Symbols and narratives of Europe: Three tropes

By: Johan Fornas



Volume: 06
Issue: 02:2020
ISSN: 2459-2943
DOI: 10.18680/hss.2020.0022
Pages: 85-100
Lic.: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0



Throughout history, attempts have been made to identify Europe as a geographical, political, social, and cultural entity. Recent efforts to establish key symbols and narratives of Europe have focused on a set of central signifying elements, even if there is a wide and contradictory range of ways to define, structure, and interpret them. An introductory remark on the current debate on the need for renewed European self-reflection paves the way for some conceptual clarifications of my approach to concepts like culture, meaning, identity and mediation. A methodological reflection accompanies this on how to use semiotic tools in cultural studies based on critical hermeneutics. The concept of culture used here is based on the signifying practice of mediating meaning-making, linking imagination to communication in a triangular dynamic between texts, subjects, and contexts. Examples are given from two research projects on a broad and diverse range of European symbols and narratives, illustrating such interpretive research results. European identifications are crystallized and spun around three dominant tropes: supreme universality, resurrection from division, and communicative mobility. Their intricate tensions and interrelations attest to how deeply Europe remains a highly contested and dynamic meaning cluster.


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