Vilnius intensive course

Unfortunately, the course is cancelled due to the insecurity caused by Russia’s attack to Ukraine. Fortunately we have BAMSE 2021 Nordplus Higher Education funding for another intensive course that we are planning on organizing in Tartu in September 2022.

Democracy in crisis? Polish up your theoretical and methodological tools for studying the East of Europe (5 cr), in Vilnius 27 March– 2 April, 2022 (or online)

This one-week intensive course is for advanced bachelor’s students and master’s students. The course highlights the significance and embedded potential of area studies in understanding transnational challenges regarding underlying changes in power structures/relations, identity constructions, communication, symbolic politics and culture.

Introduction of the intensive course topics

The University of Helsinki team concentrates on two central aspects that have influenced the evolution of democracy. The first aspect being how to look at the evolution of democracy from both top-down and bottom-up perspectives. The second aspect approaches democratic evolution from the point of view of the rule of law and how this idea has gradual evolved over time.

 Katalin Miklóssy: The Role of Political Ideologies and Political Culture

This section of the intensive course offers a historical background for contemporary debates on the state of democracy and erosion of the rule of law. As both phenomena are embedded in traditions and continuities, this foundation is key for students’ orientation in the field. Political culture and prevailing ideologies, therefore, affect the understanding and practical implementation of the rule of law in a longue durée form of understanding. The main questions to be answered are:

  • How can the currently emerging tendencies of illiberalism, conservatism and nationalism be understood from the perspective of time
  • why and in what form did they re-emerge
  • how are these processes interlinked with the rising post-liberal international order

Jouni Järvinen: Civil Society and Citizens’ Activism in the Past, Present and Future

This section addresses some questions of civic activity, disobedience and the formation of civil society, as well as relations between political power and citizens. It also concerns societal and political preconditions that foster the (democratic) revolutionary potential of political civil unrest and protest.

The main themes are the following:

  • Motive forces behind activism
  • From dissent to active citizen
  • Civil society – changing forms and novel actors

The team’s teaching design implements two formats. Both subjects (political ideologies and political culture, as well as civil society) will be introduced by lectures, focusing on conceptual, theoretical and methodological issues. In order to provide a more practical understanding of democracy, the content of the lectures will be supplemented by an ‘NGO café’. This is a special learning model where student groups interview NGO representatives.

The Vilnius University team will cover issues related to the memory of the Second World War and the Soviet era. Students will have a unique opportunity to analyze contested memory places in situ during a field trip through Vilnius city.

Violeta Davoliūtė and Valda Budreckaitė: Memory of the Second World War and the Soviet Era

This section explores the ongoing influence of the recent past on the politics and culture of the present in Lithuania and post-communist Europe. We will consider how the collapse of the USSR and the outcome of WWII are contested by memory entrepreneurs at the local, national and transnational level to achieve a range of social and political outcomes.

Key themes:

  • The relative significance of ‘1989’ vs. ‘1945’
  • The legacy of collaboration with the Nazi and Soviet regimes
  • The competition of narratives on the international stage

The Fieldtrip to the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights will combine a tour through contested memory places in Vilnius and a visit to the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights to explore how the Lithuanian past is commemorated. Participants will be encouraged to interpret physical monuments for different episodes of Lithuanian history, using the theoretical tools they became acquainted with during the course.

The University of Latvia team concentrates on erosion of democracy and various aspects of populism including its impact on economic issues.

Inna Šteinbuka: Populism and its Economic Impact

This section offers a historical background of populism in the EU and outlines reasons for its spread in the last decade, in particular during the Covid-19 crisis. The topic offers an analysis on whether and to what extent spreading disinformation and conspiracy theories during the pandemic  has increased risks for democracy by paving the way for future radical/populist governments. Analysis will focus on a combination of general risks to democracy including the risks of economic slowdown, raising indebtedness and inequality.

The main questions to be answered are:

  • how can the contemporary massive spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories increase risks for democracy in the European Union and its member states
  • how can better communication reduce risks of disinformation
  • what are the main economic consequences of populism and radicalization

Žaneta Ozoliņa: Populism in Europe: A Comparative Perspective

Populism has become a reality of the European political landscape. Its impact has increased in the recent decade, creating diverse consequences across the region. There is no populism-free member state in the European Union. The pandemic has contributed to different paths of populism, starting from its rapid growth and leading to its containment. A fundamental principle of a Democratic political system is that it is open for competition of ideas and ideologies. How do competing ideologies then influence the future of European democracy?

The main questions to be answered:

  • what are similarities and differences of populism in European countries
  • how did the pandemic changed the ideology of populism
  • what are the main political paths in containing populism and radicalization in Europe

The team teaching populism from the economic and comparative perspective will rely on different teaching methods. More traditional approaches, such as lectures will be used in order to introduce theoretical aspects of interrelations between populism and economy, as well as roots of populism in Europe.  The content of the lectures will be enriched by discussions with politicians who hold a variety of perspectives on the political spectrum, thus providing insights from politicians.

The Tartu University team will teach two classes on different aspects of biopolitics and biopower as seen from conceptual perspectives developed in the extant scholarship and from the viewpoint of their regional applications. The first class discusses a general framework for biopolitical studies in comparative politics and international relations, while the second opens the discussion for a variety of regional experiences and practices.

Andrey Makarychev: Biopolitics in Times of Crises: Sovereignty, Governmentality and Borders

This class dwells upon the main concepts of biopolitical scholarship and their applicability for studying the most critical twists in international security regimes (the war on terror, the refugee crisis and the coronavirus pandemic). The introduction of the general frame for studying biopolitics and biopower will be followed by case-based discussions on how theories of biopolitics (?) might be used for understanding the current transformations within the realms of sovereign power and governance, as well as bordering and debordering.

Alexandra Yatsyk: The Biopolitics in Central and Eastern Europe: Between Liberal and Illiberal Scenarios

This class approaches recent issues of governmentality, populism, solidary and resistance in Central and Eastern Europe from a biopolitical perspective.

The main points to be discussed are:

  • biopolitics and governmentality of the pandemic and post-pandemic future: liberal and illiberal scenarios
  • (bio)populism in the COVID-19 era
  • human right, solidarity and resistance to the biopolitical regime

The team’s teaching methods include visual analysis, interactive group discussion as well as teamwork.