Of colonies and exotic territories. A historical and visual analysis of the EU geopolitical imaginaires
Xavier Guillaume (University of Groningen)
The historical and institutional development of the European Union happens hand in hand with postwar decolonisation. Original EU member states were either on-going or (recently) former colonial powers and most possessed (and possess still) « overseas » territories (outre-mer, overseas, overzees, etc.). The aim of this paper is to explore the historical evolution of European/EU geopolitical imaginaries by providing a social visual semiotics of European maps and Atlas of the period starting from 1939 (what was the visual imaginary before the Second World War) and 1986 (with the integration of Spain and Portugal, two of the last historically major European colonial powers). The paper first concentrates on the connection between geopolitical imaginaries and maps, or other geographical forms of representation. It moves on operationalizing a visual social semiotics framework to the study of maps, and related visual materials, and applies such operationalization to the study of European maps and Atlas for the above mentioned period. The aim of the paper is to complement the current literature on rethinking how the EU, as a political entity, is embedded in its colonial history and legacies.