The Discursive Construction of National Identity

The Discursive Construction of National Identity

The Discursive Construction of National Identity

The Discursive Construction of National Identity


Which topics, discursive strategies, and linguistic devices are employed in the construction of national sameness and uniqueness on the one hand and difference to other national collectives on the other? This volume examines European discourses of national identity, paying particular attention to Austria. The authors interpret ongoing transformations of the self and the other through a combination of historical theory and methodology and political science. They consider the rhetorical promotion of national identification and the linguistic construction and reproduction of national difference multiple levels within the nation state. This expanded and revised edition covers the impact of socio-political changes in Austria and in the European Union and the attempt to construct hegemonic national identities.


Ten years after the publication of the first edition of the present book, many of the claims we made in 1999 are still valid. However, we have also observed new, salient developments that deserve our critical attention. This is the reason why we decided to write an additional, eighth chapter in which we describe and assess how the ‘story’ continues. We were able to compare across almost twenty years commemorative events that show both continuities and discontinuities in the discursive construction of national identity, and particularly in the construction of the Austrian past, present, and future. Due to Austria’s accession to the European Union in 1995, the Austrian nation and Austrian identities have had to be repositioned in the transformed political context in many novel and distinctive ways. Related to new forms of nationalism and transnational orientations, national populist parties have been gaining support across Europe, not least in Austria. They have even joined govern ment coalitions in several European states. These parties have challenged and continue to challenge democratic values, and they oppose European Union policies. These tensions between national and supranational identities are the focus of our new chapter.

Picking up three significant socio-political developments and related ‘discursive events’, we examine changes since 1995 that relate to the construction and transformation of Austrian national identity. We analyse how the official commemorative year 2005 was dealt with in Austria in public and in semi-public spheres (focus group discussions) in 2005 and 2006, and compare the analytical results with our studies on national commemoration in 1995. We look at how Austria’s accession to the European Union in 1995 affected its national self-understanding, focusing among other things on Austria’s EU presidencies in 1998 and 2006. Furthermore, we analyse the rise of national populism in Austria and its consequences for conceptions of Austrian as well as European identity, particularly concentrating on national populist argumentation. Thus, we hope to further refine and differentiate both our theoretical approach and empirical research in various respects.

We are very grateful to Edinburgh University Press, and specifically to Sarah Edwards, who provided us with the opportunity to publish an extended version of our book. We would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their supportive comments. Finally, we are extraordinarily grateful to Johnny Unger who translated and edited most of the new chapter.

Vienna and Lancaster, August 2008 . . .

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