Accepted paper:

Europeanisation as biographisation: internationalised biographies and staged national belonging


Kerstin Poehls (Universität Hamburg)

Paper short abstract:

The College of Europe, established 'ante-chambre' to the EU field of power, educates young people to become 'Europeans'. How do imaginations of nations serve as symbolic capital in a deterritorialised social sphere of potential European(ised) elites where life practices become increasingly mobile?

Paper long abstract:

The College of Europe educates young people from more than 40 countries to become "Europeans". On both campuses in Bruges (Belgium) and Natolin (Poland), students study and live together for one academic year. The College of Europe is well known and established as the "ante-chambre" to the Brussels field of power. This paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted at the College of Europe within the context of an ongoing Ph.D.-project. Some of the most important events in the students' social life and in the tradition of the College are the so-called "national parties": students from one country or region arrange a huge festivity for all their fellow students in order to stage "their country" and "their own" traditions. Nowadays, around 90 per cent of all students at the College of Europe have spent some time abroad, be it as an ERASMUS exchange student or with their diplomat family - their biographies are "internationalized". Simultaneously, "national parties" have lost nothing of their attractiveness as they produce a sense of belonging and allow producing the respective "other" within the framework of "nations". At a point where students' biographies, every day life and professional practices become increasingly mobile, nations as "real" places gain in attractiveness. This paper will explore how students reproduce, reshape and reformulate national images and stereotypes in a manner that is at the same time playful and "representative" within the College community. Taking a closer look at biographical data as well as the performances during the parties as well as during their large-scale preparation (rehearsing performances, looking for sponsors, "typical" catering…), this paper will ask why and in which specific way the concept and imaginations of nations as places still seem to be guarantors and sources of symbolic capital in a deterritorialized social sphere of potential European(ized) elites where life practices become increasingly mobile.

panel W074
Neither here nor there: locating and identifying Europe