Narrative Ju-jitsu: counter-narratives to European union

Richard McMahon, Wolfram Kaiser

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Recent scholarship has increasingly recognised the crucial role of political narratives in and for European integration. Since its earliest days, supporters have justified integration by telling stories about its beneficial contribution to peace, prosperity, and democracy. In this article and the special issue, we contribute to the burgeoning literature on (counter) narratives to European ‘union’ (any integration beyond intergovernmental cooperation), and to work on Euroscepticism. The special issue is also at the cutting edge of narratives research in its conceptual innovation and its focus on the narrating actors and concrete instances of narration. We demonstrate that in a narrative ju-jitsu, opponents of European union take up the themes of key pro-integration narratives and return their force against the EU. As well as examining nationalist Euroscepticism in specific countries, we study how cooperation among nationalists across Europe and beyond encourages convergence of their counter-narratives. These counter-narratives do not merely reject European union but increasingly argue for an alternative kind of ‘Europe’. They therefore interact with the increasing competition among proliferating pro-integration narratives, which have formed as old stories such as that of Europe as peace-bringer seem to have become less convincing.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Contemporary European Studies
Early online date5 Jul 2021
Publication statusEarly online - 5 Jul 2021


  • counter-narratives
  • Euroscepticism
  • European union
  • narratives
  • European integration
  • populism


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