New Working Paper by TRANSWEL – Belonging and European Social Membership: Legitimations and Contestations in Bulgarian and German Social Policy Expert Interviews

by Florian Zabransky and Jana Fingarova (Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus–Senftenberg

Current mobility within the EU raises questions regarding access to and portability of social security rights. This paper focuses on the nexus of mobility and social security in the context of European social security coordination. It explores how social policy experts frame and (de-)legitimize European social citizenship/membership. Additional questions it addresses include: How do social policy experts conceptualize and articulate narratives of European social membership/citizenship? And how do they relate these narratives to notions of belonging in the context of current intra-EU mobility?

Using Norman Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis approach, the article conceptualizes 11 Bulgarian and German expert interviews as narratives that eventually formed larger discourses. It identifies various types of assumptions, revealing how the experts referred to notions of belonging concerning European social citizenship, thus capturing what they took for granted or considered to be ‘common ground’.

The three main narratives in the Bulgarian and German contexts identified in this study refer to mobility, European social citizenship, and belonging. To give an example, in the mobility narrative of the Bulgarian expert interviews, a process of normalizing emigration from Bulgaria to other countries was described. The second narrative revealed that the Bulgarian social policy experts see a hierarchization of ‘emigration’, whereas the German experts hierarchize ‘mobility’. In the narrative of belonging, the concept of ‘benefit migration’ was contested by the Bulgarian and was reproduced by the German experts. In conclusion, it is shown that lived social membership is difficult to attain, because belonging is not unambiguous, according to the experts’ narratives.

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