Abstract of Project:
The United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union in June 2016 marked the beginning of a new argument being used in favour of Scottish independence. 62% of Scottish voters had chosen to remain in European Union, fuelling the sentiment that Scotland is being taken out of the EU against its will. Suddenly, the flag of Europe has become common sight at pro-independence demonstrations: Scotland’s ‘Europeaness’ is activtely being used by politicians and supporters of independence as a feature which distinguishes the nation from the rest of the UK. In the run-up to the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, continued EU membership was still used as an argument against independence. It is clear that the role of the EU within the debate on Scottish independence has transformed, but has the perception of European identity done so as well?
This PhD project explores how the perception and understanding of European identity has changed in Scotland since 2014. Is the adaptation of European identity for the purposes of supporting independence merely a poltical, strategic use of collective identity, or has the debate on EU membership resulted in a wider transformation of the role of Europe in identity formation in Scotland? By means of ethnographic fieldwork, this project aims form a better understanding of the function of Europe within the identity formation of people in Scotland since the Brexit referendum.
The project will aim to link the ethnological study of European identity to concepts of vulnerability and shelter from small state studies. If Scotland were to become an independent state it would be a small state in Europe. Due to their size, small states have less resources than larger states, making them more vulnerable to their external environment. Small states may seek ‘shelter’ with larger states or international organisations to counteract their vulnerability. The project will ask how perceived vulnerability influences the formation of European identity and whether European identity offers a form of shelter by being conceptualised as a support for Scottish independence.
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ulrich Kockel