13 March 2015

St Mary’s University College hosted the first follow-up meeting of the BE SMaRT project in Belfast from 3rd to 6th March 2015. BE SMaRT stands for “Border Education: Space, Memory and Reflections on Transculturality” and is an international project funded by the European Union (EU) Erasmus + Strategic Partnerships Framework.

BE SMaRT runs over three years (2014–2017) undergoing regular EU scrutiny procedures throughout its lifetime. The project’s website is currently under construction and will go online in the near future. St Mary’s University College staff members, Dr Tracey McKay (BEd) and Dr Angela Vaupel (BA Liberal Arts), are collaborating on the project with fifteen academics from the following countries: Germany (PH Freiburg), France (University of Lyon), Sweden (Mälardelen University), Slovenia (University of Ljubljana), Estonia (University of Tartu) and the European Academy Otzenhausen (Germany).

BE SMaRT aims to increase the awareness of borders as a multifaceted construct with physical, social, linguistic, ethnic, religious, age and gender implications. In this context, BE SMaRT’s novel approach consists of the inclusion of aspects of memory studies, e.g., the inclusion of life stories and representations within national film and literature, to the subject of border education. The project explores and promotes the idea that borders need to be studied not only from a top-down perspective but also from the bottom up with a focus on the individual border narratives and spatial experiences that reflect the ways in which borders impact on notions of otherness and the daily life practices of people living in and around the “borderlands”. BE SMaRT’s initial research phase will target mainly students of Initial Teacher Education (ITE)—Europe’s teachers of tomorrow—and one of the envisaged key outputs (in addition to peer reviewed research publications) will be a masters module on border/memory education for inclusion in existing ITE frameworks. BE SMaRT is thus about opportunities for young EU citizens to experience meaningful dialogue about “othering” and to see mutual understanding as a basis on which to shape and build a more socially just, inclusive and successfully functioning European society.

The project’s first follow-up meeting at St Mary’s was a success. The project’s two working days have been productive, not least due to the generous contributions of the St Mary’s support staff (secretarial, security, catering, and IT). Visiting international BE SMaRT partners and local author Tony Macaulay, who read to us from his memoirs of growing up in the Shankill Road during the Troubles, were most impressed by the efficiency, warmth and friendliness of everyone they met at St Mary’s.

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