Identity beyond othering: crisis and the politics of decision in the EU’s involvement in Libya
This article focusses on the concept of decision and its significance for identity politics. Constructivist scholarship established long ago that identity and foreign policy are mutually constitutive and that difference and othering are key for the production of identities. As a consequence, constructivist literature on EU foreign policy has focussed on the role of specific others and explored how interaction with them shapes the EU’s identity. Our article turns the attention back inside and looks at the hegemonic struggles around the purpose and meaning of the European project. By analyzing the EU’s reaction to the Libyan events in 2011, we demonstrate how a major international crisis dislocates the identities involved and unleashes a struggle for hegemony between conflicting discursive articulations. Eventually this conflict is resolved through a political decision, which reconfigures the entire ‘global’ outlook on Europe and its role in the world. By defining decision along poststructuralist lines, as distinct from the conventional literature on decision-making, we demonstrate that the use of this conceptual prism helps deepen our understanding of how othering and bordering work to produce and reshape identities. By doing that, we seek to contribute to a better understanding of how identities change in time.