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International Sociological Association

Narrating European Integration: Actors and Stories in Politics, Academia and Cultural Institutions
University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom
April 16-18, 2015
Abstracts: June 15, 2014

Academics, politicians and cultural institutions develop and tell ‘stories’ about European integration. They can present European integration as a peace project or as the creation of a group of ‘founding fathers’; or, in various counter-narratives, as a bureaucratic monster that serves capitalist interests or seeks to destroy proud consolidated nation-states. Such stories seek to explain integration as a ‘process’, to legitimize (or call into question) the European Union, its institutions and policies or to describe, critically evaluate and contextualize the present-day EU for citizens who visit museums or watch films, for example.
The resulting narratives of European integration can be explicit or implicit. They can have a strong teleological, or even theological, thrust, including narratives opposing European integration, membership or further integration, or they can be more open to pluralist interpretations of post-war European history and contemporary EU politics.
They constitute, in any case, a formidable weapon in controversies over European integration, its spatial scope, political finality and policy objectives. Equivalent narratives have, in the past, played a crucial role in imagining nations and their histories, and in forming and legitimizing new states in Europe. They also rely heavily on broader categories such as Christianity, modernity, civilization or the West – possible parallels with the present-day EU which help explain the emphasis on, and increasingly fierce opposition to, narratives of European integration with strongly positive normative connotations.

This trans-disciplinary conference seeks to explore actors in three key fields, politics, academia, and culture, and their narratives of European integration. Participants can discuss different political actors such as EU institutions, political parties or social movements; academic disciplines; or cultural institutions such as museums or film festivals. They can also cover different time-periods during the twentieth century up to the present-day. They may employ a variety of methods used in the humanities and/or social sciences.
However all papers, whether they examine particular regions or Europe as a whole, should have a transnational scope in analyzing actors and narratives. We are not interested in papers on e.g. ‘Swiss narratives’ of European integration. Moreover, all papers should adopt a dual focus with a view to a possible collective publication: they need to address, in a first section, the actors who produce, disseminate and propagate narratives of European integration including e.g. institutions, individual entrepreneurs or networks; and, in a second section, the narrative(s) that these actors develop and propagate.

The conference is organized jointly by Wolfram Kaiser, Professor of European Studies, and Marie Curie Fellow Richard McMahon.
Prof. Kaiser works on networks and narratives of European integration promoted by EU institutions and in history museums and exhibitions (see e.g., with S. Krankenhagen and K. Poehls, Exhibiting Europe in Museums. Transnational Networks, Collections, Narratives and Representations, Berghahn 2014).
Dr. McMahon conducts research into evolving narratives in the academic field of European Studies. The conference forms part of the activities of the ‘Transnational Europe’ research cluster co-led by Wolfram Kaiser, within the Centre of European and International Studies Research (CEISR) at the University of Portsmouth, UK.
The conference is funded by the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence for the Study of Transnational Europe, which is linked to CEISR and will cover accommodation for two nights and reasonable travel costs.

The deadline for paper proposals is 15 June 2014.
Please send your proposal (short CV and an abstract in English of no more than 300 words) to both Wolfram Kaiser at and Richard McMahon at .
International Sociological Association