ARENAS consortium receives official welcome to Heinrich Heine University

The recent ARENAS General Assembly meeting was held at Haus der Universität, Dusseldorf. The meeting was preceded by an official welcome from Prof. Dr. Ulli Seegers, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Heinrich Heine University (HHU). The faculty, with more than 70 professorships, is the second largest at the University. Almost 9,000 students study in 29 Bachelor’s and 18 Master’s degree programmes.

In her welcome address, Prof. Dr. Seegers outlined the work of the team from Dusseldorf University in the ARENAS project.  The team of Rolf Kailuweit, Ana Yara Postigo Fuentes, Stefan Hartmann and Alexander Ziem – is in charge of leading “Work Package 2”, which aims at the characterisation and detection of extremist narratives.  She expressed her hope that “by understanding how these narratives work, ARENAS will hopefully empower people to resist them. At a time when extremism of all kinds is on the rise, this goal cannot be overemphasised.”

Prof Dr Ulli Seegers

Considering the wider context and impact of the work of ARENAS, Prof. Dr Seegers continued,” The last years, in particular, have been strongly characterised by mistrust of scientific findings, a rise in nationalism in many EU countries and an emotionally charged debate on gender issues. Most recently, physical attacks on politicians who simply wanted to put up their election posters in preparation for the European Parliament elections on 9th June painfully demonstrated how heated the climate has become. To understand the mechanisms and structures of propaganda, populism and demagogy, it is essential to analyse language and its effects. This is precisely your intention, and I can’t tell you how happy I would be if you achieved your goal that would significantly contribute to preventing the further division of society and increasing polarisation. Expose the intellectual arsonists and their perfidious methods! Thankfully, you will also make policy recommendations as to how to prevent such narratives from taking hold in the future.”

Her address concluded by hoping that “your important work will foster a spirit that allows people in Europe to live together in harmony, before wishing the members of the General Assembly good luck with the rest of their conference in Dusseldorf.

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