How do we build our views on other countries? How do other European citizens build their views on our country? They are built through simplifications and generalizations of reality that are called stereotypes, prejudices, unconscious biases.
All countries and their citizens have many different qualities, which are hard to get to know. By contrast stereotypes are easy to use, because you only need a word to define a country of a whole group of persons: untrustworthy, weak, violent, dishonest, strict…
These negative stereotypes make us see others as dangerous, and feel like we need to defend ourselves from them. By acting in this way, we let others become enemies, and we justify violence, discrimination, or war against them without being aware of it.
Have we ever asked ourselves when and where our views on other European countries are born? Many of them come from the many wars among European countries in the past, in which every country used propaganda to justify war, by defining enemies as barbarians and aggressors, from which self-defence was needed.
To promote reflection on national stereotypes, 100 years after the end of World War I we analysed how many stereotypes that still exist were created or reinforced by propaganda during World War I.
Our project “New Nations – New National Stereotypes: Lessons from WWI to overcome national stereotypes in the EU” (EUImage) is co-funded by the Europe for Citizens Programme – European Remembrance of the European Union.