In This Review

School of Europeanness: Tolerance and Other Lessons in Political Liberalism in Latvia
School of Europeanness: Tolerance and Other Lessons in Political Liberalism in Latvia
By Dace Dzenovska
Cornell University Press, 2018, 276 pp
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What does it take to become European? For the countries of eastern Europe, joining the EU was just the beginning. What followed was a process of remaking people and institutions in the name of political liberalism. Dzenovska studied this painstaking effort in Latvia, which joined the EU in 2004. Her book is an anthropological analysis of government programs designed to promote tolerance and to help the “not-yet-European” Latvians break free of the toxic effects of two dogmatic systems of thought: Soviet communism and nationalism. She tells fascinating stories of her encounters with “tolerance workers” and their “students,” as well as government officials, border guards and asylum seekers, and reveals how the reeducation effort overlooked the essential contradiction of promoting inclusion in a country that had recently liberated itself from the Soviet Union and embarked on an ethnonationalist nation-building project. Limits to inclusion are central to Dzenovska’s analysis of contemporary Europeans polities that are built on values of openness yet are forced to keep their borders securely guarded. Dzenovska’s critique is worth bearing in mind as increased migration has led to a rise in right-wing nativism in Europe and the United States, further undermining Western liberalism’s claim to moral and political superiority.