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European MEDIA Programme: the role of 'language' and 'visual images' in the processes of constructing European culture and identity

Senka Bozić-Vrbancić, Mario Vrbancić, Olga Orlić
2008 Collegium Antropologicum  
Questions of diversity and multiculturalism are at the heart of many discussions on European supranational identity within contemporary anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, linguistics and so on. Since we are living in a period marked by the economic and political changes which emerged after European unification, a call for a new analysis of heterogeneity, cultural difference and issues of belonging is not surprising. This call has been fuelled by the European Union's concern with
more » ... oncern with "culture" as one of the main driving forces for constructing "European identity". While the official European policy describes European culture as common to all Europeans, Europe is also-seen as representing "unity in diversity". By analysing contemporary European MEDIA policies and programs this article attempts to contribute to a small but growing body of work that explores what role "language" and "visual images" play in the process of constructing European culture and supranational European identity. More specifically, the article explores the complex articulation of language and culture in order to analyse supranational imaginary of European identity as it is expressed through the simple slogan "Europe: unity in diversity". We initially grounded our interest in the politics of identity within the European Union within theoretical frameworks of "power and knowledge" and "identity and subjectivity". We consider contemporary debates in social sciences and humanities over the concepts of language", "culture" and "identity" as inseparable from each other (Ahmed 2000; Brah 1996, 2000; Butler 1993, Derrida 1981; Gilroy 2004; Laclau 1990). Cultural and postcolonial studies theorists (e.g. Brah 1996; Bhabha 1994; Hall 1992, 1996, among others) argue that concepts of "culture" and "identity" signify a historically variable nexus of social meanings. That is to say, "culture" and "identity" are discursive articulations. According to this view, "culture" and "identity" are not separate fields from economic, social and political issues, on the contrary "culture" and "identity" are constructed through social, economic and political relations. Issues of "language" and "images" are central to both of them. By questioning the role that "language" and "visual images play in the construction of European identity and culture, we are considering "language" as well as "visual images" not just as representations, but also as forms of social action. In addition to that, inspired by discourse theory (Laclau 1985, 1994, 2007) and psychoanalysis (Zizek 1989, 1993, 1994; Stavrakakis 1999, 2005, 2007) we explore the libidinal dimension of identification processes. We focus on the European MEDIA Programme in order to analyse how different languages and images are being used to create a sense of "European unity in diversity". Along with Stavrakakis we argue that due to the lack of libidinal investment into discourses of Europeanness, Europe is failing to create a strong supranational identity. However we also show that there have been recent attempts by European policy makers to try and fill this gap through various projects which focus entirely on emotions; which appears to reinforce new possibilities of identification with Europe.
pmid:19149204 fatcat:xdxzddcx7vahznxvtqp466tyqm