chapter  2
21 Pages

Dialogical understanding of collective identity formation

In order to trace the constitutive moments in a society’s prevailing understanding of its security predicament, or to detect the shifting contours of its security imaginary, it is necessary to fathom how a society’s dominant self-understanding comes about in the first place. As self-image is always related to the images of the world, security and identity are mutually constitutive (Castoriadis 1987: 149). While identity defines what is vital for establishing the self, security refers to the state in which the essentials of the self are perceived to be safe. Hence, security and insecurity are the co-effects of processes of identity construction in which self and other, or multiple others, are constituted (Weldes et al. 1999: 10). For this reason, the construction of security and insecurity by a collectivity cannot be understood without a reference to identity, since the very concept determines who is being secured against whom. The question of interest for the purposes of this study is thus not ‘what is dangerous?’ but rather, ‘what does a representation of danger make of “us” and of those who are not “us”’ (cf. Dillon 1996: 35). This chapter lays the theoretical groundwork for exploring the inter-

action between post-Cold War Western and East European security imaginaries. The first step is to engage critique of how self-other interaction has been analyzed in constructivist and poststructuralist IR theory to date. Examining the shortcomings in the existing literature, and in particular focusing on the ‘dialogue of the deaf’ between self and other, the chapter turns to literary theory to overcome the poverty of constructivist and poststructuralist understandings of collective identity formation. Analyzing Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of dialogism and its applicability to IR, this chapter argues as to why a dialogical approach is essential, both epistemologically and ethically, for a fuller understanding of collective identity formation in international politics. In the closing pages of the chapter, the argument is contextualized in

a more general debate on the advantages and pitfalls of the relational theorizing of international politics.