To reflect on international power relations and participants` positions within this network.
Step 1: Review and question the universality of concepts we use to describe Europe, to be aware of the language we use. The description of concepts from the text below can be used.
Step 2: Discuss with participants power relations between:
- Rich and poor people in their country.
- Rich and poor countries in Europe.
- Rich and poor parts of the world.
It might be useful to draw this network and visualize power and include the reasons for it (next step).
Step 3: Define the reasons for these uneven power structures. Take a closer look at their current and historical developments and brainstorm possible solutions.
Reflect with participants on where they stand in this European or global network. How would they describe their position? What characteristics does it have towards other positions of e.g. students in other countries? Can they contribute to the solutions they developed in Step 3?
Reference Article: Europe through other eyes
There are quite opposite perceptions. In some people`s perception in the US, Europe is old fashioned, sentimental and boring. Others say, Europe is degenerated, morally lost and self-referential like the Roman empire during its last ages. A similar trap is the assumption that Europe is the leader of unstoppable, linear progress. An example often heard: “In our country, we have not arrived there yet;” “We still have a lot to do to be where Europe is now”; or “Our country is not as good as European countries.”
These statements tend to ignore the fact, that firstly these countries are connected to Europe in relations of unequal political and economic power. Secondly, all European countries underwent large social transformations: of the welfare states, migration, economical degression or unequal, nonlinear development. Even though we can observe the growth of radical movements, anti-system actors and exclusive tendencies in Europe, people still migrate to Europe.
An obvious example for Eurocentrism are world maps. Most of us are used to a map that incorrectly shows distorted proportions in terms of the size of continents and countries. Europe seems much bigger, compared to other parts of the world. Asia, the Americas and especially Africa are all in fact proportionally much larger than shown in the so called “Mercator map.” The real proportions are displayed in “Peters map.” The language we use is a sign of how embedded Eurocentrism is in our lives. The Middle East and the Far East are only “in the middle” or “far” in relation to Europe.
Case study: Anti-Bias approach
In order to reflect on these unequal power relations, the Anti-Bias-Approach was developed in the USA and adapted in South Africa. It addresses so called internalized power-relations, when people in everyday behavior use privileges or power unconsciously, which can be detected by quotes like “Our country is not as good as European countries” or “we in Europe have other standards.” One way to address this is to look at the influences of other regions on Europe: how other ideas, people, knowledge, products have shaped Europe and continue doing so. This way we can look at Europe as a “product of interactions with the outside world.”6 A good example of this is the work of medieval Arab scholars in science and philosophy which has contributed to European knowledge throughout centuries. Yet another example is to look even more critically at Europe’s role in the world. Here, the history of colonialism, racism and holocaust, among others, can be analysed. Case studies can be used to look at how Europe is developing because of Europe's abuse of other parts of the world, what is closer described in the World System Theory outlined by Immanuel Wallerstsein. For example, we can examine how Europe’s growing of palm trees in Indonesia to feed the huge palm oil demand in Europe deprives local farmers of much-needed farmland. However, this approach again puts Europe at the centre, making it a source of everything bad, which is also a one-way understanding. Other methods are to simply have a deeper look at places, people, knowledge, and heritage which comprise non-European living and not accepting the universality of a “European” path.
European Union as a global actor
If we need to pick one perspective to talk about contemporary Europe's role in the world, using the European Union is the simplest way. The EU has a big influence on many of us – from the food we eat, to where we work and to which countries we travel. In recent years, EU's aspirations as a ‘global player’ have grown and this influences our work as the EU is either financing parts of our activities, or has partnerships with countries we work in or actively promotes the same values as we do.
Until recently, EU's role in the world has been mostly in development cooperations. Since it institutionalized its aid delivery programmes in 2000, it has become the biggest donor, providing over 50% of all development aid in the world, amounting to almost 60 billion Euros per year. This is still only a small amount compared to how much the EU and its citizens benefit from the uneven global trade system.
At the same time, with the establishment of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU looks to increase its political weight in the global arena. The recently released EU Global Strategy is a good example: A fragile world calls for a more confident and responsible European Union, it calls for an outward- and forward-looking European foreign and security policy. This Global Strategy will guide us in our daily work towards a Union that truly meets its citizens’ needs, hopes and aspirations; a Union that builds on the success of 70 years of peace; a Union with the strength to contribute to peace and security in our region and in the whole world
Positive developments inside the EU sometimes conflict with developments in the rest of the world. For example, the above mentioned EU strategy towards “peace and security” and growth might contradict with the strategies of actors in other parts of the world.
- The text from Karina Jansone and Matthias Haberl is taken from the handbook The Everyday Beyond
- More about the Anti-Bias Approach can be found here: www.naeyc.org/anti-bias-education
Project manager for the Austrian development organisation Südwind, freelance trainer, facilitator and author of handbooks and on Competendo.
When working with students the experience is mostly, that they feel powerful in a global context, because coming from a state like Austria or Poland gives you quite a powerful position in comparison with many other national backgrounds in the world. Depending on the social group we are working with it also allows you to reflect on the interesting fact, that in our own society the participants might not belong to the groups with a lot of power and influence but in a global comparison they do. The method allows you to discuss various aspects about power as such on diverse levels.
The above mentioned method was developed in a European context. It is as well suitable for participants from other continents and states. Just be aware that you might work with students who are in the power rank "lower" than those coming from Europe. Eventually that makes the question of what we can do to empower our own position (in case we are coming not from a powerful part of the world) even more interesting.