Accepted paper:

On the teleology of accession: the rise and fall of liberal-humanitarian utopia in Croatian accession to the European Union


Orlanda Obad (Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the role of "liberal-humanitarian utopia" in the process of Croatian accession to the European Union. It exhibits how critical anthropology of European integration may complicate but also deepen the discussion of this and related concepts in Central and Eastern Europe.

Paper long abstract:

Following the classical work of Karl Mannheim, Attila Melegh (2006) claims that "liberal-humanitarian utopia" may be the key to understanding the discourse on Central and Eastern Europe inherent in political processes such is enlargement of the European Union. This utopian and, at the same time, teleological aspect of accession appears most clearly in the vaguest and least concrete accession criteria, such as the rule of law, the existence of functioning market economy or the respect of human rights. Such criteria supposedly permit the accession to become a "timeless process" of adjustment and improvement toward an idea, and not a tangible model, therefore contributing to the formation and maintenance of the continental and global "civilizational slopes". This paper will present the disruptions and punctures that the approach of critical anthropology of European integration (cf. Shore 2000) may bring to this and similar discussions of discourses on Central and Eastern Europe. It will trace the rise and fall of ideas pertaining to liberal-humanitarian utopia in Croatian accession to the EU, by also focusing on their everyday derivatives and deviations, as well as on the purposes and ends they serve in diverse social relations. The analysis will be based upon the author's long-term research of social perception of EU in Croatia, and particularly on two sets of interviews with Croatian negotiators with the EU conducted in the midst of the negotiating process (2007/2008) and repeated at its end (2013/2014).

panel P063
Anthropological utopias: debating personal, political and idealist expectations in the intersection of theory and ethnographic practice