Research

These are the research projects I am currently working on:

Project – Identity, social media and the making of European Union’s global reputation

 As a complex and ever evolving regional organization operating in an environment still dominated by states, the European Union (EU) faces formidable challenges in becoming an autonomous foreign policy actor, challenges that recent political and economic troubles affecting the European continent have rendered even more acute. In this research project I seek to shed new light on the origins, features and underlying dynamics characterizing a significant yet still poorly understood component of the EU’s ongoing efforts to raise its international profile, namely the organization’s quest to project a coherent and stable identity on the world stage.

Since the 1990s the European Union has taken advantage of its newly acquired competences in foreign policy matters to expand its global presence. The EU has been involved in a variety of international activities traditionally performed by states – from negotiating agreements with third countries, to carrying out civilian and military missions abroad and managing diplomatic delegations around the world. EU policy-makers have realized, however, that in order to improve its international status and visibility, the European Union needs to project a compelling vision of what it stands for and what distinguishes it from other members of the international community. The definition of this ‘international identity’ has become a core component of EU foreign policy strategy, and has been explicitly mentioned in key legal documents and in other policy initiatives of the last two decades.

Despite these efforts, the results of this identity-making exercise have been disappointing. The EU has not in fact been able to establish a coherent and recognizable profile on the international stage, raising concerns about its prospects as a foreign policy actor. How can we explain this predicament? Can the EU ever achieve a stable and coherent international identity? What are the implications of this state of affairs for the present and future of Europe’s foreign policy? And what lessons does the EU case offer for other international organizations striving to become autonomous players in international affairs?

To addresses these questions, the proposed research will outline a theoretically and methodologically innovative argument based on Social Identity Theory (Hogg 2006) and on works in political science, sociology and anthropology that have emphasized the interplay between the internal and external dimensions of identity-making and the role that everyday rituals play in structuring social and political dynamics in Europe (Cederman 2001; Goddard et al. 2006; Favell and Guiraudon 2009). Theoretically, this work will provide a compelling and persuasive alternative to mainstream accounts of EU identity-making that have explained EU’s predicament in terms of internal European dynamics among EU institutions and member states (Manner and Whitman 1998; Sedelmeier 2001). Thanks to the use of a methodological approach rarely used to study international organizations such as netnography and the selection of unconventional sites of everyday rituals involving the EU (e.g. social media), this work will provide a richer and more nuanced perspective on how EU identity is negotiated and expressed in concrete circumstances than existing accounts can offer. The argument elaborated in this proposal and its key findings will also form the basis for the formulation of practical policy suggestions on how, and to what extent, the EU and other international organizations facing similar challenges might be able to successfully raise their international profile.