Eastbound – Westbound: Re-reading the myth of Europa

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    Abstract

    Europe’s identity is not just contested. It is contested in specific terms, namely which set of properties (values, heritage, or vocation) would uniquely identify Europe? Major ramifications allegedly follow from whatever stance taken in this debate, e.g. with regard to external relations (should the Union come to include Turkey?) and internal institutionalisation (is there a European demos?). Without
    exception, these arguments derive from representations of Europe’s past. This paper challenges this common bias, taking a cue from Merleau-Ponty’s distinction between ‘Europe en représentation’ and ‘Europe en acte’. It does so by tracking, firstly, how the narrative of Europe’s past vanishes into a myth
    that we cannot represent but also cannot cut loose from. Secondly, it revisits the incisive critique of a representationalist view on Europe which Nietzsche confronted us with. Here I first address Nietzsche’s explicit, but scattered, notes; then I explore how the same themes are played out in what I consider to be one of the greatest novels on ‘Europe’ of the 20th century, Musil’s The Man without Qualities). Thirdly, the paper argues that the alternative reading of identity in terms of ‘Europe en acte’ allows us to deploy the myth of Europa in prospect rather than retrospect, to bear in mind the multiple ways in which various polities within European lost their innocence, and to stand united in an attitude of
    prudence with regard to at least three major praxeis of the future: technology, economics and the rule of law. Hence, shared selfhood rather than shared sameness should inspire the terms of the identity debate.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)235-250
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Siberian Federal University. Humanities & Social Sciences
    Volume9
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

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