One Trigger – Two Outcomes: The Role of EU Integration in Boosting and Eroding the Balkan Ethno-National Identities; The Case of Bulgaria and of (F.Y.R. of) Macedonia
28 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2011
Date Written: October 8, 2011
This research focuses on mutations in national identities in contemporary Balkan context. It takes nations as dynamic communities, sharing some basic cultural codes of understanding. Having a common language is certainly a facilitating factor in such interpretative social activity. On the Balkans, despite the widespread national myths, nations are fairly recent phenomena.
Multiple causal mechanisms, socially based or state-based, material or ideal, have helped painting the current picture of national communities. Unlike some authors within the literature, I do not see this process as irrevocably settled. The volcanoes may look extinguished, but new processes take place under the surface. Each new fundamental shift in the continental plate creates opportunities for renegotiating national contracts and galvanizing hidden social forces.
European integration represents such a fundamental shift. It erodes from both above and below the principle that, according to Weber, state is a human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. Within the process of European integration member states give up their sovereignty within particular domains; their citizens find new channels for expressing grievances and influencing domestic political actors. People start questioning whether it is worth taking part in national political process instead of switching allegiance to supranational political bodies. And this process of integration is still an open-ended development that will hardly settle in a near future. This research, based on an interpretative and constructivist paradigm, provides findings as to what are the effects of this integration on state-owning national communities in the Balkans. It takes two cases, Bulgaria and Macedonia, as examples of states already within the Union and still waiting to become members. It uses qualitative methodology, mainly semi-directive biographical interviews and non-participant ethnographic observations from three field trips to these countries between 2009 and 2011 as part of my doctoral research question on the effects of European integration on political culture in post-communist countries. The findings confirm that these two national communities, far from being static objects, are in a state of perpetual motion. Informants report more attachment to or detachment from their respective national communities as a direct result of European integration as an interpretative process. People may become more or less Bulgarian, or Macedonian, or European; or they may become simultaneously more present within their respective national communities and the new supranational identity. There are many, instead of a single cultural trajectory.
Keywords: post-communism, nationalism, balkans, bulgaria, macedonia, identities
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