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Thematic Study on National Identity and the Media (WP4). Participants : “Dun a rea de Jos” University of Galati, Department of English. Romania Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Center for Gender Studies. Greece

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thematic study on national identity and the media wp4

Thematic Study on National Identity and the Media(WP4)


“Dunarea de Jos” University of Galati, Department of English. Romania

Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Center for Gender Studies. Greece

“Euro-Balkan” Institute, Research Center in Gender Studies. Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia

thematic study on national identity and the media wp41
Thematic Study on National Identity and the Media(WP4)
  • Key words:
    • National identity;
    • Images of otherness;
    • Migration;
    • Gender;
    • Media representations.
national identity
National Identity
  • Theoretical framework adopted: imagology and cultural studies
  • Imagology: the study of the representations of the foreign other in the mental structures prevailing in a cultural community at a given historical moment in its evolution; the study of the force lines that at a given moment govern and condition the representation of alterity in a base culture.
  • The corpus of common ideas or mental structures held by one community with respect to another is inevitably influenced by national identity, i.e. the subjective construct, collective self-images that influence the cultural and social praxis .
images of otherness and national identity
Images of Otherness and National Identity
  • Distinction is made between two types of interrelated images:
    • self (auto-) images (i.e. images shaped by the attitude one has towards one’s own cultural values) and
    • hetero-images (i.e. images shaped by one’s attitude towards the other).

These images may be positive or negative in their valorization, reflecting different attitudes such as xenophilia, tolerance and cosmopolitism, on the one hand, and xenophobia and ethnocentricism, on the other.

  • National stereotype: an attempt to fix a certain representation of identity as characteristic for the “national character”; an instance of cultural confrontation reflecting an extrapolation of the particular with the general, and of the individual with the collective.

  • Our interest will not be on establishing the truth value of these images as if they were items of information about reality, but on disclosing the properties of the context which makes them available as patterns of identification for a group of people.
migration and gender as cultural maps
Migration and Gender as Cultural Maps
  • Culture: maps of meaning whereby a particular group of people make sense of everyday practices, that are prone to processes of formation and deconstruction.
  • In reading the representational “terrain” of national identity, we will focus on migration and gender as variable and fluid maps of meaning which are open to negotiation and re-negotiation.


addresser - message -addressee



  • (Roman Jakobson’s diagram of communication)
  • Who is saying this? What audience is the author addressing? Why is it important for the author to make this point? What are the political circumstances at the time the text is produced? How does the author attempt to convince the addressee of the validity of his claim? What type of text and code does (s)he use to construct a certain image?
media representations
Media Representations
  • Media texts:
    • Printed texts: books, newspapers and magazines;
    • Audio-visual texts: television and film (feature films and documentaries);
    • Electronic texts/ internet: blogs, podcasts, forums.

In analysing these representations with an aim at underlining a certain relationship between the examining self and the examined other, it is important to:

  • delimitate the spatial frame;
  • identify the dichotomic coordinates relating the geographical space to the mental structures underlying the representation of cross-cultural encounters (East vs. West; town vs. country; distant vs. familiar; margin vs. centre; included vs. excluded) ;
  • consider the time component (both diachronically and synchronically) ;
  • read the text as an anthropological document bearing on social practices, manners, living conditions, etc.
  • consider the auto- and hetero-images as they emerge in textual terms as an ensemble of signs meant for a certain public in order to meet certain expectations.
case study migration and image construction in the romanian context
Case Study: Migration and Image Construction in the Romanian Context
  • Spatial mapping of the Romanian context as:
    • migration source;
    • migration target;
    • migration transit space.
  • Temporal mapping of the Romanian context:
    • pre-1989 migration;
    • post- 1989 migration.
  • (De)constructing the migrant in media texts.
romania as migration source
Romania as migration source
  • Before 1989 (under the Communist regime)
    • restrictive exit policies, severely limiting the ability of citizens to travel internationally with the hope of reducing the number of asylum applications made by Romanians abroad;
    • Nonetheless, a relatively high amount of permanent, legal emigration → Ethnic minorities, i.e. Jews, Germans and Hungarians (44% of the emigrant population between 1975 and 1989)
      • Jews → Israel and the United States;
      • Germans → the Federal Republic of Germany;
      • Hungarians → Hungary, most of them choosing illegal strategies of leaving (crossing the green border illegally, staying in Hungary without residence permit, etc.).
romania as migration source1
Romania as migration source
  • Before 1989 (under the Communist regime)
    • temporary migration notably for the purposes of education and work. Labour migration was exclusively state-managed, and a large majority of Romanian workers headed to the Middle East, particularly to the Persian Gulf area, where their labour activities were tightly regulated and family reunification forbidden.
romania as migration source2
Romania as migration source
  • After 1989 (after the fall of the Communist regime)
    • Liberalization of passport administration and international travel;
    • a set of acts meant to regulate the international mobility of the labour force (both outflows and inflows):
      • 2002 -Labour Force Migration Office;
      • bilateral agreements on labour migration. E.g. In 2006 it provided 53,029 Romanian workers with foreign jobs (up 137% from 2002), mainly as seasonal workers in Germany (the major destination for this type of migration), Spain and Hungary.
      • 2004 – the National Strategy on Migration (its main goal: to provide a coherent legal framework for labour migration, asylum cases and naturalization).
romania as migration source3
Romania as migration source
  • 1. ethnic minorities (especially Germans and Hungarians) – over-represented among the migrants in the 1990s.
  • 2. studies abroad in both European and American educational institutions (secondary schools and mainly universities).
  • 3. since the 1990s – massive migration of Romanian labour force on account of the restructuring of Romanian economy resulting in increased unemployment. 3 phases of labour migration:
      • 1990-1995: migration to Israel, Turkey, Hungary (mostly ethnic Hungarians) and Germany ;
      • 1996-2002: westward migration increasingly to Italy and Spain;
      • 2002- to the present: removing the visa requirements in the Schengen space →Italy, Spain, Portugal and the UK.
  • Estimations: 3.4 million Romanians were working abroad in mid-2007, approximately 1.2 million of them legally . Almost two thirds of Romanian emigrants are women.
romania as migration source4
Romania as migration source
  • Categorisation of immigrants:
    • Legal/ authorized immigrants;
    • Undocumented/ illegal/ irregular/ unauthorized immigrants (Romania – mainly a source country for irregular migration)
  • Sectors most likely liable to undocumented employment:
    • construction and associated businesses;
    • hotels and restaurants;
    • cleaning of industrial facilities and buildings;
    • agriculture and forestry;
    • food, beverage and tobacco industry;
    • transportation of persons and goods;
    • metal processing industries;
    • businesses in the entertainment sector (bars, nightclubs, amusement arcades);
    • private households and private building sites (domestic work – cleaning and caring)
romania as migration source5
Romania as migration source
  • Consequences of massive migration from Romania:
    • Positive effects:
      • For the migrant ethnic minorities (Jews, Germans, Hungarians) - regaining their sense of national identity by rediscovering, by displacement, their cultural ‘roots’.
      • For students – direct access to a varied range of academic approaches to different study fields from which they could benefit by acquiring more working (but also) life experience.
      • For workers - increasing the living standards of migrant households (e.g. the National Bank of Romania reported the record amount of EUR 4.8-5.3 billion for remittances in 2006)
    • Negative affects:
      • loss of valuable professional labour force, since many of the students trained abroad and of the well-trained workers left abroad more often than not decide not to return to Romania (mainly for financial reasons).

growing shortages in sectors of the Romanian labour market

      • abandonment of minors by their labour migrant parents (especially by their mothers in the recent years) (e.g. in 2006 - 60,000 children at risk for having their parents working abroad, out of which one third deprived of both their parents - the National Authority for the Protection of Children’s Rights
      • trafficking in human beings, especially women.
      • increased criminality
romania as migration target
Romania as migration target
  • Before 1989 (under the Communist regime)
    • rather limited inflow of foreign migrants to Romania, especially from the “unfriendly” countries;
    • foreign students, especially from the Middle East and African countries (from the 1970s onwards) (= 7-8% of the students in the Romanian universities in the 1980s).
romania as migration target1
Romania as migration target
  • After 1989 (after the fall of the Communist regime):
  • Main reasons for immigration to Romania: studies; marriage; work/ business.
  • Several phases in the immigration process:
    • 1990s: mostly entrepreneurs, especially from Turkey, the Middle East (Syria, Jordan) and China;
    • 2000 – to the present: foreign workers meant to make up for the shortages on the Romanian labour market (especially in sectors like clothing and construction industries).

Countries of origin: mainly Turkey and China, but also Ukraine and Middle-East countries (Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, etc.)

But also investors and highly specialized workers from countries like France, Germany, Italy, the United States, etc.

romania as migration target2
Migrants from the neighbouring Republic of Moldova (building on historical ties)

The 1991 Romanian Citizenship Law, which practically defined the migration of Moldovan citizens as a form of repatriation

Total number of immigrants and immigrants from the Republic of Moldova, 1991-2005

Romania as migration target
romania as transit migration space
Romania as transit migration space
  • Romania counts as a transit country for many asylum applicants due to its geographical location on the European Union’s eastern border and due to its position as a crossroad between the north-south migration axis (African countries being significant places of origin) and the east-west route (Far East, Middle East and former Soviet Union as main sources).
  • As the Romanian economy is still not very attractive to economic migrants, most of these groups just adjourn on their way toward more developed west side of Europe. → crossing the border illegally, staying in Romania without residence permit, etc.

the largest groups of apprehended aliens: Turkey, China, Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, Syria, India, Nigeria, etc.

romania as transit migration space1
Romania as transit migration space
  • Refuge and asylum in Romania
    • 1991- the UN Convention and the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees ; Romanian Government Ordinances (e.g. no. 616/ 06.06.2004 defining the National Strategy regarding Migration)
    • the National Office for Refugees (the Romanian governmental unit in charge of the implementation of asylum policy)
    • The number of applications currently in decrease, but it might increase in the near future owing to the fact that approximately two-thirds of Romania’s borders are with non-EU countries (Moldova, Ukraine and the former Yugoslavia) .
romania as transit migration space2
Romania as transit migration space
  • Romania – both a source and a transit country (for persons originating from Moldova, Ukraine and Russia) of human trafficking, with victims (including children) being trafficked to various places in the Balkan states as well as Italy, Spain, France and beyond.
  • Considerable pressure on the Romanian authorities to implement effective policies to address this problem:
    • 2001: the law to combat and prevent human trafficking;
    • Focus mainly on trafficking with children – 2004: a Draft National Plan of Action for Preventing and Combating Trafficking with Children
    • enforcement of regulations meant to prevent or sanction trafficking; setting up institutions to assist victims including centres that underage victims of trafficking can return to and centres where adult victims of trafficking can receive counselling.
  • However, as international reports evidence, in spite of the progress made at the legislative level, Romania remains a source and transit country primarily for women and girls trafficked from Moldavia and Ukraine to Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Greece, Italy and Turkey for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
romanians migration and media representations
Romanians, Migration and Media Representations
  • Printed texts: books
    • novels, diaries and monographies written by Romanians who migrated (legally or illegally) under the Communist regime:
      • E.g. Sorin Alexandrescu, Identitate în ruptură (Identity in Rupture), Sanda Stolojan, Nori peste balcoane. Jurnal din exilul parizian(Clouds over balconies. The Diary of a Parisian exile), Hertha Muller, The Land of Green Plums;Oana Orlea,Une Sosie en Cavale; Oana Orlea, Les Anées volées – dans le Goulag roumain à seize ans,Louise Gherasim, Escape from Romania
    • diaries and monographies mainly by young Romanian postgraduates who left for studies after the 1989 change of regime:
      • E.g. Ioana Bot, Jurnal elvetian (Swiss Diary)
romanians migration and media representations1
Romanians, Migration and Media Representations
  • newspapers and magazines:
    • daily Romanian newspapers (broadsheets): Romania libera; Adevarul; Evenimentul zilei; Jurnalul national, etc.
    • international press: La Stampa, Corriere della Sera, The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, International Herald Tribune, etc.
    • Romanian diaspora press: Actualitatea romaneasca – Romanii de pretutindeni; Diaspora romaneasca – Romanii de pretutindeni; Repere romanesti – Romanii de pretutindeni, Romanian Global News, next to (on-line)newspapers of Romanian communities in different European countries (Italy, Spain, Hungary, Germany, the UK , France ,Belgium, Sweden)
romanians migration and media representations2
Romanians, Migration and Media Representations
  • Audio-visual texts: television
    • Romanian TV channels (TVR, PRO-TV, Antena 1, etc.): news (e.g. news series – Tu stii ce mai face copilul tau?) talk-shows , etc.
    • international TV channels: Euronews, BBC World, etc.
romanians migration and media representations3
Romanians, Migration and Media Representations
  • Audio-visual texts: films:
    • Feature films:
      • Romanian: Occident (2002, director Cristian Mungiu), Italiencele (2004, director Napoleon Helmis), Cum mi-am petrecut sfarsitul lumii (2006, director Catalin Mitulescu)
      • Foreign: Leo (2000, director Jose Luis Borau), Sex Traffic (2004, TV-series UK); Je vous trouve tres beau (2006, director Isabelle Mergault), La notte (to be released in 2008, director Francesco Munzi).
    • Documentaries:
      • Romanian: Satul sosetelor (2006, director Ileana Stanculescu) ; Orfani pe termen limitat (2006) ; Independenta (2006, director Rastko Petrovic)
      • Foreign: The Last Peasants – Temptation (2003, director Angus Macqueen); Leaving Transylvania (2006, director Dieter Auner) ; Stam – We are staying (2006, directors Anne Schiltz and Charlotte Gregoire); Stella (2006, director Vanina Vignal); Beyond the Forest (2007, director Gerald Igor Hauzenberger)
romanians migration and media representations4
Romanians, Migration and Media Representations
  • Electronic texts/ Internet:
    • Blogs:; Romanian language blog directory (
    • Podcasts: e.g. racist music by DJSyto (Spain)
    • forums :;;;;;;;, etc.