Recent enquiries into European history have emphasised the extent to which Europe was made through its encounters with Otherness. From this perspective, the long eighteenth century, which witnessed a radical expansion of the European imperial project, offers a perfect vantage point for the observation of historical change in conceptualisations of European identity as a national, racial, political, cultural, and geographical construct. European colonies overseas constituted an ‘imaginary and physical space’ in which the inclusions and exclusions built into the notions of European identity were worked out. Therefore, the meanings of ‘Europeanness’ in its various contexts cannot be adequately assessed without an examination of the complex relationship between metropole and colony and its contribution to developing notions of difference.
This two-day symposium examines the construction of Europeanness as a national, cultural, and racial category within a colonial context. Invited papers will consider both specific national identities (e.g. Britishness, Frenchness) and the construct of Europe as a shared identity through the creation of scientific ‘knowledge’, political and economic privilege, as well as cultural and material practices. Representations of Europeanness took place on various platforms from political rhetoric to individual bodies, and encyclopedias to house interiors. Such variables as, for example, legal status, national origin, gender, skin colour, religion, family connection, reputation, and geography all contributed to the fashioning of European identity through defining human difference.
The interdisciplinary symposium will bring together established scholars, early career researchers, and postgraduate researchers examining the topic from a variety of cultural and intellectual history, literature, and historical geography perspectives. The symposium is organized in collaboration with the Queen Mary Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies (QMCECS). The key note lecture will be given by Professor Kathleen Wilson (Stony Brook University), whose books include The Sense of the People: Politics, Culture and Imperialism in England, 1715–1785 (1995) and The Island Race: Englishness Empire and Gender in the Eighteenth Century (2003).