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Reconfigurations of Centre and Periphery in the European Union: a Discursive Political Study


"The project ‘Reconfigurations of Centre and Periphery in the European Union: a Discursive Political Study’ investigates the transformation and re-definition of centre and periphery in the European Union (EU) in the aftermath of the financial crisis. It starts from the observation that Eurozone crisis not only challenged the rationality of the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), but also damaged the project of developmental catch-up that was at the core of EU integration and expansion since the 1980s. While the crisis shattered the peripheral growth models linked to the appreciation of the Euro, the austerity-focussed crisis management overseen by the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rendered difficult any new strategy of development in the affected countries, trapping them in persistent recession, if not political and social-humanitarian crisis. This has given rise to movements that question not only the burden-placing of crisis management, but also the model of EU economic integration and the way national economies and polities are bound up with it. However, those political forces maintained office who complied with EU/IMF credit conditionality, while the reform of the EMU upholds the established approach to economic integration through enhanced central oversight.
The project investigates the hypothesis that the EU’s looming legitimation crisis has partially been contained by the discursive-symbolic construction of hierarchies between debtor and creditor states and their constituent societies. Economic interdependencies may have limited the range of plausible alternatives of crisis management and EU/IMF conditionality the scope for their democratic negotiation. However, the construction of (creditor )centre and (debtor-)periphery in multilevel political communication is likely to have delimitated the discursive space in which Eurozone crisis management could be imagined and contested.
For the investigation of these assumptions, a framework is developed that combines the discourse theory and analytics of linguistic Critical Discourse Analysis with insights in the political economy, governance and political communication of European integration. The project explores discourse practices that contributed to the construction of debtor-peripheries, including the symbolic performance of EU conditionality, mediatized crisis narratives and the ostracising (self )representation of marginalized groups. They are scrutinized in secondary and primary analyses of public statements by EU representatives; as well as by rival domestic camps and ordinary people in two countries, Greece and Ireland, who gained prominence as two different models of catch-up development. The discourse analysis is situated in an analysis of EU conditionality regimes and financial-economic interdependencies that emerged since the Maastricht Treaty. Insights will be used to consolidate an interdisciplinary research programme for the investigation of centre-periphery relations within the EU. They will also inform recommendations for trainings in ‘reflexive EU literacy’ that includes the ability to switch between an EU-centric perspective and the perspective of the ‘EU-subaltern’ that is subject to processes of EU integration with little capacity for co-determination."

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MC-CIG - Support for training and career development of researcher (CIG)


Grosse Scharrnstrasse 59
15230 Frankfurt
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 75 000
Administrative Contact
Geny Piotti (Dr.)