I Could Be Your Hero, Baby! Political Cartoon Representations of the European Union as Part of the Community Construction Narratives

    • IMG_2537
    • Presentation speakers
      • Daniela Chalaniova, Anglo-American University, Prague, Czech Republic


    Every community’s history is riddled with founding figures, distinguished persons and heroes: be it nation’s founding fathers, prominent presidents/monarchs/priests/scientists/folk heroes, or other community’s leaders/speaker/representatives. Every community’s narrative speaks of heroic actions that helped form and distinguish the unique cultural and political entity of the present day… William the Conqueror and Robin Hood in Britain, Jan Hus and Jára Cimrman in Czech Republic, or prince Pribina and Jánošík in Slovakia. Over two generations, what has been originally conceived as a peace-pact between France and Germany, European Community, and later Union, has become the next exciting political system, on a lookout for its demos. European Union too has its ‘founding fathers’: Jean Monnet, Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schuman, Jacques Delors, and its myths: as the ‘Legend of Europe’ amply testifies. Yet the present tense is not as straightforward: under the stress of the unending economic crisis Europe seems to be ‘united in disharmony’ rather than anything else. The crisis also brings about important questions about the present and the future of the community: What binds Europeans together? The same question has occupied the minds of European identity scholars for decades, and European identity literature explores in great depth collective history, geography, religion, culture, values and norms. But rather than asking ‘What binds Europeans together?’ time and time again, shouldn’t we be also asking ‘Who binds Europeans together?’ While conventional identity literature seems to be missing ‘the human aspect’ in collective identity construction, political cartoons are all about people. Cartoonists focus on leaders and heads of state, distinguished figures and personifications. They often portray politicians as heroes (or anti-heroes for that matter), thereby lending them the status of popular recognition (in good or bad). Therefore the aim of this paper is, with the help of political cartoons collected across EU member states over five years, to answer the question: ‘Who binds Europeans together?’ Is there a collective European consensus on its leaders suggesting collective identification of/with the leaders? Do EU member states collectively exploit the same past and myths to describe the political reality of today? And if so, what does it say about collective construction of a European identity?