Negotiating the Imagined Geography of Europeanness in Polish State Bureaucracies

in Anthropological Journal of European Cultures
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This article explores how the fluctuating cartography of East and West and the varying degrees of perceptive Europeanness influence everyday practices of the people working in Polish state bureaucracies, who professionally advance European integration within a national framework. While an important part of their self-image is formed through the dissociation from cultural 'Eastness' and the backwardness they ascribe to fellow citizens, they still experience negative stereotyping and mistrust from the part of the EU-15 'Westerners'. Consequently, East-Central European state officials oscillate on the continuum between cultural 'East' and 'West' and constantly negotiate distance, relatedness and thus their own liminal position. By scrutinising how Polish state officials aim at positioning themselves on the mental map of Europe, this article shows that they attempt to escape the cultural pattern of negative stereotyping and mistrust by using a functionalist narrative of efficiency. This is a rhetorical strategy employed to cope with existing asymmetries.