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National Identity in France and Germany: From Mutual Exclusion to Negotiation

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image of International Negotiation

When international conflicts come to an end, the question that is raised is not only ``what happened,'' but also – and more importantly – ``what shall we do with the past.'' Solving conflicts in a durable manner requires a gradual transformation in the way parties represent the past and elaborate their identity. To provide an adequate framework for a rapprochement, identities can no longer rely on a rejection of the other; they must be negotiated. This article is divided into three parts. First, the concepts of identity and memory are described. Second, the pre-reconciliation identities of groups are analyzed. In particular, the article examines the identities produced by France and Germany before their rapprochement. It argues that identities on both sides of the Rhine were conceived in monolithic terms and excluded dissident interpretations. Third, the article attempts to characterize identities as they develop in a reconciliation process. In this regard, the Franco-German case shows that identities may be the result of negotiation between different and often contradictory interpretations. The article describes this process of negotiation – the steps involved, the necessary conditions for it to occur, and the role played by key factors.

Affiliations: 1: Unité de science politique et de relations internationales, Universitécatholique de Louvain, Place Montesquieu, 1/7-8, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium


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