Affective Rhetoric and ‘Sticky Concepts’ in European Education Policy Documents

  • Tuuli LähdesmäkiEmail author
  • Aino-Kaisa Koistinen
  • Susanne C. Ylönen
Open Access


Concepts carry not only meanings but also affective associations and cultural connotations. In this chapter, we elaborate on the affective dimensions of European education policy documents. Many of the conceptual densities discussed in this book form affective peaks or rhetorical pinnacles that transmit the idea of intercultural dialogue—and the values attached to it—more effectively than the definitions of the concept alone are able to do. Drawing on theories of affect, we trace the affective transmission of ideals and values in the education policy documents and examine what kind of affects and affective connotations ‘stick’ to the concept of intercultural dialogue. We suggest affective rhetoric is used in European education policy documents to legitimize the commissioning bodies’ attempts to advance intercultural dialogue.


Affect Sticky concepts Affective rhetoric Values 

Policies function as ‘actants’ that are able to create webs of meanings, social and semantic spaces, and action. Policy rhetoric names, gives meanings to, and categorizes issues and explicitly states how these issues and related practices should be approached. Moreover, it is able to ‘move’ its recipients at a more intimate level. In this chapter, we discuss the affective associations, or ‘stickiness’ (e.g. Ahmed 2004a, b, c) evoked by the rhetorical use of the concepts related to intercultural dialogue in European education policy documents. Before going further, it is necessary to briefly define affect, a very elusive concept in itself, for the purposes of the book at hand.

In the last few decades, cultural studies and the social sciences have seen a “surge of interest” (Wetherell 2012, 2) in affects; so much so, that scholars have sometimes dubbed this an “affective turn” (e.g. Clough 2010; Koivunen 2010; Thompson and Hoggett 2012b). The growing interest in affect has produced several competing strands of research, and this has not led to any single affect theory—or, for that matter, any single understanding of what constitutes ‘affect’ (Seigworth and Gregg 2010; Wetherell 2012). Wetherell notes that affect is often juxtaposed with emotion: affect is defined as physical and sensory experiences, whereas emotion is understood as the social and recognizable expressions of affective states (Wetherell 2012, 2, 51–76). Wetherell distinguishes two strands of affect in social sciences. In her words: “Sometimes ‘affect’ includes every aspect of emotion and sometimes it refers just to physical disturbance and bodily activity [—] as opposed to ‘feelings’ or more elaborated subjective experiences” (Wetherell 2012, 2). For our purposes, it is relevant that Wetherell (2012, 2–4, 12) sees these two strands as complemented by a broader understanding of the processes of what she calls embodied meaning-making, which is a social practice. Ahmed (2004a, b, c, 2010a, b) also emphasizes the social and discursive dimension of affects, which can be linked to objects and mediated through cultural practices. As Wetherell (2012, 1–4), Ahmed (2004c, 2010b), Brennan (2004), and others have noted, affect also refers to ‘being affected’ by something or someone, thus emphasizing its mediated and transferable aspects.

In this chapter, we follow these views that configurations of affect are social and culturally mediated (see also Connolly 2002; Blackman and Venn 2010; Lähdesmäki 2017) and therefore expressed through discourses found in the European education policy documents. To put it simply, we see affect as deeply interconnected to cultural practices of signification, representation, and mediation. Thus, we do not consider affect as ‘merely’ physical, biological, or separate from cognitive processes (see also Lähdesmäki 2017). Our approach is therefore contrary to theories that consider affect as prior to cognition, representation, culture, or discourse (on criticism of the non-representational approach to affect, see e.g. Wetherell 2012; Smith and Campbell 2015; Lähdesmäki 2017).

In our analysis, we build especially on Ahmed’s theories about the stickiness of affects. For Ahmed (2010b, 29), “Affect is what sticks, or what sustains or preserves the connection between ideas, values, and objects”. In other words, the way that affects are attached to objects or subjects—or words, concepts, and ideas—influences the way in which they are valued. This attachment is a social, cultural, and discursive process. Ahmed introduces her idea of stickiness especially in relation to racialized, gendered, and queer bodies, bodies that become othered and cast as different via evocations of ‘impurity’ and danger (e.g. Ahmed 2004a, b, c, 2010b). Impurity and danger are good examples of the transmission of affect, because they evoke negative emotional responses without being emotions themselves. Similarly, positive affects may be produced by the evocation of purity and safety (or, as in the case of the education policy language analysed here, e.g. the ideas of ‘unity’, ‘social cohesion’, and ‘mutual understanding’), although the positivity/negativity of any state of being affected depends on the cultural and situational alignment of the perceiver (see Ahmed 2010b). Through their liaison with values, affects also have the power to align people with certain others that share or promote the same values, while casting them as being in opposition to “other others” (Ahmed 2004a, b, c, 2). Although (the prevention of) impurity or danger are not as explicitly discussed in the European education policy documents as they are in Ahmed’s examples, our analysis establishes that concerns over social and societal disorder and instability are implicitly expressed through concepts that evoke ideals of unity and peace, creating a specific affective space in these documents.

We therefore argue that—like objects, spaces, events, and bodies—concepts too can become saturated with affect. We approach certain concepts, such as ‘freedom’, ‘tolerance’, and ‘human rights’, as more affective and ‘sticky’ than others, thereby adhering to views that understand affects as representational and transmittable ‘moods’ or ‘emotional effects’ that can be willingly produced and performatively used to further certain discursive agendas. Ahmed (2004a, 122) analyses how words evoking fear and threat—such as ‘flood’ and ‘swamped’—became stuck to ‘asylum seeker’ in speeches given by William Hague, the leader of the British Conservative Party in the year 2000. These speeches served as an attempt to generate certain negative affective dispositions against asylum seekers (Ahmed 2004a, 121–124). The European education policy documents also invoke affective dispositions through their implicit or explicit use of the concepts related to intercultural dialogue.

We assert that affects can be linked to both values and valuing as well as, importantly, to political rhetoric and action. In national (and European) politics or political rhetoric, the affective force of language and especially sticky phrases and expressions have long been used to promote certain ideologies while discouraging others. Propaganda is a case in point. Yet even the less flashy, less obvious cases of rhetorical manoeuvring merit consideration. It is important to become aware that even everyday words and practices carry affective meanings and that we are influenced by the most minute changes in tonalities. Policy discourse is an excellent example, as it is carefully crafted so as to enable wide affective alignment with the politics it conveys. The political dimension of affect has been discussed in several studies that take an empirical approach to political campaigning and public policy (e.g. Redlawsk 2005; Thompson and Hoggett 2012b; Halperin 2013) and in more theoretical studies of the politics of affect (e.g. Thrift 2008; Barnett 2008; Blackman and Venn 2010). Scholars have, however, rarely explored how concepts become invested with affect in political rhetoric—particularly in European-level policies.

Affectively and Effectively Transmitting European Ideals and Values

The concept ‘intercultural dialogue’ and its interrelated concepts ‘culture’, ‘multiculturalism’, ‘values’, ‘tolerance’, ‘empathy’, ‘identity’, ‘inclusion’, and ‘heritage’ can all be said to have acquired affective value in today’s cultural discourses—some more than others. For example, multiculturalism has evoked and still often stirs up heated discussions in today’s media landscape; concepts such as ‘identity’, ‘heritage’, and ‘inclusion’ are frequently utilized in populist attempts to discredit specific ‘identity politics’ or to deny people with a certain heritage entry to the national body (see e.g. Mudde 2017; also Wodak 2015). In the European education policy documents, these concepts are conveyed through policy jargon, which has a distancing effect. This emotionally distancing tone can be interpreted as striving for objective, neutral, and matter-of-fact language in contrast to populist emotionally laden rhetoric. Moreover, this language can be interpreted as a tactic for convincing the readers of the meanings and values promoted in the policies. That said, the policy documents cannot escape the affective load carried by the concepts utilized in them, and this language thus only makes certain concepts ‘stick out’, making dense concept occurrences even more affectively and effectively sticky.

Countering emotionally appealing populist rhetoric has become a growing concern, even for actors who have traditionally operated in less easily approachable spheres and rhetoric. However, these actors may themselves utilize emotive utterances and affective language in their arguments against populist discourses. As established below, affect is transmitted in the European education policy documents especially through value statements. While analysing European Union policy tropes, Lähdesmäki (2017, 718) posits that in the European policy documents, a “poetic dimension” is employed through the emphasis of “values, ideals, and political principles that are seen as the basis of the union and as the key elements the union seeks to promote through its politics and policies”. This poetic dimension utilizes rhetoric and diverse concepts invested with affect and, therefore, brings lofty and idealistic tones that seek to lift the ethos of this policy discourse above everyday and bureaucratic political decision-making. It seeks to impact on its recipients not only at the rational but also emotional level. Similarly, in a discussion on landscape renewal, Van Stokkom (2012, 41) argues that “policymaking processes can be enriched by drawing upon affective and narrative types of communication”.

In general, risk talk and the evocation of fears speak to feelings and intuition more effectively than critical evaluation aiming at neutrality. Tension and controversy may thus be considered more sticky (see Ahmed 2004a, b) than reportage of minor successes, as we know well from news reporting that tends to neglect positive stories in favour of negative content that has more viral potential. Idealistic, uplifting, and edifying rhetoric may also be used similarly to ‘stir up’ emotions. Following Newman (2011), Thompson and Hoggett suggest that communication can never be free of an “affective register” that either supports or counters the narrative presented. When policymakers promote a development using a hopeful rhetoric, they are deploying an affective register to support their aims (Thompson and Hoggett 2012a, 5).

The concepts used in the European policy documents are sticky with affective connotations and associations acquired through their circulation in political debates, media, and cultural and social discourses. But the concepts are, and do, more. Within their circulation, and their dense occurrences, concepts are interconnected, forming new affective associations. Many of the conceptual conglomerations discussed in the previous chapter form affective peaks or rhetorical pinnacles that transmit the idea of intercultural dialogue—and the values attached to it—more forcefully than the mere definitions of the concept are able to do. Our analysis therefore focuses on the affective impact of these dense co-occurrences of the core concepts of intercultural dialogue. We argue that when concepts sticky with affective force or value (see e.g. Ahmed 2004a, b, c; Lähdesmäki 2017) or are brought (or stick) together in dense co-occurrences, the text becomes heavy with affect.

The European education policy documents use uplifting affective language especially in relation to ‘honourable’ values that are either implicitly or explicitly defined as European (see the previous chapter). These values explicitly include ‘freedom’, ‘tolerance’, ‘non-discrimination’, and ‘human rights’ (e.g. CofEU 2015a, 2n6, b, 36, 2016, 5, 5n1; CofEU & EC 2015, 25n2; CofEU & RofGofMS 2016, 1, 1n4) in the European Union’s documents, and ‘tolerance’, ‘mutual understanding’, ‘human rights’, and ‘democratic values’ in the Council of Europe’s documentation (see CofE 2001, 2, 4, 5, 8, 15). When we think of concepts such as freedom and human rights, these words immediately invoke associations of sublimity and honourable principles, as well as the process of fighting for a greater cause or breaking free from oppression. These values can therefore be called sticky concepts, as they evoke associations to common, humanist values, ideals, and cultural-historical phenomena behind struggles for human rights, peace, and equality all over the globe. As such, the affective rhetoric of the policy documents is also morally hard to resist and critique, as it draws on values that are ‘universal’. As we have seen in the previous chapters, many of the aforementioned values are used in the European education policy documents to define intercultural dialogue, so it becomes sticky with the affective content associated with these values. Sometimes in our data, intercultural dialogue is explicitly connected to values. For instance, in the recommendation on integrating and educating children with a migrant background, teaching “intercultural competence” is considered as important as teaching human rights and democratic citizenship (CofE 2008, 4).

An example of dense concept occurrences, where concepts sticky with affective value become stuck together to create meanings and affective associations, appears in the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education (CofE 2010). Here, affective rhetoric is used to define the desirable European democratic values, including intercultural dialogue:

An essential element of all education for democratic citizenship and human rights education is the promotion of social cohesion and intercultural dialogue and the valuing of diversity and equality, including gender equality; to this end, it is essential to develop knowledge, personal and social skills and understanding that reduce conflict, increase appreciation and understanding of the differences between faith and ethnic groups, build mutual respect for human dignity and shared values, encourage dialogue and promote non-violence in the resolution of problems and disputes. (CofE 2010, 9, emphasis added)

Intercultural dialogue thus becomes sticky with affective value invested in concepts such as unity, mutual respect, dialogue, diversity, human dignity, and social cohesion.

Even though the affective rhetoric of the education policy documents mostly relies on positive connotations, sometimes values and ideals are also conveyed by less optimistic means. This becomes evident in the documents that utilize concepts referring to threats. In the previous excerpt (CofE 2010, 9), valuing diversity, equality, and mutual understanding are also seen as reducing conflict. This excerpt thus draws upon the threats of violent upheavals to establish its uplifting affective tone and to promote ‘universally positive’ values. To offer another example, in the resolution on promoting socio-economic development and inclusiveness in the European Union through education, ‘European’ ideals and values are contrasted with terrorism and violent radicalization that are seen as threats to (democratic/active) citizenship in “our societies” (CofEU & RofGofMS 2016, 1–4). The same resolution presents education as an important factor in tackling this radicalization and in promoting “the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination” (CofEU & RofGofMS 2016, 1, 1n4). Violence and terrorism can be argued to be, in essence, affective phenomena. Thus, by contrasting violence to these ‘affectively sticky’ values, the document is employing specific affective rhetoric and seeking affective responses.

Affective Alignment: Constructing a ‘We’ in the European Education Policy Documents

Affects are also mobilized in the European education policy documents by the construction of a common European ‘us’ into which immigrants and other minorities are ‘welcome’ to integrate (by accepting specific ‘European’ values). Above, we discussed how specific desirable values are defined as ‘European’ in the data; shared Europeanness is also emphasized by the use of expressions such as “our common heritage” (CofE 2011b), “common historical heritage” (CofE 2001, 5), “our common European principles” (CofEU & RofGofMS 2006, 2), or “our common cultural background” (CofEC 2008, 5–6). For example, the European Union document promoting multilingualism states that:

Each of the many national, regional, minority and migrant languages spoken in Europe adds a facet to our common cultural background. It should be shared to foster dialogue and mutual respect. There are areas in the EU where citizens successfully combine speaking a regional or minority language with the national language and score well in foreign languages too. Multilingual people are a precious asset because they act as the glue between different cultures. (CofEC 2008, 5–6, emphasis added)

This repetition of phrases such as ‘our common’ works to create an affective sense of belonging, especially when they appear in connection to the uplifting, affective value rhetoric discussed above. The idea of ‘our common Europe’ thus becomes sticky with the values invested in the affect-laden concepts utilized in this rhetoric. For example, the Council of Europe’s Recommendation on Intercultural Dialogue and the Image of the Other in History Teaching deploys the idea of a common European identity based on shared values:

Recalling that the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe, at the Warsaw Summit (2005), expressed their wish to encourage a European identity and unity based on shared fundamental values, respect for our common heritage and cultural diversity, and their conviction that “dialogue between cultures is also fostered by accurate understanding of history”, and endorsed the Council of Europe’s work regarding history and the related projects [—]. (CofE 2011b, 1, emphasis added)

This quotation also offers a thick cluster of concept occurrences, ‘sticking’ the concept of ‘identity’ to ‘unity’, ‘values’, ‘cultural heritage’, ‘cultural diversity’, and ‘intercultural dialogue’. Here, references to history also suggest a common heritage that invites affective connotations: the emphasis on unity stems from and thus carries with it implicit (and in some documents explicit) references to times when lack of dialogue and shared values led to wars in Europe. Dialogue in general, and intercultural dialogue in particular, thus becomes sticky with affects representative of ‘better times’. Following Ahmed (e.g. 2004a, 123–124), we therefore posit that the European education policy documents construct an imagined ‘we’ (i.e. Europeans) that shares specific values and ideals and is potentially threatened by ‘others’ who do not share these values.

Europeanness is also constructed by deploying the idea of ‘unity within diversity’. This becomes evident, again, in the European Union’s document on multilingualism from 2008:

The harmonious co-existence of many languages in Europe is a powerful symbol of the European Union’s aspiration to be united in diversity, one of the cornerstones of the European project. Languages define personal identities, but are also part of a shared inheritance. They can serve as a bridge to other people and open access to other countries and cultures, promoting mutual understanding. A successful multilingualism policy can strengthen life chances of citizens: it may increase their employability, facilitate access to services and rights and contribute to solidarity through enhanced intercultural dialogue and social cohesion. Approached in this spirit, linguistic diversity can become a precious asset, increasingly so in today’s globalised world. (CofEC 2008, 3, emphasis added)

In the European Commission’s New Framework Strategy for Multilingualism from 2005, one sentence specifically deploys a range of metaphors to illustrate the European Union’s ‘united in diversity’ slogan in terms of home, prosperity, and aspirations of development towards an ever-better future. The idea of the European Union as a ‘common home’ is, in this case, fleshed out by a reference to “many mother tongues” that are “a source of wealth” and “a bridge to greater solidarity and mutual understanding” (CofEC 2005, 2). Here, diversity—and thus implicitly intercultural dialogue—sticks to concepts such as ‘wealth’ as a signifier of positive growth, well-being, and development, as well as to ‘universal’ and positive values such as ‘solidarity’. Although affective responses are elusive, it is hard not to see that the concepts utilized here are meant to evoke positive affects. Indeed, they make the European Union (itself represented as positive and necessary for European well-being in these documents) what it is. This affective evocation is contrasted with the idea of a melting pot, which is cast as undesirable, thus underlining the autonomy of each culture within the Union. Performatively, this rhetoric casts the European Union as familiar (home), rich (wealth), and dynamic (bridge to greater solidarity), as the New Framework Strategy states:

It is this diversity that makes the European Union what it is: not a ‘melting pot’ in which differences are rendered down, but a common home in which diversity is celebrated, and where our many mother tongues are a source of wealth and a bridge to greater solidarity and mutual understanding. (CofEC 2005, 2, emphasis added)

Diversity is, thus, portrayed as extremely positive, something that Europeans can identify with and take pride in, creating a stark contrast to the rhetoric discussed by Ahmed (2004a), where immigrants were associated with natural disasters such as floods. In distancing itself from ‘the melting pot’, the document also creates a contrast between the European Union and the country most closely associated with this phrase, the USA. For many Europeans familiar with human rights violations (e.g. of refugees and women’s reproductive health) in the USA, this contradiction may stir affective responses that align the recipients of the rhetoric more closely with Europe and the European Union—although it too undoubtedly has its own problems with the human rights of specific groups. In this sense, the USA serves as the other, perhaps even a threat, in contrast with the ‘us’ constructed by the policy documents.

For Thompson and Hoggett (2012a, 6), “emotions are [—] intimately involved in the processes of governance and policymaking. In the late modernity, the state becomes the focus of social anxieties which manifest themselves in recurrent moral and risk panic”. They argue that the state may embody social anxieties, which becomes evident through the rules and regulations posited to safeguard its citizens from these risk factors (Thompson and Hoggett 2012a, 6–7). In this sense, Europe here becomes the ‘state’ shoring up against the risk of a ‘melting pot’ society. The fundamental utility of representing the European Union as a “humanistic enterprise” based on various social virtues and common cultural roots and identity, as Shore (1993, 785–786) has described it, is in its affective nature. The emphasis on common history and culture and shared memory in the European Union’s policy discourse “aims to appeal to people’s feelings of belonging, sense of communality, and cultural and social attachments, thereby striving to justify the promotion of cultural integration in the EU”, as Lähdesmäki (2014, 17) notes. The Council of the European Union’s document on educating children with a migrant background, for example, also states that “cultural diversity in our societies should be welcomed” (CofEU 2009, 7). Here, again, Europe and the Europeans nevertheless become associated with the ‘our’ (or ‘us’). The Europeans ‘are’ the society and can, thus, ‘welcome’ or ‘not welcome’ diversity (i.e. ‘the others’, such as the immigrants).

The same document continues with uplifting rhetoric, now directly used to affectively promote the importance of multilingualism and linguistic diversity:

Language is the most direct expression of culture; it is what makes us human and what gives each of us a sense of identity. Article 22 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union states that the Union shall respect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity. Article 21 prohibits discrimination based on a number of grounds, including language. Together with respect for the individual, openness towards other cultures, tolerance and acceptance of others, respect for linguistic diversity is a core value of the European Union. Action by the Union and the Member States to uphold multilingualism therefore has a direct impact on the life of every citizen. (CofEC 2005, 2, footnotes removed, emphasis added)

In this document, positive, uplifting rhetoric is evident in the definition of Europe as “a common home in which diversity is celebrated, and where our many mother tongues are a source of wealth and a bridge to greater solidarity and mutual understanding”. Skills related to intercultural dialogue, such as ‘respect’, ‘openness’, ‘tolerance’, and ‘acceptance of others’, are also mentioned, creating a clear link between linguistic diversity and intercultural dialogue. Furthermore, diversity and intercultural dialogue become aligned with positive values such as “respect for the individual, openness towards other cultures, tolerance and acceptance of others, respect for linguistic diversity”. Acceptance of diversity and the multilingualism that this requires are seen as fundamental values for the European Union and its citizens. To top it all, acceptance of linguistic diversity (and intercultural dialogue) comes across as a precondition for humanity itself, as language is “what makes us human and what gives each of us a sense of identity”. Interestingly, diversity mostly comes across through discussions of cultural differences, equality, and access regarding ethnicity, gender, (dis)ability, and socio-economic status, but ethnicity, for example, is mostly framed in the context of migration and cultural exchange. Indigenous peoples, for example, are left outside the focus (cf. CofE 2018, 18; CofEC 2005, 2). Moreover, discussions of sexual orientation appear only in a few documents (CofE 2015; EP & CofEU 2004, 2013).

The idea of a ‘unified, European we’ is also implicitly expressed through the value of non-discrimination and the concept of (social) inclusion:

Education and training plays a major role in promoting equity, social inclusion and active citizenship. Social exclusion of the low-skilled, learners from a migrant background, the unemployed and those with special educational needs is often the result of cumulating elements such as low formal qualification and the lack of basic skills and transversal competences. Education and training can be important forces to counter social exclusion [—]. (EC 2010, 8, emphasis added)

Unemployment and social exclusion are here contrasted with the positive values of inclusion and equity achieved through education. The principle of non-discrimination is also foregrounded in the Council of Europe’s Lisbon Convention:

No discrimination shall be made in this respect on any ground such as the applicant’s gender, race, colour, disability, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status, or on the grounds of any other circumstance not related to the merits of the qualification for which recognition is sought. In order to assure this right, each Party undertakes to make appropriate arrangements for the assessment of an application for recognition of qualifications solely on the basis of the knowledge and skills achieved. (CofE 1997, 5)

The same principle of recognition also applies to refugees, displaced persons, and persons in a refugee-like situation (CofE 1997, 9). The concept of ‘integration’ is also used in the documents with reference to including (im)migrants, often expressed in a positive light. The Council of Europe’s recommendation on the subject states that “the integration of migrants and persons of immigrant background is a pillar of social cohesion of European societies” (CofE 2008, 1). Interestingly, in this document, integration is defined as “an interactive process based upon mutual willingness to adapt by both migrants and the receiving society” (CofE 2008, 1). The document therefore maintains a clear division between the accepting ‘us’ (Europe/Europeans) and the accepted ‘others’ ([im]migrants). Contrary to the populist rhetoric that considers immigrants as a threat to ‘our’ societies, the European education policy documents clearly construct the exclusion of immigrants as threat to societal unity and cohesion. For example, in the Council of Europe’s recommendation on validating migrants’ skills (CofE 2011a, 1), it is argued that its members can achieve greater unity “through common action in the fields of migration, integration and community relations”. The word ‘(im)migrant’ thus is invested—or sticky—with positive instead of negative affect, which counters the affective rhetoric of the aforementioned populist discourse.

Affectivity of Intercultural Dialogue

Sticky concepts are extremely effective rhetorical tools, so they are often used in political discourses (Lähdesmäki 2017). Our analysis of European education policy documents shows how the concept of intercultural dialogue and its related concepts are invested with affective meanings and cultural connotations. In our analysis, we applied Ahmed’s (2004a, b, c, 2010a, b) theory on the stickiness of affects by approaching some core and repeated expressions in our data as sticky concepts. We argued that affects are brought into play in implicit and explicit co-occurrences of concepts and in the use of value rhetoric, especially where this rhetoric is positive and uplifting and deploys ‘universal’ values. Concepts such as ‘freedom’, ‘human rights’, ‘equality’, and ‘democracy’ include a special sticky layer of meanings due to their long history in European policy discourse and their emotional connotations created in the political context of post-war and cold war Europe. Similarly, ‘diversity’, ‘mutual understanding’, ‘unity’, ‘tolerance’, and ‘solidarity’ are expressed as positive values. Moreover, the affective stickiness of these concepts impacts on other concepts in conceptual densities. Stickiness makes all these concepts appealing, compelling, and difficult to argue against rationally. Using such sticky concepts makes it easy to argue for policy goals.

Although affect is mostly expressed through positive rhetoric in the European education policy documents, the concepts analysed in this chapter are also affective through their implicit associations to Europe’s violent history. Values elicited in the documents are represented as a key to avoid the repetition of such violent upheaval. Sometimes threats such as terrorism are explicitly mentioned in the European education policy documents. Furthermore, by constructing a common, European ‘we’, these policy documents evoke a sense of belonging, inviting their readers to be a part of this ‘we’ and, thus, to gain access to these uplifting values. Through this affective rhetoric, intercultural dialogue thus becomes the means for greater belonging in a culturally diverse Europe. Affects are a powerful tool for mediating cultural values and ideas. Policymakers should thus give affective rhetoric their close attention.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Tuuli Lähdesmäki
    • 1
    Email author
  • Aino-Kaisa Koistinen
    • 1
  • Susanne C. Ylönen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Music, Art and Culture StudiesUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland

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