Theme 2014: Equality

Rationale and Background

The theme of the summer school  is “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity”. This was the motto of the French Revolution (1789) and it summarizes boldly the founding ideas of modern Europe. The question that the summer school sets out to answer is what remains of these core values in Europe in the 21st century? How should we understand changes in how Liberty, Equality and Fraternity has been interpreted and implemented over the last 200 years, since values and rights are laid out and understood in specific contexts? They are translated in everyday practices, anchored in legislation and are acted out in moral stanzas of our time, in general terms, but more importantly in dealing with particular cases. E.g. in how the freedom of religion might find itself at odds with the freedom of speech, or when freedom of press or the independence of the judiciary is threatened by political interest. And how do we project today these values externally? As in the conditionally involved testing of applicant countries to the EU, on a national state level or supranational as in the coordinated foreign policy of the EU? Under the banner of equality, central theme of the 2nd summer school, issues concerning the delicate question of welfare, the growing poverty within Europe, youth unemployment and the new North – South divide in Europe will be addressed. Fraternity or solidarity is the ‘leitmotiv’ of the 3rd projected summer school. Here we will address issues related to the cultural coherence in Europe.

Equality: the focus of the 2014 summer school 

How can the principles as laid out in the motto of the French Revolution help us enlighten contemporary tensions between rights and plights, positive and negative freedom, the right to national self-determination and the subjection to international (European) law, treaties and conventions? How does the liberty of free movement of people between and towards EU nation-states relate to the growing tendency of closing borders, not only territorial ones but also mentally in attitudes towards ‘strangers among us’? Is the revolutionary spirit of today somewhere else and has the battle cry of 1789 lost much of its lustre, in particular among those European citizens that seem to be disillusioned by the political system and have lost much of their initial optimism over the European project? In sum, what does the future hold for Europe’s founding ideas?

The challenges raised by an assessment of the contemporary relevance of ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’ cannot be addressed from any national viewpoint, or from any one disciplinary perspective. There are valuable lessons to be learned from different disciplines such as History, Anthropology, Sociology, Law and Political Science. 

Aims and Objectives

 A different facet of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity will be examined in each year. Host institutions have been carefully selected to suit the specific theme each year. In the first year, the focus was on ‘Liberty’ and the  school took place in Motovun, Croatia, the youngest full member state of the EU. The school of 2014 will take place in Utrecht, The Netherlands and explores ‘Equality’. Specific sub-themes on equality that will be discussed include:

1. Liberté, égalité, fraternité – a slogan that changed Europe

2. Legacies of the French Revolution of the 21st century

3. Equality and the Law

4. Equality and the State

5. Ethnic majorities and minorities: Roma, 2nd generation immigrants & inclusive citizenship

6. “I am different”: Equality and difference/new ways of differentiation

7. Panel on Gay Rights

8. Europe’s economic crisis. Is this Europe? A new precarious class in the making?

9. Youth unemployment in Europe

10.  Global inequality, modern slavery and human trafficking 

The summer school  will bring together students and academic staff from partner institutions to study the theme in an intensive and interactive way. The summer school will be a truly international and multidisciplinary experience. The aim is to bring together each year 50 well-motivated, advanced undergraduate students with at least two years of academic experience from member and associated universities, regardless of their study background, having interest to get acquainted with the issue in a multidisciplinary approach. The school will provide knowledge, insight and tools for further study in the field.


The Summer School draws on the experience and expertise of teachers as developed within their home universities.

The School is strongly multinational and interdisciplinary. It will encourage participants to share perspectives from different national contexts and different disciplinary backgrounds. The Summer School will be based on team teaching, involving teachers working with colleagues from different universities in a collaborative way to provide insightful teaching. 

The teaching in the summer school will be multidisciplinary, interactive and involve team teaching and an emphasis on student teamwork and oral presentations in the contexts of workshops. During the summer school students are expected to keep a reflective online journal on what they have learned. The teaching will be linked to local contexts.

The summer school is thoroughly multidisciplinary, with five different disciplines represented on the Academic Committee (Anthropology, History and European Studies, Law, Political Science and Sociology). The teaching blocks within each summer school and the teachers will be selected so as to introduce students to the full range of these disciplines. Students will themselves be selected from different disciplinary backgrounds.

The summer school will facilitate interaction between teachers and students, both in the formal teaching and by providing forums for interaction outside of formal teaching. The teaching blocks will be bases on team teaching, usually involving teachers not from the same university. This is an exciting opportunity for the teachers to learn themselves from their colleagues, and consequently for the students to derive benefit from this experience. Lectures will always be of an interactive nature with opportunities for student interventions and questions. Reading materials will be circulated in advantage (via the summer school website) and students will be expected to read these so that they can participate in the lectures.

Each teaching block will involve more intense small group work in workshops, where students will be given tasks to accomplish in teams and will be expected to report back to the workshop. This will develop certain generally transferable skills, requiring teamwork skills (in a multidisciplinary and multicultural setting) and oral communication skills. Teachers are issued with brief guidelines on how workshops should be organized. Each location has been selected because the summer school themes are relevant locally. The student and teachers will be able to visit local areas, and meet with local actors. This will give the summer school an innovative aspect: the students will be able to ‘see’ the issues, which they are discussing in class in the real world, and will have the opportunity to discuss the issues with local actors.