New Nationalisms in European and Postcolonial Discourses
Dr Izabella Penier (University of Central Lancashire, The State University of Applied Sciences in Plock)
Magda Dolińska-Rydzek (Justus-Liebig University Giessen)
On the 12 of December, 2015, the month in which we wrote this call for papers, Benedict Anderson died at age 79. Anderson’s 1983 book, titled Imagined Communities, is by far and away the most influential study of nationalism. Unlike earlier scholars, who took a negative view of nationalism, Anderson saw nationalism as an integrative imaginative process that allows us to “[conceive] . . . a deep, horizontal comradeship” with unknown people who share the same beliefs and values. He contended that “[i]n an age when it is so common for progressive, cosmopolitan intellectuals (particularly in Europe?) to insist on the near-pathological character of nationalism, its roots in fear and hatred of the Other, and its affinities with racism, it is useful to remind ourselves that nations inspire love, and often profoundly self-sacrificing love.” He pointed out that “[t]he cultural products of nationalism – poetry, prose fiction, music, plastic arts – show this love very clearly in thousands of different forms and styles.”
On the other hand, however, Anderson was not blind to the uglier underside of nationalism. He was aware of the fact that it can take the pathological form of hatred of the Other and that exclusionary nationalism can become a convenient smoke screen for xenophobia, chauvinism, racism, sexism and religious phobias. Anderson also acknowledged that the nationalist rhetoric often hides “the actual inequality and exploitation.”
This remark points to the work of another theoretician of nation-state whose work is crucial for the topic of this panel. In the 1960s Roland Barthes launched a scathing critique of imperialism, nationalism and capitalist society. He eloquently argued that bourgeoisie merges its own political forces with the signifier of the nation to rally the lower classes around its own particular economic interest. His criticism draws on Theodore Adorno’s theorisation of “culture industry,” that is mass media and popular culture, which create myths to consolidate national pride and to sustain the unjust capitalist system.
In the current political climate, at the outset of the new millennium, we can see a resurgence of the ideology of nationalism in European and postcolonial nations. As globalization gathers momentum and migrations and diasporas make societies more and more diverse, nationalism in Europe and elsewhere has triumphantly returned to the world politics and public discourses. Contemporary nationalism is predominantly a cultural phenomenon, as Manuel Castells claims – it is “more oriented toward the defence of already institutionalized cultures,” rather than nation-states. Moreover, as Zygmunt Bauman explains, this new “increasing salience of nationalism” is caused by a “frantic search of identity” of various social groups, trying to hold on to unified and essentialised national/ethnic or religious identities in increasingly diasporised countries. More often than not, this search spawns intolerance, authoritarianism and religious fundamentalism and gives rise to totalizing notions of identity (nationalistic, ethnic, religious or imperial).
Our repertoire of suggested topics includes (but is not limited to) the following ideas:
- Resurgence and revaluation of European and non-European (postcolonial) nationalisms;
- Globalization, regionalism, and neo-nationalism, nationalism as anti-systemic movement;
- Contemporary notions of citizenship, national identity and belonging;
- Good (positive) and (negative) nationalisms in Europe and in postcolonial states;
- Nationalism as state-promoting integrative force and state-subverting destabilizing force;
- Cosmopolitanism (universalism) and nationalism (particularism);
- Imperialism, expansionist nationalism & jingoism;
- Nationalism and emergency diasporas;
- Nationalism and postsocialism;
- Construction and rediscovery of nationhood in new states (for example, the Balkans the Caucasus);
- Ethnocentrism and various cultural/religious nationalisms;
- Essentialised notions of cultural identity, gender, ethnicity, religion and nationhood;
- Muliticulturalism, political and religious diversity and nationalism: can national identity be anti-essentialist, post-ethnic, non-religious?
- Contemporary notions of masculinity, sexuality and nationalism, the relationship between sex, violence and the notion of national belonging;
- Nation & gender: national discourses about women, motherhood & abortion etc.,
- Mythologizing and fetishising capitalism (nationalism as “capitalism’s maid”);
- Barthes’s theory of myth as a “second-order semiological system,” and its use to unmask contemporary neo-capitalist, nationalist, ethnocentric and imperialistic myths;
- Literature, culture and art in building/deconstructing national identities, nationalist and essentialist imagology in cultural texts and discourses of mass media;
- Literary historical and historiographical texts, his-story of the nation and her-story;
- Meta-narratives vs. collective memories, historical policy in European and non-European/postcolonial cultures.