Research project by Ian Manners: Symbols and Myths in European Integration – Københavns Universitet

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Symbols and Myths in European Integration 

The azure European Flag with 12 golden stars is a well-known symbol for ‘European unity’, as many will recognize myths and stories about how the European Union (EU) is a guarantor of peace and prosperity in Europe. The project studies a number of often more unsuccessful, but significant symbols and myths about the EU. The project provides the first international and systematic study of symbols and myths about ‘economic Europe’ ‘social Europe’, ‘green Europe’, and ‘global Europe’. It raises the questions: how well disseminated and understood are symbols and myths about the EU? how does the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers promote and perceive EU symbols and myths? How do governmental and non-governmental organisations use symbols and myths about the EU? How do politicians and officials see symbols and myths about the EU? How are symbols and myths used in EU diplomacy? What is the role of symbols, myths and ritual practices in the development of European identity promotion strategies in the context of the Eurozone crisis? And finally, how is European integration influenced by the spread and use of symbols and myths about the EU? These questions are explored, and the results are compared within the four areas: ‘economic Europe’ ‘social Europe’, ‘green Europe’, and ‘global Europe’.

Project Description

The study of symbols and myths in European integration is crucial to our understanding of both how the European Union (EU) becomes constituted as a political reality and how the integration process itself occurs. By drawing on the study of symbols and myths from political science, humanities and cultural studies to the analysis of European integration, this project will provide a better understanding of how symbolic and substantial processes interact in European society. The project asks what roles do symbols and myths play in the processes of European integration?

The most basic innovation of the project is to bring the study of myths and symbols to the fore in European integration research. European integration research has traditionally been dominated by the study of how rational political-economic choices of national and supranational political elites feed into EU institution building. While by no means disregarding this research, the research project aims to advance European integration research by investigating how both symbolic and mythical constructions in European societies feed into European integration. This is a badly neglected area of research. Yet, almost certainly, collective European symbols and myths are fundamental to our understanding of issues such as European social solidarity, citizens feling of belonging to the EU, political advocacy for and resistance to European integration, and concrete political actions (Manners 2010, 2011; Sala 2010).

The Four Subprojects

The project is divided into four subprojects:

1) EU Institutionalisation of Symbols and Myths
Professor Ian Manners

This subproject examines the formal institutionalisation of symbols and myths by EU institutions such as the Commission, Parliament and Council. It asks the question: What roles does the EU institutionalisation of symbols and myths play in the processes of European integration?

2) The Pan-EU Interpretation of Symbols and Myths
Associate Professor Kennet Lynggaard

This subproject examines the interpretation and use of symbols and myths by pan-EU non-state actors and organisations play in the processes of European integration. It asks the question: What roles do the interpretation and use of symbols and myths by pan-EU non-state actors and organisations play in the processes of European integration?

3) The Diplomacy of Transitioning: Symbols and Myths in EU Diplomacy
PhD student Christine Søby

This subproject focuses on the EU’s management of the changing global economy in international negotiations on sustainable development (SD) from 1992 to 2016. It asks the question: What roles do symbols and myths play in the EU’s management of the changing global economy?

4) European Identity Construction in the Eurozone Crisis: between Strategy and Narrative
PhD student Marina Lambert

This subproject engages in a comprehensive investigation of European identity construction in the context of the Eurozone crisis. It explores the role of symbols, myths and ritual practices in the development of European identity promotion strategies in the context of the Eurozone crisis.