Learning about the EU through cultural products

I’m back in Antwerp for my regular visit to discuss L&T (and to get pushed on my thinking in this field).

Brussels: famous for its explosions…

One of the discussions yesterday was about trying to teach European integration through cultural products.

We see it often for IR, where there are a bunch of films and TV shows to be used to illustrate theory and other aspects of (not) bashing each other about.

But it’s not so easy for European studies, because there’s much less available.

A quick tour of the table (and some thought after) produced the following:

Robert Menasse’s The Capital, a novel set in Brussels and based on extensive embedding among the civil servants.

Yes Minister’s episode about the Eurosausage, dated (shown in 1984), but funny and shorter than a film.

The John Hurt movie The Commissioner (1998), which you’ve not heard of, because it’s rubbish and not really about the EU.

Series 4 of the The New Statesman (1992), where Alan B’stard becomes an MEP after pushing his German challenger down a mineshaft. Silly.

The episode of Danish series Borgen on selecting a new Commissioner, which is interesting for the interface of European and national politics.

There’s the recent Uncivil War, a dramatisation about the UK’s 2016 referendum, but it’s not really about the EU at all.

And that was about it: the recent (and excellent) BBC series 10 Years of Turmoil isn’t fiction, and isn’t available outside the UK.

In short, a dearth of materials, which partly reflects the position of the EU in popular life (i.e. it doesn’t really have one).

Any more suggestions? Post them below and if we get enough we can talk about making a module for delivering them somewhere.

UPDATE 12/2/19:

It seems there are some problems with posting comments, apologies, so I’m adding in some more suggestions here. Email me s.usherwoodATsurrey.ac.uk if you want to join the carnival of fun!

From Patrick Bijsmans:

Middle England, by Jonathan Coe (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/nov/16/middle-england-by-jonathan-coe-review). Reading it now.

Did David Hasselhoff end the Cold War?, by Emma Hartley (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/mar/19/david-hasselhoff-berlin-wall-fall). Read this some years ago and it’s really funny, but with a serious twist.

4 thoughts on “Learning about the EU through cultural products

  1. Hi Simon, Patrick told me about this blog, which I am now following. I am also engaged in contemporary poetry and, in the wake of the issue of ‘Magma’ I co-edited last year on the theme of Europe (https://magmapoetry.com/archive/magma-70/) there have in 2018, and will be in 2019, a really good number of full collections (60 pages) of poetry from different poets all exploring Europe and our engagement with it – nostalgia, fantasy, adolescence, love, language, loss…..would make for a great session, if not a great 8-week course (if only!). All the best, Paul

  2. And there’s also ‘L’auberge Espagnole’ or ‘Pot Luck’ (UK), the 2002 film about an Erasmus flatshare in Barcelona, which plays with national stereotypes, and there were two sequels, Russian Dolls (2005) and Chinese Puzzle (2013)

  3. The Brussels Business (2012): https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2279313/

    THE BRUSSELS BUSINESS is a docu-thriller that dives into the grey zone underneath European democracy. An expedition into the world of the 15,000 lobbyists in the EU-capital, of the PR-conglomerates, think tanks and their all embracing networks of power and their close ties to the political elites.

    Matthieu Lietaert (the director) holds a PhD in Political Siences from the European University Institute

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