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5th Transatlantic Students Symposium

Unity in Diversity? Minority Rights in the United States and the European Union

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin; Georgetown University;
Oregon State University.
Berlin, Split, Mostar, Cottbus, March 3-11, 2007


Program Description

Convinced that, while remaining proud of their own national identities and history, the peoples of Europe are determined to transcend their ancient divisions and, united ever more closely, to forge a common destiny, convinced that, thus "united in its diversity", Europe offers them the best chance of pursuing, with due regard for the rights of each individual and in awareness of their responsibilities towards future generations and the Earth, the great venture which makes of it a special area of human hope...
-- Preamble to the European Constitution, Draft
e pluribus unum
-- Seal of the United States of America

The communal identity of not just the nation state but also of larger federal structures often assumes an overarching "major" whole under which other, "minor", identities are subsumed. The United States created unity out of the plurality of thirteen original states, and extended its motto of "e pluribus unum" as a common theme towards its politics of integrating newcomers. This unity was questioned during the Civil War, and full participation was delayed even longer until the granting of citizenship and voting rights to indigenous cultures, African-American slaves, and women. The Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th century worked to restore and redefine this unity and constituted a profound moment in American history where a long and convoluted history of apartheid was confronted and measures were undertaken to make society truly inclusive. Each new international conflict and each new wave of immigration has posed and continues to pose problems for immigrant and minority populations, as can be seen from , e.g., the internment of Japanese civilians during World War II in the US and Canada, the ongoing politics of marginalization towards American Indian tribes and African Americans, the suspicions regarding citizens of Middle Eastern origin and regarding Islam, as well as the current debate concerning Mexican legal and illegal immigration. Whatever the en vogue concept of the day regarding integration-Melting Pot, Cultural Pluralism, Salad Bowl, Orchestra, Stew, Mosaic, Multiculturalism, Post-Ethnicity-the status of diversity within unity is still an ongoing project.

Within Europe, the continuing creation of the new union is often preceded by the break-up of former unions (Czech Republic, Yugoslavia, Soviet Union) that create nation states which seek representation as a nation within the EU, rather than as a unit within a federation. Yet there are also nations in Europe that lack a state of their own, and territories that have switched between countries and now carry an ethnic minority (Basques, Sorbs, Jews, Celts on the British Isles, Sinti and Roma; Danes in Germany, German minority in South Tyrol, Italian minority in Slovenia, etc.); or traces of past cultures and empires (e.g. Roman, Byzantine, Habsburg, Napoleonic or Ottoman culture). Immigration, as well, adds to a growing diversity in Europe.

Moreover, intersecting with these ethnic and cultural affiliations are equally challenging questions regarding the role of women in society, issues of sexual orientation, class differences and age discrimination.

Within the backdrop of recent developments on both sides of the Atlantic that are grounded in the conflictual tensions between the quest for a common identity and the longings to preserve one's own cultural roots, the symposium will address, amongst others, the following issues:

  • negotiating a common culture allowing for democratic dialogue,
  • preserving non-mainstream culture and languages, especially for minorities without a native country thoroughly representing their culture (e.g. Basques, Sorbs, Native Americans),
  • education,
  • social conditions and labor market,
  • religious pluralism, separation of church and state, separation of church and politics,
  • representation of minority culture in a mainstream context,
  • nativist extremism and xenophobia.

Symposium Week Field Trips

Workshops: with Jeffrey Peck

Site Visits: Split: Diocletian's Palace; Mákarska; Mostar: Turkish House, Old Bridge; Salona: Old Roman City; Medjugorje; Trogir; Berlin: New Synagogue, Bundestag; Germanic Settlement Klein-Köris; Wendish Museum in Dissen

Institutional Visits: Sehitlik Mosque, Central Council of Muslims; Leo Baeck House, Central Council of Jews in Germany; Cottbus: Witaj Language project, Lower Sorb Language School; Wendish House / Domowina; Meeting with Representatives of Sorb Party

Total participants: 26

Total participants: 26


Philipp Kneis, PD Dr. Reinhard Isensee (Humboldt),
Dr. Eric Langenbacher, Kimberly Jaeger (Georgetown),
Allison Davis-White Eyes (OSU)

Assistant Organizer: Grit Kümmele (Humboldt / Georgetown Exchange Program)

Student Participants (not organizers)

20 (Humboldt: 11, Georgetown: 7, OSU: 2)

Conference Program

Symposium Week Program
Conference Program Flyer

Partners and Supporters

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin: International Office,
Humboldt-Universität, Philosophical Faculty II,
American Studies Program,
Humboldt-Universität, Students Union English and American Studies

Georgetown University:
BMW Center for German and European Studies
Department of Government

Oregon State University:
Diversity & Cultural Engagement (Minority Education Office),
Ethnic Studies Department,
Community and Diversity Office

Max Kade Foundation

Holiday Land Richter Reisen, Berlin

see also: Latest Program Report

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Transatlantic Students Symposia