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Core Modules


The core of the Identities and Cultures of Europe course is made up of two compulsory modules that introduce students to the question of identity by providing them with a strong historical and theoretical grounding in identity issues in Europe and beyond. The core modules explore a range of key topics relating to notions of identity and their practical implications in European societies, including myth, the Enlightenment, otherness, nation-building, pan-Europeanism, social class, language, religion, gender, collective memory, performance, ecology, (post-)modernism, technology and the information age. The modules encourage reflection on, and engagement with, the question of identity on both a conceptual and empirical level, elucidating identity issues in a variety of contexts (cultural, linguistic, political, philosophical, historiographical, religious, ecological, etc.) and across different media (literature, film, theatre, museums, memorials, digital platforms, etc.).

The core modules are taught by a team of colleagues, each exploring a different identity-based core topic. The standard format for each topic includes an introductory seminar/lecture on the theoretical implications of the topic, followed by a seminar looking at case studies. (Core topics may vary from year to year, depending on staff availability and timetabling constraints.)



This core module is taught in Michaelmas Term and consists of a range of core topics. The core topics for Michaelmas Term 2023 are the following:

Introduction: The Age of Identities (Dr James Hanrahan) 
This seminar serves as a general introduction to the core modules. 

1. What is Enlightenment? (Dr James Hanrahan)

These seminars examine contemporary views of the heritage of the Enlightenment. Was the Enlightenment a Western phenomenon and what do claims that it was (or was not) do for the identity of the West in general and Europe in particular? Was Enlightenment radicalism or a more moderate cosmopolitanism the true source of European modernity?

2. Living the past (Prof Mary Cosgrove) 

These seminars explore some of the core concepts in memory theory, such as collective memory, multidirectional memory, prosthetic memory, and post-memory. Taking as a case study the Holocaust memorial to the Jewish victims of National Socialism in Berlin, the seminars use theory to evaluate, first, how in recent years the memorial has been rejected by elements of the growing far right in Germany; and, second, to examine critical responses to this development. In this way, the seminars examine how the past gets instrumentalised for present political purposes, also connecting what is happening in Germany to larger shifts in contemporary transnational politics, culture, and memory of western democracies. 

3. My language is my home (Dr Rachel Hoare)

These seminars explore the connections between variation in language use and the construction, negotiation, maintenance and performance of identities at the level of the individual and the group at the intersection of the region and the nation. Examining a range of issues around the language/identity nexus, this core topic focuses on complex identity contexts and transnational identities in order to gain clearer insight into the identity-making and marking functions of language. The seminars draw upon a range of perspectives from social-psychology, sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology and social psychology. 

4. What did Earth ever do for us? (Prof Michael Cronin)

The advent of human-induced climate change and the entry of humanity into the new geological era of the Anthropocene raises fundamental questions about the nature of what it is to be human in such radically altered circumstances. In these seminars, we explore the emergence of the concept of ‘transversal subjectivity’ (Braidotti) as a way of trying to think about new forms of human subjectivity in the context of the relationship to other animal species and to the world of the organic and inorganic elements in which humans are immersed. Questions of sustainability, resilience and biocultural diversity are also examined in the framework of changing paradigms of the human and post-human.   

5. Are you postmodern? (Dr Radek Przedpelski)

These seminars examine cultural expression in a range of media (literary and popular fiction, cinema, visual arts and visual culture) through the theoretical lens of postmodernity. First, we explore concepts of postmodernism, looking at the work of key theoreticians, with particular focus on the emergence of the idea of the postmodern from the modernist movement in mid-late 20th century, as well as the points of intersection between postmodernism and postcolonial theory. Second, we focus on visual arts and visual culture, exploring various trends and media, including photography, street art, installation art and performance art. Discussion focuses on both ‘classic’ postmodern art of the 1970s and 1980s, as well as more recent problematics around technology and the posthuman. Finally, we look at cinema and film media, with a focus on features of recent cinema such as genre-blending, narrative disruption, polystylism and meta-reference.

For full details (including indicative bibliography), please consult the full module descriptor for Part 1 ID7001.


This core module is taught in Hilary Term and consists of a range of core topics. The core topics for Hilary Term 2024 are the following:

1. Who are they? (Dr Zuleika Rodgers) 

These seminars address the discourse around the construct of group identity and the ‘other’ in European society. In particular, this core topic examines the politics of difference based on genealogy, geography and religion, exploring both ancient and modern examples of the phenomenon. After a theoretical and historical survey, Jews and Judaism are taken as a case study. 

2. Nations and nationalism (Dr Balázs Apor) 

These seminars focus on the construction and development of national identities in Europe in modern times with a particular emphasis on the homogenising aspects of modern nationalism. The two cases studies discussed in the framework of this topic address the constructed nature of national identities in the context of the Soviet Union, and the most extreme outcome of nationalism’s homogenising ambitions: genocide. 

3. Intersectional identities (Dr Catherine Barbour) 

In these seminars we will engage with key debates in contemporary feminism and gender studies, drawing on the framework of intersectionality to examine how gender interacts with minoritized and non-state identities. In what ways are issues relating to language, nation, community and migration informed by discourses of gender? How do tensions between ‘centre’ and ‘periphery’ play out when interrogated through an intersectional feminist lens? If the nation is a heteropatriarchal construct, how do women writers envisage the collective imaginary, particularly in the context of minority languages and cultures? Our case studies consist of a range of texts written by women from Galicia, north-west Spain, a non-state nation where national identity is both highly contested and contentious. 

4. I still believe (Prof Clodagh Brook) 

Religion has been instrumental in the creation of contemporary socio-political Europe. It has been held responsible for some of the darkest moments in recent history, from the Holocaust to Jihad. But it has also been described as the creator of a forceful heritage of architectural and artistic works, from monasteries and cathedrals to the Vatican treasures, from paintings, sculptures and frescos to the rich imagery and narratives on which writers and poets have drawn for centuries, and upon which filmmakers to the present day still draw. In these seminars, we concentrate on how post-secular theories of religion try to understand the continuing place of religion in Europe after secularisation. After an introductory class, we look at case studies of Italy, through discussion of sociological texts and of representation of religious identity on screen.  

5. The Brain Identity (Dr Hannes Opelz) 

These seminars explore some of the ways in which recent developments in neurobiology and philosophy are changing our understanding of human identity. The seminars examine a selection of works by contemporary philosopher Catherine Malabou, with a particular focus on her concept of plasticity. Key issues to be discussed are the ways in which brain plasticity relates to capitalism, trauma, and artificial intelligence. 

Conclusion: Beyond Identity (Dr Hannes Opelz)

This seminar serves as a conclusion to the core modules. It will also give students an opportunity to ask any questions they may have about the module, particularly in relation to their course work in the run-up to submission.

For full details (including indicative bibliography), please consult the full module descriptor for Part 2 ID7002.