While in the academic debate the idea of a European public sphere is seen from both consensual and conflictual perspectives, in the field of European Union (EU) policymaking, it tends to assume the profile of a neutral and all-inclusive social space. By focusing on the street level, this article suggests that such a view is problematic because it fails to resonate with people's everyday experiences. The article contrasts EU policy on civil society engagement and immigration with examples of civil society reactions to immigration in two corners of Europe—on the Italian island of Lampedusa and in the city of Athens, Greece. In order for the concept of a European public sphere to garner meaning outside the EU policy process, it needs to be anchored in the everyday politics of social space in Europe. This means embracing an ‘ethnographic approach’ that is sensitive to difference, diversity, and conflict, and to the daily (micro)political struggles that are played out in the public sphere.
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- European public sphere
- civil society
- everyday politics
- social space