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Foreword

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 November 2020

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Summary

A discipline is a working community of specialists: academics who apply a specific method to a specific corpus. Disciplines are much less stringently defined than specialisms. A discipline, as a working community, can bring very diverse types of specialists together. All they need to share, minimally, is a common field of interest, such as gender for women's studies, language for linguists, the past for historians, or Europe for European studies.

Unsurprisingly, such a working community with diverse specialisms will spend a lot of time trying to clarify and specify the nature of their common working ground. What is gender? What is language, and how does it work? What can we know, reliably and relevantly, about the past? And what does the ‘Europe’ in European studies stand for? Such self-questionings are the starting point of theory; all theories start in trying to explain what we think we are doing. Why do we consider certain things more important than others? What knowledge, what themes of interest, do we highlight or prioritize in our teaching programmes?

But there is also something else that binds disciplines and academic working communities together, and that is the human factor. Working communities are precisely that – communities: groups happy to share information, groups eager to communicate, to exchange ideas, to deliberate together. Working communities are about people sharing, not just a field of interest, but also a certain esprit de corps. The very different specialists assembled in these pages share, not only a general interest in things European or transnational, but also specific sense of collegiality and sympathy around the person of Michael Wintle.

Michael Wintle has for decades given guidance and leadership to the diverse, multispecialist discipline of European studies. Both within the departmental setting of Amsterdam and in the wider field, nationally and internationally, he has been a quiet, slightly reserved, but highly appreciated and authoritative figure in our deliberations and in our tentative trajectory towards something like a theory. His study of cartography, of Eurocentrism, of the interplay between cultural representation and power politics, have given us fruitful (and what is more: workable and sensible) ideas on what the ‘Europe’ in European studies stands for.

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Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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