Events during week 1 & 2: all with a Brexit seasoning…

A pre-history of Brexit, with Sir Ivan Rogers

For its first weekly ‘Core Seminar’ (10 October 2017) the European Studies Centre welcomed Sir Ivan Rogers, former UK Ambassador to the EU.  The seminar chair was Dr Hartmut Mayer (our ESC Director, St Antony’s College).  Fully in line with the announced title ‘A pre-history of Brexit: some thoughts on how we got here and what it means for today’s negotiations’, Sir Ivan Rogers gave remarkable reflections about the ‘pre-Brexit’ period.

This first ESC seminar of the academic year was so highly attended that the door couldn’t open anymore (no security problems: we still have the garden doors). People were even sitting on the ground to listen to Sir Ivan Rogers, and to participate at the debate.

‘Ralf Dahrendorf on Germany, Britain and Europe’ by Franziska Meifort

The second ESC Core Seminar was entitled ‘Ralf Dahrendorf on Germany, Britain and Europe’. Franziska Meifort (Carl von Ossietzky Universität, Oldenburg) just published her book: ‘Ralf Dahrendorf: Eine Biographie‘.

The seminar chair was Timothy Garton Ash (St Antony’s College) and Robert Falkner (LSE) was an interesting discussant.

Ralf Dahrendorf’s legendary exchange with Rudi Dutschke in 1968 during the student revolution is the opening scene of Franziska’s biography of the German intellectual, both in the book and talk.  She explained that, according to Jürgen Habermas, Dahrendorf probably was the most important German intellectual of his generation. Franziska Meifort conducted extensive research on this remarkable politician, and came up with a fascinating story of this great politician, which she described as a ‘public intellectual’, who felt bound by the passion of democracy and his own understanding of liberalism.

Ralf Dahrendorf (1929-2009) had been active in St Antony’s College, where a tribute event had taken place at the occasion of his 80th anniversary.

When googling Ralf Dahrendorf later, I discovered a less known and somewhat surprising element in his career, namely that he also has been European Commissioner for Research, Science and Education.

Book conversation with Lord Chris Patten: ‘First Confession: A Sort of Memoir’

A book conversation with Lord Chris Patten, Chancellor of the University of Oxford and Patron of the European Studies Centre and  Timothy Garton Ash (St Antony’s College): ‘First Confession: A Sort of Memoir’. The Chair of the event was my research sponsor, Professor Kalypso Nicolaidis (St Antony’s College).

Chris Patten brought, as an entertaining narrator, a story taking him through his personal life and career, reflecting about the world as it is today, with ISIS, Brexit and Trump. He reasoned about the danger of tabloids, about identity crises and about different ways of being a ‘nationalist’ (one of which can simply be ‘loving’ your nation). Together with professor Timothy Garton Ash, he contemplated about the link with religion and Brexit, even going back to King Hendrik VIII and Pope Clement VII. They also linking the feelings which led to BREXIT to the fact that the EU was created by the Treaty of Rome, associated with the Vatican…

Are today’s developments related to the link between identity and action? Lord Patten pointed some dangerous consequences of extreme actions related to identity, such as ISIS and Jihadism.

During this almost breathtaking event, Lord Patten told plenty of anecdotes from his childhood up to the three Prime Ministers for whom he worked (Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher and John Major), his time as a Commissioner and his Governorship of Hong Kong (which was the last one before the ‘handover’ to China).

Read more about his book here.

Thought-provoking event ‘Who’s afraid of free speech?’, by Timothy Garton Ash

Ten Principles for a Connected World

This keynote lecture and debate by Timothy Garton Ash (St Antony’s College) was organised by St Antony’s ‘Graduate Common Room Committee’.

As announced by the organisers: ‘Timothy Garton Ash is Professor of European Studies in the University of Oxford, Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is the author of ten books of political writing or ‘history of the present’ and is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, amongst other journals.
He leads the 13-language Oxford University research project, and his latest book is Free Speech.
Awards he has received for his writing include the Somerset Maugham Award, Prix Européen de l’Essai and George Orwell Prize. In May 2017 he was awarded this year’s Charlemagne Prize.

We had an impressive lecture and debate with the promising title ‘Who’s Afraid of Free Speech’ with Professor Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies and Honorary Chair of St Antony’s College European Studies Centre. This event was highly attended by staff and students, with a lively discussion on the ‘Ten Principles for a Connected World’ developed so far.

I could recommend to visit the free speech project website on “Free expression in an interconnected world”:, in which you can participate.

In addition, the Free Speech Debate project now is looking to recruit graduate research assistants. In addition to native English speakers, the project team is looking to recruit native speakers of Spanish, French, German, Russian, Hindi, Urdu, Farsi, Turkish, Arabic, Portuguese, Japanese and Chinese to work on translation of the new generation of content on the site in relation to those language areas. They are also looking for individuals with experience and interest in social media promotion and journalism, and would like research assistants to be based in Oxford for most of the academic year. Please get in touch with them if you have any questions: (Applications expected by Monday, 13 November).


Book talk  ‘Exodus, Reckoning, Sacrifice: Three Meanings of Brexit’ by Kalypso Nicolaidis

A meandering through our great archetypal myths and a plea for a kinder Brexit

Professor Kalypso Nicolaidis (also my research sponsor) had the floor during a book talks’ event at Blackwell’s. In this saga through Brexit mythology, she asks what ‘means’ means in “Brexit means Brexit.” Kalypso offers a plea for acknowledging each other’s stories, with their many variants, ambiguities and contradictions. And in this spirit of recognition, she calls for a mutually respectful, do-no-harm Brexit – the smarter, kinder and gentler Brexit possible in our hard-edged epoch of resentment and frustration.

Looking forward to see Kalypso’s book being completed for reading it!


Schermafbeelding 2017-10-24 om 15.42.09

Upcoming: ‘How will technologies change our lives?’

My own core seminar at the European Studies Centre is scheduled on Tuesday 31 October, 5pm, announced as ‘How will technology change our lives in Europe?’
Place: Conference Room, 70 Woodstock Road.

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EU visiting fellow at the European Studies Centre, St Antony's College, University of Oxford

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