Normalization, Polarization or Dispersion? Structuring Discourses on European Identity in Italian Online Public Sphere

Dr. Elizaveta Matveeva

The paper discusses preliminary results of the project that analyses a variety of actors involved in the process of European identity construction in Italy and of a variety of European identity frames they offer to the Italian general public. Methodologically it relies on application of political claims analysis, as well as of qualitative and quantitative frame analysis, to the study of identity discourses and uses data retrieved from electronic media and other electronic resources. One can expect that normalization or polarization would be the models most likely to structure European identity discourses in Italian public sphere. In the former case, online public sphere in Italy would be monopolized by “normalized”, official narratives on European identity. Within this frame European identity is seen as a unity in Europe of freedoms and of human rights. It contains a “standard set” of civic values, civil and political rights and freedoms, as well as references to democratic participation and active citizenship. If, by contrast, polarization is taking place, this dominant narrative should be contested by another one, e.g. based on European cultural identification. This paper, though, argues that discourses on European identity in Italy are structured in line with the third model, i.e. the model of dispersion. Qualitative frame analysis demonstrates that in most cases, when different actors speak about a sense of common belonging to Europe, they use complex, non-linear narratives to approach this argument. Even standard cultural and civic identity frames appear to be multidimensional ones and to have different spatial and temporal modifications. These spatial dimensions imply a number of levels (local/regional, national, European or global) regarded as crucial in the sense of cultural diversity to be preserved/promoted or of divergent perceptions about preferable key level of civic engagement. Temporal modifications comprise various frames that describe the sense of belonging to Europe in terms of historical identity: European history can play a role of Europe’s significant Other or can be used as a source for “civic religion” creation.