Security, Identity and Stereotypes in European Union


OPINION: Prof. Dr. Hüsamettin İNAÇ*
It is evident that a sentiment of insecurity may be experienced, both by the individual and by society as a whole, as a consequence of mundialization, of the opening of economic, social and juridical systems, of the integration of markets and of political national systems and in a more global sense of phenomena like the free circulation of persons, of knowledge and of models. Such a sentiment produces a need to define oneself in order to protect oneself.

In which ways Europe constructs itself and legitimizes its identity and how values Europe also its nations, its national and local cultures that provide it with brains? We can understand the complexity of the identity when we think about it both as a determinant and as a process of identification.

The European Union, when it creates a European citizenship that has a superposition with respect to nationality, puts in another way, under a new dimension, this reality of the personal identity across a collective reality. We can, otherwise, observe in the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the EU, that the European citizenship puts increasingly a more pregnant print on the national identities.

So it is difficult to construct, by using the collective identity, a European space that is really authentic. But is clear that the way of living together of the Europeans results in conceiving and in defining gradually a common hard identity kernel that is rather unique for Europe. That will do until the moment that the adjustments of other concepts like ‘interculturalité’ allows us to think in a more profound way our way our thinking about Europe.

It is the search for Europe that crosses the purely economic and international threshold that can allow us, for example, to understand the right of intellectual propriety on the level of the Union without continuously bumping up against the consubstantial frontiers with the cultures that are deeply anchored in their national identities.

Another example: the free circulation of persons is an example of a specific European model of integration of the nations. It permits the structuring of a common space by changing the frontier and by creating in the same time a statute of integration of the citizens.

The European identity is not as such constructed, but must be considered as a development that enables the Europeans to understand the free circulation as a fundamental right of the citizens.

But in the first place, this should refer to the formulation of questions about the genesis of the awakening of this consciousness, starting with the faraway roots and by following the periods which have marked our history: the oikouméê of the Greeks, the Mare Nostrum and the respublica christiana, the papacy and the Saint-Empire in the Middle-Ages. This growing awareness of the ‘European Man’ will crystalize around different ‘European identities’ (those of humanism and the discoverers of the Renaissance, of the Reformation until the Contra-Reformation, of the Europe of the Enlightenment and its heritors (movements of liberalism, Marxism, socialism)….

Putting forward questions about Europe means also to observe the consequences of the different types of universalism and their political and social consequences, such as the universalism of Europe under the French Revolution, the industrial revolution, the dynamism of the colonial expansions and the missionary exhortations of the Occident. It also means to put forward the following question: which are the collective representations that had an impact in our past and have influenced our present? More than ever, it is now the world in front of Europe that must be observed attentively: in which way have the non-European contributions played a role in the domain of the sciences, the technics and technologies, the arts and the ways of life? Does Europe represent in the mind of the non-European world a political, economic and cultural entity that has to be imitated or rejected?
It is true that that Europe evaporates when one tries to think this unity in a distinct and transparent way that it immediately falls into pieces when one wants to know its unity.

When we want to find its funding origin, we find nothing that is characteristic for its origins. The European identity, like every identity, can only be a constituent in a plural identity. We cherish the illusion that the identity is an indivisible totality while it is always a unitas multiplex’ (Morin, 1987: 26 and 199). What is the specificity of Great Europe? A collective conscience of its peoples or a simple image that can be ascertained by a public opinion poll? This type of studies exists (Europabilder), but they lead us in the direction of the perception of a plurality of vague images that is difficult to connect with the description of the cultural identity of Europe: ‘Is it a common heritage, precious but without a real connection with modern life, or an ideal of the developing culture, a leading image to be used by those who think about developmental problems of Europe…So the unity in diversity is the distinctive mark of our cultural identity as Europeans? It seems primarily that the European identity is part of the phenomenon of opposition’.

We are obliged to return to the image of the Other: for the historian this is very important, both on the epistemological level and on the level of the praxis. History, a science that is founded on the human testimony, harks back to the images of the Other which are the key-stones of our knowledge of the past. It is in front of the identity that one finds the alternative as the mirror of the identity or as the identity of the Other. Even against the Other and vice-versa while disturbing the frontiers.

The duel and the dialogue identity/the Other is situated in this perspective of movement, even when each of these situations is moving within its own space.

On the other hand, the stereotypes reflect a crude network of mental representations of the world. They are like every categorization instruments to reduce its complexity. So the stereotype appears as an element of the structure of the representations.

The stereotype is connected with the length of time and offers a strong resistance against change because it not depending on experiences. The stereotype as an ‘expression of the collective personality’ is transmitted to the individual by his social environment ‘by means of the education, by the mass media and by the personal experiences of the individual’.(article CVG).

The creation of stereotypes reflects a process that every human being on its way to become an individual is forced to accomplish. The process of individualization and separation supposes particularity that the child interiorizes increasingly more complex images that are transmitted by the group. It is necessary to insist this social aspect of the stereotype and remember its functions to maintain the cohesion of the group:

•On the ‘communicative’ level, the stereotype favors the communication in the group by economizing on useless repetitions of already assimilated things which the group has accepted. The intellectual assimilation effort that the receiver must make is reduced thanks to the automatized process of the implicit reflection.

•On the ‘psycho-sociological’ level, the stereotype organizes the identification/inclusion of the individual in a community, a collectivity of common values by producing the Other as someone who is different and is as such excluded. The Other is perceived at the same time as someone who is excluded from the group and as a person that can menace its integration.

The stereotype sends back in this way to radicalized oppositions, stimulating in the first place those persons who are sensible for it not to go further than superficial judgments about an individual on the base of his or her categorical ‘membership’ (ethnic, ‘racial’, religious, nationality, class).

As a result, in opposition to the prejudice that refers to an attitude, a tendency to evaluate something in a favorable or unfavorable way, the stereotype only includes the beliefs and the opinions concerning the attributes which are transmitted by a group and its members.

*Head of Political Science and International Relations; Dean of Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Dumlupinar University /