European Identity

European Identity as an Authentic Experience? Linguistic Manifestations of a Non-categorical European Semantics in Material from German and Polish History and Geography Textbooks

This project investigates discursive references to Europe in material from German and Polish history and geography textbooks, with the goal of visualising a non-categorical European semantics that can serve as the framework for building a new flexible and modern European identity.

The project postulates that whereas a national semantics centres on membership in an (imagined) community and, with it, categorisation phenomena based on a ‘we and them’ schema, a contemporary European semantics should manifest itself differently. Under the condition of globalisation, constructing and maintaining large groups becomes more difficult. People experience the plurality of their social memberships with increasing intensity – to the point of shifting their attention from the memberships themselves to their own self-perception amid permanent change and constant translation processes. It is safe to assume that discursive phenomena such as a polycentric organisation of social reality, a blurring or transgression of borders, cross-categorisation, a construction of social reality as dynamic and changeable, a focus on the subject rather than the group, and a change of perspective or multiperspectivity are the cornerstones of a non-categorical semantics as the foundation of contemporary European identity.

Expanding on investigations by the Leibniz Research Alliance ‘Historical Authenticity’ (Leibniz-Forschungsverbund ‘Historische Authentizität’), this project will ask to what extent the flexible, modern subject constructions in the European context come across as ‘authentic’. In order to narrow the term, ‘authenticity’ is understood here as being embedded in the subject’s personal scope of experience. In this sense, the abstention from using the European ‘we’ could be interpreted as a sign that ‘Europe’ is an identity project that, compared to the ‘nation’, allows the individual more autonomy in his or her experience of social grounding. 


  • 1 January 2016 to 31 October 2016

Project Leader

  • Dr. Robert Maier

Project Contributor

  • Dr. Magdalena Telus


  • DFG grant application


  • Leibniz Research Alliance ‘Historical Authenticity’, thematic area 1: ‘Authenticity in the History of Ideas and Concepts


  • Leibniz Association


Robert Maier

Head / Department Europe

Branch Office B1.14.1
Phone: +49 531 59099-550
Send email