Europe in popular culture: An interdisciplinary analysis of the political imaginary in fictional movies
The political and cultural identity of EUropeans is predominantly confined to several national borders. Despite obviously recurrent aphorisms—for instance “the cultural roots of Europe”, which portray a common heritage of values—until now the transboundary EUropean identity could not complement the national sense of belonging. Significant for this phenomenon is that EUrope, as a political construct, has not experienced it directly but rather via the audio-visual media. This fact not only reconceives the cultural concept of identity, which above all encompasses a transboundary and media-constructed idea, but also leads to the question of how the process of creating a EUropean identity can be carried out successfully. According to this, EUropean integration is not only a political and economic process, but also and first an emotional one. As Jacques Delors—former president of the European Commission—pointed out emphatically: “You don’t fall in love with an internal market.” The sense of belonging progresses beyond treaties, laws and regulations. Particularly, audio-visual media represent different cultural patterns that can provide interpretations not only for the presented fictional world, but also for the represented dimensions of real life. The emotional staging as well as the symbolic subtext makes fictional European movies an important source of cultural and political meaning. Consequently, a few core questions for the research project are the following. (1) What role do the media play in the European public sphere? (2)What is the main forum for a transboundary European political culture? (3)If European fictional movies offer different patterns of interpretation, values and meaning constructions, what are the significant symbols and narrative structures for determining them? The theoretical introduction, which is conducted through a European perspective, attempts to connect basic theories of political culture (e.g., Almond/Verba; Easton; Widlavsky; Rohe) with those of cultural/media studies (e.g., Williams; Gramsci; Carey; Hall; Kellner) as well as the relatively new theory of cultural citizenship (e.g., Rosaldo; Delgado-Moreira; Klaus/Lünenborg). Based on these theoretical findings, the project develops an analysis template and method for European fictional movies. The focus of the empirical section is on the classical analysis of film, semiotics, and narrative structure (e.g., Saussure; Pierce; Bordwell), which together will facilitate a demonstration of the elements of political culture in audiovisual media. The main objective is to disclose how fictional European movies (although they may not have an explicit political topic) are capable of affecting Europe’s political culture.