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Are Individualism, Consumerism and Corporatism Key Ingredients of European Identity? Some Lessons Learnt from a Critical Semiotic Analysis of the Commission's Publicity Brochures

S. Anne G. Bostanci

Identity construction has traditionally taken the form of invented traditions, narrative and ritualised forms of cultural expression often driven by politics of remembrance.However, this paper argues that other forms of political discourse and practice are equally important and the concept of 'political myth' (Flood 2002) enables the study ofother 'constant reference points' (Lenschow and Sprungk 2010) that play a role in the construction of collective identity and explains the significance of narratives in theprocess. The increasing production of publicity brochures by European Union institutions, especially the Commission, suggests an (albeit implicit) awareness of theseprocesses. Such publications lend themselves to the creation and dissemination of narratives that suggest certain 'patterns of thought-behaviour' (Freeden 1996)regarding what it means to be EUropean. However, the messages communicated are ideologically contradictory at best, suggesting individualism, consumerism andcorporatism as key ingredients of a EUropean identity alongside discourses of solidarity, responsibility, and a political community-building project. At their worst, theyseem to depoliticise rather than creating a distinct political identity, and it is highly questionable whether they can or do resonate with EUropean publics beyond theaspirational dimension of corporate advertising. In view of this, the fact that the material also de facto claims to represent Europeans makes it highly contentious. Thepresent paper analyses of some of these brochures with particular emphasis on their visual contents. In identifying the processes at work and the patterns ofthought-behaviour suggested in these texts, the aim is to deconstruct their communication dilemma as well as their politics and raise questions about the democraticcharacter of representations of EUropeanness.

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