Establishing common grounds: our first RELATE reading groups

Heidi Maurer |

The UACES research network RELATE (European Studies in a Relational Universe) aims to bring together scholars with an expertise and interest in social relational theory, to advance and inspire an innovative relational research agenda and bring relational theory into the mainstream of EU and European studies, and to contribute to capacity-building of early career researchers around the topic of relational theory and methodology.

As part of our activities towards these goals, we organize reading groups as a platform for discussion of selected key readings in relational theory. The goals are is to establish a common starting point, fine-tune academic language and sketch out key considerations for the application of relational theory to European Studies. The reading group activities contribute to supportive community building and foster the exchange between network members applying these approaches to the study of contemporary issues in European politics.

Our first two online reading group sessions on 11 May and 29 June 2022. Senior and early career researchers enthusiastically discussed seminal works and recent advancements in relational theory by i.a. Milja Kurki, Patrick Jackson, Daniel Nexon, Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Vincent Pouliot, Emilie Hafner-Burton etc. We convened around the questions: How do these works present relationalism? What are commonalities and differences? What is their specific contribution to the relationalism debate? How can the relationalism debate in International Relations help us better understand Europe and the European Union? Which work in European Studies is already out there that takes a relational approach and which avenues for further research in this area exist?

These questions were discussed in smaller groups, and lessons learnt were collected and presented to the entire group through the use of the digital whiteboard collaboration space, Mural. These collectively constructed “murals” are available to network members and contain the diverse insights and the new questions that were raised about what relationalism is and about how relationalism can be used to better understand Europe and the European Union. Take-aways included distinguishing the characteristics of different approaches to relationalism, their strengths and limitations for studying European and the EU, their relation to existing bodies of work and methods – and participants contemplated on how these approaches can be adopted in their own research

If you’re interested in joining any of our upcoming reading groups or other events, such as our RELATE discussion series, forthcoming Methods Workshop, or one of the network’s panels at several international conferences, check out more information here. Since it’s kick-off event late April, the RELATE network is proud to have reached over 80 members! Join us by getting in touch here to become part our mailing list, receive our newsletter and participate in our network’s activities! You can also follow us on Twitter @RELATE_UACES.