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Elsaß-Projekt

Becoming European: How EU integration shapes everyday experiences of identity and diversity

Identity and change in the Alsace: A model for European citizenship?

The region’s oscillation between France and Germany makes the Alsace an ideal focal point for a scholarly observation of the day-to-day development of regional, (bi-)national and European identities. Since the late nineteenth century, Alsatians had to change their nationality no less than five times. Time and again, the relocation of borders between the Vosges and the river Rhine was accompanied by a change of language and culture, of political, social and economic connections that destroyed older, arduously established relations. These changes have significantly contributed to the Alsatians’ yearning for a common European identity. Being a pawn in the hands of Berlin and Paris as well, people resorted to developing their own (eu-)regional identity, which encompassed affiliations to multiple, sometimes contradictory cultures, may they be regional, national or European.

Fostering an Alsatian Heimatbewegung while being part of Imperial Germany; seeking for autonomy during the Troisième Republique; collaborating as Alsatian-European separatist in the “Third Empire” and acting as left-wing regionalist revolutionaries during the 1970s – all these movement aimed at one end: overcoming national borders. By studying diaries, testimonials, police and newspaper reports we will analyse whether and to what extent state policies have affected the notion of national belonging and how practices of everyday life, common habits, communication, manners and attitudes generated new forms of trans- and supra-national citizenship. Initial inquiries into diaries, for instance, show that the rigidity of France’s post-1945 Épuration policy (Säuberung), aimed at breaking up German loyalties, led to exhaustion and fatigue that resulted in a strong hope of European unity and French-German reconciliation long before this policy was confirmed by official declarations.

Task 6.2 allows for a cultural-historical insight into the way Alsatians have innovatively negotiated and challenged their official citizenship status by developing new sites, spaces and scales of citizenship since the end of the 19th century. The inquiry will discuss how the enactment of selfascribed ‘Europeanness’ fostered the formation of a new form of transnational citizenship and whether the case of Alsace could serve as a role model for current developments and configurations.

Project Leader: Dr. Christiane Kohser-Spohn

Participant: Dr. Christine Kohser-Spohn

Programme status: After consideration by EU, FP7 unfortunately rejected. Will be persued as individual project by Dr. Kohser-Spohn.

Duration: from November 2011