European Journal of Social Theory 12 (4):427-447 (2009)

This article argues for a robust notion of collective identity which is not reduced to a psychological conception of identity. In the first part, the debate on the concept of identity raised by several authors is taken up critically with the intention of defending a strong sociological conception of identity which by definition is a collective identity. The basic assumption is that collective identities are narrative constructions which permit the control of the boundaries of a network of actors. This theory is then applied to the case of Europe, showing how identity markers are used to control the boundaries of a common space of communication. These markers are bound to stories which those within such a space of communication share. Stories that hold in their narrative structures social relations provide projects of control. National identities are based on strong and exclusive stories. Europeanization opens this space of boundary constructions and offers opportunities for national as well as sub-national as well as transnational stories competing with each other to shape European identity projects. The EU — this is the hypothesis — provides a case in which different sites offer competing opportunities to continue old stories, to start new stories or to import old stories from other sites, thus creating a narrative network on top of the network of social relations that bind the people in Europe together. European identity is therefore to be conceived as a narrative network embedded in an emerging network of social relations among the people living in Europe.
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DOI 10.1177/1368431009345050
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