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More on the European identity More on the European identity
by Prof. Francesco Tampoia
2007-05-16 08:15:46
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Regarding the excellent article of Frank Biancheri, President of Newropeans (France), published in Newropeans Magazine (27 April 2007) that drives to further reflections and invites a response on the part of the listener/reader, let me add shortly some notes on the topic of identity.

While it seems to me very profitable to recall the dualism blood/ soil, I think it is fruitful to the consideration of what I would name the space-time dimension into the concept of identity.

The scholars prefer to speak of multiculturalism, multiple identity and unity in diversity.

And the memory goes to the past, the remote past. By means of very interesting and stimulating examples, the known historian L. Fevre has showed us that in the Late Roman Empire an inhabitant of Lugdunum (Lion) as civis romanus felt himself at home in Rome, in Belgium, in Carthage. If he belonged to the senatorial class he did not feel as an intruder in the cultural environments of Antioch or Alexandria; but if he passed the Rhine, if he crossed the Danube he felt lost, he felt among the Barbarians. Five centuries later, the same inhabitant of Lugdunum could feel at home in Trier or in Magdeburg, while he couldn’t anymore in Aleppo, an Arabian city, and even in Ravenna, where he would live near the schismatic, as such as in Athens or in Constantinople.

The Latin poet Ennius said that he had three hearts because he was used to speak three languages. S. Paul, born in Turkey of a Hebrew Greek family, read in Hebrew the Torah, lived in Jerusalem where he spoke Aramaic and was at the same time a Roman citizen.

The poet Dante had a culture of at least four languages, he used French, Latin, Italian vernacular, while in The Divine Comedy Arnold Daniello speaks Provenzal and before him Pietro delle Vigne and Guido delle Colonne speak the same language. In company with them the emperor Frederic II, who was even more polyglot, spoke German, French, Provenzal, Arabic and almost certainly Greek.

But European identity doesn’t consist of the use of one language, many languages or specific languages. If we intend for identity the complete and absolute equality or the persistence of the unity of an individual or of a collective people without considering the alteration of some attributes and qualities, a European identity becomes very difficult to recognize and perhaps it is not verifiable.

During the Enlightenment many intellectuals started to appeal to Europe as a point of reference for their identity, but it was not a true identity, at most it was an identity of élites. The idea of Europe, very vague in that age, coincided more or less with the cosmopolitan ideal. Neither was there a real idea of Europe in the words of Napoleon and after him of the prince of Metternich.

Today, if we ask a European what Europe means, what Europe is, what the European identity is, we would probably experience difficulties in answering. If we ask him if he feels European, he will hesitate for a moment, if pressed for an answer, he will say that he feels French, German or Italian. In order to help him we can say that to-day we are subject to a pluralistic identity, the national and the European one, and nevertheless conclude that a European identity doesn’t exist.

In a pregnant thought A. Heller, in reference to the European ideal and identity, some years ago wrote “what the new European structure promises is the emersion of the civic virtue, of the taste, of the education of the sense, of the civilization, of the urbanity, of the joy, of the nobility, of forms of dignified life, of sensibility of nature, worked and preserved, as for poetry, music, the theatre, painting, religiousness and erotic culture and so very other.”

And nevertheless, no doubt the identity is subject to the geographical and historical dimension. On the way, here I would report an interesting judgement of a Spanish friend of mine:

“La Unión Europea es lo que esta siendo en cada instante. La identidad se plasma en la forma. La facticidad de la Union Europea la constituyen el territorio, los ciudadanos y los recursos dados, la esencia la constituye la intencionalidad, el propósito de unión en un quehacer común, manifestado en los tratados e, idealmente, en una constitutión, su forma jurídical…Todo ello podría cambiar de un istante a otro, sin que deje de seguir siendo la Unión Europea, en tanto se mantenga la intencion de mantener un proyecto común.”


The pre-established "identity" or identity fixed in time is aporetic. The identity is temporary, is subject to change, it needs to be perennially lived day after day, and deconstructed.

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Sand2007-05-16 09:06:39
"Aporetic" was new for me. My dictionary defines "aporia" as a condition of being indeterminate. As a former resident of New York City now living in Finland I found myself unable to accept my status as strongly related to either place although I find Finland a far more congenial location than the present quite irrational condition of much of the USA. Perhaps, once I obtain a better handle on the Finnish language, I will find myself better fitted into my local landscape. At the moment I am satisfied with being a vertebrate mammal although a few insects are quite acceptable as fellow time travelers. Plants are a bit too distant to me for real fellowship.


Francesco Tampoia2007-05-18 15:59:18
"Surely the term "aporetic" is a philosophical term that Jan Sand can ignore and is precisely adj. like aporematic derived from the noun aporia = insoluble difficulty, a condition of being at a loss as to what to think. This reply of mine is not only in my own defence but for the overall defence of Rene Wadlow criticized as not being the author of the article.

One of those European insects acceptable or not acceptable as fellow time travellers".


Asa2007-05-18 16:00:05
Apologies to both Prof. Francesco Tampoia and Rene Wadlow for putting the wrong name...even I make mistakes sometimes ;)


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