Interesting article from Eurozine on the problems of defining European cultural – and even geographical – borders. Considering the current opposition to Turkish EU entry (because Europe’s, like, Christian, y’know?), the question of precisely what Europe is is being continually re-hashed. This is one of the better, more rational contributions to the debate that I’ve seen.
It becomes apparent that any specific definition of Europeanism is problematic, and that attempts to create a cultural definition are equally futile. Though there are many pan-European historical foundations, a truly unifying narrative is notably absent. Furthermore, the European territories have seen many conflicts, displacements, exoduses, and immigration flows. The end result is that today’s Europe boasts a multi-ethnic society, which includes members from a wide variety of racial and religious backgrounds. Thus, creating a European identity based on Christianity would only really be possible in a very broad historical-civilisational sense. However, both the Enlightenment and western European rationalism, which stood at the birth of modern democracy, as well as the notion of human rights and the theory of the state under rule of law, are part of the European identity. They remain so, despite the fact that many of these notions grew up in resistance to the dominance of religious orthodoxy. Whilst on an intellectual level, this modernity stemmed from Western Christianity, it nonetheless offers a different picture of Europe.