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Performing Schengen: myths, rituals and the making of European territoriality beyond Europe


Myth-making has historically been an essential component of the modern state's quest for territorial control and legitimacy. As a sui generis post-national political entity in search for identity and recognition, the European Union (EU) seems to mimicking its more established national counterpart. By formulating and reproducing a narrative that hails Europe's border control regime (‘Schengen’) as a success story of European integration and by deploying evocative imagery at Europe's common borders, the EU is in fact trying to establish itself as an integral part of the European political landscape. This article argues that what we are witnessing today in Europe is indeed the emergence of the ‘myth of Schengen’; however, the regime's mythopoiesis goes beyond the EU's official narrative and symbolic representations. To capture the full range of actors, locations and activities involved in the establishment and reproduction of this post-national myth, it is necessary to shift the attention to the performative dimension of this process. To support this argument, the article relies on the insights of anthropological and sociological works that have emphasised the role of rituality and performativity in constituting social structures and identities. These insights are then applied to examine the rituals and performances characterising four cases of ‘unofficial’ Schengen myth-making beyond Europe: a hotel in Beijing, street kids in Kinshasa, a British music band, and a group of Eastern European artists.

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Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-international-studies
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