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Reflections on UACES 1st Virtual Conference

By Russell Foster, Jan Grzymski & Monika Brusenbauch Meislová (UACES Research Network, The Limits of EUrope)

UACES Annual Conference 2020 brought our research group a mixture of excitement and poignancy. We are enormously grateful to the UACES team for their phenomenal work in organising and hosting a superb event, which was not only highly intellectually stimulating but which was also a tour de force of smooth and highly effective e-learning. At the same time, though, this experience only magnified the sense of isolation which everyone is feeling as a result of the pandemic and social distancing. The stimulating personal interactions and timely boost of mental and emotional energy, which the UACES conference brings at the nadir of the academic year, was sorely missed. That said, like everyone we soldiered on and enjoyed a spectacularly well-organised few days, and we are very excited for the next face-to-face event!

Our UACES Research Network, The Limits of EUrope: Challenging the Crisis of European Integration is now in its second year. Regardless of the pandemic, we are continuing in our mission of producing groundbreaking international, interdisciplinary work on the frontiers of European studies. The Network’s three conveners – Jan Grzymski (University of Warsaw, Poland), Monika Brusenbauch Meislová (Masaryk University, Czech Republic), and Russell Foster (King’s College London, UK) are collaborating on a forthcoming special issue of the Journal of Contemporary European Research (JCER), focused on unpicking the convoluted relations between populism and technocracy in a post-Brexit Europe.

This special issue investigates a growing gulf between “populist” and “technocratic” systems of knowledge production within EU-ropean politics. With an aim to answer how consensus-based EUropean decision-making can be rendered (more) legitimate, the special issue is envisioned to be addressing those challenges in six selected crucial areas in contemporary EUrope: Technocrats and the Public, (Dis-)Integration, (Anti-)Politics, (Mis-)Trust, (Non-)Science, and (Mis-)Communication. These themes are explored in the edition’s fifteen papers, which address varying realms in which technocratic and populist claims of legitimation are seen to clash. As the pandemic and Covid-19 countermeasures have developed, and continue to develop, throughout and beyond 2020, this jarring of technical expertise and popular rhetoric has expanded into political discourses across Europe and beyond, rendering the special issue and its themes pertinent even beyond the conclusion of Brexit at the end of 2020.

The recent UACES Virtual Conference offered an ideal opportunity to discuss ideas and research works related to this special issue by its contributors and editors. Stay tuned for the JCER special issue, entering press in early 2021!

Russell Foster

Jan Grzymski

Monika Brusenbauch Meislová

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