Discursive Constructions of the European Identity in Germany during the Euro and Refugee Crises of the EU

Özoflu, Melek Aylin (2023) Discursive Constructions of the European Identity in Germany during the Euro and Refugee Crises of the EU. PhD thesis, Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem, Nemzetközi Kapcsolatok és Politikatudományi Doktori Iskola. DOI https://doi.org/10.14267/phd.2023016

PDF : (dissertation)
PDF : (draft in English)


This research investigates the manifestations of European identity construction by the political and media discourses within the depressing context of the Euro crisis and refugee crisis of the European Union (EU) in a case study country- Germany. It utilizes the main aspirations of the Social Identity Theory (SIT), which asserts that social, economic, and political processes are highly critical in forming an ‘ingroup’. In doing so, it provides a novel approach to the European studies on the nexus between the EU integration and its crises. Although the literature previously engaged in explaining the formation of European identity through the lenses of the SIT, the theoretical novel of this research comes from the fact that it will investigate the way European identity is constructed, instrumentalized, and manifested during the financial and refugee crisis, which is of critical importance for the enrichment of the discipline, since social identity is mediated by the involvement of different social comparative contexts and content. The empirical contribution of the current study accommodates the extension of the empirical body of knowledge in Germany, which has occupied a key, initial, and unique position during both crises in formulating these mechanisms to fight with the crises. This study argues that political and media discourses became a critical tool of disseminating the collective identity construction during the times of crises that posed rigid challenges to political, social, and economic processes of the EU. This is because the crises provided a viable ground for the articulations of the different manifestations of the European identity construction implying ‘what it means to be European’ due to the incremental salience of the European affairs within the public. While the crises have opened up leeway for the member states to become less Euro-centric because of the possible dramatic repercussions, identity construction, focusing on increasing the levels of commitment to ingroup for the sake of the common good of the community, may play an instrumental role in convincing European citizens to bear the dramatic consequences and costs of the crises. Therefore, an inquiry concentrating on answering how the European identity is manifested and instrumentalized in responding to and answering the crises is of critical importance. Based on such premise, this research conducts extensive qualitative frame analysis of political and media discourse at key moments of the crisis. The manifestations of the European identity construction are found to differ between two crises during the course of the analysis, which can be explained by the fact that the imperatives of the crises altered considerably. The detailed qualitative analysis of the media and political discourse covering the euro crisis found that European identity construction is manifested to be shaped in accordance with the needs of the different time frames of the crisis. Accordingly, at the political discourse level, the European identity is operationalized and instrumentalized in line with the political claims and interests of the political elites in the governance and in the opposition. The beginning of the crisis in Greece evoked little political interest and attraction in formulating immediate response since the country often was accused of being as ‘debt sinner’ ‘the guilty other of the European in-group’ and the crisis was externalized and portrayed as ‘home-made’. Yet the aggravation of the crisis necessitated to the formulation of a European-level solution that arose the concerns of political legitimization. At that point, European identity construction was vitally used as a discursive act of instrumentalization and operationalization through consolidating Germany’s commitment to the European community, which is regarded as its historical responsibility, vis a vis its historical otherness to Europe. During the refugee crisis, regardless of the political leaning and stance in respect to the crisis, the European identity construction is manifested as a tool of both internal and external othering to bolster both intra- and inter-group differentiation. It demonstrated that the pro-refugee stance adopted by the media discourses regardless of their political leanings exhibited often external othering vis a vis the in-group of the European community presented as a community of humanitarian responsibility. Therefore, they were highly converging with the pro-refugee mainstream political discourses. In this respect, the divergences between the political and media discourses manifesting the European identity construction in framing the crisis can be traced in accordance with their having whether pro-refugee or anti-refugee stances. As a sum of the findings of the analysis of both crises, the research revealed that different phases of the crises have involved different discursive practices of identity construction, thus, the first hypothesis, ‘change in the identity construction is correlated to be reflected by the social processes within the society’ is proven to be right. Although identity construction encompasses different angles as per each crisis, it has been mainly within the German understanding of the European identity. Therefore, the second hypothesis, ‘The manifestations of the European identity construction appeared differently in framing the different EU crises’ is proven to be wrong.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD thesis)
Supervisor:Kaponyi Erzsébet
Subjects:International relations
ID Code:1270
Deposited On:26 Jan 2023 07:58
Last Modified:01 Jun 2023 08:52

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