Identity Politics, Belonging and Europe

  • Sean O’ Dubhghaill


This chapter takes its cue from the study of identity. It examines the meanings of Irishness, Europeanness and how identity has been conceptualised. The chapter examines the interplay between different concept-metaphors, or how we imagine things much larger than ourselves to be. Concept-metaphors can reduce complex phenomenon to intelligible wholes (such as ‘the Irish’, ‘Europe’ and others), and through them, we can attempt to lay bare the architectural underpinnings of the meaning of Irishness, European identity and the process of Europeanisation. The purpose of this chapter is to examine, with respect to the incredible swathe of literature on ‘European’ belonging, whether the Irish who establish a ‘community’ there are thought to incur the loss of their national belonging or identity in the process of becoming European. The focus of this chapter concerns the way in which the European citizen has been theorised, the meaning of Europeanisation to those involved in the project of European integration and the role mobility plays in anthropological representations of belonging.


Irishness Identity Becoming European belonging Mobility 


  1. Abélès, M. (2004). Identity and borders: An anthropological approach to EU institutions. Milwaukee: Twenty-First Century Papers: On-line Working Papers from the Center for 21st Century Studies, University of Wisconsin.
  2. Adonnino, P. (1985). A people’s Europe-reports from the ad hoc committee. Bulletin of the European Communities, 4(2), 12–16.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, J., O’Dowd, L., & Wilson, T. M. (Eds.). (2003). Culture and cooperation in Europe’s borderlands. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi.Google Scholar
  4. Anderson, P. (2009). The new, old world. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  5. Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  6. Aradau, C., Huysmans, J., & Squire, V. (2010). Acts of European citizenship: A political sociology of mobility. Journal of Common Market Studies, 48(4), 945–965.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Asher, A. D. (2005). Bridging the divide? Ethnic identity and transnational consumption in a “European city” (EUC Working Paper). Champaign: University of Illinois.Google Scholar
  8. Augé, M. (2002 [1995]). Non-places: Introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  9. Augusteijn, J. (2004). Ireland and Europe: A Dutch perspective. Radharc, 5(7), 265–286.Google Scholar
  10. Bakewell, O., & de Haas, H. (2007). African migrations: Continuities, discontinuities and recent transformations. In L. de Haan, U. Engel, & P. Chabal (Eds.), African alternatives (pp. 95–118). Leiden: Brill.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Balibar, É. (2003). Europe, an “unimagined” frontier of democracy. Diacritics, 33(3–4), 36–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bartley, B., & Kitchin, R. (Eds.). (2007). Understanding contemporary Ireland. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  13. Bellier, I. (2002). The expatriate identity in the European capital of Brussels. KOLOR, Journal on Moving Communities, 2, 77–93.Google Scholar
  14. Bellier, I., & Wilson, T. M. (2000). Building, imagining and experiencing Europe: Institutions and identities in the European Union. In I. Bellier & T. Wilson (Eds.), The anthropology of European Union: Building, imagining and experiencing the new Europe (pp. 53–73). Oxford: Berg Publishers.Google Scholar
  15. Biehl, J., & Locke, P. (2010). Deleuze and the anthropology of becoming. Current Anthropology, 50(3), 317–351 (with comments and a reply).Google Scholar
  16. Blair, A. (2006). Companion to the European Union. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Borgström, B. (2002). An anthropology of the European Union: Building, imagining and experiencing the new Europe, by I. Bellier & T. Wilson (Eds.). American Anthropologist, 104(4), 1231–1232. Retrieved from, Scholar
  18. Borneman, J., & Fowler, N. (1997). Europeanization. Annual Review of Anthropology, 26, 487–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Brandi, S. (2007). Unveiling the ideological construction of the 2004 Irish citizenship referendum: A critical discourse analytical approach. Translocations, 2(1) (Summer), 26–47.Google Scholar
  20. Brown, T. (2010). “Saying no”: An analysis of the Irish opposition to the Lisbon treaty. Dublin, Ireland: The Institute of International and European Affairs.Google Scholar
  21. Campbell, H. M. (Ed.). (2011). A history of western civilization: Advances in democracy—From the French Revolution to the present-day European Union. London: Britannica Educational Publishing.Google Scholar
  22. Clifford, J. (1997). Routes: Travel and translation in the late twentieth century. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Commission on Emigration and Other Population Problems. (1955). Reports: 1948–1954. Dublin: Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  24. Cresswell, T. (1997). Imagining the nomad: Mobility and the postmodern primitive. In G. Benko & U. Stohnmayer (Eds.), Space and social theory: Interpreting modernity and postmodernity (pp. 360–379). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  25. Cresswell, T. (2006). On the move: Mobility in the modern Western world. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Cronin, M. (2008). Minding ourselves: A new face for Irish studies. Field Day Publications, 4, 174–185.Google Scholar
  27. Dalakoglou, D. (2010). The road: An ethnography of the Albanian-Greek cross-border motorway. American Ethnologist, 37(1), 132–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Das, V. (1998). Wittgenstein and anthropology. Annual Review of Anthropology, 27, 171–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. De Jager, T. T. (2009, December). Imagining the European Union: A geo-historical overview of dominant metaphors on the EU’s political geography (Master’s thesis Human Geography). University of Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  30. Debomy, D. (2011). The citizens of Europe and the European Union in the current crisis. Paris, France: Notre Europe (Jean-Jaures Foundation Publishers).Google Scholar
  31. Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1988). Thousand plateaus (B. Massumi, Trans.). London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  32. Demoissier, M. (2007). The European puzzle: The political structuring of cultural identities at a time of transitions. New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  33. Deutsch, K., Burrell, S., Kann, R., Lichterman, M., Lindgren, R., Loewenheim, F., et al. (1957). Political community and the North Atlantic area. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Drakakis-Smith, A. (2007). Nomadism a moving myth? Policies of exclusion and the gypsy/traveller response. Mobilities, 2(3), 463–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Duchesne, S. (2008). Waiting for a European identity … reflections on the process of identification with Europe. Perspectives on European Politics and Society, 9(4), 397–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. D’Andrade, R. (2000). The sad story of anthropology 1950–1999. Cross-Cultural Research, 34(3), 219–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Easthope, H. (2009). Fixed identities in a mobile world? The relationship between mobility, place, and identity. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 16(1), 61–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Egenhoffer, C., Kurpas, S., & Van Schaik, L. (2009). The ever-changing union: An introduction to the history, institutions and decision-making processes of the European-Union. Brussels: Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS).Google Scholar
  39. EUCOM. (2009). Anthropological perspectives in a changing Europe: “bringing people in” seminar. Available online:
  40. Fabian, J. (2012). Working papers in anthropology: Thoughts about some mega-themes in anthropology (KU Leuven Working Paper Series).
  41. Frello, B. (2008). Towards a discursive analytics of movement: On the making and unmaking of movement as an object of knowledge. Mobilities, 3(1), 25–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Gatti, E. (2009). Defining the expat: The case of high-skilled migrants in Brussels. Brussels Studies, 28, 1–15.Google Scholar
  43. Gellner, E. (1983). Nations and nationalism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Giddens, A. (1990). The consequences of modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  45. Guibernau, M. (2004). Anthony D. Smith on nations and national identity: A critical assessment. Nations and Nationalism, 10(1/2), 125–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Habermas, J., & Derrida, J. (2005). February 15, or what binds Europeans together: A plea for a common foreign policy, beginning in the core of Europe. Constellations, 10(3), 291–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Hall, S. (1990). Cultural identity and diaspora. In J. Rutherford (Ed.), Identity: Community, culture, difference (pp. 222–237). London: Lawrence & Wishart.Google Scholar
  48. Hannam, K., Sheller, M., & Urry, U. (2006). Editorial: Mobilities, immobilities and moorings. Mobilities, 1(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Harvey, B. (1999). Emigration and services for Irish emigrants: Towards a new strategic plan. Dublin: Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants and Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas.Google Scholar
  50. Harvey, D. (1989). The condition of postmodernity: An enquiry into the origins of cultural change. London: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  51. Havel, V. (2004). A Charta of European identity.
  52. Hellstrom, A. (2003). Beyond space: Border making in European integration, the case of Ireland. Geografiska Annaler, 85(3), 123–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Inda, J. X., & Rosaldo, R. (2008). The anthropology of globalization. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  54. Johnson, C. H., Sabean, W., Teuscher, S., & Trivellato, F. (Eds.). (2011). Transregional and transnational families in Europe and beyond: Experiences since the middle ages. Oxford and New York: Berghahn books.Google Scholar
  55. Joyce, J. (1964 [1916]). A portrait of the artist as a young man. New York: Viking Press.Google Scholar
  56. Kuhling, C., & Keohane, K. (2007). Cosmopolitan Ireland: Globalization and quality of life. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  57. Laffan, B., & O’Mohony, J. (2008). Ireland and the European Union. London: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  59. Leonard, D. (2005). Guide to the European Union: The definitive guide to all aspects of the EU (9th ed.). London: Profile Books.Google Scholar
  60. Llobera, J. R. (2003). The concept of Europe as an Idée-force. Critique of Anthropology, 23(2), 155–174. Scholar
  61. Macdonald, S. (Ed.). (1993). Inside European identities: Ethnography in Western Europe. Basingstoke, UK: Berg Publishers.Google Scholar
  62. Macdonald, M. (2004). Debating the EU: A response to shore and abeles. Anthropology Today, 20(3), 24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Malkki, L. (1994). Refugees and exile: From “refugee studies” to the national order of things. Annual Review of Anthropology, 24, 495–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Mancini, J. M., & Finlay, G. (2008). ‘Citizenship matters’: Lessons from the Irish citizenship referendum. American Quarterly, 60(3), 575–599. Retrieved 14 December 2018 from Project MUSE database.Google Scholar
  65. Mandel, R. (1994). ‘Fortress Europe’ and the foreigners within: Germany’s Turks. In V. Goddard, J. Llobera, & C. Shore (Eds.), The anthropology of Europe: Identity and boundaries in conflict (pp. 113–125). Oxford: Berg Publishers.Google Scholar
  66. Marcus, G. (1995). Ethnography in/of the world system: The emergence of multi-sited ethnography. Annual Review of Anthropology, 24, 95–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Moore, H. L. (2004). Global anxieties: Concept-metaphors and pre-theoretical commitments in anthropology. Anthropological Theory, 4(1), 71–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Neveu, C. (2000). European citizenship, citizens of Europe and European citizens. In I. Bellier & T. Wilson (Eds.), The anthropology of European Union: Building, imagining and experiencing the new Europe (pp. 53–73). Oxford: Berg Publishers.Google Scholar
  69. Nic Craith, M. (2009). Writing Europe: A dialogue of ‘liminal Europeans’. Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale, 17(2), 198–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Orr, L. (Ed.). (2008). Joyce, imperialism and postcolonialism. New York: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Rapport, N. (1999). The narrative as fieldwork technique: Processual ethnography for a world in motion. In V. Amit (Ed.), Constructing the field: Ethnographic fieldwork in the contemporary world (pp. 71–95). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  72. Salazar, N. B. (2013). Anthropology. In P. Adey, D. Bissell, K. Hannam, P. Merriman, & M. Sheller (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of mobilities (pp. 55–63). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  73. Salazar, N. B., & Glick Schiller, N. (2014). Regimes of mobility: Imaginaries and relationalities of power. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  74. Sassatelli, M. (2002). Imagined Europe: The shaping of a European cultural identity through EU cultural policy. European Journal of Social Theory, 4, 435–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Sassen, S. (1999). Guests and aliens. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
  76. Sheller, M., & Urry, J. (2006). The new mobilities paradigm. Environment and Planning A, 38, 207–226. Scholar
  77. Shore, C. (2001a). Building Europe—The cultural politics of European integration. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  78. Shore, C. (2001b). Democracy in crisis: The white paper on European governance (Bruges Group Occasional Paper 44).Google Scholar
  79. Shore, C., & Abeles, M. (2004). Debating the European Union: An interview with Cris Shore and Marc Abeles. Anthropology Today, 20(2), 10–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Shore, C., & Black, A. (1994). Citizen’s Europe and the construction of a European identity. In G. Goddard, J. Llobera, & C. Shore (Eds.), The anthropology of Europe: Identity and boundaries in conflict. Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  81. Smith, A. D. (2002). When is a nation? Geopolitics, 7(2), 5–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Taras, R. (2009). Europe old and new: Transnationalism, belonging, xenophobia. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  83. Urry, J. (2000). Sociology beyond societies. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  84. Urry, J. (2007). Mobilities. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  85. van Houtum, H. J., & Pijpers, R. A. H. (2007). The European Union as a gated community: The two-faced border and immigration regime of the EU. Antipode, 39(2), 291–309.Google Scholar
  86. Verstraete, G. (2010). Tracking Europe: Mobility, diaspora, and the politics of location. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Walter, B., Gray, B., Almeida Dowling, L., & Morgan, S. (2002). A study of the existing sources of information and analysis about Irish emigrants and Irish communities abroad. Available online:
  88. Wilson, T., & Donnan, H. (2006). The anthropology of Ireland. Oxford: Berg Publishers.Google Scholar
  89. Zenker, O. (2013). Irish/ness is all around us: Language revivalism and the culture of ethnic identity in Northern Ireland (Integration and Conflict Studies, 6). New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sean O’ Dubhghaill
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Social SciencesKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

Personalised recommendations