My research project is based on the assumption that visual symbols have a political relevance because
1) They help understand how the EU sees itself and its own role in the European polis;
2) They allow for the study of “banal” forms of identity building, through unconscious exposure to the European presence rather than via active information campaigns;
3) Their study also sheds some light on how citizens understand the EU and how the symbolic presence of the EU affects (or not) a European post-national solidarity.
I propose an interdisciplinary and comparative study of visual political symbols of the European Union. It combines political science, cultural studies and social anthropology to pursue two aims. On one hand it attempts to chart the historical development of European Union’s pictorial production since the implementation of a common EU communication approach, focusing on the means and strategies used by the Union to communicate itself to the Europeans. On the other hand, the project endeavors to capture at the level of three different publics the reception of the EU visual symbolic apparatus and the interpretation and uses given by private individuals to EU iconic representations.
Both these dimensions are captured by the term eurosymbol. It refers to the graphic elements produced by the EU as its markers (the color blue, the golden stars, the circle of stars) as well as the (typo)graphic display of the prefix “euro-”, and the sign for the euro-currency, as well as their adoption by private users, in any modification of their physical disposition.
The research questions to be asked here are:
1) What kind of visual representations are produced and distributed by the EU? Are there specific themes that recur? What is the purpose of using precisely these symbols in the communication of the EU image to the citizens? Do messages vary depending on the different intended recipients? Or does the EU publicize an undifferentiated symbolic output across the continent?
2) How do the citizens of three capital cities (Paris, Copenhagen, Bucharest) understand the visual messages from the EU they meet in their everyday life? What are the factors that influence their interpretations? Do they appropriate these symbols and if so, why?
3) Are there differences in the reception and interpretation of the EU symbols across the three instances studied? How can differences be explained? Alternatively, is there a convergence in the interpretation and use of symbols across Europe? Does interaction with the same visual messages point towards uniformization?