End-of-year wishes for the GEM PhD Community by Ramona Coman, Maria-Isabel Soldevila Brea, Maureen Cossalter & Frederik Ponjaert
This year’s holiday season comes after 12 eventful months which have transformed the global stage, the European continent, and the GEM community in several fundamental ways. These changes appear both promising and worrying, which makes looking forward and settling on this year’s Christmas wish list a precarious affair. To paraphrase Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s famous insight in his Confessions (1782), 2022 somehow united two almost inalienable things without it being easy to conceive how. Feverish sets of challenges, vigorous debates, and impetuous passions have consistently welled up; while agreed solutions have remained stubbornly slow to be born, embarrassed, and often presenting themselves after the fact. These two clashing temporalities have made navigating the waters of today’s world often a treacherous affair and stepping back from time to time has become a necessity, notably to avoid not seeing the forest for the trees. Our first and most immediate wish for the holidays is therefore that the whole GEM community may enjoy a restful, soothing, and refreshing end-of-year break.
After a couple of years dominated by the pandemic, 2022 was a paradoxical time of opportunities and crises rekindled, of horizons and challenges rediscovered, as well as of returning partnerships and doubts. Governance, Multilateralism, and Europe – the three lodestars of GEM’s evolving research agenda – were all upended by these contradictory forces, with the ripple effects of the resulting tug reaching even individual members of the community. Unsurprisingly, this year of contradictions has left many of us equal parts exhausted and excited. Our second wish for the start of the new year is therefore that the festive season away from work and other imperatives proves to be just what the doctor and allows all of us to tackle the coming year with renewed vigour.
While GEM was delighted to welcome new prospects and researchers, over the past year it also had to process the fact that several of its core values, practices and Alumni faced unprecedented tests. The structural nature of these challenges is reflected in the renewed GEM research agenda. Its' new GEM-DIAMOND project centres on the fundamental contestation and competition dynamics many of GEM’s democratic and liberal assumptions have come to face. In response, the 16 new GEM-DIAMOND researchers have been tasked with unpacking the nature and implications of these contemporary forms of dissensus surrounding liberal democracy. We trust their joint research efforts will prove both engaging to the wider GEM community and thick with welcome insights. Our third wish for the whole of the coming year is that after the past few months of setting up the new project GEM researchers new and old will have the chance to jointly develop this new research agenda centred on dissensus.
Whilst demanding, the past year was also one with several fond moments. Although they are too numerous to list, we still wanted to highlight that besides the new GEM-DIAMOND project, 2022 also saw: (i) 4 new GEM Fellows graduate and join the Alumni community, (ii) 6 new publications come out in the GEM Book series, (iii) 3 additional new research projects secured by members of the GEM community which are expected to contribute to its future endeavours, (iv) 8 new institutional partners join the GEM community alongside 9 established members, and last but not least (v) a dozen GEM Alumni who secured either their first or new professional prospects. All these achievements and many more are proof positive that the GEM community is alive and well. As the GEM Community is solidly positioned to take on the opportunities and challenges of the coming year, our fourth wish for the years to come is that the community and its members may continue to build on these accomplishments and continue to grow.
As mentioned, all of these GEM-related hopes are to unfold against the backdrop of a world facing significant upheaval and uncertainty. It, therefore, seems not just customary but more necessary than ever to wrap up this list of well-wishes with a more universal set of considerations. Any future the GEM community and its varied members might build for themselves is obviously beholden to wider continental and global developments which can at times seem daunting and invariably feed back into the aforementioned structural challenges to liberal democracy the GEM community will focus on over the coming years. The fifth and final wish is therefore the most far-reaching but also the most customary of all: may the holiday season bring us all a step closer towards peace on earth and goodwill towards humankind.
Wishing you all the best this season and always!