The Symbolic Construction of European Community
Full course description
Most existing studies analysing the historical trajectories of larger groups from a ‘social constructivist’ perspective focus on nation-states. This class transfers the analysis to a European level. It thus examines the role of symbols, political ritual, ceremonies, shared memories and histories in the successful construction of communities in Europe since the 20th century. The collective memory of the two World Wars shapes European identities to this day. Therefore the module examines some of the differences in the national memorialization of the two world wars in Germany, France, Italy and Britain; and how the West European nations after 1945 succeeded in symbolically reconstructing their communities through commemorations, rituals, and memorials. The end of the Cold War in 1989/91 pushed historians and politicians to revise the history of the Second World War in light of a re-unified Europe. Therefore students are asked think about ways in which a European history of the 21st century can account for these recent political changes. The contestations of some of the powerful identity markers defining Europe and the EU will be analysed. Topics such as ‘Fortress Europe’, Europe’s Other, Euroscepticism, ‘Old and New Europe’ are at the core of this multidisciplinary module, which draws on social theory, cultural history, and politics. Methodologically, this module introduces students to interpretative methods of studying politics and the political domain, mainly from the constructivist perspective, which holds that social categories, such as nation, class, and gender are invented rather than a social given. Students in this course will be expected to apply methods from the parallel course ‘Qualitative Content Analysis’.
The objective of this module is to introduce participants to a neglected dimension of European integration – the construction of a European imagined community – and to reflect on categories that are too often used uncritically, such as ‘Europe,’ ‘European identity,’ and ‘European culture.’
In more detail, the four main objectives of the module are:
- Firstly, to provide students with insights into the background of the symbolic construction of Europe by examining the historical, theoretical, and conceptual issues arising within this context, especially the debate regarding the definitions to be given to European identity and culture; and hence to integrate and combine substantive knowledge, theories and methods from diverse fields of European studies.
- Secondly, to convey a thorough knowledge of the concrete strategies conceived by the EU institutions and other actors to promote a European imagined community;
- Using theoretical and practical insights gained in the research seminars, to enable students to critically assess EU action in the symbolic and cultural fields and to conduct research on specific initiatives, demonstrating the ability to identify the relevant sources, actors, and methodological frameworks.
- Finally, to teach students to transfer the knowledge they have learned in this module to other processes, such as the symbolic construction of entities in other world regions or branding strategies in other cultural and economic contexts. Hence, students learn to integrate and apply substantive knowledge, theories and methods to new research puzzles.
There are no formal prerequisites. It is an asset to speak several European languages.
Bottici, Chiara and Challand Benoît (2013). Imagining Europe: Myth, Memory, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Calligaro, Oriane (2013). Negotiating Europe: The EU. Promotion of Europeanness since the 1950s. New York: Palgrave. Cohen, Anthony (2007, 1985). The Symbolic Construction of Community. London: Routledge. Foret, François (2009). “Religion: A Solution or a Problem for the Legitimization of the European Union?,” in: Religion, State and Society, 37 (1/2). Judt, Tony (2005). Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945. London: Penguin. Mosse, George L. (1991). Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars. New York: Oxford University Press. Patel, Kiran Klaus (ed.) (2013). The Cultural Politics of Europe: European Capitals of Culture and European Union since the 1980s. London: Routledge. Shore, Cris (2000). Building Europe: The Cultural Politics of European Integration. London: Routledge. Tilmans, Karin, Jay Winter, Frank van Vree, (2010). Performing the Past: Memory, History, and Identity in Modern Europe. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Winter, Jay (2006). Remembering War: The Great War Between Memory and History in the 20th Century. New Haven: Yale University Press. Sierp, Aline (2014). History, Memory and Transeuropean Identity. Unifying Divisions. London/New York: Routledge