2023 Conference Keynotes

29th International Conference of Europeanists


Location: Háskólabíó (The University Cinema (HB)). View the campus map of the University of Iceland here.

Tuesday, June 27 | 6:00-7:30 PM | Háskólabíó (The University Cinema (HB))

“In Europe, Where You Stand Depends on Where You Sit. Presidents and Academics, Nationalism and Objectivity”

Speaker: Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, President of Iceland

Chair: Sigrún Ólafsdóttir, University of Iceland

The President of Iceland will provide a personal account of the opportunities and challenges of being a historian who becomes head of state. As academics and researchers, we strive for objectivity and detachment from the perceived interests of government and state. However, national representatives cannot enjoy that luxury or freedom. Is it possible to combine the two? And what about independence and interdependence in a globalized world? Can we be proud patriots and global citizens at the same time? And in the speaker’s particular case: Can one uphold the ideals of academic freedom and objectivity on the one hand, and the need for national unity, a spirit of optimism and defence of the interests of the state on the other hand? 


President Jóhannesson (Speaker) was born in Reykjavik and graduated from Warwick University as a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science in 1991. In 1997 he graduated with an M.A. degree in History from the University of Iceland. He then continued his studies of history at Oxford University, graduating with an M.St. degree in 1999 and completing his Ph.D. in History from Queen Mary University of London in 2003.

President Jóhannesson is married to Eliza Jean Reid, whom he met while they were both studying at Oxford University. Canadian by birth, Eliza studied modern history at Oxford University and international relations at Trinity College, University of Toronto. Guðni and Eliza have been living in Iceland since 2003. They have four children. Jóhannesson also has a child from a previous marriage.

Before taking office as President in 2016, Jóhannesson was Professor of History at the University of Iceland. He had previously taught at the University of Iceland, Reykjavik University, Bifröst University and at the University of London. As an academic, his focus of research has been on the formation of Iceland´s foreign relations, constitutional matters, and contemporary history. His publications include numerous scholarly articles on topics such as the Anglo-Icelandic Cod Wars, Iceland´s support for Baltic independence, and the 2008 economic crisis in Iceland. In addition, he has written several books on modern Icelandic history, including a book on the Icelandic presidency which was published shortly after he took office himself in 2016. He has received a variety of recognitions for his works, and in 2017 he was awarded an honorary degree by Queen Mary University.

President Jóhannesson is an active sport enthusiast and an advocate for public health. He is patron to the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland and the Icelandic Youth Association, among others.


Sigrún Ólafsdóttir (Chair) is Professor of Sociology at the University of Iceland. Her research is at the intersection of medical, political and cultural sociology. She studies how institutional arrangements, cultural traditions and historical trajectories impact individual lives, often but not exclusively with a focus on health-related outcomes, behaviors and attitudes. She is the Icelandic team leader for several international surveys, including the European Social Survey (ESS), European Values Survey (EVS) and the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP). She is currently the co-editor in chief of Acta Sociologica. 


Wednesday, June 28 | 6:00-7:45 PM | Háskólabíó (The University Cinema (HB))

Ukraine’s Past, Present, and Future: Utopias and Dystopias”

Co-sponsored by CES and the Ukraine Project at the University of Iceland

Speakers: Milada Vachudova, Jón Ólafsson, Maryna Shevtsova, and Maryna Rabinovych

Moderator: Urður Gunnarsdóttir

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 marked the resurgence of east-west tensions after several decades of relative stability in Europe. The return of armed inter-state conflict to Europe represents a major challenge to the European security order, and it creates obstacles to the European Union’s Neighbourhood and Enlargement policies. The Russian invasion has also disrupted the global economy, caused a spike in energy costs, and created a refugee crisis. This keynote roundtable takes stock of recent developments, discussing their implications for the promotion of democracy in wartime, the humanitarian dimension of the conflict, the future of east-west relations, and the prospects of EU enlargement in the shadow of Russian aggression.


 Milada Anna Vachudova (Speaker) is Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her current projects include protest in defense of liberal democracy across Europe, the revival of EU enlargement as a foreign policy tool, and Ukraine’s path to EU membership amidst the transformation of European politics and institutions owing to Russia’s war against Ukraine. Her recent articles explore the trajectories of European states amidst strengthening ethnopopulism and democratic backsliding – and how these changes are impacting party systems and civic participation. She holds a B.A. from Stanford University. As a British Marshall Scholar, she completed an M.Phil. and a D.Phil. at St. Antony’s College at the University of Oxford. She has held fellowships and grants from the European University Institute (EUI), the Center for European Studies at Harvard University, the National Science Foundation, the US State Department and other institutions. 


Jón Ólafsson (Speaker) is professor of Cultural Studies and Russian at the University of Iceland. His research interests combine cultural theory and political philosophy, and his most recent papers deal with political culture, including dissent and protest action; epistemic democracy, democratic engagement, and political agency. He now leads a research project on Democratic Constitutional Design (2019-2023). Jón has for many years had a secondary interest in Soviet history and contemporary Russian politics and has published on the engagement of Icelandic Communists in Comintern and with the CPSU. He is a frequent commentator on Russian affairs on Icelandic media. 


Maryna Shevtsova (Speaker) is an EUTOPIA Postdoctoral fellow at the Faculty of Arts, the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. She is also a Senior FWO Fellow with KU Leuven, Belgium and was previously a Swedish Institute Postdoctoral Fellow at the Gender Studies Department at the University of Lund and a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Florida, USA. Her most recent publications include the book LGBTI Politics and Value Change in Ukraine and Turkey: Exporting Europe? (Routledge 2021) and edited volumes LGBTQ+ Activism in Central and Eastern Europe. Resistance, Representation, and Identity (with Radzhana Buyantueva, Palgrave Macmillan 2019) and LGBTI Asylum Seekers and Refugees from a Legal and Political Perspective: Persecution, Asylum, and Integration (with Arzu Guler and Deniz Venturi, Springer, 2019). She is also a winner of the 2022´s Emma Goldman award for her engagement in feminist research and human rights activism. She currently works on an edited volume Feminist perspectives on Russia’s war in Ukraine to be published later this year with Lexington Books.


Maryna Rabinovych (Speaker) is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Department of Political Science and Management, University of Agder, Norway. She also cooperates with two leading Ukrainian universities, the Kyiv School of Economics and the National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”. Maryna’s research interests include EU external relations and their legal regulation, non-trade objectives in the EU trade policy, EU enlargement and neighbourhood policies, as well as the ongoing politico-legal developments in Ukraine, including the resilience of local communities in the war context. Maryna has published, inter alia, in the Journal of European Public Policy, Journal of Common Market Studies, East European Politics, Brill Open Law and Hague Journal on the Rule of Law. She holds a PhD (magna cum laude) in Legal Studies from the University of Hamburg, an LL.M “European and European Legal Studies” from the University of Hamburg and Eropa-Kolleg Hamburg.


Urður Gunnarsdottir (Moderator) has a background in journalism and has worked in intergovernmental organizations and diplomacy. She holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the University of Iceland. During her work with the OSCE, she was Spokesperson during the post-conflict period in the Balkans, for the Missions in Kosovo 1999-2000 and Bosnia and Herzegovina 2001-2003. She was Spokesperson for the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, OSCE/ODIHR 2003-2008 and Senior political adviser to the Director of OSCE/ODIHR 2018-2020. Between 2008 and 2018 she was responsible for press communication for the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs. For a large part of her career, she has focused on issues related to the human dimension of security; human rights, democracy and democratic elections; mainly in the Balkans, Eastern-Europe, Caucasus and Central-Asia.