The Sound of Silence: EDI in the European Studies Canon
Over the last ten years equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) has become common currency in organisations as a signifier for culture change (Pringle and Ryan, 2015). The academy is no exception. The introduction of EDI charters, e.g. Athena SWAN in the UK, has helped institutions to develop processes to monitor progress against key objectives, e.g. increasing gender balance of the professoriate. Much of this work has focused on access and representation, reflecting a growing awareness of the under-representation of minoritised and marginalised groups. There have also been some moves to acknowledge the impact of bias on science, hence the inclusion of compulsory EDI statements in funding applications to some research councils. These are welcome developments, in so far as they have led to increased awareness of EDI across the sector, unfortunately, their impact on the political economy of knowledge production has been rather limited.
The calls for the decolonising of our knowledge require a constant reflection on how knowledge is created, as well as the power struggles that define who and what gets included in the canon, and what and who is left out (see e.g. Bhambra, 2022; Emejulu, 2019; Briscoe-Palmer & Mattocks, 2020; Oloruntoba, Nshimbi, & Ajisafe, 2021). Similarly, gender and sexuality scholars have highlighted the lack of diversity within European Studies and adjacent fields (Ayoub, 2022; Cooper & Slootmaeckers, 2020; Guerrina et al., 2018), and how these exclusions shape our knowledge and disciplinary boundaries (Haastrup, Milner, & Whitman, 2022). Increasingly, professional associations recognise their responsibilities in mapping, understanding and addressing power dynamics that shape in/exclusion within their respective fields. Some engage in this process through their governance structure (e.g. the International Studies Association has a series of committees tasked with monitoring and improving the state of diversity within the discipline), others also commission research and the systematic collection of data that allows for the monitoring of inclusion/exclusions within the discipline (see e.g. a recent joint report by the British International Studies Association and the Political Studies Association: Hanretty, 2021).
As a professional association concerned with contemporary European Studies, UACES too considers it part of its mission to reflect on its own position in the field and the ways in which knowledge is produced. It has thus taken steps to take diversity more seriously, e.g. by establishing a dedicated EDI officer role as well as by engaging in projects aimed at diversifying the discipline (e.g. DIMES project, see David et al., 2023). Such steps are even more important given the nature and focus of European Studies, and in particular the field EU Studies, where the academic discipline and its subject of study (the European Union) are co-constitutive (Agger, 1989). When the knowledge produced actively shapes the object of study, the in/exclusions that shape the disciplinary boundaries of EU Studies as a field will also impact the way the European Union sees itself further institutionalising existing exclusions. As such, UACES has committed itself to recognise its own position within the discipline and use it to “un-discipline” European Studies — a process which is not about abandoning the discipline or its object of study, but rather “about finding a new and more effective form of engagement. It is about opening up spaces for more diverse scholars, voices and insights.” (Bleiker, 2023, p. 4).
The DIMES project is an example of this process. The project seeks to explore ways to increase diversity within the field of European Studies, in particular with regards to the ethnicity, disciplinary focus and geographical location of its participants. As principal investigator and coordinator of this project UACES sought to use its position to facilitate processes that would enable the field to diversify and break down the silos within it. As a professional studies association, UACES plays a key role as knowledge broker through the organisation of events, research network funding, and high impact publications, e.g. the Journal of Common Market Studies. As part of this commitment, UACES commissioned this report asking us to provide a critical analysis of the canon of European Studies as presented through the textbook used in the teaching of European Studies. Building on the work by Guerrina et al. (2018), this report particularly focuses on textbooks as classes on European (and EU) studies are often the first encounter of (future) scholars with the field and may have a long-lasting impact on how the core elements of the fields are defined.
We consider this report as a starting point of wider discussion on the state of our discipline that seeks to open a space for a constructive engagement with different forms of knowledge and pathways to understanding social, political and economic processes that construct the idea of Europe, which are ultimately the subject of European Studies. Whilst we recognise that European Studies as a field/discipline is much wider, we decided to limit the scope of this analysis on the subfield of EU studies. This is in part due to the fact that the majority of UACES affiliated scholarship relates to the EU one way or another, but because we see the European Union and European/EU Studies as co-constitutive (Agger, 1989), not only through the fact that our analysis informs processes of European Integration and European policy making, but also due to fact that the European Union is a large funder within our discipline, whether it is through its big funding programmes, such as Horizon2020, or other funding streams such as Erasmus+ and the Jean Monnet programmes. Given this co-constitutive nature of discipline and subject of study, a structural understanding of the knowledge production processes can lead to real world changes.
Finally, we want to clarify that our analysis is structural in nature. This means that whilst we are analysing textbooks (which are the products of labour of individuals) our focus is on how the ways in which the canon is constructed through the way in which the collection of textbooks as a whole presents our field to students. Our analysis should not be read as a critique of the individual work by scholars as authors and editors. In fact, we recognise that the nature of academic careers is such that our choices in what we study are often constrained by power structures in our discipline. We equally recognise that textbooks are not solely the responsibility of authors and editors, but are also constructed through commissioning editors, marketability of textbooks and demands of courses. One could say that whilst we study the construction of the canon through already published textbooks, our analysis is future focused in that we see to inspire change amongst colleagues, commissioning editors and publishing houses to actively consider the power structures that govern knowledge production so that they can take part in the disruption of these structures to decolonise, un-discipline and diversify the discipline of European Studies.