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The GEM-DIAMOND Kick-Off Conference

12 October 2022 | Back to news list

Jump-starting a four-year-long shared intellectual journey

On October the 19th and 20th the GEM-DIAMOND project – a multiannual international research effort on Globalisation, Europe and Multilateralism (GEM) set to assess the EU’s capacity to act given the challenges facing Democratic Institutions, the rise of Alternative MOdels and mounting Normative Dissensus (DIAMOND) – was officially launched.

The whole community gathered at the Institut d’études européennes (IEE) of the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) for a two-day kick-off conference which included managerial, networking, scientific, and orientation sessions involving all of the different components of the community. As a reminder, this 3 993 645.59 EUR MSCA-Joint European Doctorate program is coordinated by Professor Ramona Coman, President of the Institut d’études européennes.

The Kick-Off event was set up with an eye on (i) crystalizing the community's shared agenda rooted in the concept of 'Dissensus, (ii) recalling its' shared heritage anchored in the decades-long experience of the GEM Ph.D. School, and organizing the first of many shared events bringing together different scholars and researchers from across the consortium.

A Shared Agenda

First, the Kick-off conference offers an opportunity to reassert our Shared Agenda for the Coming Four Years. Indeed, despite a global pandemic, colleagues from 10 prestigious universities (UvA, LUISS, UCPH, UBB, Paris1, UoW, UNIGE, UL, WUT, FGV) and 6 leading non-academic institutions (CEPS, IAI, GMF, PATRIR, FIDH, Egmont) have over the past two-years coalesced around a joint effort led by the ULB to put together an interdisciplinary research agenda seeking to shed light on the growing dissensus surrounding liberal democracy and the rule of law within and beyond Europe. While dissensus surrounding liberal democracy has been studied, its implications for the European Union in its internal and external action have remained largely unexplored, both theoretically and empirically. After several rounds of discussions, the 17 partners set out an ambitious research agenda for themselves that seeks to:

  1. Conceptualise the seemingly mounting dissensus surrounding liberal democracy.
  2. Unpack the ambiguous role different actors can play as both champions and challengers of liberal democratic norms, values and practices.
  3. Assess the impact of increased dissensus regarding liberal democracy on the policy instruments of the EU and its capacity to act in its internal and external policies

A Nascent Doctoral Community

The GEM-DIAMOND kick-off conference not only marks the start of a four-year intellectual journey bringing together a diverse community of dedicated academics and experts with different disciplinary backgrounds but also the launch of a very promising nascent research community of 16 doctoral candidates. 

All 16 of these doctoral fellows were identified following a very competitive selection process that saw them emerge from a list of over 250 submitted applications. They truly are the lifeblood of our program and with the support and training provided by the GEM-DIAMONd program, we trust they are sufficiently motivated and equipped to produce cutting-edge research on the state of liberal democracy and the rule of law in the face of mounting dissensus. All parties involved in the program look forward to seeing them progress and collaborate collaborating over the coming years.

A Shared GEM Heritage

The 11 partner universities and 6 non-academic partners associated with GEM-DIAMOND can call on the experience built-up over previous iterations of the GEM Ph.D. School which so far has successfully seen over 50 Double Doctoral Degrees to completion.

The work GEM-DIAMOND has set out for itself in terms of training and research will build on the achievements, findings, and insights of previous efforts of the transnational GEM Ph.D. school which professor Mario Telò launched at the start of the 2000s as a series of so-called GARNET Ph.D. summer schools. From 2010 onwards, these summer schools evolved into the international GEM Ph.D. school that would graduate a set of four Erasmus Mundus-funded generations of Ph.D. fellows. Subsequently, under the stewardship of professor Anne Weyembergh, the MSCA-EJD project called GEM-STONES added a further 14 Double Doctoral Graduates. The IEE as GEM's central coordinator has built up a well-versed team dedicated to developing multiple degree programs at the European and global levels which is now invested in the development of GEM-DIAMOND.

Lastly, GEM-DIAMOND can also clearly rely on the ever-expanding GEM Alumni. As such, the kick-off was also a thrilling opportunity to bring together several members of the Alumni community so as to provide both the project and its 16 GEM-DIAMOND fellows with unique intergenerational networking opportunities. These contacts will feed the research, improve the training and foster future projects. 

A Shared Kick-Off Conference

The inaugural  GEM-DIAMOND also welcomed for the first time both the 16 GEM-DIAMOND Ph.D. fellows and the members of our International Advisory Board. Gathering in person helped strengthen the bonds between the members of the consortium thus providing the necessary framework to underpin the scheduled joint PhDs. Moreover, the inaugural meeting also helped jump-start the collective work on the project's central concept - i.e. dissensus. To this end, dissensus was discussed across different formats, all of which were designed to further both interdisciplinary and intergenerational dialogue.

A shared working understanding of dissensus is to be the conceptual north star for our 16 fellows as they seek to unpack the mounting critique of liberal democracy and the rule of law as well as its implications for the EU. Dissensus can be understood in different ways, yet it is this multifaceted concept that will tie together GEM-DIAMOND’s 16 Ph.D. doctoral dissertations. It is, therefore, necessary to start our research journey by elucidating this concept considering contrasting theoretical reflections.

We trust the kick-off conference will be the first of many fruitful GEM-DIAMOND joint events and that it will usher in a promising four years of stimulating cooperation. As the project advances, its activities are launched and initial findings secured they will all be catalogued and reported on via this Blog we therefore invite you to keep an eye on its development and possibly subscribe to the project’s Newsletter. Additionally, following GEM-DIAMOND will also be possible on the GEM’s various socials.