We need to talk about Europe! Amplifying the voices of refugees @eer_ecer #ECER2015

 

[ECER 2015, MOOT on Friday 2pm and several other sessions to be announced][This blog was initiated by a group of ECER participants and supported by the European Educational Research Journal – EERJ ]

 

Both as academics and Europeans we share a collective responsibility regarding the way ‘our’ Europe today shows itself and speaks. EERA is an association of European education research associations and a fundamental part of our work from the beginning has been about the nature of our common space, that we have termed the European education policy space. We have always treated this space as being in constant formation. At this year’s conference we have to take notice of what has happened to the Greek people and to the refugees which are coming to ‘our’ Europe for safety. It is vital that we recognize, discuss, and articulate the nature of this challenge to the common space we are trying to create. If we do not take seriously the plight of the large numbers of refugees and of those suffering the consequences of ‘our’ policies and discourses, we are not taking seriously the role of the education researcher in Europe. Indeed, if education is a particular way of understanding the old, welcoming the new and the strangers, then the way we deal with refugees is a European issue and a pressing common concern for a European Conference on Educational Research.

Many arguments to support the formation of Europe often either appeal to fear (the fear of war, of threatening economic and political irrelevance), or point to personal or collective benefits that Europe would offer. In this context, it is important to stress that Europe is not just a geographical entity, that has to be protected or safeguarded that it is more than an organization and an infrastructure to satisfy (individual and collective) needs or interests (related to trade, mobility, etc.) but that Europe is actually also the name and materialization of some ideals and beliefs, the love of social justice and equality being one of its most important ones. Europe, for sure, is the name for a powerful infrastructure, for very influential ways of governance, but it is also the name of a discourse which frames the policies and articulates concerns. Academics play an important role in the constitution of this discourse and the shaping of the governance. Perhaps Europe is in need of another discourse, in need of clearer and more complex ideas of what is meant when we talk about Europe and Europeanisation beyond its territorial borders.

We need to think and to think together. But we cannot continue our business as usual. The question is rather how to think together-with those that are concerned by our thinking, affected by our discourses and decisions i.e. the refugees, the Greeks but maybe also ‘Europe’ itself. We have to develop ways to shape a certain vigilance and attention regarding our abstractions and to look for engagements with the consequences of what we do and say in a way that is different from the position of an expert and different from the ones on traditional conferences and colloquia with ‘colleagues’. We should offer time and space to spokespersons that give voice to the people affected by our thinking, discourse and policies and seem to have lost the possibility to speak. We not only have to welcome these spokespersons out of moral considerations, but more importantly in order to make it possible that their presence can actually question our thinking, seeing and acting, that we expose it, put it to the test: a test-bed for understanding what is becoming Europe as a common space and for problematizing Europeanization of education.

ECER offers a chance to reconsider and rework our obligations together as researchers towards each other, towards European citizens and towards those who are risking their lives to join us in peace and democracy. What we are responsible for is paying attention as best as we can, to be as discerning, as discriminating as we can about the particular situation. Academic work as collective public thinking is also the moment where we leave already framed problematisations in order to be able to think anew in confrontation with the complexity of a situation besides already coded perspectives.

This, therefore, seems to be the challenge for all the networks of ECER: to look for ways to seriously put to the test its own perspectives and codings and join in the collective effort to re-articulate a common concern, to initiate new discourses, as well as to translate the presence of ECER in Hungary into a sharp public protest against what is going on in our name as ‘Europeans’ and ‘academics’.

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