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Including Social Identifications in the Definition of Citizenship: Making Sense of Young People’s Discourses on (EU) Politics

Citizenship
Democracy
Political Sociology
Identity
European Union
Political theory
Nicolas Arens
Université Saint-Louis - Bruxelles
Nicolas Arens
Université Saint-Louis - Bruxelles
Heidi Mercenier
Université Saint-Louis (Brussels)-Institut d'études européennes

Abstract

This paper provides reflections on the link between political citizenship and social identifications when the subject of the European political level is at stake. This paper explores the European citizenship conception with the social interactions that contribute to its definition. This question will be addressed from both theoretical and practical approaches. The Postnationalism conceptions of Habermas (1997) and Ferry (2000) understand the association between cultural Nation-State and political democracy as a “conjectural”, rather than a “conceptual” one. However, the link between demos and ethnos remains “persistent” in Europe (Lacroix, 2009). Thus, the production of citizenship according the Postnational conception could seem uprooted and it should be studied along with social “identifications”, instead of a political-only, fixed identity (Duchesne, 2006). Building on the “tocquevillian ethos”, this contribution can thus take into account the necessary relation of the democracy with different social entities and social bonds. The analytical framework is then linked to an empirical research by exploring the expressions of identities when young people, who come from families with different socio-economic backgrounds in Brussels, talk about (EU) politics during collective discussions. Through the analysis of the discussions, it appears that multiple social identifications are clearly mobilised to talk about (EU) politics. This empirical approach of the identification processes allows enlarging the postnationalist conception of the European citizenship by observing concretely in which context the European Union emerges in the discussions.