RS3 - Europeanization from Below?

RS Coordinators:

Daniel Bertaux, CNRS and Université de Strasbourg


Ettore Recchi, Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris



General call for papers:


Europeanization from Below? Making and Unmaking of the Social Texture of Europe

The idea behind this proposal is to get European sociologists to continue the on-going Europe wide debate between researchers on whether “Europeans” feel and act as “European”. And,more specifically, who among them are increasingly Europeanized over time, and who do not.

In the above sentences, by ‘Europeans’ we mean persons living permanently in Europe (as a geographical entity), bethey native Europeans born from European parents, or born from settled immigrants (the so-called ‘second generation’), or migrants themselves who, whether legal or ‘undocumented’, want to stay in Europe and have theirchildren become European. Thus - at least in our view - race (or ‘ethnicity’, or ‘origin’) is not an issue.

However, political geography is one: whatever the proportion of Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Serbs,Albanians… feel European, they cannot help feeling it differently from other Europeans, because their country hasnot yet joined or is not considering joining the European Union (EU) ‘grand project’. And at the other end of theGDP-per-capita continuum, Norwegians and Swiss constitute interesting cases of Europeans shunning a politicalinfrastructure that reflects their ‘Europeanness’.

In the present context, the expression ‘feeling European’ will be used here in a narrow sense(with due respect to the range of other possible meanings): to mean “feeling member of thesupra-national entity called the European Union presently in the making”. Similarly for‘practices’ that are inscribed in the EU space: their enactment is conditional on the legal-politicalstatus quo, which facilitates cross-border activities within the EU/EEA boundaries while limitingviability from outside.

The Research Stream will focus on whether the 500 + millions persons living in the EU feel andact more and more, or less and less, ‘European’ in this sense, and what kinds of locally-specifictrends of change, what kind of personal interests (both material and symbolic), what kind ofcircumstances include /exclude them in/from denationalized social relations. Perhaps becauselarge parts of the European population deem they are becoming losers in the Europeanintegration process while their national elites take advantage of it (Neil Fligstein’s Euroclash andMax Haller’s Europe as an Elite Project hypotheses), nationalistic political parties andmovements in various European countries ride this resentment wave with startling success.

Inequalities are indeed growing in Europe, perhaps not as fast as it is generally perceived; butanti-EU political movements and parties link this perception with the on-going process ofbuilding a supra-national political entity. That link is probably purely imaginary: inequalities arepresently growing all over the world, in practically every society whether developed orunderdeveloped; and the EU has financed numerous schemes aimed at peripheral regions,precisely to correct regional inequalities. Nevertheless people who feel they are losing groundwill rather look for protection to their more familiar nation-State than with remote ‘Brusselsbureaucrats’. As one of sociology’s tasks is to do away with false common sense, here is a goodopportunity to do it. The situation seems to call for a more acute, analytical and systematic viewon what is presently going on and what are the risks at stake.

We have identified six session themes that might help structuring presentations to this ResearchStream. Other themes, such as Coping with the diversity of languages, might be added if enoughpapers are submitted.

1. True Europeans? Mixed couples and their children

At the end of his path-breaking Eurostars and Eurocities (2008) that first drew an insightfulpicture of EU-citizenship backed mobile Europeans, Adrian Favell concluded that a possiblefuture sequel of the book should be titled ‘Children of the revolution’. The long-term effects ofan increased nationality mix in Europe – which may be especially evident in the largest cities – isthe emergence of a young population with a multinational background that could literallyembody the ‘unity in diversity’ motto and stand out as the first, true Europeans. Thedemographic outcomes of growing intra-EU migration are in fact little explored and known, anexception being a recent ERC project ‘EUMARR’ directed by Juan Diez Medrano, asociological analysis of mixed European couples in Spain, Belgium and Switzerland. Thissession welcomes similar analyses, possibly stemming from this project or other demographicresearch in additional settings, as well as ethnographies of couples and families of differentnationalities, also including third-country nationals. Particularly appreciated would be studies of‘second generation Europeans’ – that is, children of mixed and/or mobile couples.

2. Migrants as explorers of European opportunities

The focus of this session is about so-called ‘third-country nationals’ (TCNs), that is migrantsfrom outside the EU living in the EU. The issue is whether the classic picture of the ‘guestworker’ that has settled in a given industrial city and remains fixed there is still valid; or whethera much more dynamic image would be more to the point. There are in fact diasporas ofMoroccans, Turks and other TCNs spread over several European countries. Members of thesame kinship group maintain cross-border relations with each other and with their kin in theircountry of origin, and along the ‘lines’ of such networks of communication flows comparativeinformation about jobs or small business opportunities, level of salaries and potential profits,conditions of work and of housing, quality of schools and costs of healthcare, and a host of othervery practical tips. As a result it might be so that migrants – or perhaps their ‘second generation’children - end up being better informed than European natives about the opportunities structuresoffered within EU space. They might also be more inclined to move than the native ‘stayers’deeply rooted in their place of birth, thus compensating somehow the lack of rights anddiscriminations that many of them still suffer everywhere. To which extent are migrants actuallyexploring the European Union space? How mobile are they and what makes them choose whereto settle? Papers dealing with diasporas of Europeans within the EU will also be welcome; theywould make for quite instructive comparisons.

3. Travelling in a de-bordered continent

European integration has created a unique supranational area in which the traditional power ofnation states to control individuals’ choices of travel and settlement has been curbed – a sort of‘natural experiment’ of a borderless world region. How do Europeans use and enjoy theirfreedom of movement? Studies of intra-EU movers, either comparative or case-oriented, arewelcome, especially if they are able to reconstruct longitudinal or life-long trajectories.However, the session would also be enriched by analyses of more temporary geographicalmobilities across the continent of EU citizens as well as third country nationals. There is avariety of intra-EU mobile populations that are largely unnoticed by both official statistics andsociological inquiry – such as Euro-commuters, stag-party goers, low-cost holiday makers,travelling artists, transnational merchants. How is these people’s Europe? And how does crossbordermobility within Europe affect their life chances and shape their lifeworlds?

4. Europe as a borderless virtual world

Sociologists’ interest in mobilities was initially spurred by John Urry’s book-manifestoSociology beyond Societies (2000). In Urry’s taxonomy, physical movements of people andobjects are taken as the most basic form of mobility. But the classification includes otherimportant ways in which people move (and are less frequently studied in the mobility literatureitself): virtually, in particular via internet-based interactive applications; and imaginatively, viapassively consumed media, mainly television and radio (but now also the internet). What shouldnever be forgotten is that not only physical but also virtual and imaginative mobilities are limitedin large parts of the world. Europe is in a fact an open area, in which people’s access tocyberspace is cheap and de facto unlimited. Moreover, EU rules permit custom-free onlinetransactions that create a single international market at hand’s reach – literally, fromsmartphones. Empirical studies of EU-based virtual and imaginative mobilities are elicited.International chats, websites catering for sociability and mating on a cross-national scale, uses ofintra-EU shopping are examples of possible paper topics that would be welcomed.

5. The imagined continent: Europe as a mind landscape

Empirical research on European identification has so far mainly relied on either Eurobarometerquestions or on qualitative studies – open-ended interviews, focus groups and ethnographies. Allthese approaches have their pro and cons. Less common, but also promising, are in fact analysesthat seek to grasp with Europeans’ mental maps (an example is the Eurobroadmap project) andtheir repercussions on cultural and political orientations. We contend that Europe as a geographicspace is a not a given fact and, most of all, a commonly shared experience, as long as there is ahuge variation and stratification in forms of mobility. Research addressing cross-nationalspatialities – at the same time as life experiences and subjective projections (eg, intentions tomigrate, memories of past travels) – would suit the theme of this session. Comparisons acrossgenerations, social classes, nationalities, as well as between EU citizens and non-EU Europeans,might also contribute substantially to the session. Similarly, the issue of Europe’s borders asenvisaged by Europeans could be addressed.

6. The social and spatial mobility of lower classes in an integrated Europe

The argument that European integration is ‘an elite process’ resonates strongly in the publicdiscourse but is also echoed in much social science on the subject (Haller 2008; Fligstein 2008).This argument has two strands. The first one, less problematic, holds that the EU (and its formerinstitutional incarnations from the 1950s onwards) has been designed and advanced by a verysmall slice of the European population. By itself this should not be surprising: all new politicalregimes tend to be elite creations (Higley and Burton 2006). However, the second strand is muchmore contentious, and leads to believe that the future of European integration is doomed. Itmaintains that ‘Europe’ has become part of the life of the upper classes and a privileged segmentof those classes who most directly benefit from the EU, while the rest of the populace isincreasingly alienated from it. Research testing and/or challenging this conclusion would fit intothis session. More precisely, studies about lower class experiences of EU-wide activities shall beof special interest: Erasmus students from less privileged areas and family backgrounds, bluecollar migrants, posted workers, unemployed or precarious workers associating to stand for theirrights with peers across borders or seeking protection as EU citizens. Does European integrationprovide an additional pathway of social mobility for them? Ultimately, do EU-wide mobilityexperiences nurture different collective orientations and yield different returns in different social classes?


Notes for authors

Authors are invited to submit their abstract either to the general session or any specific session. Please submit only to one session. After abstract evaluation, coordinators will have the chance to transferpapers between sessions where applicable.

Abstracts should not exceed 250 words. Each paper session will have the duration of 1.5 hours.Normally sessions will include 4 papers.

Abstracts must be submitted online to the submission platform, see below. Abstracts sent by emailcannot be accepted. The Research Stream coordinator will organize the peer-reviewing of the abstracts;the letter of notification will be sent by the conference software system in early April 2015.

Abstract submission deadline (extended): 15th February 2015

Abstract submission platform:

If you have further questions regarding the conference, please visit the conference website. For furtherinformation on the Research Stream, please contact the RS coordinator.