Ioana Tartacuta-Lawrence

2016 AFPGR Participant


The World through Another’s Lens – Bringing National Identity into Focus

About Ioana

Ioana is a final year research student with the Department of Politics and International Relations. Ioana is supervised by Dr Laura Brace and Dr Tara McCormack.

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About My Research

My area of interest is identity politics, as a type of political strategy which is influenced by national identity. The starting point of my research was the reality that traditional accounts of state behaviour which rely on an objective cost-benefit calculation of interests do not always satisfactorily explain or predict the action of states. Instead, my project investigates the role national identity may play in informing the priorities of states and, consequently, their behaviour. National identity is a complex feature which can best be described as an accumulation of historical experiences which create a particular and individual image of the self, of other actors and, more generally, of the world. A state, therefore, has memory, and the reality in which it functions is constructed and peculiar to it. That is why, in similar circumstances, two states may act differently and their interpretation of the same event, be that the migration crisis, the conflict in the Ukraine, or Britain’s referendum on leaving the EU, may vary.

The case study I have chosen to portray this is Romania, a medium size state in Eastern Europe. Romania makes for a useful case study, firstly because it has developed a powerful sense of identity and, more importantly, its influence its visible, particularly in certain areas. Throughout most of its history, Romania was not a unitary state, consisting of three separate regions – Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania. Romanian identity therefore developed around the notion of a cultural and ethnic connection between these three regions and unification became its main political goal. Currently, the Romanian state comprises the three original regions almost entirely, the greatest exception being Bessarabia, the eastern half of Moldavia and now the independent state of the Republic of Moldova, which split from Romania at the end of the Second World War. The influence of Romanian identity is especially noticeable in areas concerning the physical integrity of the state and, as a result, this country is acutely sensitive in its relations with states which have threatened it in the past. The project focuses on Hungary and Russia.

Research Findings

The lens through which Romania views the world is one which prioritises the security of the state and protection from foreign influence. The relationship with the Republic of Moldova, as a sister-state, has precedence over that with many other actors of higher objective importance. On the other hand, Romania views Hungary and Russia with suspicion and relations with these actors is strained. This is significant because Hungary and Romania are allies within the European Union and NATO and poor dialogue between the two may destabilise the region and these organisations. Russia is perceived as a threat, both to Romania’s pro-Western direction, and to the sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova, particularly in the context of the conflict in the Ukraine. More importantly, however, Russia’s expansionist policy is awarded much more attention in Romania than it is in the West. One of this project’s main arguments is that our own assessment of the threat posed by Russia in the current climate would benefit from understanding their position. Romania has much more experience in dealing with Russia and, as a result, is much more sensitive to its actions. Overall, the value of this exercise is in acknowledging that our analysis is context dependent and that there is potentially much to learn from looking at the world from someone else’s lens.

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