NOMADISM, THE EUROPEAN UNION, AND EMBEDDED IDENTITIES: AN INTERVIEW
This interview was conducted during the 1996 International Association of Philosophy and Literature (IAPL) Conference at George Mason University. Rosi Braidotti was the keynote speaker. The theme of the conference was Dramas of Culture. The interviewers were Crossings editors Thea Arnold, Mina Karavanta, and Robert P. Marzec. The editors wish to thank the conference organizers of the IAPL, without which this interview would not have taken place. In the transition from the oral to the written word, the editors have made a few minor changes with the questions and responses for purposes of clarity, and to make references to particular situations in the European context clear to an American audience.
Robert Marzec: Knowing your deep involvement with the European Community (EC), I would like to open up this conversation by asking you about your views and experiences concerning current approaches to the formation of this community. From reading your book Nomadic Subjects, and from following the development of the EC from this side of the Atlantic, it seems that this transcultural community is having to deal with some very traditional impulses when it comes to Unification. I have in mind specifically the structure of a community being thought invariably from the basis of a unity that involves an adherence to a center, a center informing on a fundamental level all that happens in its field of vision. Within the entire logic of this centralizing polityand in your dealings with the Womens Studies Program at the University of Utrechtdo you see an alternative to this traditional formation of community?Rosi Braidotti: If I understand your question correctly, you are reading the European Union project as a kind of mega-state structure that will inevitably and by virtue of itself recreate some kind of gravitational pull of sorts. I actually think that it is one of the possible readings of the project. But if you read the documents of the Treaty of Rome and the Maastricht Treatywhich are some of the least-read contemporary political treatisesif you do read them and work with them in the practice of being within the Community you will see that this is absolutely not the case. The difference being the kind of history that we have inside that particular community, a community of nation-states with a legacy of colonialism and empire which have fought with each other for two thousand years. And then there are many civil wars that have been disguised as world wars, while they were in fact mostly Franco-German disputes entangling the world in a spiral. So that the undoing of that particular multitude of micro-fascismsIm using Deleuzes argument hereif you take each nation-state in itself with that particular history of lethal differences and antagonism and you try to undo it, then you are doing a major piece of deconstruction in a set of lethal centers and it is an extremely difficult project. And Ill be talking more about that in the paper today. The reason it can go so wrong stems from this: that the European Union it really touches the nerves of European nationalism. The nationalist Right and the nostalgic Left are the opponents of the European Union and it is particularly the right wing in Europe that does not want it. It is the fascists who do not want it, because they want nations too. They want to unnerve the whole project. On the basis of history, if you read the documents, if you read the Maastrichts Treaty definition of what exactly is the role of the EC commission and the member-states, what Brussels decides as opposed to what the Italian parliament decides, for instance, it is absolutely not the case. You can see the point. It is a contested zone. It could go that wayif the European citizens let it go that way. My experience of working with the EC commission is that many possibilities lie in the hands of the European Socialists. Daniel Cohn-Bendit is in the European Parliament leading the anti-racism coalition. Antoinette Fouque is in the European Parliament leading the gender forum. These smaller groups are far more progressive than the larger, national parliaments. European legislation on gay rights, on womens rights, on abortion, is more progressive than most national legislation except Scandinavia. We have to go to Norway and Denmarkwell Norway is not in for that reason precisely and Denmark fought very hard, because for them the European charter for workers rights are downgrading and the Danish social security is so high that they would lose by Maastricht so they actually negotiated a readjustment. But Spanish and Italian people profit immensely from the charter workers rights which is much higher than the benefits that they get. So there are specific cases, you can see, that the Union does not helpbut still, globally it is more progressive than others. So I would have a very a different reading and call on the founding texts, namely the Treaty of Rome and the Maastricht treaty, which are very clear about what is at stake. And this is why it goes so wrong because their position is so strong, this is why it is a Left issue to make the adjustments. I just wrote a very long article on the Ford Foundation about this. I think there is an enormous information gap. And by the way, I was in the States for a whole year last year and the way in which Europe was reported is really third world reporting. Reports concentrate on Yugoslavia and pass by the fact that Brussels finances the most important research projects in our European network, which is an eighty year old European network. It has got zillions of dollars from Brussels to make multicultural, interdisciplinary womens studies, and we can fund the centers throughout Eastern Europe. And we can find gay rights conferences. My staff goes to Brussels once a week. Or someone has to fly to Rome because there is a big equal opportunities meeting. Our European reality, our daily institutional reality is about border crossings, and that is never reported. It must be so incomprehensible that they do not understand it. For a Brit, for an Irish, for a Spanishwe know each other so much better than we did and it is such an exciting time to be in Europe. That somehow never got across. I wanted to say hey, what is this kind of reporting? Somebody pointed out that it was because of economic competition that this kind of reporting was going on and this is a very good reason why everybody was so ready to depict the European Union as this kind of monstrous failure.
(This text is only a selection. For the complete essay please see our journal)