THE SHAPE OF IDENTITY – part 1

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It is in human nature to determine oneself as a member of social groups. Social identity is one of the strongest parts of our being. If somebody asks you Who are you? you will probably answer the question by placing yourself into different groups you belong to. Ethnic or national identity is among the most important social identities, beside class and gender. What makes this complex social identity? Smith (1992) defines a nation “as a named human population sharing a historical territory, common memories and myths of origin, standardized public culture, a common economy and territorial mobility, and common legal rights and duties for all members of the collective”. In this sense, the national identity means accepting the national culture, politics, history, language, territory, conformity with these aspects and acting according to them.

On the soil of Europe, a new identity has emerged with the creation of the European Union – the European identity. It has been a research and discussion topic for some time now, since it is not clear does it refer only to the feeling (and the fact) of territorial belonging to the European continent or is it becoming a specific psychological construct which tends to become very important with entering the EU. The importance of this social group is constantly high, mainly because the EU is not only an abstract construct, but the aspect that affects everyday life of the people. The EU brings its part of history, economical and territorial changes, many benefits, but also its obligations, responsibilities and plans for the future. Smith’s definition of nation could almost entirely be rewritten when talking about the European nation – it is a named human population sharing a historical territory, common memories and myths of origin, a common economy and territorial mobility and common legal rights and duties for all members of the collective. What is obviously still missing, or at least is not well defined, is the cultural component. The reason for this is that the EU is made of the abundance of different cultures, with their own mythology, language, folklore, so it stands united under a name, but is it the same as united under a nation?

What is the reality of the European identity and how is it related to national identities? Read more about it next week on our blog.