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’.

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

  1. Let us recognise and respect that we are all of one race, the human race! If we all live well and respect all others then why not shape a new world. It is possible, but much thought, discussion and the meeting of many minds are needed.


  2. Thank you for this initiative and for the comments,
    I hope we will be able to contribute both in critical argumentation as well as in practical aspects as European researchers to this huge dramatic situation

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I very much second Mary’s point that we must challenge misinformation and promote critical thinking. Having spent some time helping out at the centre set up for refugees underneath Budapest station, and then having travelled back via rail (barred from travelling to Austria, allowed, with a small bribe, to travel to Slovokia and from there catch a commuter train to Vienna), I am aware how rapidly changing and baffling the situation is. By Friday the centre in Budapest almost seemed in wind down–for now. Arriving in Vienna refugees were camped throughout the extensive polished glassy shopping centre interior of Vienna West, with blankets but no tents. The wave had moved on, and it seemed people were struggling to catch up leading me to wonder what learning had been passed on from Budapest. I am deeply concerned at the dynamics I see playing out where worst fears are being confirmed on both sides–due to a lack of understanding. It is easy to donate money, clothes or blankets, but I see mountains of some of these things, sometimes used fleetingly and then discarded, which doesn’t play well with locals– when what is needed more is structure in place to help refugees strategise and communicate.

    Yesterday on a train north from London (delayed because of a fatality on the line–perhaps benefits cuts induced?) I read an account in the Big Issue of someone who drove a family north across Hungary. He was quite angry that they didn’t detach from the main group and trust him to take them a less conspicuous route. At one point he likened them to Wildebeest facing the crocodiles of traffickers and bribe greedy officials. And this was someone motivated enough to try and help who was likening them to a herd. (sigh) Just a moments pause to think, and surely one has to have more respect for the hard won wisdom that may be at work here, born out of survival of situations beyond our imagining.

    But there is a lot of real work to be done to recognise, hear that wisdom out before seeking out new strategies for our next steps together. Unfortunately this work needs to be done now in myriad of situations, not in the luxury of once removed, circuitous academic circles then conferred through official policy making channels. Another Europe is possible if new policy makers can emerge on the ground now, are we with them?


  4. Discussion is important but it is action that is vital now. All of us who attended ECER have the capacity to give money and time to addressing this crisis. Our commitment must be to challenge the misinformation and to promote critical thinking and socially responsible behaviour in ourselves, our families, our communities and beyond. As Tom Paine said “we have it in our power to build the world anew”.


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