Islam versus Europe: Populist discourse and the construction of a civilizational identity
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CoHERE explores the ways in which identities in Europe are constructed through heritage representations and performances that connect to ideas of place, history, tradition and belonging. The research identifies existing heritage practices and discourses in Europe. It also identifies means to sustain and transmit European heritages that are likely to contribute to the evolution of inclusive, communitarian identities and counteract disaffection with, and division within, the EU. A number of modes of representation and performance are explored in the project, from cultural policy, museum display, heritage interpretation, school curricula and political discourse to music and dance performances, food and cuisine, rituals and protest. WP2 investigates public/popular discourses and dominant understandings of a homogeneous ‘European heritage’ and the ways in which they are mobilized by specific political actors to advance their agendas and to exclude groups such as minorities from a stronger inclusion into European society. What notions of European heritage circulate broadly in the public sphere and in political discourse? How do the ‘politics of fear’ relate to such notions of European heritage and identity across and beyond Europe and the EU? How is the notion of a European heritage and memory used not only to include and connect Europeans but also to exclude some of them? We are interested in looking into the relationship between a European memory and heritage-making and circulating notions of ‘race’, ethnicity, religion and civilization as well as contemporary forms of discrimination grounded in the idea of incommensurable cultural and memory differences. This essay reveals the ways in which five populist parties in Europe (AfD in Germany, FN in France, PVV in the Netherlands, M5S in Italy, and Golden Dawn in Greece, employ the fear of Islam as a political instrument to mobilize their supporters and to mainstream themselves. The study is conducted through a discourse analysis of the speeches and manifestos of the aforementioned parties. Following the depiction of each political party, the paper displays some of their electoral posters to be able to explicate their common tropes with regards to their Islamophobic, migrant-phobic, and diversity-phobic discourses. The main premise of the paper is to claim that these parties have recently generated a civilizational discourse in order to expand their electorate.