chapter  4
28 Pages

‘Becoming European’ as identity politics: Europe old and new

If one were to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, Poland and the Baltic states’ post-Cold War politics of becoming European is identity politics is memory politics is security politics. These three layers are intrinsically linked: collective memory plays a pivotal role in the constitution of collective identity, the formation and reproduction of collective self and its respective other(s), which in turn shape constructions of security and insecurity and subsequent political action. This chapter presents a concise genealogical analysis of ‘new Europe’

against the backdrop of different conceptualizations of the extent and content of ‘Europe’, analyzing, in particular, who has defined ‘Europe’, ‘Central Europe’ and ‘Eastern Europe’ in the post-Cold War era; what is qualitatively new about ‘new Europe’, and in what ways the old/new bifurcation is a reanimation of the traditional Orientalist East-West distinction. In a certain sense, the chapter highlights the two topical areas of interest in studying the paradoxes of theorizing Europe, as suggested by Michael Herzfeld: new ways of examining the concept of colonialism (Europe as a destination, not merely a source of colonialism); and a closer look at questions of who speaks for whom (Herzfeld 1997: 713; Böröcz 2001: 14; Behr 2007). In essence, then, the question of interest for the purposes of this part of the study is how the meanings of ‘Eastern Europe’ have been made, reproduced and reified in the postCold War European security debates, and how these meanings have shaped, influenced and conditioned ideas and discourses on ‘Europe’ more widely. For, after all, there is no natural, essential ‘European’ identity available for anyone – all ‘European’ identities are constructed, products of power and discourse. Moreover, the whole notion of an ostensibly geographically objective ‘European continent’ is in itself a curious truth-effect of power and geopolitical imagination whose cartographic slipperiness has been engagingly critiqued by Lewis and Wigen (1997).