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Authenticity, hybridity, and difference

Debating national identity in twentieth-century Mexico

Wil G. Pansters

This article studies the transformation of the debate about national culture in twentieth-century Mexico by looking at the complex relationship between discourses of authenticity and mestizaje. The article firstly demonstrates how in the first half of the twentieth century, Mexican national identity was constructed out of a state-led program of mestizaje, thereby supposedly giving rise to a new and authentic identity, the mestizo (nation). Secondly, it is argued that the authentication project around mestizaje is riddled with paradoxes that require explanation. Thirdly, the article studies the political dimension of the authenticity discourse and demonstrates how the homogenizing and unifying forces that spring from the process of authentication played an important role in buttressing an authoritarian regime. Fourthly, the article looks at two recent developments: indigenous cultural politics and transnationalism. Here it is shown how discourses of difference, pluralism, and transnationalism are challenging the central tenets of Mexican post-revolutionary national culture and the boundaries of the national Self.

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Meglio di ieri

Educational Films, National Identity, and Citizenship in Italy from 1948 to 1968

Anne Bruch

This article examines a series of educational films and documentaries produced between 1948 and 1968 that document the activities of the Italian state. These films, which record the dedicated and arduous work of the Italian government and administration, had two functions. First, they informed students and the general public about the democratic structures, institutions and aims of the new republic, promoting a fresh and convincing vision of national identity. Second, they served to obscure and rewrite the collective national memory of Fascism and Italian involvement in the Second World War. These films thus reveal the fine line between public information, political propaganda, and civic education.

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Textbook Conflicts in South Asia

Politics of Memory and National Identity

Deepa Nair

The aftermath of World War II saw the emergence of many new nation-states on the Asian geopolitical map and a simultaneous attempt by these states to claim the agency of nationhood and to create an aura of a homogenous national identity. Textbooks have been the most potent tools used by nations to inject an idea of a national memory - in many instances with utter disregard for fundamental contradictions within the socio-political milieu. In South Asia, political sensitivity towards transmission of the past is reflected in the attempts of these states to revise or rewrite versions which are most consonant with the ideology of dominant players (political parties, religious organizations, ministries of education, publishing houses, NGOs, etc.) concerning the nature of the state and the identity of its citizens. This paper highlights the fundamental fault lines in the project of nation-building in states in South Asia by locating instances of the revision or rewriting of dominant interpretations of the past. By providing an overview of various revisionist exercises in South Asia, an attempt will be made to highlight important issues that are fundamental to the construction of identities in this diverse continent.

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Kirsten Harjes

In 1997, Hinrich Seeba offered a graduate seminar on Berlin at the University of California, Berkeley. He called it: "Cityscape: Berlin as Cultural Artifact in Literature, Art, Architecture, Academia." It was a true German studies course in its interdisciplinary and cultural anthropological approach to the topic: Berlin, to be analyzed as a "scape," a "view or picture of a scene," subject to the predilections of visual perception in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This course inspired my research on contemporary German history as represented in Berlin's Holocaust memorials. The number and diversity of these memorials has made this city into a laboratory of collective memory. Since the unification of East and West Germany in 1990, memorials in Berlin have become means to shape a new national identity via the history shared by both Germanys. In this article, I explore two particular memorials to show the tension between creating a collective, national identity, and representing the cultural and historical diversity of today's Germany. I compare the Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, or "national Holocaust memorial") which opened in central Berlin on May 10, 2005, to the lesser known, privately sponsored, decentralized "stumbling stone" project by artist Gunter Demnig.

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Margit Sinka

Launched in 1998 on the eve of the eighth Day of German Unity, the Denk ich an Deutschland television film series was intended to reframe discourses on national identity formation in a positive light through documentaries focused on the present rather than on the dark German past. While Andreas Kleinert's Niemandsland (No Man's Land, 1998) and Andreas Dresen's Herr Wichmann von der CDU (Vote for Henryk!, 2003), the first and last films televised, do center on the present, they highlight dissonances between personal and national concerns. Still, Kleinert deconstructs the dissonances and artificial syntheses he himself invents in order to reveal them as constructs to be reconfigured by viewers. By showing the inability of politicians to bridge the gap between personal and national concerns due to the erosion of their private identities, Dresen also appeals to viewers to initiate needed societal changes themselves.

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Writing Syrian History While Propagating Arab Nationalism

Textbooks about Modern Arab History under Hafiz and Bashar al-Asad

Monika Bolliger

This article argues that Syrian history textbooks promote the formation of Syrian national identity, although their explicit objective is to propagate Arab nationalism. Their authors' attempt to construct the history of an imagined Arab nation encompassing the whole of the Arab world in fact tells the story of different nation-states. Syrian students are therefore confronted with rival geographical spheres of national imagination. Changes in the new textbooks under Bashar al-Asad reveal increased Syrian patriotism, a will to comply with globalization, and attempts to maintain Arab nationalism.

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Jennifer Ruth Hosek

The years following the fall of the Berlin Wall saw a wave of interest in a far away nation now largely independent of Soviet influence: Cuba. The three documentary fims that this article treats are a part of this "Cuba wave." Yet, as I argue here, more than simply tales of the Caribbean, Buena Vista Social Club by Wim Wenders and Havanna mi amor and Heirate mich! by Uli Gaulke and Jeannette Eggert are ciphers for competing and unpopular discourses surrounding German (re)unification. As sanctioned narratives of the Germanies increasingly ossify, these films articulate obscured and agonistic visions of national identity in the Berlin Republic.

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Dieter K. Buse

Historians and political sciences have begun to discuss how and when postwar Germany overcame its authoritarian past and reestablished democracy and a tolerant civil society. This article argues that the national and regional Offices for Political Education have contributed significantly to the recivilizing process. The article provides the first preliminary academic attempt to outline the offices' historical background, their changing institutional structure, and their place in the civic education context since the mid 1950s. A series of case studies examine the historical literature disseminated by specific offices to illustrate the process of overcoming a problematic past and constructing new identities. In turn, the historical role models promoted by the offices, the manner in which federalism was presented, the timing of and fashion in which the Holocaust became a significant theme and the way in which regional identities were understood and fostered, are examined. These cases illustrate how historical information was employed, at first in fairly simple and propagandistic fashion, but always to inculcate democratic and civil norms. The question of the impact of the offices' work is left open, since research on reception has yet to be undertaken, but some evidence about their important contributions to reshaping German values is provided.

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Pasi Ihalainen

This paper suggests that the study of the modernisation of European political cultures in the eighteenth century would greatly benefit from a comparative conceptual historical approach. is approach would effect the reconstruction of a variety of meanings attached to chosen political concepts in different national contexts through the side-by-side analysis of primary sources originating from each case according to the methodology of both historical semantics and pragmatics. A promising research topic is the continuity and change in the conceptualisation of national community, national identity, popular sovereignty and democracy in various European political cultures. e conceptual analyses of late eighteenth-century political sermons from five northwestern European countries, conducted by the author, for example, reveal that conceptual changes related to the rise of nationalism took place even within public religion, allowing it to adapt itself to the age of nationalism. Further analysis of the secular debates taking place in representative bodies and public discourse in late eighteenth-century Britain, the Dutch Republic and Sweden elucidates the gradual development of the notion that all political power is ultimately derived from the people and that such a system constituted a "democracy" in a positive sense within different parliamentary traditions and perhaps even before the French Revolution.

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“Flattering the Little Sleeping Rooster”

The French Left, de Gaulle, and the Vietnam War in 1965

Bethany S. Keenan

This article examines conflicts concerning French policy on the American phase of the Vietnam War between the French Left and Charles de Gaulle during the 1965 elections. The Left faced a dilemma on a matter of central foreign policy as it found it difficult to differentiate its position on the war from de Gaulle's public statements on it. Through an evaluation of press commentary, I demonstrate that in its attempt to set itself apart from de Gaulle, the French Left challenged not only his interpretation of the war in Vietnam but also his understanding of France and its role in the world, proffering a softer, cooperative conception in opposition to de Gaulle's push for a militant leadership status for France in the international community. The study shows the limits political parties face as part of protest movements, while also situating French debate over the Vietnam War squarely within the ongoing dialogue over French national identity.