The Battlegrounds of European Identity: On the Meaning of Identification with Europe

Thursday, July 9, 2015
S14 (13 rue de l'Université)
Christof Van Mol , Centre for Migration and Intercultural Studies, University of Antwerp
Helga de Valk , Vrije Universiteit Brussel
In the context of a steadily progressing European unification, a vast amount of scholarly work has been published on the concept of ‘European identity’ over the last decades. Most research into the identification of European citizens with ‘Europe’ or as a European, however, takes the concept for granted, mainly equating ‘Europe’ with the political entity of the ‘European Union’. Nevertheless, European citizens might not always point to this specific entity when referring to Europe: different conceptualizations might exist. In this paper, we build further on earlier empirical and theoretical work into European identity that advocates considering the concept as plural. We explore the different conceptualizations of Europe among European university students in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Sweden (n = 6,997). The results reveal that whereas it is tentative to equate ‘Europe’ with the ‘European Union’, four different conceptualizations of Europe exist. Therefore, the findings strongly suggest that existing conceptualizations of the concept of European identity, mainly dividing it into a political and a cultural component, should be broadened with an experiential and rights component.