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Photo: “Demonstration against Morten Kjærum in Vienna“, by Ataraxis1492 licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Hue modified from the original

Wodak, Ruth, and Salomi Boukala. “European identities and the revival of nationalism in the European Union: A discourse historical approach.” Journal of language and politics 14, no. 1 (2015): 87-109.


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.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.