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Antje Wiener with her book
Antje Wiener with her book

Press Release - 13 October 2008

International Relations create more diversity, not less

Despite fears by some national media that the UK is losing its cultural identity to Europe, University of Bath Professor, Antje Wiener, argues that European integration has actually resulted in more diversity, not less.

Her new book, The Invisible Constitution of Politics, explores how these cultural differences can cause misunderstandings which could have severe consequences for Europe.

As business and politics becomes increasingly global, it is easy to forget that cultural differences have a significant impact on how people understand and interact with each other.

Professor of Politics & International Relations at the University of Bath, Antje Wiener, has extensively researched how some of the major players in European politics interpret and apply assumptions when working in international contexts.

She conducted interviews with officials from London, Berlin and Brussels living in their native countries as well as those living abroad, and found that even frequently travelled professionals often differed in their cultural interpretation of areas such as law, citizenship, democracy and human rights.

Professor Wiener explained: “I found that those who had operated within the Brussels transnational arena had created new shared interpretations. Instead of wholesale Europeanisation, in reality, we are looking at ‘pockets of Europeanisation’.”

In her book, Professor Wiener argues these differences need to be taken into account when working in an international environment.

She said: “Whilst organisational practices are easy to define, cultural practices are often less visible and it is this ‘invisible constitution’ that can have important implications in international relations.

“When international treaties are being agreed by several different nations, the language used is usually vague and open to multiple interpretations.

“This can lead to crises being made worse when individuals from different nations read alternative meanings into the same text, depending on their cultural experience.

“An example of this in everyday life is when you go to a bar with a friend in the UK, and they offer to buy you a drink. The unspoken etiquette in the UK is that you will buy the next round; whereas in other cultures the opposite may be true.

“A similar thing can happen in international politics, with officials of different nationalities taking completely conflicting messages from the same speech.

“Of course in a social situation, a cultural misunderstanding might cause mild embarrassment, but in the context of international politics where decisions are made that affect the lives of millions of people, it is essential that people understand the diversity between cultures.

“My research showed that a person living in London could still have a very ‘London-centric’ view of the world, despite having travelled extensively and frequently interacted with people from different nations.

“However the fact that people are different doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem – instead we should see it as an opportunity to talk about our differences and explore different options and ideas.”

Professor Wiener’s new book, The Invisible Constitution of Politics, is published by Cambridge University Press and will be officially launched at the University of Bath on Tuesday 14 October at 4.15pm in 8 West Room 2.5.

There will be an introductory talk by Professor Wiener followed by a drinks reception where there will be an opportunity to buy the book at a discounted price and talk to the author about her research.

The event is sponsored by the Security and Conflict Cluster at the Department of European Studies & Modern Languages which is led by Prof Richard Whitman.

Details on how to buy the book can be found at: http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521895965


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