Tag Archives: nationalism

“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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.