Europe in Contemporary Debates
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleFTR-FIPPSB304
Credits (ECTS)5
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies; Opleiding Filosofie;
dr. H.J. Viersen
Other course modules lecturer
dr. H.J. Viersen
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
dr. H.J. Viersen
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2020
SEM1  (31/08/2020 to 24/01/2021)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesNo
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-

In this course you will:

  • become acquainted with contemporary debates about identity, authenticity and their relationship to universal ideals of freedom and equality;
  • learn about questions of identity and religion in the modern Middle East;
  • look at the connection between regional and global debates concerning the formation of personal and collective forms of identity;
  • think critically about the relationship between Europe and the Middle East in the modern era.
Modern societies are marked by a peculiar contradictory tendency. On the one hand, the ideals of the European Enlightenment that continue to echo in the media and in politics propound universal standards of freedom, equality and brotherhood. On the other hand, the past couple of centuries have witnessed mounting calls by individuals and groups of individuals who assert their own particularity. These calls for identity and the freedom to express one’s authenticity seem to run counter to the universalist ideals of the Enlightenment and are often directed against the Europe with which they are associated. Born out of dissatisfaction with the global dominance of European ideas, sensibilities, institutions, and ways of life, post-colonial thinkers have challenged Eurocentrism. At the same time, however, these contestations of Western order have often been articulated using a vocabulary of rights, identity, and authenticity that is in part a legacy of a European modernity, while post-colonial states continue to be organized around institutions that date to colonial times. These apparent contradictions raise some important questions: How should we understand the universal claim of Western culture and values? How does universalism relate to questions of identity? What strategies have been used for challenging European dominance? Have these proven effective? How does this dynamic of contestation affect the relationship between Europe and the world? And, could we envisage future relationships that move beyond the binary of the West versus the Rest?
In this course we will study the dynamics behind this apparent contradiction by looking at the relations between Europe and the region that has historically played a prominent role in helping to articulate a European identity: The Middle East. We will learn about the ways in which debates about modernity and authenticity, about religion and secularism, about minority and majority identity within the modern nation state have developed and we will look in particular at how European stereotypes and ideals have featured in them. This will give us occasion to explore Europe’s place in the 21st century and how it may spawn discourses that move beyond the the ‘idea of Europe’ entirely.

Presumed foreknowledge
Test information
This course will be concluded with an essay examination. Active participation in the course (both on- and offline) is required for completion of this course.
This course is part of a three course module in the Philosophy, Politics and Society bachelor programme. Students can only be admitted if they also take the two associated courses during the same semester (retakes excluded). Students who are NOT enrolled in a bachelor, master, or exchange programme of the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious studies cannot register directly for PPS modules. Instead, they can apply for admission by sending an e-mail to Such applications must contain a separate document in which you (1) inform us about your current studies, (2) explain which module you want to take and why it is relevant to your studies, and (3) describe what you bring to the classroom. The document must be written in English.
Instructional modes

Written Exam
Test weight1
Test typeExam
OpportunitiesBlock SEM1, Block SEM2