Dear 2016 Fellows,
My name is Alessandra Von Burg and I will be your instructor for the class “Invisible Borders: Citizens and Conflicts in Regions and Nations” at the Ben Franklin Institute this summer. Prior to your arrival at Wake Forest University, I would like you to take the time to answer and reflect on a set of questions related to the themes we will address in class.
Many of you may have access to a computer, but please note you should answer these questions based on your experience, your positions on the topic, and your understanding of your own region and nation. If you research the topics, use newspapers, local and national news coverage, and even interviews with your family, friends, teachers, local representatives and others.
- Are there any tensions between/among different groups (ethnic, social, economic, cultural, and political) in the area where you live?
- Are there any tensions between/among different groups in your nation? Are they related to regional issues?
- If yes, are there open conflicts among the different groups? What are those conflicts like?
- If there are NOT open conflicts, how do tensions emerge? How do people address them?
- Do the people in the area where you live come from different backgrounds (cultures, nations, ethnicity…)? If yes, how are those differences addressed?
- What do you know/think about the European Union?
- Is your country a member of the European Union? If yes, when did it become a member? If not a member, is your country negotiating or discussing accession?
- What do people in your country think of the European Union?
You do not need to write or type your answers. Just think about them, familiarize yourself with the issues, and plan on sharing a few examples (especially if you have experienced tensions yourself or know people who have) from your region and nation with the other Fellows in class.
I really look forward to meeting you in Winston-Salem. Have a wonderful trip!
Purpose of the Class
The purpose of this class will be to explore the political, cultural, and social tensions in areas where regional and national identities come in conflict with one another. These tensions and conflicts take different forms, ranging from actual wars, to simmering disputes, to the reconciling of centuries-old conflicts and cultural differences in otherwise peacefully coexisting countries such as in Western Europe and the United States. Moreover, the ideals of unity and difference are particularly salient for European Union members and potential candidates for the EU who face the challenge of working toward political, economic, and social cooperation while maintaining and respecting cultural differences. While in Alessandra’s class, students will explore these questions through discussions, role-playing activities, and other forms of active learning.