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Sexular practice

Notes on an ethnography of secularism

Oskar Verkaaik and Rachel Spronk

In Europe today, the most heated identity politics revolve around matters of sexuality and religion. In the context of “integration” debates that occur in different forms in various countries, sexuality has gained a new form of normativity, and new sexual sensitivities have replaced former ones. So far, scholarly discussions deal with these sensitivities in a deconstructivist and critical manner, denaturalizing discourses on culture, identity, and religion. However, these debates do not consider the experiences of people implicated in these debates, and their often emotional and political engagement in matters where sexuality and religion intersect. Joan Scott’s coinage of the term “sexularism” denotes a particular form of embodiment that is part of secularism in Europe today. Rather than studying the discourse of secularism, this article focuses on the practice of secularization; how do people fashion their daily lives concerning sexuality, religion and its intimate intersection?

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Civilization

Comparing Concepts and Identities

Pim den Boer

This article is a transnational comparative study of the history of the concept of civilization. It starts with a brief review of the meaning of concepts that historically preceded it, such as civilitas and civilité. Next, it focuses on the appearance of the concept in eighteenth-century England and France and the ways it was used by different political theorists and polemists, mostly in the sense of politeness. During the nineteenth century in the colonies outside Europe, in Africa, in Asia, and in America, the concept of civilization played a key role in the discourse of colonization. First it was used from above, by the colonists, but later on it was appropriated by the colonized. At the end of the nineteenth century, civilization acquired one more layer of meaning as it was incorporated into nationalistic discourse. Eventually, the concept also became so internalized that the majority of people in a country could identify their own nation as the supreme form of civilization.

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Mary N. Taylor

Since the early 1990s, language used to speak of cultural practices once thought of as "folklore" has become increasingly standardized around the term intangible heritage. Supranational intangible heritage policies promote a contradictory package that aims to preserve local identity and cultural diversity while promoting democratic values and economic development. Such efforts may contribute to the deployment of language that stresses mutual exclusivity and incommensurability, with important consequences for individual and group access to resources. This article examines these tensions with ethnographic attention to a Hungarian folk revival movement, illuminating how local histories of "heritage protection" meet with the global norm of heritage governance in complicated ways. I suggest the paradoxical predicament that both "liberal" notions of diversity and ethno-national boundaries are co-produced through a number of processes in late capitalism, most notably connected to changing relations of property and citizenship regimes.

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John Moores

The German journal London und Paris called James Gillray 'the foremost living artist in his genre, not only amongst Englishmen, but amongst all European nations'. Despite the scholarly attention he has attracted, many of Gillray's individual works have yet to receive rigorous analysis. One such neglected print is National Conveniences (1796), assumed to be a crude, straightforward expression of national supremacy. However, a closer reading shows Gillray employing the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau both to undermine notions of English superiority and to assail a particular personal adversary. With this reading in mind, we can reassess references to Rousseau in Gillray's other prints, and propose a new direction from which to approach his greater oeuvre.

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Learning to Be a Kanaka

Menace and Mimicry in Papua New Guinea

Neil Maclean

Self-identification as a kanaka is a common rhetorical ploy in highlands Papua New Guinea, used to emphasize both a sense of economic and political marginalization, and a continued identification with tradition. However, I argue that the figure of the kanaka is not simply that of the villager, but of that terminated project of education, the ‘school leaver.’ I juxtapose the reflections of one such ‘school leaver’ on his exclusion from the educational trajectory with the celebrations and rhetoric surrounding the opening of a new village school. This throws into relief a village perspective on education, and what it means to be a citizen of the nation-state of Papua New Guinea. Bhabha’s (1987) analysis of colonial ‘mimicry’ informs my identification of the contradictory quality of this perspective. As a critique of the legacy of postwar education policy from the perspective of a contemporary generation of village leaders, the article is also intended as a response to Pels’s (1997: 178) call for “more ethnographies of decolonization.”

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A Time without Soldiers

Writing about Kashmir Today

Suvir Kaul

In this article I ask what it means to turn to scholarly analysis to understand better the historical lineages of an urgent contemporary political situation. I first wrote on Kashmir in a journalistic fashion because I was appalled by the militarization and routine suspension of civil rights that I saw when I went there in 2003. Since then I have been thinking of analytical frames in which to provide a longer history for the political mess I observed and continue to observe, which leads me to read in the “field“ in order to understand issues as they developed before 1989—when militancy in Kashmir broke out. What limits on my understanding are put in place by my early writing, which was motivated by sorrow and anger, rather than by the criteria that we expect motivates historical analysis? What kinds of insight are enabled by that same beginning?

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Caroline Humphrey

In the rethinking of cosmopolitanism that has been under way in anthropology the emphasis in the European tradition of thought, pertaining to humanity in general and universal values, has been replaced by focus on specific and new cosmopolitan peoples and sites. Cosmopolitanism ceases to be only a political idea, or an ideal, and is conceptualized also in terms of practice or process. A vocabulary of 'rooted cosmopolitanism', 'vernacular cosmopolitanism' and 'actually existing cosmopolitanisms' has emerged from the characteristically anthropological acknowledgment of diversity and inevitable attachments to place. This article accepts such an approach, but argues that it has neglected the presence and intense salience of the ideas of cosmopolitanism held by nation states. Such ideologies, especially those promulgated by authoritarian states, penetrate deep into the lives and thoughts of citizens. The article draws attention to the binary and contradictory character of nation state discourse on cosmopolitanism, and to the way this creates structures of affect and desire. The Soviet concept of kosmopolitizm is analyzed. It is contextualized historically in relation to the state discourse on mobility and the practice of socialist internationalism. The article argues that although the Stalinist version of kosmopolitizm became a poisonous and anti-Semitic accusation, indeed an instrument of repression, it could not control the desire created by its own negativity. Indeed, it played a creative and integral part in the emergence of a distinctive everyday cosmopolitanism among Soviet people.

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Christian Egander Skov

The article explores the concept of empire, or rige, in the context of a small nation-state with no immediate claim to imperial greatness and with a rooted self-understanding as anything but an empire. It does this by exploring the concept of empire in the far right movement Young Denmark on the basis of a close reading of their imperialist program in the pamphlet Danmark udslettes! from 1918. Rige had been a vague term for the larger Danish polity that originated in a pre-national conceptualization of the polity as a realm. The article suggests that rige-as-realm was translated by the radical right into a concept of empire. In the process it dramatically changed its emphasis, reorienting itself toward a "horizon of expectation". It became a politically loaded battle concept that then entailed a critique against the dominant liberal conceptualization of the polity and nation. Rige came to signify the ambition of being a great power, the spiritual elevation of the nation through the transcendence of the decaying liberal modernity. The program addressed the tension between a conservative political attitude and modernity and thus signified a kind of reactionary modernism that rejected liberal values while at the same time celebrating technology, industrialization, and the process of modernization.

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Yoshiko Nozaki and Mark Selden

Japan's right-wing nationalists have launched three major attacks on school textbooks over the second half of the twentieth century. Centered on the treatment of colonialism and war, the attacks surfaced in 1955, the late 1970s, and the mid-1990s. This article examines three moments in light of Japanese domestic as well as regional and global political contexts to gain insight into the persistent problem of the Pacific War in historical memory and its refraction in textbook treatments. There are striking similarities as well as critical di erences in the ways the attacks on textbooks recurred and in the conditions of political instability.

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Danny Kaplan and Niza Yanay

Based on a case study of Israeli men's friendships, this article examines the inter-relations between the experience of male relationships in everyday life and established representations of fraternal friendship. We delineate a script for male bonding that echoes ancient epics of heroism. This script holds a mythic structure for making sense of friendship in everyday life and places male relatedness under the spectral ideal of death. Whereas various male-to-male arenas present diverse and often displaced expressions of male affection, we contend that sites of commemoration present a unique instance in which desire between men is publicly declared and legitimized. The collective rituals for the dead hero-friends serve as a mask that transforms a repudiated personal sentiment into a national genre of relatedness. We interpret fraternal friendship as a form of private/public identification/desire whereby the citizen brother becomes, via collective rituals of commemoration, the desired brother.