develop new configurations in European and national cultural studies: European Studies and German/Russian/Polish/English/French/Italian/etc.  These may include literary, historical, anthropological, media-based, and other studies;
  • A high-profile model of cross-departmental collaboration that fosters a diverse research program for participating faculty and students with a focus on the humanities and social sciences. This program will draw on the strengths of the University Center for International Studies: the European Studies Center and Russian and Eastern European Studies;
  • An exam structure organized to facilitate practical knowledge and training;
  • A dissertation project that will draw on both traditional research skills in the humanities and at least one applied skill such as ethnography, digital humanities, translation studies, etc. to demonstrate both scholarly and practical competence; and
  • A graduate program that offers students both academic and professional outcomes. This unique brand will serve students in competition for external fellowships and honors and boost their standing as they enter the professional job market.
  • Note: The program supports Ph.D.-level work: a Master’s Degree is a prerequisite for admission.

Program Rationale

The European Union (EU) has radically transformed the meaning of Europe.  Unlike nations in pursuit of multi-lateral agreements, the EU distinguished itself through its commitment to accomplish cultural, in addition to economic and political, union. Both inside and outside its borders, the idea of Europe has changed. European union, the forces of globalization, the material relations that form the fabric of Europe have transformed transnational, national, regional, and local relations and identifications, intensifying some while destabilizing others. Recent crises like the “Brexit” now in process, the influx of refugees and migrants, and the rise of ultra-nationalist movements take place on a European scale. As reactions to the EU they affirm that Europe continues to redefine itself. This transformation of national relations in the present in turn calls forth a re-thinking of common European histories, a rethinking that reaches across the Age of Empire, the history of global migration, the dynamic of bourgeois revolutions, the Industrial Age, the Age of Enlightenment, etc.

The graduate program in Critical European Culture Studies (CECS) is informed by this dynamic European cultural map. “Critical” in CECS distinguishes the program from other European Studies Programs that assume a fixed object of study (usually the European Union).  It does not mean criticism in the sense of a negative rejection, but rather a commitment to critique: a perspective that stands above or outside the debates under investigation. CECS does not approach Europe as a given place but as a contested space, a debated term: is Russia a part of Europe? Is Latvia at Europe’s center or on its periphery? Is Algeria, once a Department of France, not a part of Europe? How European are the US, Australia, India, or the Dutch Antilles? CECS does not take up a partisan position in these debates or promote any particular understanding of Europe. In taking on a critical perspective on the various meanings of Europe, it offers insights into new possibilities of cultural organization.

“Culture” in CECS attends to the arts and letters, but the term is also meant more broadly than just literature or film. Current scholarship approaches culture as the product of a “creative and culture industry.” However in the anthropological sense, culture is also the way that particular groups produce themselves and find cohesion around certain mores. Critical culture studies explores the way a group organizes itself and transmits its ways of knowing the world. In CECS, the cohesion of a singular European culture is not assumed; rather the program analyzes how the designation Europe determines multiple forms of group cohesion and artistic production.