Producing Borders in Nineteenth-Century Europe Between State Boundaries and Transnational Practices of Space. An Italian Case Study

Laura Di Fiore (Researcher in History at the University of Naples “Federico II”)

22 March 2018, 17:00-19:00, Seminar Room 2, Badia Fiesolana

At the turn of the nineteenth century, the centralisation of public power in the developing administrative states in Europe determined a more marked territorialisation of sovereignty. This new type of territoriality, traditionally attributed to the nineteenth century as a central aspect of state-building and nation-building processes, can be questioned by focusing on one of its fundamental components, namely the borders, which underwent a process of increasing stabilisation and tightening between eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

An analysis of the real border-creation processes, on the one hand, and of the co-existence along borders of a number of cross-state and transnational areas, on the other hand, allows to highlight how both European borders and borderlands were part of a more complex spatial configuration, in which a central role was played by an ongoing interaction between state institutions and social actors in the outlying areas.

The paper will analyse, within this wider framework, the case of the border between two states of Pre-Unification Italy, The Papal State and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The analysis will be developed through a “new global history methodology”, intertwining the new attention to spatiality paid by recent historiography – especially by global history – with the categories developed within the border studies field – especially by the geographic and anthropological components.

Looking forward to politicide

Merav Amir (Assistant Professor of Human Geography at Queen’s University Belfast)

21 February 2018, 17:00-19:00, Seminar Room 3, Badia Fiesolana

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been haunted for decades by the prospect, real or imagined, of political annihilation. The current talk claims that to understand the unfolding of the discursive formations, as well as the spatial dimensions of conflict and control in Israel/Palestine, we should explicate the workings of this prospect of annihilation through the concept of politicide. Despite its broad potential applicability, politicide as a concept within political thought has not received much scholarly attention thus far. This talk therefore aims to revisit this concept, following its definition by Uradyn Bulag (2010). For Bulag, who elaborates on the use of this concept by Baruch Kimmerling (2003), politicide denotes a wide spectrum of processes, ranging from the social and cultural to the military, which are intended to deny national communities the possibility of realizing their aspirations for self-determination, and sabotaging the prospects of their existence as a polity.

Despite the prevalence of visions of a bi-national existence prior to the 1948 war, the establishment of the State of Israel has construed the conditions of enmity between Israelis and Palestinians as a zero-sum game, hinged on the logic of non-recognition. Both sides repudiated the national rights for statehood of their counterpart, and defined their own territorial aspirations as conflicting the other nation’s demands. This changed in 1988 when the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) declared itself reconciled with the existence of the State of Israel, a recognition which was reciprocated with an Israeli recognition of the Palestinians’ rights for statehood in the Oslo Accords of 1993. Thus, for all intents and purposes, the Oslo Accords were a game-changer in this regard and should have rendered the question of the annihilation of the rights for statehood for both nations obsolete. Yet, as the historical existential threat to the existence of the State of Israel increasingly plagues Israeli politics, and the actual establishment of the Palestinian state is perpetually deferred, the spectacle of politicide still dominates regional politics. Focusing on the role of politicide within Israeli politics, this analysis suggests that the insistence that the State of Israel is under threat of extinction should be understood as a speech act, a performative reiteration, which serves to validate national Israeli aspirations. The assertion of Israeli nationalism in this manner is increasingly gaining centre-stage as the ongoing actual politicide of the Palestinians leads Israel towards a de-facto be-national future.

Minority Protection and the Foundations of Human Rights

León Castellanos-Jankiewicz (Law Max Weber Fellow)

22 January 2018, 17:00-19:00, Seminar Room 3, Badia Fiesolana

This work builds on the idea that human rights originate from group protection standards developed after the Great War. A close reading of minority protection instruments and the League of Nations practice suggests that the 1919 peace midwifed contemporary human rights. Most accounts highlight the break between the League and the United Nations in the wake of war, neglecting the experiences of the past. Our thesis bridges the discourse by arguing that human rights are consecutive to minority rights in substance. It also advances that the employment of equality as a legal standard of protection was seamlessly transposed from minority rights to human rights. The principle of equality between minorities and majorities informed the League regime and was embraced by the Permanent Court of International Justice, arbitral tribunals and mixed claims commissions. After the Second World War, the 1948 Universal Declaration merely expanded the scope of application of the previous regime to all individuals equally, regardless of group membership. Thereafter, individual equality acquired a prominent role in human rights instruments, and the prohibition of certain forms of discrimination became a peremptory norm of international law.

These avenues of research have seldom been travelled, perhaps because individual rights overtook group concerns after 1945. Moreover, the ideological bipolarity of the cold war meant that the scholarly landscape of international law was dominated by enquiries on the relationship between individuals and the state well into the 1990s. But the rationale of group protection predates individual rights in law by at least a century, so it is odd that commentators bend over backwards to label individual rights as timeless when pre-Charter experience proves the exact opposite. An important vocation of our study is to disambiguate these experiences and provide clarity by circumscribing ourselves to interwar law and practice. To further understand why individualism became the main horizon of human rights after 1948 we describe the demise of the principle of nationalities embedded in the League’s structure that appeased states with national minorities abroad by recognizing groups as such. The outbreak of the Second World War rendered European nationalism increasingly toxic after 1945, and protecting groups became less viable as a matter of legal policy. Consequently, most studies highlight the rupture with group protection that was evident by 1950 to dismiss the minorities regime as irrelevant and buttress the singularity of human rights. Far from seeing such a paradigmatic shift after 1945, we weave past into present by following the sustained preservation of the international life of rights inaugurated by the League, and the legacy of interwar group equality that was universalized into the sphere of human rights today.

Call for proposals for the 2017-2018 Academic Year

The Nationalism  Working Group is an interdisciplinary framework for the discussion of current research projects in the field of nationalism, as well as the most recent developments in the scholarly assessment of this complex phenomenon. We intend to cover theoretical, conceptual and empirical research on nationalist movements, sub-state nationalism, citizenship, colonialism and anti-colonial movements, diaspora nationalism, nationalist ideology and indifference, border studies and many other fields and problems in the past or in the present.

We strongly encourage the participation of students and scholars working on nationalism in all its forms, and we would like to invite those who are interested in presenting their work or interested in the fields of nationalism to contact the working group coordinator: Benoit Vaillot.

1967 – 2017: Nationalism and its Discontent in Israel/Palestine

7 June 2017 , 13:00-19:00 hours, Theatre , Badia Fiesolana

Workshop organized by:

Feike Fliervoet (SPS Researcher)

Jan Rybak (HEC Researcher)

The year 2017 marks the anniversary of one of the most pivotal events that shaped the political landscape of Middle East, and in particular the small strip of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea: the 1967 Six-Day War. The conflict caused dramatic shifts in world- and regional politics, and was a turning point in Israeli/Palestinian power relations. Not only did Israel assert itself in the region, but through the conquest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, it came to rule over (initially) one million Palestinians, and in many regards turned into an “Accidental Empire” (Gershom Gorenberg). The subsequent development of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, as well as the emergence of a distinctly Palestinian national movement which was directed against the occupation, were defining factors in the shaping of the current situation and the formation of national identifications on both sides of the Green Line. While the Oslo accords promised the establishment of a Palestinian state, and Israel pulled out of the Gaza strip in 2005, the West Bank remains largely under Israeli control and came to be an ideological battleground on which both Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian national identities are fought over and defined against one another.

This half-day workshop on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the June 1967 war looks at the history and the current situation of the conflict from various perspectives. It aims to analyse the processes of identity-formation, discuss the prospects for the region, and offer new tools for understanding the complexities of the ongoing rivalry in Israel/Palestine.

Attached the programme and the abstracts.

Gastronationalism and the politics of demarcation in Western Europe. Reassessing Motives, Actors and Territorial Scales in the Politics of Food

Herman Lelieveldt (SPS Visiting Fellow)

23 May 2017, 16:00-18:00, Sala del Capitolo, Badia Fiesolana

In an age in which political debates increasingly revolve around cultural issues the importance of food as a means to underline and emphasize national identities can hardly be overstated. European wide surveys show that almost three quarters of citizens want to know from which country a product has been sourced, national politicians increasingly proposing country of origin legislation for various food products and food producers increasing don their products with national flags and labels such as Made in Italy. All these examples are clear manifestations of “gastronationalism”, a term originally introduced by the sociologist Michaela DeSoucey to refer to the “use of food production, distribution, and consumption to demarcate and sustain the emotive power of national attachments, as well as the use of nationalists sentiments to produce and market food” (2010: 433).

In my presentation I argue that it is only by going beneath and beyond the national level that we can really understand how food is used to shape and re-shape identities and for what purposes. Gastropolitics in other words is a multifaceted phenomenon that runs all the way from the economically motivated EUs agricultural quality scheme aimed at highlighting the regional origins of traditional foods to the outright xenophobic criticism of Halal school lunches by the French Front National. I show how battles over these food identities reflect the more fundamental tension between integration and demarcation that is increasingly becoming relevant as a new fault line in European politics, both in economic and in cultural terms.


Herman Lelieveldt teaches political science at University College Roosevelt and is the convenor of the Utrecht Summer School on Food Politics in the EU. He is the author of The Politics of the European Union (Cambridge UP, 2015, with Sebastiaan Princen) and De Voedselparadox (The Food Paradox. Why it is so hard to make our food system more sustainable (Van Gennep, 2016).

Explaining Nationalist Rivals in the Interstate System. Territoriality, Transborder Members, and Main Ethnic Groups in Power

Akisato Suzuki (SPS Max Weber Fellow)

24 April 2017, 17:00-19:00, Seminar Room 2, Badia Fiesolana

What provokes nationalist interstate rivalries, such as India and Pakistan over Kashmir, China and Japan over Senkaku/Diaoyu, or Ukraine and Russia over Crimea and Donbas? To answer this, I focus on the nationalist motivations of the main ethnic group in power (MEGIP). If a state is more democratic and has a smaller size MEGIP, it is more likely to engage in nationalist rivalry as a civic-nationalist disputing its homeland territoriality with neighboring countries for the purposes of domestic solidarity. Second, if the MEGIP has its politically relevant transborder members rather than non-political ones in neighboring countries, the state, regardless of its level of democracy or the size of the MEGIP, is more likely to engage in nationalist rivalry as an ethno-nationalist intervening in these countries for the purposes of transborder ethno-national solidarity. These expectations are supported by quantitative analysis using an original dataset, and the results are robust to many alternative specifications.

Nationalism and the civilizing mission in a colonial context

Kirsten Kamphuis (HEC Researcher)

Ela Kwiecińska (HEC Researcher)

 20 February 2017, 17:00-19:00, Seminar Room 3, Badia Fiesolana

Raising Indonesia’s Mothers. Nationalist Thinking about Indigenous Girlhoods in Late-Colonial Indonesia (c. 1900-1942)

In her paper, Kirsten Kamphuis will explore the intersections of thinking about indigenous girlhoods, education and nationalism within the nationalist movement Taman Siswa. This educational movement was very active in the late-colonial Netherlands Indies, ca. 1900-1942. Taman Siswa reacted to the civilizing mission of the colonial government, and the educational system connected with this. The paper will show that, even though historians have not paid much attention to this, the education of young girls was a topic that Indonesian nationalist activists considered to be of great importance to the future of the nation.

Nationalism as a mean of cultural transfer. The concept of the ‘civilizing mission’ and the German-Polish case (1840-1918)

The idea of the ‘civilizing mission’ has been most frequently considered within the framework of Western colonialism. For instance, it was an ideological tool of legitimizing British and French rule in India and Algeria, respectively. The aim of this presentation will be to show how the idea of the ‘civilizing mission’ was transferred from Western Europe to East-Central Europe through Romantic cultural nationalism. In her paper, Ela Kwiecinska will focus on the particularity of the ‘civilizing mission’ in East-Central Europe, that is, its connection with nation-building and proving nation’s belonging to the ‘West’.

Nation and Empire – A False Dichotomy?

Professor Pieter M. Judson (HEC Professor)

 19 January 2017, 15:00-17:00, Seminar Room 4, Badia Fiesolana

Traditionally scholars have viewed continental empires and nationhood as two contrasting and fundamentally opposed forms of political organization. Nations trapped in empires wanted emancipation, so the story goes, and empires were destroyed by their inability to manage nationalist conflict. That this view remains influential today is largely a tribute to the ingenuity and persuasiveness of the men and women whose publishing efforts legitimated the new states that replaced the Habsburg, Ottoman, and Romanov Empires after the First World War. It is especially due to the ways in which the ideologists of the 1918 moment made nationalism (through Wilson’s and Trotsky’s term “national self-determination”) synonymous with democracy. The presumption remains with us today that by the end of the 19th century, to put it crudely, most Europeans preferred nation states to empires, since they preferred democracy to the traditional forms of authoritarianism that were associated with empire.

My work in the past decade on the History of the late Habsburg Monarchy disputes all of these presumptions. In my presentation I will argue three specific points about the relationship of nation to empire: 1) Nationalism developed thanks to specific institutional conditions within empire. Both nation and empire in the 19th century were intimately related concepts that depended on each other for coherence. Nationalist activists built political and administrative careers within imperial contexts and needed the empire to survive. They did not seek empire’s end, but instead built their own institutions inside imperial structures. 2) With regard to the relationship of nationalism to “the people,” much evidence from local sites suggests that the concept of nation actually meant little to most Europeans even by 1900. When it did mean something, it tended to be in moments of intensified political activism (elections) or in particular political crises. Most nationalist activists were in fact highly frustrated by the degree to which people did not make the nation the center of their daily-life existence. In multi-lingual regions they also worried obsessively that some people might “switch” nations. 3) The self-styled nation states that replaced the Habsburg Monarchy after 1918 represent continuity with the past and not a new form of state. Not only did they adopt institutions and administrative practices from the Habsburg Empire, but structurally and politically they behaved like little empires as well. Precisely because of the ways their careers had developed within empire, the creators of the nation states replicated what they knew, even while loudly proclaiming the birth of a new and post-imperial era that rejected everything of the imperial past.

Nationalism as Classification

 Speaker: Catherine Gibson (HEC Researcher)

Discussant: Louis Le Douarin (HEC Researcher)

14 December 2016, 15:30-17:00, Seminar Room 3, Badia Fiesolana

Nationalism theorist Rogers Brubaker proposed as an object of scholarly analysis “the modern state’s efforts to inscribe its subjects onto a classificatory grid: to identify and categorize people” and the actors who acquire “power to name, to identify, to categorize, to state what is what and who is who.” Pierre Bourdieu has also urged scholars to examine classification as a struggle “over the monopoly of power to make people see and believe, to get them to know and recognize, to impose the legitimate definition of the divisions of the social world and, thereby, to make and unmake groups.” In this session of the Nationalism Working Group, Catherine Gibson will present her work-in-progress on the cartographical “ethnoschematization” of the Russian Empire in the 19th century. By bringing together approaches from the history of science and nationalism studies, she asks the question of why in particular the spatialisation of nationality on maps came to be regarded as such as powerful medium through which to communicate and consolidate certain visions of how the Empire’s inhabitants should be sub-divided. The case study will provide a starting point for discussing a wide range of issues on the (re)construction and institutionalisation of ethnic/national labels and groupings: Who classifies ethnic groups and nations, how, and why? How are taxonomies imposed or resisted? How do national taxonomies interact with racial, linguistic, civilizational, or other taxonomies? What methodological approaches do scholars use for studying classification in the past and present? How do different disciplines negotiate and respond to the idea of nationalism as classification?

An onion, an artichoke or a vegetable stew? Reviewing Anthony D. Smith’s ethno-symbolism

Ion Pagoaga Ibiricu (SPS Researcher)

17 November 2016, 17:00-19:00, Seminar Room 4, Badia Fiesolana

Is the nation like an onion that can be peeled until it is reduced to nothing, or rather like an artichoke that contains a core? The ethno-symbolist understanding of the nation has traditionally argued for the latter. Anthony D. Smith, who passed away last July, was one of the main theorists in this vein. The Nationalism Working Group would like to kick off this academic year by bringing in a discussion on Smith’s contribution to the study of nationalism. This first session will present some of his main points in Nationalism and Modernism (1998) same as some criticisms of his work. The aim of the discussion is to touch upon one of the most important issues in nationalism studies, that of the origin of nations and the debate on their (re)construction or invention. The meeting will be a good opportunity to compare modernist, perennialist and postmodernist theories with ethno-symbolism as well. Through these words, we would like to forward an invitation for an open discussion to current members and newcomers to the Nationalism Working Group, which intends to be an interdisciplinary framework for discussion in the field of nationalism in a broad way.