'Poland Has Always Been in Europe'

The EU as an Instrument for Personal and National Advancement

in Anthropological Journal of European Cultures

The paper explores ways in which individuals make use of the opportunities and resources provided by the European Union (EU), and how such instrumentalities can make the concept of Europe more salient for citizens. This is important to European Union studies generally because careful observation and analysis of everyday engagements can help to reveal the basis upon which the EU gains legitimacy, or, alternatively, the grounds for resistance to further integration. Through an examination of Poles' experiences of mobility, and their reflections about crossing national borders to work and travel, the paper shows that instrumentality is not just motivated by economic interests, but also by the desire to advance culturally, socially and symbolically within a global imaginary of hierarchically ranked nations. As such, support for European integration tends to weaken in situations where ongoing inequalities and exclusions lead to perceptions of social demotion. Further, instrumentalities can deepen meaningful engagement with the EU in ways that also reassert national loyalties.