Sussex European Institute

Sussex European Institute 30th Anniversary Event

Moot Room (G06 Freeman Centre)
University of Sussex
5th May 2022 | 9:30am – 4:00pm BST

To celebrate 30 years of the Sussex European Institute (SEI) we invite you to join us for a special one-day event on May 5th 2022.

Clouded by the war in Europe’s East, the anniversary event will offer food for thought on thinking Europe from the periphery and the politics of crisis in Europe.


The event will be held in person in the Freeman Building on the University of Sussex Falmer Campus (Moot Room – G06 on the Ground Floor).

See campus map here

For information on how to get to the University of Sussex, see here


This event is free to all but requires registration via Eventbrite.

If you would like to join us in person, please sign up via the eventbrite page here (so we can provide refreshments)

Please send an email to: if you are interested in participating remotely.

Contact us


Follow us on twitter @sei_sussex for updates 


May 5th 2022

Keynote Lecture


The event will open with a Keynote Lecture by Professor Mary Kaldor (LSE), who is a founding member of SEI, and has contributed to our understanding of the invasion of Ukraine over the past weeks.

Panel I: Thinking Europe from the Periphery

11:00 am – 1pm


Professor Ivan Kalmar, University of Toronto
Professor James Mark, University of Exeter
Professor Manuela Boatcă, University of Freiburg

Chair: Dr Aleks Lewicki


1:00pm - 2:00pm

Lunch break with refreshments provided

Panel II: Europe and the Politics of Crisis

2:00pm - 4:00pm


Professor Helen Thompson (University of Cambridge)
Dr Luke Cooper (London School of Economics)
Professor Mark Blyth (Brown University)

Chair: Dr Neil Dooley

 Panel Abstracts

Panel I: Thinking Europe from the Periphery

White But Not Quite: Racial Capitalism and the Notions of Central and Eastern Europe

Ivan Kalmar

Kalmar’s presentation puts the evolving notions of “Central Europe” and “Eastern Europe” in the global context of whiteness and racism - by and against Central Europeans. A form of racism creates an imagined divide in Europe, with the core areas of capital accumulation on the Western side and peripheries providing cheap labour and resources on the Eastern one. This division is gradual. Moving eastward from eastern Germany via the post-communist members of the EU ultimately to Russia, each area is deemed ever more “Eastern European,” sharing less of the white privilege associated with the former colonial powers of the West. “Central Europe” is a local construct by groups laying claims to full “Europeanness,” in defiance of their othering by the West. Thus, Ukraine has striven to be appreciated as Central European, but was considered too Eastern European to be admitted to the EU and NATO when it was still possible.

“Anti-colonial whiteness”: Communism, Eastern Europe and the Politics of Race

James Mark

In the encounter between Communist Europe and a decolonizing world, we find ample evidence that in this era Eastern Europeans thought racially—not just in terms of nationhood, ethnicity and difference within the region, as is often argued, but in terms of their position in a global racial order. Simply put, their commitment to an anti-colonial internationalism had rendered them the better kind of white. Exploring encounter – through the stories of paternalist developmentalists, Communists-on-safari and travel writers, for instance – this presentation argues that the political commitments that rendered them ‘superior whites’ were often underpinned by the revival of colonial-era fantasies. As long as anti-colonialism could garner a previously denied global status, then such longings for recognition could be harnessed to progressive projects; yet, as soon as the power of anti-colonialism on the global stage eroded, so this ‘imperial nostalgia’ would be reworked in the name of return of the region to a bounded white European civilization.

Creolizing the Modern: Transylvania as Periphery across Empires

Manuela Boatcă

The talk counteracts the notion of Europe as a geographically, culturally, religiously, and racially coherent entity by focusing on one of Europe’s subaltern formations, Transylvania. Its location on the European continent, yet in the rural periphery of several of Europe’s imperial powers, renders it a unique candidate for the larger decolonial project of “creolizing Europe.” Originally coined to describe the processes of racial, cultural and linguistic mixing in the Caribbean, the term creolization has increasingly been defined as a mode of transformation premised on the unequal power relations that characterize modernity/coloniality—dispossession, colonization, and enslavement. As employed here, creolization involves the rethinking, reframing, and creative recomposition of categories structuring sociological analysis —from Europe to Transylvania, and from the modern to the comparative method. It necessarily involves the creolization of theory by retrieving subaltern histories and experiences in both colonial and imperial situations and reinscribing them into social theory.

Panel II: Europe and the Politics of Crisis

Europe’s Permanent Hard Times: The Geopolitical Implications of Europe’s Foreign Energy Dependency

Helen Thompson

The start of the age of oil at the start of the 20th century caused immense difficulties for European countries, including those with empires in other continents. Europe’s twentieth century history can be read as a series of attempts, some catastrophic, to deal with these problems. After the Suez crisis, West Germany and Italy led western Europe down a path to dependency on Russian energy. This dependency ultimately created an energy export dependency for the Soviet Union that played a crucial part in unravelling its empire in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union itself. Russia’s inheritance of the Soviet energy economy without the Soviet empire has served as a structural destabilising force in Europe since the end of the Cold War. With the war in Ukraine, the reckoning has arrived.

The Inescapable Allure of 'Europe first'?

Luke Cooper

Judging by its official statements, EU thinking about its relationship to the rest of the world is undergoing a historic transformation. Whereas in 2016 the EU Global Strategy warned against "the illusion that international politics can be a zero-sum game", in 2022 the bloc's Strategic Compass stated frankly that "we live in a world shaped by raw power politics". The strategy put forward in the context of the Ukraine-Russia War addresses ambiguities that were present in the earlier incarnation and moves the EU firmly in the direction of a 'Europe first' posture. This is notable, in particular, for its scepticism towards globalisation and its explicit support for intergovernmentalism in European foreign policy. Developing a critical analysis, the presentation will question the assumption that a coherent EU interest exists and discuss the progressive potential contained in the alternate claim of understanding Europe as a fragmented political space in a fragmented world.

Twenty Years of the Tangible Intangible: What Have We Learned From, and About, The Euro

Mark Blyth

Although the Euro was formally introduced in 1999, it was not until three years later that it took tangible form in people’s lives, in the form of banknotes and coin. A mere five years after that the financial architecture that the Euro made possible - North/South vendor financing and bond yield compression/over-lending, started to come apart. As a consequence, Europe lost a decade of growth while reorienting its overall Growth Model towards wage suppression and exports. Today, in light of geopolitical competition, climate crisis, and continued stagnation, especially in the South, we must ask if the Euro and its architecture is fit for purpose? And perhaps most concerning, even if it is not, can Europe ‘do other’ than stick with it?

 SEI 30th Anniversary Event Poster