Constructing Regional Community and Order in Europe and by Bahar Rumelili

By Bahar Rumelili

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Drawing on Todorov (1984) and the post-colonial studies literature, I deduce a multi-dimensional framework of self/other interaction that varies along three dimensions: nature of difference, social distance between self and other, and the response of the other to the construction of its identity. I analyze how the inclusivity–exclusivity of collective identities, relations of association– dissociation from the other, and the recognition–resistance by the other interact to produce different forms of self/other interaction, and identify the conditions under which self/other interactions are characterized by Othering.

The in-group/out-group dynamics of differentiation, comparison, and competition translate into conflictual relations among human collectivities, be they in the form of ethnic groups, nation-states, or international communities. The conflictual relations between states will be replaced by conflictual relations between communities, if and when such communities get to be formed among states, having no impact on the extent of conflict or on the culture of interaction within the international system.

It may be argued that, since there are already existing differences among states in terms of democratic standards, discourses that indicate and articulate those differences cannot be said to be productive of difference. However, “to refer to something as socially constructed is not at 24 Constructing Regional Community all the same as saying that it does not exist” (Weldes et al. 1999: 12). Differences need to be politically processed to become relevant for identity, and the construction of difference refers to this political process of defining and fixing meanings so that the differences that “exist” become relevant to alternative identity categories.

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