RECON Online Working Paper 2009/10

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Denouncing European Integration

Euroscepticism as a Reactive Identity Formation 


Hans-Jörg Trenz and Pieter de Wilde (ARENA, University of Oslo)



The spreading phenomenon of Euroscepticism relates to particular discursive formations within the battlefield of collective identities that is opened by European integration. This paper first aims to highlight the reactionary nature of Euroscepticism. Secondly, it argues for understanding Euroscepticism as a discursive formation in the public sphere rather than as a collection of party positions or characteristic of public opinion. Thirdly, it points to the media as central players and amplifiers of Euroscepticism. In order to describe the dynamics of Euroscepticism, we need to understand how the polity worth of the EU is framed in public debates (the discursive contents of Euroscepticism). We further need to understand how and by whom Eurosceptic narratives are mobilized (the performance of Euroscepticism). Last but not least, we need to account for the public resonance of Euroscepticism and its dynamic expansion (the public salience of Euroscepticism). By emphasizing this dynamic element in the ‘making of’ Eurosceptic counter-narratives this paper therefore proposes to turn to the mediating infrastructures through which the European Union is challenged and contested in front of a wider public. This relates to the public and media sphere as the principal locus of analysis.


Discourse – European Public Space – Identity – Legitimacy – Media

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