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The European Identity crisis: Territoriality and the Self/Other Dichotomy

A comparison of EU and Italian populist discursive practices

Rechten: Alle rechten voorbehouden

The European Identity crisis: Territoriality and the Self/Other Dichotomy

A comparison of EU and Italian populist discursive practices

Rechten: Alle rechten voorbehouden

Samenvatting

Post-structuralist theory has frequently been discarded because of its theoretical character, extremely
pluralist approach and lack of problem-solving attitude (Edkins, 1999 ; Campbell, 2013 ; Harcourt,
2007). Indeed, the main claim of post-structuralism is that reality is a socially-constructed artefact
which is shaped by discursive practices. That is how the powerful, which are themselves elusive and
multiple, naturalise certain dichotomic orders and values through which reality is discerned. As a result,
the relationship between the Self and the Other is vital for the affirmation of any identity. Starting from
such premise, this paper attempted to answer the question: “How can the post-structuralist theory of
the Self/Other dichotomy explain the European Union’s current identity crisis?”.
In order to provide a comprehensive answer, this paper first clarified how European Identity came to
be conceived the way it is. This was done through critical discourse analysis and Foucault’s genealogical
method. As a result, this dissertation found out that the discursive construction of European identity is
based on three main themes which have been iterated over the years: Christian roots, the Illuminist
value of rationality and the idea of a free market. Moreover, the EU has been carrying out othering
practices to affirm its identity by targeting the Balkans and its own past at first and, most recently,
Turkey and the “new Islamic reality” (Andre, 2015, p.188).
Subsequently, the focus was brought on the definition and causes of the identity crisis the EU seems
to be currently experiencing. It was found that six factors play a major role in this regard: the lack of a
compelling common culture among Member States, the hybrid nature of the EU which determines its
incapacity to act in certain crucial policy areas, the enlargement project, migrant flows, the sovereign
debt crisis and, most importantly, citizens’ retreat to nationalism and populism. Especially the latter
proved to be an engaging development as populist parties are currently on the rise and opposing the
EU in what seems to be a ‘virtuous EU/extremist populism’ dichotomy.
For such purpose, a case study on two Italian populist parties was created, namely Lega Nord and
MoVimento 5 Stelle. It was found that both parties seem to use discourse to achieve territoriality
through active citizenship. The same strive was retrieved in European elites’ discourse, especially in
relation to the project of enlargement. As a result, the EU’s set of values and strategies proved to be
comparable to its populist opponents. Indeed, though the EU and populists can be placed at two
extremes of a dichotomic order, they are each other’s fundamental components and neither can be
rightfully attributed greater value without compelling discursive efforts to substantiate such choice.

Toon meer
OrganisatieDe Haagse Hogeschool
OpleidingMO Europese Studies / European Studies
AfdelingFaculteit Management & Organisatie
Jaar2017
TypeBachelor
TaalEngels

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