New Perspectives on Identity Processes in Hobsbawm and Tilly : Intellectual Foundation, Identity Formation and Construction, and Implications for European Identity

University essay from Lunds universitet/Europastudier

Abstract: 'Identity' is a frequently used concept within the field of European studies, which has resulted in a myriad of different perspectives on what its meaning entails. As such, the meaning of identity is often claimed to be ambiguous, which causes problems for methodology related issues. This thesis suggests that the field of European Studies as a research area has to adjust its approach to the concept of identity and proposes a method to analyse how the work of Eric Hobsbawm and Charles Tilly can improve our understanding of European identity. This approach follows the postmodern notion of identity as a process, and is reinforced by the theories of social constructionism and intellectual history. In order to be able to study identity processes without excluding aspects of its fluid and mercurial nature, it is argued that splitting it into three distinguishable themes will lead to new perspectives on similar forms of identity processes, which are not directly related to European identity. The three themes are: 1. Intellectual foundation: authorial intention and epistemological standpoints 2. Identity formation: the bottom-up process of identity 3. Identity construction: the top-down process of identity The themes work as a 'filter' to determine which parts of Hobsbawm and Tilly's work could be classified as dealing with identity processes. This produces material ranging from movements to nationalism and from the state to the citizens' perspective. The analysis is able to spot identity processes that head both up and down. Consequently, the notion of a bottom-up process can be reinterpreted as a top-down process. Both scholars improve our understanding of European identity in two different ways. First, they directly improve our understanding by describing the processes of identity in different historical contexts along with various components that influence the identities concerned. Second, they indirectly add to our understanding by encouraging future scholars and by suggesting possible research themes. Both advocate more research on what constitutes a 'social being', which could lead to new perspectives on what goes on in the mind of the people and how they conduct and perceive their identities.

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