chapter  7
6 Pages

Conclusion: how we become what we are

The central aim of this study has been to probe the implications and ramifications of the Polish and Baltic historically liminal position in Europe for their current self-positioning in the field of Euro-Atlantic foreign and security policy. The analysis of the borderline condition of their ‘liminal Europeanness’ was set in the context of a broader theoretical discussion of a dialogical subject as, in itself, a borderland between ‘self’ and ‘other’. The borderland metaphor has proven to be all the more relevant against the disciplinary backdrop of the study of international relations, since the field of international relations is often regarded as itself a borderland between scholarly and ordinary knowledge, or in Bourdieuan terms, a space for ‘journalistic academia’ par excellence (Bourdieu 1988: 3-4). Moreover, Europe as a whole could be – and indeed has been – considered to be a borderland per se rather than an entity that has borders. It has been seen as a ‘superposition of borderlines’, or of heterogeneous relations to other histories and cultures of the world which are reproduced within its own (Balibar 2002). The borderland as locus and the borderline condition as topos encap-

sulate what is going on between the two poles connected by this inbetween space, or within a liminal entity. Hence the notion of dialogue comes forth, or, as Umberto Eco has put it, the practice of translation emerges as the only genuine ‘idiom of Europe’ (Eco 1995: 350-51). Dialogue as the key heuristic device of this study is, by its very nature, also an in-between phenomenon as it does not ‘belong’ to either (or any) of the parties participating in it, but instead is the medium of understanding between them. In this study, dialogue has been the key heuristic vehicle in working

through the problematics of the post-Cold War genealogy of Polish and Baltic security imaginaries. The Politics of Becoming European puts forward an argument for a dialogical understanding of Western and Eastern European identity constructions, contending that a Bakhtinian

model of dialogue holds considerable promise for analyzing the particular post-colonial security predicament of Poland and the Baltic states. As they are situated in the interstices between Western Europe and Russia, Poland and the Baltic Three have historically constituted a focal point of overlapping dialogues between various European selves and others (cf. Gardiner and Mayerfeld Bell 1998: 5). As has been shown above, Eastern Europe has historically, as well as in the more immediate post-Cold War context, functioned as a means for delineating ‘European’ identities by offering a counterpoint to the largely West European-dominated ‘European self’ as a sort of surrogate, or underground, version of it (cf. Said 2003: 3). In a similar way to the European debates about Russia, then, the Western construction of Eastern Europe has essentially been a European heterologue about Eastern Europe, rather than a dialogue with it (Nandy 1987: 12-15; Neumann 1996b: 206). It is important to keep in mind, against this backdrop, that dialogue

has served here first and foremost as a heuristic device for capturing the relational nature of a collective subject, rather than a method for reconciling different understandings towards a binding philosophical or political consensus, or a normative ideal. Nevertheless, it has persistently been acknowledged that open discussions with others, based on equality and active reciprocity of the dialogue partners, might reveal and teach a self something essential about its own self, thus offering a potential source for critical self-reflection (Lebow 2003: 358-59; Inayatullah and Blaney 2004: 124). To speak, after all, means to speak to someone (Gadamer 1997b: 65). Moreover, at least potentially, every dialogue launches something different from the previous predicament (Gadamer 1997a: 58). This book has therefore tried to be particularly attentive to the response of a set of traditional European liminal characters – the Poles and the Balts – to the construction of their identity, security and relative position in the Euro-Atlantic community in the post-Cold War era, in the belief that discovering and analyzing the foreign and different among and within ‘us’ (that is, ‘Europe’ as largely defined by Western European actors) might actually teach a particular ‘we’ something essential about its own self. The core reasons for developing a dialogical understanding of collec-

tive identity formation were developed against the backdrop of the general failure of constructivist international relations theory to engage the response of the ‘other’ to the construction of its identity. In order to overcome the monological ossification of the constructivist self, the concept of liminality was put forward as instrumental for a more nuanced understanding of the self-other relationship, enabling

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differentiation to be made between shades of otherness in the scale between difference and outright threat to self’s identity, as well as locating the space for negotiations between the self and other. Understanding the self-other relationship as a binary opposition is but a scholarly self-deception that seeks false comfort in the certitude of clearcut analytical constructs. A relational approach to international relations in general, and the triadic structure of collective identity as advanced in this study in particular, seriously shake this static binary conceptualization of the identity-alterity nexus. The empirical part of this book has tried to put some flesh on the

bones of these theoretical contentions. The official, and occasionally the quasi-official, foreign and security political discourse(s) of Poland and the Baltic Three as the four paradigmatic borderlands, or liminal characters, of Europe are critically analyzed. Sketching a preliminary genealogy of post-Cold War Polish and Baltic security imaginaries, this study attempts to delegitimize the traditionally Western European-dominated construction of the meaning of ‘Europe’ by trying to historicize the social and cultural practices that have disguised the significance of Eastern Europe for the creation of Western European self-image(s), and thus marginalized and orientalized Eastern European ‘input’ to the common European project. A critical examination of Polish and Baltic post-Cold War security imaginaries has also permitted the concomitant exploration of yet another instance of the solidification of the Western European power regime in its conceptualizing of the notion of Europe and its foreign and security policy. Semiotician Yuri Lotman used to divide scholars into two categories:

‘openers’ and ‘closers’. While the former launch fresh ideas and approaches and carve out new avenues of thought, they do not always fully use up all the possibilities they have created. The latter focus their energies on the construction of perfect and fully finalized thought-systems (M. Lotman 2007: 141). Against the backdrop of this taxonomy, this book would probably end up being placed in the category of the openers: it has not as much elaborated an exhaustive post-Cold War genealogy of Polish and Baltic security imaginaries as it has attempted to open up a space for critical thinking about a string of key issues in the encounters between these imaginaries and the West, broadly conceived. This study aims to unearth the subaltern forms of security-speak from

Poland and the Baltic states with the anti-systematic and anti-totalizing analytical tools of Foucaultian genealogy and Bakhtinian dialogue (cf. Gardiner 1992: 154-58). Yet, as the study has tried to show, the historically Western-led subjectification of Eastern Europe cannot be

Conclusion: how we become what we are 151

equalled to the latter’s utter subjugation: the instances of resistance to the existing (symbolic) power system within the common European polity via the articulation of ‘counter-epistemes’ are on the rise in the Polish and Baltic post-EU accession foreign and security discourses and policies. In that regard, Bakhtin’s dialogue, and his notion of carnival in particular, emerge as ‘a more considered, plausible, and certainly more optimistic response’ to the issue of possible resistance (Gardiner 1992: 164-65). The implication of this, as has also been shared in this book, is simply that Bakhtin’s understanding of the subject is decentred and unfinalized, and his self, therefore, is in a perpetual state of becoming (Gardiner 1992: 165). At least for themselves, Poland and the Baltics’ process of becoming

European has essentially been, in the Nietzschean vein, their becoming of what they are, or what they have considered themselves to be in the first place, albeit carried along by the undercurrent of seeking the old Europeans’ recognition of their Europeanness in order to complete this identification. For the Poles and the Balts, Europe has historically signified both a measure of their maturity and cultural-civilizational self-fulfilment, as well as constituting a source of their concurrent inferiority complex. This dual sense of Europe has, in turn, conditioned their curious amalgam of ritual genuflections and bitterness towards Western Europe: their combination of persistent recognition-seeking and more recent emancipation attempts from the gaze of the old European core (cf. Kristeva 1991: 6). The Polish and Baltic understanding of themselves as Europeans historically has had to prove itself against the old Europeans’ divergent perspective in that regard. Their politics of becoming European has therefore essentially been conditioned by the misalignment between their particular forms of self-regard and that which the ‘Europeans proper’ hold for them. For most of the post-Cold War European institutions’ enlargement processes to the east, Eastern Europe has been constructed rather as a problem to be solved or a security emergency to be confined, than as a dialogue partner to be listened to, without duly acknowledging the region’s significance as a mental and practical counterfoil for Western Europe’s own identity constructions. If such a view is substantiated, the Polish and Baltic politics of

becoming European is a vivid example of states’ self-subjectification in the international scene as a process of acquiring the ‘outer face’ that could be presented to the community proper. Persona is, after all, the Latin word for mask, designed to convey to the others a particular image of the self – an image that is, in itself, already a combination of one’s own self-perspective and the self-appropriation of the regard of others

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(Lebow 2003: 331-32). As we learned from the analysis above, the process of becoming what one already regards oneself to be is ridden with difficulties. The Polish and Baltic politics of becoming European has also essentially meant their expropriation of Europeanness as defined by the old European core, by forcing it to submit to their own intentions and emphases (cf. Bakhtin 1994: 77). If it is not too much of a stretch, we could enlarge Michel de Certeau’s

metaphor of the immigrant to the whole of post-Cold War Eastern European process of becoming European, for although

[s]o different from ourselves, the immigrant is also the figure who already resembles us, whose destiny anticipates our own. He or she is the exemplary figure imposed by modernity, with the abandonment of our familiar points of reference, the adaptation to other codes, the acquisition of new ways of thinking and acting. The immigrant has already faced this test of imposed change, of obligatory displacement, and has faced it successfully, since immigrants are among us, the recognizable bearers of their original identity, of their difference.