European Identity in Times of Crisis

European University Institute, Florence in collaboration with the University of Florence
11-12 June 2012

- Martin Kohli (EUI)
- Laura Leonardi (UniFi)
- Gemma Scalise (UniFi)
- Jeroen Moes (EUI)

Europe today appears to stumble from one ‘crisis’ to the next. The Euro crisis has no doubt caught everyone’s attention, with daily news headlines reporting on the next big summit to save the common currency, another adjusted credit rating, or some ‘scandalous’ Greek or Hungarian government expenditure. In the wake of that crisis, some openly discuss the possibility that the European Union itself may in fact be in jeopardy and that the period of European integration may slowly reach a standstill, with the fall of the Euro paving the way.

At the same time, Europe is also (still) in a ‘crisis’ of xenophobic movements and political parties in many countries. From the ‘Party for Freedom’ in the Netherlands, to the ‘True Fins’ and the ‘Austrian Freedom Party’, most of these movements are vehemently Eurosceptic. Of course, the Euro crisis adds fuel to the fire of these political movements, who previously had to ‘make do’ with the global financial crisis, globalisation, immigration, and the more general fear of losing one’s own culture and identity to ‘Europe’.

On top of this, the world beyond Europe appears to be in a state of flux to an extent that we have not seen for quite some time. The ‘Arab Spring’, Occupy movements across the Western world, the continued rise of China as a world player, and Iran’s increased self-confidence all speak for themselves, and many have raised the question how all of this may relate to the above-mentioned ‘European Fall’.

Since the start of the project of European integration, a European collective identity has been fostered with some success. It is true that only a small percentage of people in Europe will say that they feel first and foremost ‘European’. The nation-state still rules supreme in this regard. Still, the social, political, cultural, and geographical perceptions that Europeans have of each other have radically changed in the last decades. Ever since the Eurobarometer included identification with Europe in their survey, people have broadly speaking increasingly said that they feel European in addition to their nationality. National borders, though still very relevant to many people’s collective identities, have become largely irrelevant within the territory covered by the Schengen Treaty as obstacles to mobility for the large majority of Europe’s population (but not necessarily to those on the ‘outside’). Armed conflict between (most) European nations has become unimaginable. For all of these radical political and consequently social changes, the present-day EU has been the single most important institutional structure. The Euro currency can in many ways be seen as another major step in this process of the ‘Europeanization of Europe’, also in the minds of ‘ordinary people’.

Finally, though it is quite likely that specific strata of European societies have thought of themselves as ‘Europeans’ for a long period well before EU, this organization appears to have been very successful in tying those identifications to itself in a variation of the traditional notion of a ‘civic’ identity instead of the rather vague ‘cultural’ notion of ‘Europe’ that arguably preceded it. If this is true, then what happens to that European identity now that the institutional shell of European integration appears to be faltering, at least for the time being?

Workshop outline
The workshop has a sociological focus (but is open to other disciplines), and will be organized over the course of 1.5 day. The format will be to have presentations from invited speakers, professors and (PhD) researchers from the EUI and the University of Florence, and from other external academics. These presentations will be relatively brief, because they will be based on papers that were circulated in advance. The workshop will end with a roundtable of invited speakers, and professors and researchers from the EUI and the University of Florence.

During and after the workshop, an active effort will be made to compile a proposal for an edited book based broadly on the workshop topic. Some of the papers submitted for the workshop will be included as chapters (in edited form).

Suggested paper/presentation topics:

  • European identity in times of crisis
    • The Euro crisis and its relation to European identity
    • The ‘new right’, Europe, and identity/ies
  • The geographic dimension of European identity
    • European identity and its meanings across geographic space
    • European identity (as seen) from the outside
    • Migration, citizenship, and European identity
  • European society/ies?
    • European identity and social class
    • Migration and mobility in European identity
    • A European public sphere?
  • European identity and/in political attitudes and behaviour
    • Euroscepticism and/or European identity?
    • European identity in political cleavages and party politics
  • Capturing European identity: conceptual and methodological considerations

Submission procedure
Abstracts (up to 500 words), along with a brief bio, should be sent by 19 March to [email protected] and [email protected]. Subsequently, selected full papers have to be submitted by 15 May at the latest.

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