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Toward Perpetual Division

European leaders still use the tropes of barbarism and a chaotic global “jungle” while training young diplomats.

Words: Ludovica Castelli
Pictures: Sebastian Coman

On Oct. 13, 2022, Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, gave a speech at the inauguration of the European Diplomatic Academy, a pilot program designed to train the next generation of European diplomats. Unity, firmness, and determination, he argued, are more necessary than ever in supporting today’s Ukrainian resistance against what is a collective threat and in shaping tomorrow’s new security order. In essence, Borrell’s speech was a call for the reinvigoration of the Kantian Europe, “a perpetually peaceful and cosmopolitan construction.” Indeed, in total Kantian fashion, Borrell argued, “Europe is a garden…and the rest of the world is not exactly a garden. The rest of the world…is a jungle.”

The analogy in question is a representational framework of Europe as an island of “political freedom, economic prosperity, social cohesion” surrounded by barbarism. Such representational practice is nothing new. In his oeuvre “Coming Anarchy,” Robert Kaplan evoked “wild zones” and “tribal warfare” to reproduce Imperial-geographic images of “primitive savagery” and naturally-violent Others. Samuel Huntington’s thesis of “the clash of civilizations” ascribed to the unleashing of different “civilizational forces” the chaotic and perilous nature of the post-Cold War world order. Robert Kagan’s book, “The Jungle Grows Back: America and our Imperiled World,” is another if not the most emblematic case in point. In his view, “The liberal world order is like a garden, ever under siege from the forces of history, the jungle whose vines and weeds constantly threaten to overwhelm it.”


The list of literature à la “white man’s burden” is a long and growing one. Policymakers, scholars, and journalists constantly engage in the “garden-jungle” representational practice. As a result, hegemony and hierarchy are perpetually reinforced. In this context, hegemony refers to the subject positioning through a number of discursive practices, such as the categorization and hierarchization of peoples and states. Europe becomes the subject acting for the ideal global type, characterized by peace, stability, and order. The rest of the world becomes an unstable, disorderly, uncivilized jungle. In Borrell’s words:

“The big difference between developed and not developed is not the economy, it is institutions. Here, we have a judiciary — a neutral, independent judiciary. Here, we have systems of distributing the revenue. Here, we have elections that provide a free for the citizens. Here, we have the red lights controlling the traffic, people taking the garbage. We have these kinds of things that make the life easy and secure.”

Policymakers, scholars, and journalists constantly engage in the “‘garden-jungle”’ representational practice. As a result, hegemony and hierarchy are perpetually reinforced.

“Warrants for action” are the natural continuation of such narrative. “The jungle has a strong growth capacity,” says Borrell, “and the wall will never be high enough in order to protect the garden.” Hence, “the gardeners have to go to the jungle. Otherwise, the rest of the world will invade us, by different ways and means.” In what sounds like an echo of Robert Cooper’s eulogy for new colonialism, Borrell baptized the first class of “tomorrow’s diplomats” with evocations of racism, colonialism, and imperialism. The “garden-jungle” analogy is only one of the many representational practices upon which unlawful wars and, more broadly, the unlawful use of force has been justified.


In the Middle East, former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s “villa in the jungle” analogy has been the backbone of Israel’s political discourse for the last two decades. The successful repetition of this constructed dichotomy has been the foundation of Israel’s nuclear orientalist discourse, fixing a security paradigm according to which certain identities or actions have come to be commonsensical and legitimate. Specifically, on the one hand, it has implicitly legitimized the need for an Israeli nuclear deterrent — a villa is a ”good” proliferator, whereas the “goodness” is measured by the extent to which it is a “stable, democratic status quo power.” It has explicitly justified the imperative of preventing any possible changes to the Israeli regional nuclear monopoly — states of the “jungle” would be “bad” proliferators, “oriental others, whose irrationality, irresponsibility, and lack of restraint means their possession of nuclear technology is a clear danger to international security,” according to Tom Vaughan.

Borrell’s final recommendation to the outgoing class was to “take care of the jungle outside” to make sure they grow in the garden’s same direction, particularly now that Europe’s order is threatened. This is a type of diplomacy with unmistakably colonial overtones and undertones, which calls for bridge-building while overtly burning them.

Stuart Hall argued, “the dominant definition of the problem acquires, by repetition, and by the weight and credibility of those who propose or subscribe it, the warrant of ‘common sense.’” Here, the entrenchment of this very commonsensical geopolitics of division, marred by the Kantian mirage, becomes just as big a threat to Europe’s vaunted values of “peaceful coexistence, cooperation, integration, and development.”

Ludovica Castelli is a European Research Council-funded Doctoral Researcher at the Third Nuclear Age project, University of Leicester. Within the project, she focuses on the nuclear history of the Middle East. More specifically, she investigates the theoretical and methodological foundations of the Nuclear Domino Theory in its application to the Middle East.

Ludovica Castelli

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