The Narrative Construction of European Identity. Meanings of Europe in local contexts
This research expands the narrative identity theory and proposes to operationalize it using the narratives of Europe as an experimental tool to investigate the construction of European identity. According to this hypothesis, many narratives and meanings of Europe circulate in the multiple transnational networks developed in the course of Europeanization and globalization.
Sharing narratives contributes to the emergence of a sense of belonging, also in the transnational and multicultural environment which characterizes Europe. Narrative is a ‘dense social act’ (Melucci 1991). It concerns connections and common meanings because it links individual and collective actions, memories and events through agreed understandings and shared meaning constructions produced by individuals, groups, communities, institutions and cultures. Narrative shows the significance that events have for one another, it gives coherence to experiences, ‘pervades’ social relations and can strengthens networks, generating solidarity and social ties.
Narrative can also cause conflicts and social division. Social reality and narratives are related to each other: narrative language reflects the values, interests and conflicts of the social context in which people live and identity develops. Narrative identity is an outcome of human experience of meaningful actions and intentions (Ricoeur 1991). The feeling of belonging to Europe is here analyzed through the narratives of Europe and is embedded in the networks where the stories are found. Narrative is an analytical concept that allows us to avoid the use of categories such as ‘pride’, ‘attachment’ and ‘loyalty’, to circumvent the direct question concerning the sense of belonging to Europe and to distinguish between the meanings attributed to Europe and to the EU, since the use of the two words is ambiguous in everyday conversation.
This approach highlights the normative dimension of the stories and gives a long-term perspective, connecting events and experiences from the past to the present. As collective memories and personal stories are linked and recalled through narratives, they become a part of who we are and how we see and understand the world around us. In line with the bottom-up approach, we assume that the meanings associated with Europe are closely related to the local context, the site where everyday social practices take place. Since narratives give meaning to experience and social action, this study aims to understand the role of shared (local, national, supranational and transnational) narratives in the sense of belonging and boundary construction processes. European identity is investigated through the analysis of narrative networks of social relations.
The empirical research focuses on the meanings, stories and values attributed to Europe and shared in networks of European citizens. The objective is to understand how diverse conceptualizations of Europe have developed, among whom they circulate, which variables influence such imaginations of Europe and whether they can be related to diverse habitus and types of European belonging.
This analysis enables us to verify whether and how local and European identities coexist and communicate with one another and the role played by national and European public spheres in these processes.
The study investigates also the role of the local context and institutions in the conceptualization of Europe and people’s relationship with it, because it assumes that local institutions could generate particular meanings of Europe as well as a bond with the EU. The European vocation of Tuscany and the active involvement of this Italian region in European affairs provides an interesting case study for verifying these hypotheses.
Person in Charge: Laura Leonardi
Tuscany has traditionally been considered a ‘European region’ due to its history, cultural heritage, political orientation, engagement in European issues and cooperation with the EU. Tuscan cities are often the venue of EU-/Europe-related events, and the regional authorities use European funds for developing community-led initiatives, involving local actors and citizens. Europe is studied and discussed by the Tuscan cultural and political institutions. Moreover, in Tuscany, we find different local realities, characterized by diverse socio-economic and cultural developments which have turned them into distinct local societies. In order to investigate different contexts, very different local societies will be selected, considering their economic organization, cultural and political traditions, local history and social composition.
With the aim of analyzing the narratives of Europe circulating among Europeans from different socio economic and cultural backgrounds, different networks will be identified in these local contexts. Here the term ‘network’ is adopted for sample groups of people connected to each other, through links such as through family, work and friendship. With the intention of investigating linked persons with common experiences and values, school and family relationships between teachers, pupils and their parents have been chosen as sample social spaces for analyzing everyday life. School and family environments are also sites of particular interest for exploring the dynamics of socialization, through which pupils acquire knowledge and dispositions that make them aware and effective members of European society.
The rationale guiding the selection of the school groups aims at identifying networks which typify different socio-economic and cultural characteristics: class, economic condition, cultural background, political position, international experience and cross-border relationships. The choice of the schools, which are used as proxies for the type of community they serve, will be made by evaluating their international activity and engagement, educational objectives, as well as the socio-economic development of their location.
The research is expected to contribute to the scientific widening needs that finds considerable added value in re-enacting a topical debate in today’s European society.Research results and knowledge will be exchanged and pursued at public events (e.g. Festival of Europe), in conferences, seminars at home and abroad. Moreover, dissemination of the research will be strengthened through the collaboration with the regional radio station ‘Controradio’. Content and results of research will be turned into radio formats that will be broadcasted on the frequencies of the radio. The radio will ensure a large impact on local civil society and exchange with a large number of people and diversified targets
Two publications analysing, elaborationg and commenting the materials collected during the entire research is expectied. One book and one article will be published on an international peer-reviewed journal and two non-academic articles/policy papers will be published on-line on the project website and on the on-line magazine ‘EUtopia’ (http://eutopiamagazine.eu/en).