Digital culture, national identities and democracy in the EU

Politics & Society
re:publica 2015

Short thesis: 

This talk explores the critical role of digital culture in tackling current political challenges of the EU. By transcending national and linguistic boundaries, digital culture not only lays the foundations for a European public sphere, but also challenges traditional narratives of national identity. At a time when nationalism is on the rise and threatening core values of the EU, the future of democracy in Europe strongly depends on the incorporation of digital cultures into political narratives.


Europe is facing one of the most difficult times in its post-war history. It is struggling with strong anti-EU sentiment in member states all across Europe. Nationalist movements are on the rise, increasingly gaining democratically legitimized political power. Culture, always having been a popular reference point for identity narratives, is proving an important lever in anti-EU sentiment. As a result the pluralism of European societies is increasingly contested. Nationalist anti-EU movements play on an alleged threat to national identities, building on a long-standing depiction of the EU as “the Other” that has been fostered not only by EU-sceptics, but ironically also proponents of EU integration. Finding a European narrative that is in synch with the EU’s proclaimed values as well as with electorates’ political choices requires tackling the – potentially dangerous – relationship between culture and identity politics.

This talk will focus on the relationship between digital culture, national identities and democracy, highlighting elements crucial to the debate about the future of Europe. Digital cultures challenge political narratives of national identity by transcending boundaries. Importantly, they give rise to new public spaces in which politically relevant questions are raised, and in which identity narratives are formed, deliberated and adjusted. They also pose concrete policy challenges in areas such as intellectual property and data protection. And as much as the Internet might give optimists hope of a joint civic understanding, so too does it allow for the emergence of alternative networks that are in strong opposition to the EU and/or the values it stands for. The future of Europe will largely depend on European societies’ ability to publically and democratically distill political solutions to the EU’s many challenges. This talk will outline obstacles and opportunities in shifting to a new narrative that resonates with the EU’s core values. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 - 10:00 to 10:30