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UB anthropologist named Jean Monnet Chair

Deborah Reed-Danahay is one of only five professors in the U.S. and 40 worldwide to receive the highly competitive Jean Monnet Chair teaching post. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

By BERT GAMBINI

Published September 10, 2015

Deborah Reed-Danahay, professor of cultural anthropology in the Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences, has received a prestigious and highly competitive Jean Monnet Chair teaching post from the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union that actualizes many of its policies.

She is among only 40 university professors in the world and five in the United States to be named in 2015 by the European Commission for one of its three-year teaching posts specializing in European Union studies. Responsibilities include community outreach and scholarly research, in addition to a minimum of 90 teaching hours each academic year.

That UB is now home to a Jean Monnet Chair also creates the possibility for the university to be named a Jean Monnet Center of Excellence, attracting visiting scholars and graduate students dedicated to the multidisciplinary study of EU topics. The option for a center is available only to universities that are home to a professor holding a current Jean Monnet Chair.

Jean Monnet Chairs are named after the French diplomat widely regarded as the chief architect of the European Union. Reed-Danahay’s particular chair reflects a growing interest within the EU for understanding issues of migration, culture and society.

Her research interests include issues surrounding the relationship between local, national, international and supranational levels, work that explores how individual identities and a sense of belonging are influenced partly by where people live and because of their national and international affiliations.

Although many previous holders of chairs, mainly in the field of political science, have looked at governance, law and the institutions with the EU, Reed-Danahay’s is among the few established in cultural anthropology.

“It shows anthropological study of Europe has come of age, since anthropologists first started working in large numbers there in the 1970s and ’80s,” Reed-Danahay says. “But for me personally, this post will give me a chance to enhance my teaching and scholarship; it will help develop more programming in teaching about Europe and allow me to mentor junior faculty across the university to develop European-focused teaching and research programs.”

Her work begins immediately.

She’s teaching two classes, graduate and undergraduate, at UB each of the three years that focus on Europe, as well as incorporating modules on Europe in those courses that have a more general theme.

As part of the outreach component of the post, she will develop a website and a blog that focus on the issues of her chair’s personally chosen theme of “cultural anthropology: citizenship, mobility and belonging in the European Union.”

“I’m also expected to publish a book during the three years and I’ll be finishing a book on the work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and social space in which I incorporate implications for understandings of mobility and migration in Europe drawing upon his work,” she says. She previously has published five books.

There’s also a new ethnographic research project for which Reed-Danahay received seed money from UB’s Humanities Institute and the Baldy Center.

“I’m interviewing French people living in London, trying to find out what their migration has to do with their identity and how the EU facilitates migration of these so-called privileged migrants,” she says. “We know the stories of desperate people trying to get into Europe, but these French are able to live freely in London as citizens of the EU.

“This project will create new knowledge about European citizens and their mobility in Europe.”

Reed-Danahay, founder and director of UB’s Center for European Studies, says with a Jean Monnet chair now at UB, the university can apply to be a Jean Monnet Center of Excellence, a focal point for developing synergies between various disciplines and resources in European studies.

“Such an honor would help UB build a center for European studies that would attract students and scholars to the university,” she says.