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European identities and the revival of nationalism in the European Union: a discourse-historical approach

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Language and Politics
Issue number1
Number of pages23
Pages (from-to)87-109
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


To date, the concept of ‘European identity’ remains quite vague and obscure. Who is European and who is not? What values do Europeans share, and who is included in or excluded from the European community? This paper deals with the renegotiation of European identity/ies and the simultaneous increase of discourses about national security and nationalism in Europe, especially during the financial crisis since 2008. We first discuss a range of theoretical approaches to European identity from an interdisciplinary perspective. In a second step, after summarising the Discourse-Historical Approach (DHA) to Critical Discourse Studies (CDS) and especially the concept of topos, we illustrate the link between discursive constructions of European identities and cultural ‘Others’ via some recent examples of European and national debates on migration and economic issues. More specifically, we first analyse a speech by Geert Wilders on immigration and multiculturalism after the clashes in Tunisia in 2011 and the subsequent arrival of many refugees in Italy; secondly, we focus on a speech about British relations to the European Union in the 21st century by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron. It becomes apparent that debates about European identities – especially since the financial crisis of 2008 – have increasingly been accompanied by debates about both more traditional racialised cultural concerns and more recently, about economic security, leading to new distinctions between ‘Us’, the ‘real Europeans’, and ‘Them’, the ‘Others’. In this way, the socio-political unification of Europe is challenged – once again.