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The power of politics: How political leaders in Serbia discursively manage identity continuity and political change to shape the future of the nation


European Journal of Social Psychology

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The construction of national identities through political discourse is a growing field of interest to social psychologists, particularly as many countries face changing demographics, borders and social realities as part of globalization, immigration and continued political integration and conflict. Through an analysis of 17 key speeches by Serbian politicians over the past 25 years, the present paper explores the question of how politicians, as entrepreneurs of identity, discursively manage the relationship between identity continuity and political change over time, in attempts to construct the future of a nation. We particularly explore this issue in the context of Serbia's present political aspirations toward joining the European Union. The findings indicate that (i) political change becomes negotiated within the framework of established and legitimized identity discourses that have developed over time, and (ii) while history is frequently drawn on to support political agendas, it is successful to the extent that this history offers a sense of cultural continuity rather than a coherent narrative of historical events and time periods. We conclude by arguing for the benefits that a diachronic approach to political discourse can offer social psychologists interested in the discursive construction of national identity.