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Civil Societies and Uncivil Times

The Rubber Band Ball of Transnational Tensions

Brian Callan

This article introduces a special issue of Contention Journal addressing various contemporary mobilizations of civil society in response to the war in Syria and the migration of refugees into Europe. With contributions from Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Canada, the Czech Republic and Germany, the cases represent a breadth of multidisciplinary approaches and a variety of stylistic standpoints, from statistical media analysis to troubled personal reflections of engaged activist academics. The subject matter ranges from political mobilization against authoritarianism and austerity, transnational philanthropy, the emergence of local grassroots voluntary aid to right-wing populist nationalism. Though diverse, a coherent narrative is seen to converge around the refugee crisis as it unfolds in Europe; one of radical polarization within civil societies and starkly conflicting imaginaries of social futures that claim to preclude the legitimacy of other possibilities. At the same time alliances are being generated beyond borders in an attempt to bolster ideological capacity, authority, and force. This is not a clash of civilizations but the rubber band ball of transnational tension, a strained, chaotic and overlapping global contestation. At stake is the understanding of what a civil society should be.

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Kacper Pobłocki

This article describes why the Polish government has pushed for an invocation to Christian traditions in the European Union Constitution. It is argued that this is a rather 'unfortunate' outcome of the political alliance between the Catholic Church and the Polish left, especially between President Aleksander Kwaśniewski and the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). This alliance allowed the SLD to legitimize their rule in the post-socialist Poland, and it was a result of a political competition between them and the post-Solidarność elites. As a result, John Paul II became the central integrative metaphor for the Polish society at large, which brought back in the marginalized as well as allowed the transition establishment to win the EU accession referendum in 2003. The article (which was written when Leszek Miller was still Prime Minister) demonstrates how this alliance crystallized and presents various elements of the cult of the Pope in Poland that followed. Finally, it argues that the worship of the Pope is not an example of nationalism, but of populism, understood not as a peripheral but as a central political force, and advocates for more research on the 'politics of emotions' at work in the centers and not in peripheries.

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Another Roadside Attraction?

Preserving the Cultural Heritage of Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Janice Harper

Nuclear tourism is rapidly becoming a popular industry that attracts a diverse international audience with interests in history, militarism, and anti-war activism. In some sites, nuclear tourism emphasizes the devastation of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, while, at others, it draws on the past to present a future of environmental stewardship, technological achievement and scientific mastery of the earth's energy. In so doing, nuclear tourism becomes a well crafted strategy to stimulate sentiments of nationalism and civic pride, while authenticating a particular perspective of history, science and identity. This article discusses efforts to use cultural heritage of the Manhattan Project both as a marketing strategy to bring tourist dollars to the city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and as a way to celebrate the community's past as a 'Secret City' and its central role in the development of the atomic bomb. This construction of cultural heritage, however, may disregard cultural rights in respect to environmental justice, health and human rights, and serve to authenticate the history of the atomic bomb as having a single moral imperative, divorced from the international arena in which nuclear science is currently being developed and debated.

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Editorial

South African Writing at the Crossroads

Nahem Yousaf and Graham Pechey

The stranger’s words addressed to the hero in J.M. Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K bring home in a very concrete way the relentless binarism not only of the apartheid order (revealingly figured in its truth as the disorder of civil war), but also of many Western forms of life and thinking: a typically high-modern technology sums up an epistemology no less typical. The train abolishes the age-old institution of the crossroads, the three- or four-way junction which puts before the traveller two or more options besides the one of retracing his steps back along the way he came. Daredevils who ‘ride staff’ on township trains may be rebellious terms in a system, but terms of that system they remain. Yesterday’s staffrider on the train of progress is today’s builder of his own locomotive. This is the logic whereby we have seen in South Africa rival nationalisms arising out of the early transcultural flux of Empire and then, at length, imposing their different inflections of the modern project upon the rest of their compatriots.

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Introduction

Literature of the Thirties – Region and Genre

Mary Joannou

The second special issue on the literature of the thirties follows on from an earlier edition of Critical Survey which brought together new critical writings on the period (volume 10, number 3, 1988). The first four essays selected are responses to regionalism and identity and the last two to the issues raised by the relationships of gender and generic fiction. Simon Featherstone analyses how two popular artistes, Gracie Fields (the ‘mill girl’) and Max Miller (‘the cheeky chappie’) achieved success in an entertainment industry that was changing rapidly in response to technological and cultural pressures. Their stardom depended on the dialogues between regional and national identities as part of a national cultural dynamic during a decade in which mass popular forms reconstituted the older regional and local traditions of dialogue and performance. Steven Matthews sees Auden’s injunction to ‘Consider this and in our time’ as a ‘clarion call to a particular, post-The Waste Land, form of modernity’. Focusing on Scottish and Irish writers (Louis MacNeice, Sorley Maclean, Grassic Gibbon et al.) Matthews argues that the temporality of some thirties’ writing aligns it closely with the emergent nationalisms familiar in recent postcolonial theory.

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Smita Yadav

Sites of pilgrimage and heritage tourism are often sites of social inequality and volatility that are impaired by hostilities between historical, ethnic, and competing religious discourses of morality, personhood, and culture, as well as between imaginaries of nationalism and citizenship. Often these pilgrim sites are much older in national and global history than the actual sovereign nation-state in which they are located. Pertinent issues to do with finance—such as regimes of taxation, livelihoods, and the wealth of regional and national economies—underscore these sites of worship. The articles in this special issue engage with prolix travel arrangement, accommodation, and other aspects of heritage tourism in order to understand how intangible aspects of such tourism proceed. But they also relate back to when and how these modern infrastructures transformed the pilgrimage and explore what the emerging discourses and practices were that gave newer meanings to neoliberal pilgrimages. The different case studies presented in this issue analyze the impact of these journeys on the pilgrims’ own subjectivities—especially with regard to the holy sites being situated in their imaginations of historical continuity and discontinuity and with regard to their transformative experiences of worship—using both modern and traditional infrastructures.

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Introduction

Religions, Histories, and Comparisons

Simon Coleman, Ruy Llera Blanes, and Sondra L. Hausner

commentary on Peel’s paper. The first contribution to our articles section, by Jon Bialecki, offers variations on some of the themes raised by J. D. Y. Peel’s piece on iconoclasm and his work more generally. These include nationalism, uses of the past in the

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Ana Miškovska Kajevska

thorough examination of the terms “antinationalist” and “nationalist” is visible throughout the whole book. I warned “against the creation of simplified dichotomies” 7 and I reminded “scholars to always ask what one's alleged nationalism or antinationalism

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Empire and Economics

Decolonising Colonialism and Its Legacies in Africa

Edited by Lawrence Hamilton

historiography and political theory. Liberalism, communism, African and Afrikaner nationalism, localised cultural and social histories and related ideological conflicts of identity have failed to grasp and explain the relations of power that continue to operate

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Editorial

Ism Concepts in Science and Politics

Jani Marjanen

next issue of Contributions , by Pablo Facundo Escalante on French republicanism in the late eighteenth century and Antero Holmila and Pasi Ihalainen on nationalism and internationalism in British debates during and after the world wars, also