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Icons of Europe or How to design a European Founding Father?

Open Panel

Abstract

The main purpose of my presentation will be to question the historiography of the European integration through the official images of its Founding fathers, particularly Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman. What do official images of Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman stand for? My working hypothesis is that the official iconography of the Founding Fathers is a discourse that illustrates and participates to the official verbal and textual historiography of the European integration. Here, my overarching goal is to test and stress the importance and prevalence of national paradigms as well as the lack of consideration for the critical turn of national historiographies when writing Europe’s histories. Following upon Eric Hobsbawm’s work, it would be interesting to see how this tradition of building Founding Fathers images has been copy-pasted in the case of European symbols. In other words, how do these pictures resuscitate the already known figure of what should be an authorized national Founding fathers. At first sight, the sacralization process of Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman’s icons could be seen as bringing paradoxical results. It carries well-codified iconophilic representations, reliquaries and pilgrimages, bringing the people, and particularly the youngest, “on the steps of Founding fathers”, who are entitled to “show them the way” from time zero (the time of the foundation) to our days. This sacralization takes advantage of all the traditional tools and uses of official national art, embedded in a well codified grammar. It does not interfere, so far, with any iconoclast representations nor popular reappropriation, as one could observe in several other examples. But it also apparently failed to provide Europe’s history with pride or interest from both people and national politicians alike, who usually envision their European experience (when any) as a forced exile. All my material comes from institutions, information brochures, museums and press kits published by European institutions of associations linked and funded by the French government.