Author Archives: Benoit Vaillot

About Benoit Vaillot

Doctorant en histoire (EHESS, Paris) / Arche EA 3400 (Université de Strasbourg). PhD Researcher (European University Institute, Florence). Coordinateur du séminaire doctoral « Nationalism Working Group » hébergé à l'Institut Universitaire Européen.

A New Look at the Economics of Mobility: The Causes and Costs of Transnationalism

Nancy L. Green (Professor of History at EHESS)

17 April 2019, 17:00-18:30, Refectory, Badia Fiesolana

The politics of immigration and the history of (social and political) citizenship are important ways of examining how the state defines the Other. However, beyond the cultural implications of inclusion and exclusion, it is time to take another look at the history of the economics of migration. While the discourse on migration today emphasizes otherness, the economic factors of mobility have been forgotten. Yet the supply and demand of labor have historically underpinned movement, and immigrants have always been a bellwether of the political economy and historically important additions to national economies: industrial workers yesterday (more men), workers in the service and care industries today (more women). A new economics of mobility needs to re-examine (gendered) labor markets while understanding the choices and costs of migration to individuals, families, and states, from the family economy to the cost of credit to the “business” of migration (the intermediaries along the route), the costs of closure to the state (walls are expensive!), and the subcontracting of detention. Finally, the literal costs of citizenship can also be explored in a period in which citizenship is increasingly “for sale.” Martin Ruhs will introduce the lecture and Alessandro Bonvini will chair the lecture, in the frame of the Max Weber Programme.

The Limits of Transnationalism

Nancy L. Green (Professor of History at EHESS)

17 April 2019, 10:00-12:00, Emeroteca, Badia Fiesolana

Prof. Nancy L. Green will discuss with the audience the second chapter (Old History, New Historiography) of her forthcoming book The Limits of Transnationalism. The chapter is available upon registration. Prof. Andrew Geddes will chair the event.

Rethinking the History of Nationalism

Doctoral and post-doctoral workshop

Florence, 16-17th May 2019

The University of East Anglia and the University of Florence

The surge of nationalism across Europe and beyond poses the need to deeply rethink its historical roots to shed light on the intellectual and cultural challenges ahead of us. One element usually neglected are the transnational elements contributing to the shaping of nationalistic feelings of belonging. In fact, as Anne Marie Thiesse has argued some time ago, nationalism emerges always in confrontation with other groups. If we were to accept that ‘there is nothing of more international than the creation of national identities’, then the tendency to consider nationalism from an ‘internal’ perspective alone might lead to serious misconceptions and misunderstandings. This conference two-day event will offer a contribution to ongoing debates from the historian’s perspective, highlighting how nationalism is shaped transnationally through complex othering processes that incessantly create borders by transcending them. The main aim is to question the assumptions underlying ‘methodological nationalism’ by looking at concrete historical examples and case studies that might help us challenge commonly accepted views.

The time span will range from the eighteenth to the twentieth century.

The two-day event will be divided into themed panels with ample time for reflection and discussion about Nationalism Studies from the perspective of the historian.  We also plan to record the training sessions for dissemination online. 

This call for papers, circulated among PGRs of the UK consortium part of the CHASE consortium, is intended for doctoral and post-doctoral students affiliated to the Department SAGAS (University of Florence) and the Department of History and Civilization (EUI, Florence).

If you would like to present a paper (10/15 minutes), please send an abstract (max. 300 words in English) with a title and a short biography by  Dr Matthew D’Auria (m.dauria@uea.ac.uk), not later than 31 March 2019.

Please note that the working language will be English. There will be no fees for participating and limited funding might be available.

In the footsteps of Ernest Renan, French national thinker and thinker of the French nation

François Hartog (Professor of History at EHESS)

20 February 2019, 16:00-18:00, Theatre, Badia Fiesolana

An undoubted scholar, Ernest Renan (1823-1892) was also a controversial man. After the publication of his Life of Jesus, the former seminarian became for Catholics “the great blasphemer”. Although he rallied late to the Republican camp, he was going to be one of the tutelary figures whom the Third Republic honored. Three questions guide François Hartog’s journey in the footsteps of Renan: the future, religion, the nation. A convinced evolutionist, Renan strongly believes in the future, but what will become of the very idea of ​​the future? He thinks that Christianity has had its day, but what will be the religion of the future, since a future without religion is inconceivable? Political form of the time, the nation does not escape the work of time: what will be the future of the nation and that of Europe? Because in the world then dominated by Germany, the question of the nation and that of Europe are linked. Are these three questions still ours? In the distance that separates us from Renan and by using his work as a prism, what do they give us to see of our contemporary? Until recently, Renan’s future could still be ours; religion until recently appeared to be behind us; the nation, too, appeared to be a political form exhausted and in the process of being outmoded. And here all these themes come back and lead us to reconsider what we thought we knew of our situation.

The three pillars of Liberalism: Freedom, Markets, and Morals from the Enlightment to the present

in the frame of the Intellectual History Working Group

Alan Kahan (Professor at Université de Versailles/Saint Quentin))

20 February 2019, 10:30-13:00, Sala del Torrino, Villa Salviati

Today there are no good histories of liberalism available. At best there are either excellent collections of essays, like Alan Ryan’s The Making of Modern Liberalism, or good stories without an argument, like Edmund Fawcett’s Liberalism. The purpose of my project is to reorient historical debate about liberalism through an analytical history of its intellectual development, extending from the proto-liberalisms of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the libertarianism and procedural liberalisms of the late twentieth. Elaborating on Judith Shklar’s argument that liberalism is about fear, The Three Pillars of Liberalism: Freedom, Markets, and Morals from the Enlightenment to the Present will put the changing nature of liberal fears into historical and national contexts, discussing liberalism in the United States, Britain, France, and Germany on a comparative basis. Methodologically, it will alternate close readings of particular liberal thinkers with discussions of liberal politicians’ encounters with movements and issues such as nationalism, suffrage, imperialism, and feminism. It will argue that most liberals have constructed their liberalism on the three pillars of freedom (politics), markets (economics) and morals (religion/morality), rather than on markets or politics alone. Most liberals, through the nineteenth century, saw political institutions, a commercial market economy, and strong morals/religion as complementary and necessary bases for a liberal society. Only gradually did a growing number of liberals succeed in separating politics and markets from morals, culminating in the divorce embodied in the rise of libertarian and the revival of contractarian thought after WWII, as seen in the work of Hayek, Friedman, Habermas, etc. From the late 20th century, there has been a return to arguments that freedom requires a moral basis. By providing a coherent revisionist account of the history of liberalism, Three Pillars will rebut Isaiah Berlin’s still-influential contention that liberalism is about negative freedom, and argue that liberalism has been most successful when it embodies both a vision of negative freedom and a vision of positive freedom. My talk will lay out the historical approach taken in Three Pillars and discuss its rationale, as well as the way in which such work straddles the boundaries between political theory and historical inquiry.

Presentation of the ANR Research Programme AsileuropeXIX

Hugo Vermeren (École Française de Rome)

15 February 2019, 18:00-19:00, Sala degli Stemmi, Villa Salviati

Nineteenth-century Europe saw the emergence of political exile as a form of truly mass migration. The increasing number of dissidents expelled from their home countries for political reasons led to major shifts in the migration policies of Great Britain, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Piedmont-Sardinia and Spain, the main countries providing asylum to such refugees between the Congress of Vienna and the 1870s. This project will reconstruct the vocabularies used to describe and thus categorize these exiles. The research undertaken by AsilEuropeXIX will also explore, through official and personal records, the reception afforded to the exiles, not least through the changing border policies that affected them. Analyzing these policies, both from ‘above’ and from ‘below’, will allow valuable points of comparison to be made between the different European countries of asylum. Finally, the project will tackle a posteriori migratory controls, such as deportation measures and incentives given to refugees encouraging them to immigrate to European colonies.

Website

Who Should Belong? The Genuine Link Doctrine and the European Citizenship

Jules Lepoutre (Research associate, Global Citizenship Governance, RSCAS, at the EUI)

6 February 2019, 17:00-19:00, Sala del Capitolo, Badia Fiesolana

According to the famous words of the International Court of Justice in the Nottebohm case in 1955, “the legal bond of nationality” shall express a “genuine connection” between a state and an individual. The Court’s judges expressed in this case that nationality is altogether “a social fact of attachment, a genuine connection of existence, interests and sentiments, together with the existence of reciprocal rights and duties”. This legal doctrine emphasises a material approach of nationality, which had long been regarded as alien to the European Union. Back in 1992, the EU advocate general Guiseppe Tesauro stated in his conclusions on the Micheletti case that Nottebohm is nothing but the expression of a “romantic period of international relations”, and that EU Member States should enjoy the highest degree of liberty to determine their own citizens, without any requirement of a genuine connection.

However, at the present stage of the European construction, would it not be worthwhile considering a “romantic” turn in the EU legal approach of nationality? The current law relating to the access and loss of European citizenship is fragmented because it consists of 28 national and sovereign legislations. Then, several Member States are able to distribute their nationality – for instances through kin-state policies, or investment/cash for passports programs – amongst individuals who fail to show a genuine connection with them. Such types of behaviour of states not only weaken European citizenship but also constitute risk factors for borders and territorial security. In this regard, the implementation of the genuine link doctrine within the EU (e.g. the obligation for the Member States to show a genuine connection between them and the individuals they intend to naturalise) could be one of the best options to address these concerns. Accordingly, the goals of this paper are [1] to establish the added-value that the genuine link doctrine could create in the relations between the Member States and in the development of the European construction, and [2] to explore ways to make the genuine link move from legal doctrine to EU positive law.

Where the Serbian Identity Lies

Marcoandrea Spinelli

30 January 2019, 17:00-18:00, Seminar Room 4, Badia Fiesolana

Marcoandrea Spinelli holds a BA and a MA in Contemporary History and will present his research project “Where the Serbian Identity Lies” which intends to analyze the meaning of Serbdom, the Serbian feeling of identity, articulated in the local terms of Srpstvo and Inat, which Serbs use to describe themselves. Main purposes of this project are to explore:

  • the difference between a politically Serbian city and a culturally Serbian city;
  • the feelings of Bosnian and Kosovo Serbs which consider Serbia their homeland;
  • the opposite feeling of some ethnic minorities who live in Serbia.

In order to understand the relationship between Serbdom and a parallel but “other” national feeling, Spinelli plans to visit Subotica, Novi Pazar, Banja Luka and Gracanica, and also several villages located within the Serbian territory but inhabited by ethnic minorities.

The project will be implemented by interviewing eminent figures of each minority and community, in order to gather information about: village’s history, urban and architectural symbols, local political associationism, personal viewpoints about alterity, religion, education and language.

“My country, my game!”: an exploration of recent cases of nationalistic narrative in videogames

Aldo Giuseppe Scarselli (PhD Researcher at the Università degli Studi di Firenze)

16 January 2019, 18:00-19:00, Seminar Room 3, Badia Fiesolana

In recent times, the growing importance of the videoludic medium has moved academia’s attention on how videogames portray reality and which kind of language and tools they use. Giving the growing importance of the genre of the historical themed videogames, in the past 15 years, starting from a revolutionary contribution of William Uricchio, (Uricchio, 2004), a new field of study (Historical Videogame Studies) focuses on them as instruments to narrate the past, and as a way to share different views of history. At the same time, many historians have focused on the modes and different uses of language used in reproducing and re-telling the past through this medium. They tried to understand how videogames respond to certain agencies or how they keep reproducing some views of the past. The debate about historical videogames, and how they could not only be used as an instrument to represent historical event but also as a vehicle of political and cultural views, spread outside academia, amongst journalists, independent scholars and game developers.

Clearly, the use of the past in popular media can lead to misuses and manipulation of the view of history. In the field of nationalism and national identities, videogames nowadays start to play an important role, and Public Historians started to analyse the videogame medium, discussing its many positive effects, but also the risk of misconception that could be done through its misuse.

In this discussion, I am going to show how certain videogames interact with the nationalistic discourse, and I am going to investigate which kind of agencies pushed for the representation of nationalistic views in videogames. To do so I have taken in consideration three games, while other cases are going to be pinpointed, like the extreme right wing milieu linked with game modding.

The first game is Kingdome Come: Deliverance, developed in 2018 by the Czech Warhorse Studios. The game is set in the middle age and portray Bohemia like a country of peace and prosperity, ruined by the foreign with their plots and violence. The representation of a “golden past”, depicted as the “real history” of the country and with the claims of the studio chief director about the racial homogeneity of middle age Europe has started an heated debate between journalist and historians about the distorted nationalistic narrative of the game.

The second game is Heroes of 1971: Retaliation, a videogame developed by Portbliss in Bangladesh with the support of the local government. Set during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, the game introduce the player to fight as freedom fighter against the Pakistani invading soldiers, in an attempt to tell an heroic tale of independence and vengeance against the Pakistani oppressors. The game had an enormous success, especially with the younger generations who had never seen the war.

With the third game, I will take a different approach. In 2017 Firaxis announced that the expansion for their game Civilization VI, called Rise and Fall, would include the Cree nation. This inclusion raised the protest of the political leader of the Cree First Nations, Milton Tootoosis. Tootoosis criticised the inclusion of his people’s past and culture in an imperialistic game without asking their consultation and opinion, as “appropriating their national identity”.

The goal of this exploration is to show how nationalistic narrative can be used in videogames in different ways, depending also on the support and the involved agencies. At the same time, the intention is to call for attention of the historians about this topic, its possible future developments and related risks.

Public Perception of EU migrants and Their Rights: Citizens or Foreigners?

Philipp Lutz (Researcher, University of Bern)

Nora Ratzmann (SPS Max Weber Fellow)

5 December 2018, 17:00-19:00, Sala del Capitolo, Badia Fiesolana

Loved and feared: Citizens’ attitudinal ambivalence towards free movement in the European Union

Public opinion towards free movement is characterized by a paradox: On the one hand, European citizens perceive border-free Europe as the most important achievement of European integration; on the other hand, the mobility of EU citizens has become a main driver for euroscepticism in many European countries. How to explain these contradicting observations? In this article, I argue that free movement creates an attitudinal trade-off for citizens between their own citizenship-rights and the citizenship rights of perceived ‘others’. The paper assesses the ambivalence of citizens’ attitudes towards free movement and tests the postulated hypothesis with cross-country observational data and a survey experiment in 28 EU countries. The empirical findings suggest that public attitudes toward a border-free Europe are systematically ambivalent due to a tension between the value of the own mobility rights and the fear of immigration from other EU countries.

Politics of welfare belonging at street-level:  The practice of EU migrants’ entitlements in German jobcentres

By lifting the veil on the black box of administration, this research explores the understudied (in)equalities of access and treatment embedded within the daily practice of implementing migrants’ legal entitlements to basic social security in German jobcentres, within an EU comparative perspective. The analysis draws on a wealth of 118 qualitative interviews with jobcentre employees, migrant claimants and welfare support and advisory organisations, as well as participant observation in three Berlin-based jobcentres.

The nexus between deservingness judgements, and belonging as proxy the often complex and intersecting linkages of socio-economic background, (national) citizenship in decision-making processes during policy implementation has remained undertheorized in existing street-level implementation scholarship. The novelty lies in exploring how such understandings of welfare belonging are articulated and negotiated at the local level and how they impact rationing of public benefits and services. Particular attention is placed on the analysis of the interplay between frontline bureaucrats as gate-keepers of access, who interpret and potentially subvert eligibility criteria, and potential EU migrant applicants who engage or not in the process of claim-making. The analysis offers insights into street-level bureaucrats’ perceptions of deservingness and their associated styles of claims processing.

Archeology and Nationalism

Levent Yilmaz (University Professor, Prestige-Marie Curie Fellow)

18 October 2018, 16:00-18:00, Sala del Capitolo, Badia Fiesolana

We will try to analyse how the system of the ages is used and abused in its immediate national(ist) contexts: the categorization of the human past into three distinct periods —the ages of stone, bronze, and iron— was first developed around 1830 by Christian Jürgensen Thomsen, who was the director of the Royal Museum of Nordic Antiquities in Copenhagen, in order to classify the museum’s collection according to the materials out of which the artifacts were made. Jens Jacob Asmussen Worsaae, who did most of his work in the context of the First Schleswig War (1848-1851), briefly knew Thomsen, and applied his theory of the “three ages” to the findings of archaeological digs, synchronizing them with the field of stratigraphy. Philologists including Jacob Grimm helped provide arguments to the German nationalists seeking to invade Denmark, suggesting that the latter country had been founded by Germans. In a polemic against Grimm as well as the Norwegian Peter Andreas Munch (uncle of the famous painter), Worsaae maintained that according to archaeological data, prehistoric people could not be identified with any modern people —the dimensions of the deep past allowed for no such judgment. For Worsaae, Grimm’s use of this past was a “playground for political fantasies.” In his 1849 pamphlet, one finds the first use of the word “prehistory”: the pamphlet’s title, Om en forhistorisk, saakaldet “tydsk” Befolkning i Danmark, translates to “On a Prehistorik, So-Called ‘German’ Population in Denmark.”

Local History, Ethnicity, and Intercommunal Violence

Max Bergholz (Associate Professor of History at Concordia University)

27 September 2018, 16:00-19:00, Sala dei Levrieri, Villa Salviati

During two terrifying days and nights in early September 1941, the lives of nearly two thousand men, women, and children were taken savagely by their neighbors in Kulen Vakuf, a small rural community straddling today’s border between northwest Bosnia and Croatia. In his prize-winning book, Violence as a Generative Force: Identity, Nationalism, and Memory in a Balkan Community (Cornell University Press, 2016), Max Bergholz tells the story of the sudden and perplexing descent of this once peaceful multiethnic community into extreme violence.

Call for proposals for the 2018-2019 Academic Year

20 September 2018, 18:00-19:00, Seminar Room 4, Badia Fiesolana

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 come for a first informal meeting. For any question please contact via e-mail the working group coordinators: Benoit Vaillot & Zeynep Simsek. Please following our activities on our Facebook Page.

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”)

21 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.

Language and Loyalty in the Habsburg Imperial Army, 1868-1918

Tamara Scheer (History Researcher at the University of Vienna)

9 March 2018, 17:00-19:00, Sala dei Levrieri, Villa Salviati

Presentation and discussion of her current research about language and loyalty in the Habsburg Imperial Army, 1868-1918.