​​​​​​2016 ISSEI conference 

The University of Lodz, Poland

Workshop: New Nationalisms in European and Postcolonial Discourses

On 12 December 2015, Benedict Anderson died aged 79. Anderson’s 1983 book, Imagined Communities is by far the most influential study of nationalism. Unlike earlier scholars, who took a negative view of nationalism, Anderson saw nationalism as an integrative process that allows us to conceive “a deep, horizontal comradeship” with unknown people who share the same beliefs and values. He contended that “in 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 “the 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, 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 an exclusionary form of nationalism can become a convenient smokescreen for xenophobia, chauvinism, racism, sexism and religious phobias. Anderson also acknowledged that nationalist rhetoric often hides “actual inequality and exploitation.”

            This remark points to the work of another thinker whose work is crucial for this panel. In the 1960s Roland Barthes launched a scathing critique of imperialism, nationalism and capitalist society. He argued that the bourgeoisie merges its own political forces with the nation to rally the lower classes around its own particular economic interest. His criticism drew on Theodore Adorno’s theory of the “culture industry,” the mass media and popular culture that create myths to consolidate national pride and to sustain an 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 world politics and public discourse. Contemporary nationalism is predominantly a cultural phenomenon, for, as Manuel Castells claims, it is “more oriented toward the defence of already institutionalized cultures” rather than the nation-states. Moreover, as Zygmunt Bauman explains, the “increasing salience of nationalism” is caused by a “frantic search of identity” of various social groups, trying to hold onto a unified and essentialised national/ethnic or religious identity 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). 

We welcome submissions from a broad range of Humanities and Social Science disciplines: political and international studies, literature, film, theatre and performance, mass media studies, postcolonial and cultural studies, sociology, migration and diaspora studies, postcolonial and memory studies.

Our list of suggested topics includes (but is not limited to) the following:

The resurgence and revaluation of European and non-European (postcolonial) nationalisms;
Globalization, regionalism, and neo-nationalism: nationalism as an anti-systemic movement;
Contemporary notions of citizenship, national identity and belonging;
‘Positive’ and ‘negative’ forms of nationalisms in Europe and in postcolonial states;
Nationalism as a state-promoting integrative force and as a state-subverting destabilizing force;
Cosmopolitanism (universalism) versus nationalism (particularism);
Imperialism, expansionist nationalism and jingoism;
Nationalism and emergency diasporas;
Nationalism and post-socialism;
The construction and rediscovery of nationhood in new states (e.g., the Balkans the Caucasus);
Ethnocentrism and various cultural/religious nationalisms;
Essentialised notions of cultural identity, gender, ethnicity, religion and nationhood;
Multiculturalism, political and religious diversity and nationalism: can national identity be anti-essentialist, post-ethnic, or non-religious?
Contemporary notions of masculinity, sexuality and nationalism: the relationship between sex, violence and the notion of national belonging;
Nation and gender: national discourses on 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;
The role of literature, culture and art in building/deconstructing national identities, nationalist and essentialist imagology in cultural texts and discourses in mass media;
Literary historical and historiographical texts: his-story versus her-story;
Meta-narratives versus collective memories: historical policy in European and non-European/postcolonial cultures. 

Please submit a 200-300 word abstract and a brief biography by 31 March 2016 to Izabella Penier, at penier@uni.lodz.pl, and to Magdalena Rekść, at mreksc@uni.lodz.pl.

Chairs: Izabella Penier, penier@uni.lodz.pl

and Magda Rekść, mreksc@uni.lodz.pl
University of Lodz, Poland