Nuran Yıldırım

Middle East Technical University


In ‘We, the People: Popular Culture and Popular Identity in Modern Europe’ Peter Burke examines the uses of various kinds of popular culture in defining popular identity. He tries to ensure that popular culture is not left out the story of construction and reconstruction of popular identity. In this context, he uses the term identity as something plural and included a sense of membership in a city, a nation, a region and a class. Thus, he discusses the very notion of ‘the people’ as an important form of collective identity in post-medieval Europe and examines two concept of this collective identity: the inclusive and the exclusive. First of them linked with the right-wing politics and defines ‘the people’ as a term including everyone in a particular nation or a city as opposed to other people. The second associated with the left-wing politics and defines ‘the people’ as the members of subordinate as opposed to the ruling class (Burke, 1992). Taking Burke’s perspective of the cultural construction of identity into account, in this essay I shall try to define the very concept of identity through placing particular emphasis on the culture.  In the following analysis it will be shown how collective identities have been formed or reformed and ‘identities of resistance’ has started to appear. Further, I shall discuss the rise of ‘class consciousness’ among the subordinate classes.

According to Burke, in many parts of Europe, ordinary people were always invited to identify themselves as members of a class and as members of nation at the same time. But the important question is whether these invitations received a response as expected or not. Initially it might be argued that the task of identity building is by no means easy. For instance, when we look at the politics of European Integration, the years of 1990s can be defined as a ‘cultural term’ regarding European Union elites’ attempts to invent Europe through the medium of ‘culture’. Even though European Union was traditionally defined as a common market dissolving the barriers to free movement of goods, capitals, services and labor, European Union has always harbored a deeper vision of cultural construction of Europe and the issue of Europe’s identity has become important isssue since it has being seen as parallel development to the construction of European Union. In 1992, Maastricht Treaty, for example, created the category of European citizenship and it gave the European Commission legal right to promote integration in the sphere of culture through enhancing what it saw as ‘the European identity’. Thus, European Commission has defined a European identity which is harmoniously integrated with other identities such as local, regional, ethnic, religious and it has argued that people can have multiple identities. Therefore, the creation of identity or identities discussion yields an obvious question whether these identities are in fact antagonistic or compatible. Just like the Commission has defined, Burke has defined the term ‘identity’ as in essence plural but he has also argued, ‘the same individual or group may privilege one identity over another according to the situation and the moment.’ (Burke, 1992). Thus, I might argue, the possibility of conflict between different multiple identities is out of question in Burke’s work and in European Union case and a sort of apolitical conception of identity has been defined and it has been grounded consensus model of society.

Another important issue is that of ‘identities of resistance’ which is defined by Burke in his work “We, the People: Popular Culture and Popular Identity in Modern Europe”. Throughout the world, as Burke puts it, collective identities have been formed or reformed and ‘identities of resistance’ has started to appear. From Burke’s perspective, whilst the inclusive concept of the people was associated with the acceptance of these changes, the exclusive concept of the people associated with the resistance to attempts by other people to change their very own culture and the way of life.  While Burke gives particular attention to identity of resistance is that of ‘the people’ in the exclusive sense, more exactly, the subordinate people as opposed to the ruling class, we can also give an example of identity of resistance from European Union in the inclusive sense. In this context, the rejection of the European Constitutional Treaty by referendum in France and Netherlands in 2005, the strong “Non” and “Nee” of the French and Dutch voters were not only a simple vote on the content of the constitutional text but rather they indicates a sense of resistance to top-down regulations, rules and most importantly identities that are constructed exclusively above by European Union elites (Wind, 2001). Thus, an antagonistic relationship with the state is being rejected at the European Union level.

As stated before, in “We, the People: Popular Culture and Popular Identity in Modern Europe” Burke gives particular attention to the spread of the idea of the people more exactly among the subordinate classes. Thus he has defined identity of resistance is that of ‘the people’ in the exclusive sense, the subordinate people as opposed to the ruling class in particular. The ruling class has been using the term ‘the people’ to refer the rest of the population by defining them as ignorant, disorderly and so on. The problem, for Burke, was to discover when and where this rest of population identified themselves as ‘the people’ or the working class. Much has been written and discussed on the rise of ‘class consciousness’ but Burke defined it from somehow different perspective. He has argued, ‘Ordinary people seem to have become aware of resisting what they regarded as attempts by the privileged classes to take this culture from them.’ (Burke, 1992)

All in all, in this essay, I have tried to analysis the work of Peter Burke, ‘We, the People: Popular Culture and Popular Identity in Modern Europe’. In this respect, I have pointed out the cultural construction of identity and the culture. My examples were mostly from European Union and its history.



BURKE, P. (1992), ‘We, the People: Popular Culture and Popular Identity in Modern Europe’, in Lash and Friedman (eds.), Modernity and Identity, Oxford: Blackwell.

SHORE, C. (2000) Building European Union: The Cultural Politics of European Integration, London, Routledge, pp.15-65

WIND, M. (2001). The Commission White Paper: Bridging the Gap between the Governed and the Governing? Academy of European Law.



Nuran Yıldırım

Middle EastTechnical University


Following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union in a crucial referendum, the relationship between the EU and Balkan countries came into discussions. Although the referendum seems like territorial, it has led disastrous impacts across the globe. While Balkan countries affirmed their commitment to European integration, concerns raised over the uncertain future of the EU following Britain’s vote to leave the EU.

Serbia applied for EU membership in December 2009 and Serbia’s progress on the EU path was conditioned on dialogue with Kosovo. In this sense, the EU- facilitated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade made significant progress in order to normalize relations in the process of Serbia’s accession to the European Union. But Serbia does not intend to recognize Kosovo’s independence. Thus, the European Council agreed to grant Serbia the status of candidate country on March 2012 and accession negotiations at a political level between Serbia and the EU started in January 2014. Chapter 35, on “Other Issues”, which in Serbia’s case, refers to Kosovo is deemed crucial for Serbia’s path to EU membership. Nevertheless, it must be noted that Serbia does not necessarily need to recognize Kosovo as an independent country in order to become a member since a number of member countries including Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Romania have not recognized Kosovo as an independent country as well.

Duck protests

Besides, corruption in Serbia is one of the most important issues affecting the accession of Serbia to the European Union. On the night of April 25, for instance, a group of masked 30 men knocked down multiple buildings in the Savamala district’s Hercegovacka Street that stood in the way of Belgrade Waterfront. Since Savamala district overlaps the area under development, the overnight demolition by masked men lead concerns in the mind of citizens. Belgrade Waterfront (Beodrad na vodi) is a project for which is worth more than €3bn and features a gleaming tower surrounded by luxury apartments, hotels and a shopping centre on the banks of the river.  Thousands of Serbs joined a fresh protest over the Belgrade Waterfront development, one month after an unexplained incident in which the masked men demolished buildings in the riverside area where the state-backed project is to be built. The word duck which means ‘fraud’ in Serbian, became a powerful symbol of resistance to the controversial Belgrade Waterfront project. At a press conference, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that the highest city officials gave the order, but he is sure they did it out of pure motives.

In the 2015 edition of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index which measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption worldwide since 1995, Serbia scored under 50 and was ranked 71st of 168 countries. Thus Serbia have stayed under the score received in 2014 and continued its negative position.

In fact, corruption is recognized as a serious crime in the EU, the member states are expected to ensure respect for justice, judiciary and fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the acquis and by the Charter 23 and 24. In this sense, the European Union encourages candidate and potential candidate countries to tackle corruption and to increase transparency early in the accession process. Nevertheless, Serbia have not opened Chapter 23 and 24 in its EU membership talks and has led to the extension of the negotiation process.

Serbia will remain on EU path

While Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that there will not be a referendum call in Serbia, secretary of foreign affairs Ivica Dacic confirmed their commitment to European integration and said that Serbia will continue on its EU path.

According to prime banks, Serbia has less to lose from Brexit than its neighbors now that it has more relationships, especially on economics, with the countries such as Austria and Germany than Britain. Even though, in short terms, Serbia or more generally the European Union will not be effected from Britain’s vote to leave the EU, it is too early to talk about long-term effects of referendum. Moreover, while European integration has a great importance for all the member countries, it is surely a mistake to think Brexit as something positive for Serbia.

Having played an important role in regional integration with its supranational structure, EU unfortunately suffered a significant loss of credibility with Brexit. Following Britain’s referendum decision, possible referendum proposals ​​by other member countries came to the agenda. It can also be said that in case of recognition of any privilege to the United Kingdom, other members can be requested privileges as well. From the economic perspective, 19 billion pounds of payment of Britain to the EU every year is also at risk. Under these circumstances, Britain’s referendum decision cannot be evaluated as a positive development both for candidate and potential candidate countries.

Russia can expand its sphere of influence on Balkans

Located on the EU’s enlargement calendar, the six Balkan states – Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania – are at different stages in the enlargement process and there are concerns over their ongoing negations with the EU following Brexit vote.

Even though the countries affirmed their commitment to European integration and expressed to remain on EU path, we must also take into account the other global players such as Russia. Since Britain voted to leave from the EU, Russia more likely to expand its sphere of influence on Balkans and fill the vacuum. Some of the underlying causes of such influence can be specified as uncertainty in the region after Brexit, Russia’s relations with the Balkan countries, the lack of stability in the region, and the corruption of politicians. Aiming to develop good relations and deepen economic cooperation among the Balkan countries, the EU was playing an important role in the region. When viewed from this aspects, it is possible to talk about the negative effects of Brexit for the Balkan countries.

As a result, Balkan countries voiced their commitment to the European Union following Britain’s decision to leave the EU. Nevertheless, we are at the beginning of the process yet and everything is unknown. Although Balkan countries are not directly affected in the short-term, Britain’s decision to leave the EU is likely to cause difficulties for the Balkan countries in the EU accession process. In the coming years, indeed, the EU will have to devote enormous energy in order to solve its own internal crisis. In the medium to long-term results of Brexit is still difficult to predict because such an exit from the EU had not experienced before and everything is unclear yet. Under these circumstances, the Balkan countries should maintain the current relationship with the EU and continue the negotiating agenda through opening of new chapters. Briefly Brexit should never be an excuse.