teeme objectives

Abraham Ortelius, world map (1570)

TEEME aims to integrate the study of the past with impact on the present. Our principal intellectual concern is the early modern period, understood as lasting from c. 1400 to c. 1700, the foundational age of the current world order with its political divisions and economic dependencies, in which modern European identities were formed in the context of nation-building, imperial ambition and colonial expansion. Students on the programme will bring this period into meaningful relations with current issues and concerns by focusing on the enduring traces that early modern texts and events left, and still leave, on today’s globalized world. History, literature and culture will thus be taught and studied as central to the shaping of the future.

The programme’s main objective is to prepare a new generation of research leaders, cultural managers and policy-makers for the demands of a 21st century in which historical forgetfulness and cultural amnesia threaten the integration of an increasingly interconnected world. These challenges will be addressed through an emphasis on forms of cultural and historical understanding – processes that are themselves both conditions of the actual student experience and potential topics of research. By investigating the past from a fully historicized understanding of the present, and by working in international teams, students will acquire the skills and background knowledge necessary to intervene in current debates about global uncertainties and the new world-wide risks faced by culture and society.

Theodor Galle, America (c. 1580), after a drawing by Jan van der Straet

The need to make the past inform the present in new and substantially different ways is painfully evident in everyday public discourse. For instance, present debates about the ‘clash of cultures’ and the tensions between the local and the global dangerously ignore the experience of our early modern forbears who first ventured out beyond Europe to encounter other cultures, peoples, and religions. Close historical attention reveals that these early encounter stories cannot easily be reduced, as they often are in public perception, to any facile and clear-cut binaries such as the opposition between ‘colonizer’ and ‘colonized’, between Christians and ‘heathens’ (often actually Muslims, Hindus or Jews), or between mobile Europeans and static indigenous people. Instead, such historical encounters were frequently moments of exchange, interaction, and even mutual respect, in which both sides learned and benefited from each other. TEEME’s ambition is to rectify such historical distortions.

Leonardo da Vinci, 'Vitruvian Man' (c. 1487)

Through this central focus on the interface between past and present, the programme will both promote greater historical awareness of shared European origins, foster exchange among diverse European and non-European cultures, and offer a unique learning experience to both EU and international students. It will help control negative developments, such as violent nationalism or the radical distrust of foreign cultures, religions and peoples, that often emerge during economic crises and are exacerbated by the lack of nuanced historical understanding. At the same time the programme will enrich and improve current perceptions of European identities and their role in history, as well as engender the transformation of national cultural institutions through the input of knowledge and expertise from different cultures.