What the ‘Other’ thinks of ‘Us’ : The ‘European brand’ seen from a postcolonial perspective

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In this geopolitical master thesis, a relatively underexposed ‘trialectic of relations’ in the field of international politics is introduced to the reader, namely that of the European Union, the Netherlands and Suriname – a former colony of the latter. This is not a random selection of political entities, but one that shows interdependencies that are primarily reliant on the Netherlands as a binding factor. In order to get a better perspective on the consequences of this interdependent relationship for the mutual power relations, the interconnectedness between images of the Netherlands and the European Union among people living in the former colony has been uncovered and analyzed. As such, this study was involved with underexplored fields of imaging, and contributes to a better self-perspective for the two political entities on possibilities for increasing influence. The focus of this research shows a concern with struggles over global political space through ‘soft power’ relations and represents a belief in the importance of discursive structures for our construction and interpretation of reality. Corresponding with poststructuralist thinking, it is the idea that these discursive structures do not stand alone, but are balanced through reciprocal relations with autonomous subjects. By complementing this ontology with the humanistic interpretation of agency, it is assumed that individuals are key in assigning meaning to space and place through intersubjective processes. However, meaning does not always show directly and phenomena often conceal greater importance than might be thought at first. Binary oppositions, for instance, shelter hidden power relations. Likewise, images are constructed as part of an identity formation process, which thrives on ‘Othering’. Deconstruction serves the purpose of revealing those relations and postcolonialism, here, provides the framework for achieving this. This all accumulates in the theory that political and societal entities possess both a ‘reputation’ and a ‘brand’, which amount to ‘soft power’. While reputation is based on actions, a brand is based on characteristics, both resulting from the imagination of ‘Others’ – as opposed to self-perception and identity which stem from one’s own perspective.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen