WP5 – Discursive and Narrative Aspects: Borders and Identities in Post-Truth Politics

In the current post-truth era, what are the fundamental liberal values, cultures and identities which form and inform the bedrock of liberal democratic states? How do these debates translate into border and migration policies? This Work Package (WP) aims at exploring those two questions along two lines of inquiries premised in intense data collection on discourses and narratives regarding border policies across selected European countries. Specifically, we are asking: (1) what various post-truth narratives and collective identities form the precondition to current border policies; (2) how over the last decades have liberal state border policies evolved? (3) how has the appearance of illiberal political leaders (e.g. in Hungary or Poland) changed the way migration and border policies are perceived nationally and in the EU?

Indeed, our core assumption is that liberals face fierce, historical and ongoing, discussions on what fundamental liberal values inform border policies in a post truth era: a) Liberal Internationalism would defend a strong relationship between State and Rights of non-citizens. Liberal ideals of equality and freedom understood as part of international norms structure these views; b) Liberal Nationalism defends more insular understandings of state sovereignty and what non-citizen may receive from the state at the border; c) Illiberal defend much more insular sovereignty reflected in securitisation and criminalisation refugees and asylum seekers.

This WP proposes, thus, to study narratives and discourses, which fuel those liberal/illiberal discussions found in justification of border policies, and their concurrent role in securing a specific form of Liberal state, so that border policies mirror specific liberal values, or not: On the one hand, the control – rights nexus reaches out to include non-citizens; on the other hand, control - rights restrictive policies exclude non-citizens: both are grounded in post-truth Liberal/illiberal identity, narrative and discourses defending complex views of the post truth liberal democratic state and border goals. Indeed, such narrative and policy goals may translate into restrictive border control and limited rights to non-citizens or on the contrary, open borders to mobility and trade expanding rights to non-citizens. The recourse to invented tradition, myths, and other forms of imagining collective identity is another characteristic of the post-factual age. While such a phenomenon in itself may not be new, the modalities and ease of circulation of such images due to social media, streaming platforms and other digital channels are new, highly intensified, and spanning international boundaries. For instance, the debates regarding entry of asylum seekers through the Southern and Eastern external borders of the EU, particularly in 2015 and the subsequent years, illustrate how the narrative of securitisation clashes and intertwines with a narrative of human rights and common European values.

Thus, this WP deals with the following topics:

  1. Social communication and public debate about borders, rights of non-citizens and control in crisis (fragmentation versus integration, and polarisation of discourses, fringe groups’ discourses pervading the mainstream, information/worldview bubbles)
  2. New ontologies and parallel realities related to belonging and rootedness (borders, non-citizens’ right and control policies), as well as strategies of dealing with cultural difference (exclusion vs. inclusion, control policies)
  3. Post-truth narratives (new myths, invented traditions, invented / fake/ manufactured heritage narratives) in particular about the self and the other (non-citizens, their rights, and control policies).

Both top-down (post-truth politics) and bottom-up (search for new ontologies, exploration of the invented / fictional / irrational) processes will be explored; as well as the resulting bordering practices.