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“Wir sind dem Schutz unserer Heimat Österreich” : the ‘boundaries’ of ‘Heimat’ in the FPÖ’s national identity discourse


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Eaves, ZM 2017 , '“Wir sind dem Schutz unserer Heimat Österreich” : the ‘boundaries’ of ‘Heimat’ in the FPÖ’s national identity discourse', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis examines the use of the term Heimat in the political discourse of Austria’s Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ). The concept of Heimat has long described the collective identity and cultural rapport between German-speaking groups, as well as the strong feelings of affection one has for their ‘home’ and native environment. With the advent of European nationalism during the nineteenth century, however, Heimat gained a political dimension through which it was possible to dictate normative features of national identity. Heimat is therefore explored in this dissertation as a preestablished concept that has been appropriated by the FPÖ in order to discursively construct an Austrian national identity narrative that suits its anti-immigration policies and Right-Wing populist parochialisms. Right-Wing Austrian political parties are well known for using emotive imagery in an inflammatory way to polarize opinion, and a deconstruction of their materials through the lens of Heimat provides an original and substantial contribution to cultural studies. Central to my investigation is an analysis of the FPÖ’s Right-Wing populist Heimat imaginary, which is used by the party to outline its definition of the Austrian nation, community, culture, and identity. A recurring theme in the FPÖ’s Heimat discourse is the notion of a ‘homeland’ that positions ‘the people’ as a central native community. This dissertation accordingly attempts to discover how Right-Wing populist Heimat discourse can affect perceptions of Austria’s character as a nation. These perceptions influence the way Austria should look and feel, which collective identities and cultural manifestations are considered to be normative in the national identity narrative, and which physical landscapes typify the topography of the nation.
The final objective of this dissertation is to investigate these features of Heimat as examples of an idealised sense of community that is constructed around ethnocentric nationalism and monoculturalism. The dissertation consequently provides empirical evidence to demonstrate how the term Heimat is used by the FPÖ to construct a national identity narrative that gains voter support while also contesting the increased foreign migration to Austria and Europe. This thesis examines how the FPÖ uses the term Heimat to counter what the party identifies as a rupture of community, the diminishing sense of an identity of place, and loss of collective national identity, all of which has supposedly arisen from a sense of alienation caused by modern globalisation and the resultant push for cultural and societal diversification and pluralism in Western democracies. As an important identity concept in the FPÖ’s rhetoric, Heimat is explored in this thesis through the dominant lenses of landscape, language, history and mythology. These categories of analysis are integral to understanding the FPÖ’s definition of Heimat, and therefore require thematic examination in individual chapters. My study draws on the FPÖ’s political programmes, literature, speeches, photographs, websites, and social media. The inquiries that are addressed in the thesis are motivated by three overarching research questions:
(1) How is the physical landscape of Heimat defined in Right-Wing populist discourse, and how does it resonate with the native Austrian population?
(2) Which demographic is ‘at home’ in this image of Heimat, and how is their identity defined?
(3) Which social groups are either marginalised or denied membership in this narrative?
A resolution to these inquiries offers a unique insight into what it means to be Austrian from a contemporary Right-Wing populist perspective.
To date, no systematic investigation has considered the role of national identity politics in Austria while also taking into account the current refugee and migrant crisis facing modern Europe. The political dominance of the Centre-Leftist parties continues to wane throughout Western democracies, and with it comes the resurgence of Far Right attitudes and the rising popularity of Right-Wing populist political blocs. This thesis examines how the FPÖ’s populist Heimat discourse targets the fear many Austrian citizens hold about the preservation of their traditional national identity and image of the nation. It shows how the party then exploits these anxieties in order to question the validity of the governing multiculturalism narrative by attempting to discredit the idea that one can import large numbers of foreign cultural groups and have no societal problems as a result. This thesis thus discovers how the concept of ‘Heimat’ functions as an imaginary cultural border that enforces a frontier between a national ‘us’ and a foreign ‘them’ in the FPÖ’s political strategy.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Eaves, ZM
Keywords: Heimat, Austria, national identity, right-wing populism, FPÖ, Freedom Party of Austria, Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs
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Copyright 2017 the author

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