22 SES 11 C, Paper Session
The European Union is shaking, mainly politically, but flanked with economic and cultural turmoil and questions. Some member states show (strong) tendencies of authoritarianism and anti-EU nationalism, some countries are overwhelmed or surprised by new populist parties and movements, which also often use national and anti-EU rhetoric’s. These developments and events stem from low European identity on the one side, but also foster a low(er) European identity in favor for national identities on the other side. Therefore, the relationship can be seen as reciprocal. When the European Union is not affected by a global pandemic - referring to pre-Corona times - it holds onto its core principle: Free movement of work within the union. This also includes academics. The work of the EU and its initiatives in higher education is not only an attempt to build and strengthen a common research area and allocate resources better, but also to support and foster a European identity among researchers from different EU countries (Altbach 2015). Academics are part of the (national) dominant social class and even elites (Bourdieu 2012) and their support for a European idea is therefore important to implement the idea into the wider societies. On the other side, a lack of European identity among academics could be measured as a bad indication for the process of European integration in general. In this context, this paper looks closer into the construction of European identity among young mobile academies. This paper asks, if a sense of European social identity can or cannot be found among intra-EU mobile young academics. And if yes, how such an identity is shaped.
The paper is theoretically embedded in the Social Identity Theory (Tajfel & Turner 1979), which can be utilized for identifying social processes and influences that shape European identity and other forms of identity. Although the theory originated in social psychology it has great benefit for educational research, too, as this research example will show: Confrontation with identity building and reshaping through experiences of mobility and beyond affects agents in higher education as much as other migrants and mobile persons, whether they be high-skilled or not. Furthermore, current literature and the state of the debate on academic mobility will be considered to contextualize the importance of mobility for identity-building (van Mol 2013; Mazzoni et al. 2018). Ultimately, the formation of a European identity can be understood as the outcome of a longer Europeanization process (Favell 2005). Europeanization is an orientation and conduct of life connected to European collectivization processes (Verwiebe & Müller 2006). The term describes how the national frame is replaced by a supra-national (European) one and functions as the parameter of relevance for the individual. Europeanization can be understood as a specific form of transnationalism (Heidenreich et al. 2012; Mau & Mewes 2012), but is closely connected to the establishment of the European Union and its institutions, which pose a unique institutional constellation. European identity goes beyond those patterns, when the agent forms a social identity for him- or herself that stands in direct positive relation to Europe as a common space or community.
The research question will be followed based on 60 biographical-narrative interviews with German doctoral candidates from the SSH (social sciences and humanities) in France and the Netherlands. Both countries in the EU and both with a high percentage of German doctoral candidates. Although PhDs are usually not part of the established academic workforce yet, their path will eventually let them into positions of societal and politically significance. Usually in their late 20s or early 30s, these PhD candidates have been living in the period of Schengen and Maastricht almost all their lives. Our sample has experienced at least one intra-EU migration and in most of the cases more European mobilities. The analysis uses the Documentary Method (Nohl 2010). The biographical interview is a suitable instrument for the research questions, because it reveals through its in-depth narration and explorative orientation different formation and approaches to European identity and identity building in general. This type of interview gives the interviewees the chance to emphasize on the relevant topics and things of their own, without imposing the researcher’s ideas and notions on them (Corbin & Morse 2003). It starts with an open stimulus, to unfold a personal narration, which ensures a good quality of information. An interview guideline was only used for subjects that were not addresses in the original narration. The analysis of those interviews with the Documentary Method has the advantage to uncover not only explicit orientations and motivations but also implicit ones. This is very fruitful in the context of the research question, because sorts of European identity are not necessarily reflected consciously in the narration, although they still can be found in practice. The Documentary Method allows to carve out episodes and passages of importance for the development of the way of living of the interviewees, without having him or her speak about it directly. For that, Documentary method analysis is especially beneficial in combination with a biographical interview, which captures the life span and not only a specific moment of the biography.
Overall, intra-EU mobility did not necessarily or clearly lead to a European identity, although the theoretical conditions can be seen as very much in favor of this development. This is especially interesting because the same sample showed evidence of horizontal Europeanization processes (Schäfer forthcoming). It also indicates that ‘doing Europe’ (as the Europeanization process is understood) and having a European identity are not necessarily entwined. The findings are subdivided in three main patterns: Bi-national identity Mobility experiences fostered a bi-national identity, with no references to a European dimension, when mobility included a long and focused history in the host country, which began before the start of the PhD. In those cases, the construction was marked by deep pervasion of the host culture and language (Francophile in the case of France), with a very positive and affirmative understanding and approach. Nested identity In this pattern a European identity was not seen as being in conflict with a German (general: national) identity, but was harmonized in interlacing. Cultural experiences abroad, such as in the country of PhD, were contextualized in an experience of ‘Europeaness’ rather than the specific national culture. Different to the former pattern, experiences abroad were more often short-termed but also more frequent. European identity This pattern distinguished itself by the genuinely perception of staying in a European country during their stay in the host country and not in a specific nation state. The group of people who are assigned to a European identity showed either a pattern of high intra-EU mobility—where they lived and worked in several European countries, resulting in an outspread social and professional network, which guided them towards a stronger European identity—or they had specialized in European studies, which signals an initial and early interest in Europe, or they had combined both patterns.
Corbin, J., & Morse, J. M. (2003). The unstructured interactive interview: Issues of reciprocity and risks when dealing with sensitive topics. Qualitative inquiry, 9(3), 335–354. Favell, A. (2005). Europe's identity problem. West European Politics, 28(5), 1109–1116. Heidenreich, M., J. Delhey, C. Lahusen, J. Gerhards, S. Mau, R. Münch, and S. Pernicka 2012. Europäische Vergesellschaftungsprozesse: Horizontale Europäisierung zwischen nationalstaatlicher und globaler Vergesellschaftung. DFG Research Unit ‘Horizontal Europeanization’, Oldenburg. Mau, S., and J. Mewes 2012. “Horizontal Europeanisation in Contextual Perspective: What Drives Cross-border Activities Within the European Union?” European Societies 14(1): 7–34. Mazzoni, D., Albanesi, C., Ferreira, P. D., Opermann, S., Pavlopoulos, V., & Cicognani, E. (2018). Cross-border mobility, European identity and participation among European adolescents and young adults. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 15(3), 324–339. Nohl, A.‑M. (2010). Narrative Interview and Documentary Interpretation. In Qualitative Research and Documentary Method in Educational Science: Results from Brazilian-German Cooperation. Opladen: Budrich. Schäfer, G (forthcoming). Horizontal Europeanisation among mobile academics in the context of EU and ERA. Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1979). An integrative theory of social conflict. The social psychology of intergroup relations, 2, 33-47. Van Mol, C. (2013). Intra‐European Student Mobility and European Identity: A Successful Marriage? Population, Space and Place, 19(2), 209–222. Verwiebe, R., & Müller, M. C. (2006). Gelungene Integration in den Arbeitsmarkt?. Berliner Journal für Soziologie, 16(1), 95-114.
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