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CfH Lectures

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We have witnessed the rise of nationalisms in many parts of Europe since 1989. The new millennium has also witnessed a second wave of nationalism, this time sweeping over Western Europe. Although less acknowledged, it is a remarkable development: even in those countries that have long been seen as the most progressive – such as Denmark and the Netherlands – the most heated social and political debates all revolve around questions of national identity, national values, the national canon, citizenship exams for newcomers, etc. The framing of the nation itself as ‘home‘ is a notable characteristic of the debates raging in Western Europe. While this is nothing new in the history of nationalism, the longing for a homogenous national home is a novel development in those European countries that had so assiduously distanced themselves from traditions of ‘Boden’, ‘soil’ and ‘Heimat’ in the postwar years. Observers may be surprised by the timing of this surge in national feelings in societies that have for decades considered themselves to be ‘postnational’. Western European societies have never been so diverse in terms of ethnicity, religion, and culture as they are today. But it is precisely this increased diversity that largely explains the renewed popularity of the nation-as-home ideal. In all debates, gender and sexuality play an pivotal role. In my lecture I will analyze how the nationalisation of progressive values might have exclusionary effects, particularly for migrants with a Muslim background.

This lecture was given within the framework of the 2011 School of Critical Theory organized by the Centre for the Humanities in Utrecht. The programme was titled ‘G-local Cosmopolitanism: The Social Responsibility of the Artists, the Academics, and the Media’, and offered trans-national and interdisciplinary approaches drawn from the humanities, social sciences, law, philosophy and international relations. Its focus on the development of cross-national European perspectives in these areas, allows for the innovative use of key notions of cosmopolitanism across different national, cultural and disciplinary traditions. The school consisted of three clusters, which focused on Cosmopolitanism and the social responsibility of the Artists, Cosmopolitanism and the social responsibility of the Academics, and Cosmopolitanism and the social responsibility of the Media.