The rise of illiberal national populist movements across Europe somehow find commonality, while at the same time being rooted in sentiments of superiority. Whether that superiority derives from an identity connected to Europe or an identity that differentiates itself from all other cultures, it inherently relies on the “othering” of perceived differences. The works of Dan Stone and Nilüfer Göle grappled with this very idea. They approached the topic from different angles, as Stone dealt with ‘collective memory,’ while Göle examined ‘chronotope’s’ in order to explain how perceptions of past events have the ability to influence present and future realities. They did so in through analyzing the treatment of Muslims in Europe. These two differing approaches are in fact quite complementary, and will be examined in greater detail to display their similarities.
Stone compared Europe’s experience with the Holocaust to the ongoing migrant crisis, and pointed to the differing national ‘collective memories’ to display the varying degrees of treatment that migrants experience across Europe. He articulated that the differing degrees of reception to migrants is possibly ingrained in the treatment of how each nation dealt with its past connections with fascism in the twentieth century. The more a nation has come to terms with its involvement, the more receptive they might be. However, for nations that have not done so, the Holocaust is only viewed as the defeat of the Nazi’s, and has neglected to reconcile their own involvement or complacency. While it is fair to criticize the differences between the two events, the risk is to yet again become complacent in responding to a true tragedy.
Unlike Stone, Göle focused on how events that occurred at the same time and space can be perceived entirely different through the use of ‘chronotopes.’ These chronotopes are socially constructed, and can be both complementary as well as contradictory. When they transcend cultural divides, they often oppose one another. She utilized the examples of laws against burka’s and Europe’s experience with Turkey to convey her point. For Europeans, burkas are frequently viewed as oppressive against women, however the very fact the Muslim woman were empowered to have the choice in these nations made the selection all the more powerful. Nonetheless, because these chronotopes interact in a social setting, nations such as France have placed a ban on face-covering veils. As for Turkey, it exemplified an Islamic nation that has been part of Europe’s history and adheres to its values, yet has been hotly contested when considering its entry into the European Union.
These two works display how differing interpretations of shared historical events give life to present day issues. The migrant crisis has undoubtably strained what constitutes not only European identity, but also national identities across Europe. The new illiberal national populist movements are relying on the ‘othering’ of Islam, along with other factors, in order to legitimize their very being. However, it is entirely possible that these issues derive from how these nations are treating their past.