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Discursive Interaction in EU-Russia Relations. Examining the Entanglement of How the EU and Russia Narrate the World

Baumann, Mario (2023) Discursive Interaction in EU-Russia Relations. Examining the Entanglement of How the EU and Russia Narrate the World. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.102776) (KAR id:102776)


In a time when 'the Western idea' is increasingly challenged, when the creation of meaning is contested globally, this dissertation seeks to illuminate how Russian and EU foreign policy discourses interact. It is building upon the insight that Russian and European debates do not exist in isolation from but are entangled with each other.

Going beyond one-dimensional studies of Russian and European identity formation, this project seeks to capture the EU-Russia relationship as an intersubjective one. Such a context, it is argued, requires an approach that does not reduce the Other to an object of discursive othering but appreciates it as an acting subject in its own right, articulating an alternative political project. It seeks to understand how this social context of discursive struggle positions Russia and the EU towards each other, how this positioning may pose constraints on the foreign policy discourses they articulated, and thus, how it conditions both subjects' (discursive) agency.

To this end, this dissertation proposes a non-deterministic intersubjective analytical approach. Its theoretical framework marries poststructuralist thought with insights from critical approaches to Hegelian recognition dialectics. Adding the latter's social ontology to the former's constitutive logic, it fleshes out how the intersubjective dimension conditions Russia's and the EU's articulation of contingent discourses. The empirical discourse analysis takes a comparative perspective, focusing on articulations by key figures and institutions of foreign policy-making both in Russia and the EU. Based on more than 550 primary sources, it traces the structure of Russian and EU antagonistic foreign policy discourses on seven contested events (floating signifiers) between 2004 and 2021 and illuminates how they engage with each other in a competition for hegemony.

This study draws a detailed empirical picture of discursive dynamics between Russia and the EU. Tracing the evolution of how both subjects relate to each other discursively, it illustrates how the discursive struggle between Russia and the EU intensifies. At the same time, it is argued that neither the EU's nor Russia's foreign policy discourses have changed substantially. Their structure, as well as their patterns of interaction have exhibited striking continuity. This interaction is an asymmetrical one with Russia's articulation remaining much more conditioned by the EU's discourse than vice versa. Harnessing insights from recognition dynamics, this dissertation argues that the EU is more independent in sovereignly articulating an interpretation of the world, whereas Russia continues to face constraints in the formulation of an autonomous political project, ultimately limiting its agency in the articulation of discourse.

Conceptually and methodologically, this dissertation contributes to the existing literature by providing a comprehensive analytical framework to capture discursive interaction in an intersubjective setting free of preconceived structural assumptions. Empirically, it offers a detailed account of the mechanics of how Russian and EU discourses compete for hegemony, substantially contributing to an understanding of the discursive dynamics in the two decades preceding Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Casier, Tom
Thesis advisor: Pabst, Adrian
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.102776
Uncontrolled keywords: Poststructuralism, Discourse Analysis, Recognition, Floating Signifier, Russia, EU
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Funders: University of Kent (
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2023 12:10 UTC
Last Modified: 18 Sep 2023 12:50 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Baumann, Mario.

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