Scrapbook Wrap-Up Reflection

It’s been a journey, what can I say. In the span of a year, I’ve learned more about Nationalism than I had ever anticipated when I signed up for the course. Beyond my own conceptualization of Nationalism as merely divisive or binaristic, I am left with a profound appreciation for Nationalism’s complexity and a sense that it is intimately bound to the socio-cultural-political frameworks of its locus. Mildly put, I will not likely underestimate little observances such as a flag hanging outside someone’s house or the Nationalist rhetoric employed regularly (and unchallenged by most) by politicians.

The use of a variety of different media to explore and delineate Nationalist themes was very helpful in my opinion. We could have stuck to bare-bones theory only, but that would be missing the point of Nationalism. Nationalism is everywhere, it is entrenched into the material world which we inhabit and discursively produces our cultural knowledge and thus, behavioural norms.

By watching films (both fictional-ex. ‘Welcome’-and documentary-ex. the Balkan-conflict documentary), drawing on electronic media (the blogs and renderings) and bringing up actual examples of Nationalism being mobilized, I found it immeasurably helpful in understanding the scope and implications of Nationalism on a level that would have been difficult to achieve had the course material composed of entirely academic readings.

With that being said, I can imagine that an even greater incorporation of various unconventional media for course material (and discussion to boot) could only help in rendering the relationships of Nationalist themes (both cross-culturally and cross-disciplinary) more salient for future students.

The Crying Frenchman Photograph of WWII

“Some say it was taken in Toulon as the French soldiers leave for Africa. Some say it was taken as Nazi tanks rolled into Paris. Others claim it was taken in Marseilles as historic French battle flags were taken aboard ships for protection against the conquering Nazis. No matter what incident prompted him to cry, the French civilian cries across decades from his faded photograph. He cries not only for his generation, but also for his century. The photo, one of the most heart-rending pictures of the Second World War, was possibly taken by George Mejat for Fox Movietone News/AP.” (http://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/fall-of-france/)

While reading some WWII history, from the rather sterilized, quantifiable descriptions of war, stood this photograph of a man clearly in visible emotional distress. His unfettered show of sorrow broke out from other anesthetized media depictions with a jarring reminder of experential suffering.

This is why Nationalism is so powerful on a subjective level. This is why people will die (as they have done in the past and still do now) for Nationalist causes, even one that carries little to no personal ramifications. It is the passion incited by the internalization of collective memory and identification. The mechanisms of this process we have studied in class (symbolism, policy, etc.). However, the emotional responses of Nationalism are ultimately a cognitive process, not rooted in discreet, objectively-existing structures but actively constituted through mediated knowledge and experiential phenomena. The picture of the crying Frenchman, likely watching the fall of his nation, captures this sentiment powerfully.

The Nabi Salih Protests: Nationalism and Shows of Force

To go to the protest scene, skip to 12:33. The rest of the documentary is also on youtube.

In Nabi Salih, a small Palestinian town in central West Bank, there is a weekly protest by Palestinians and their supporters against the establishment of a new Jewish settlement in the direct vacinity (Halamish).. This protest is accompanied by confrontation between Palestinian Youth and the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) troops stationed there. The Youth typically hurl stones while the IDF use crowd dispersal methods such as teargas.

This ritualistic display of violence (mostly minor, though there have been real casualties in the past) nationalism is mobilized through the spectacle of force. In modernity, ideas of the Nation and the ‘Other’ are given substance in militant action and war (Kaldor, 2004). The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a manifestation of ‘New Nationalism’ that is born particularly in regions where conflict and anxiety run high. Highly exclusionary and additionally religiously-mobilized, the militancy of New Nationalism is founded on an ideology that responds to the demands of modern society (globalization, global economy, cosmopolitanism, etc.) with a paradoxically distinctly anti-modern flair (primordial, “purity”, binaristic good/bad forces and nostalgia for a ‘golden age’) (Kaldor, 2004).

Kaldor, M. (2004). Nationalism and globalisation. Nations and Nationalism, 10(1/2), 161-177.

Rendering #2: Controversy Over the Proposed 2009 Re-enactment of The Battle of Abraham Plains

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This political cartoon by Tim Dolighan (Dolighan Cartoons) satirizes the controversy over the re-enactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 2009 for the 250th anniversary of the conflict. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham—also sometimes referred to as ‘The Battle for Quebec’—occurred in 1759 between the British Army and Navy and the French Army, just outside the walls of Quebec City (britishbattles.com, 2007). It is remembered as a seminal battle and a key turning point in the Seven Years War, decisively in favour of the British forces (britishbattles.com, 2007). To commemorate the 250 year anniversary of the Battle of Abraham Plains, The National Battlefields Commission (the federal agency responsible for the Plains) had been planning a mock re-enactment of the battle to take place on September 13th, 2009, involving over 2000 re-enactors (CTV.ca News Staff , 2009). However, a furor erupted amongst Quebec sovereigntist groups after the Parti Quebecois and Bloc Quebecois denounced the event as “a slap in the face for Quebecers of French ancestry” (CBC News, 2009). The final straw came when organizers of the re-enactment began receiving threatening letters, eventually leading to the event’s cancellation amidst fears of possible violence (CBC News, 2009). Most sovereigntist groups expressed their satisfaction with the decision. Yet some, such as Sylvain Rocheleau, a spokesperson for Le Réseau du résistance du Québécois, voiced their own doubt concerning the official cancellation reason, “[I think] they had to cancel the event because it was insulting a majority of francophones” (CBC News, 2009).

The cartoon above has several implications in its portrayal of the controversy and makes use of the nationalist concepts, ‘a useable past’ and ‘banal nationalism’, thereby revealing the internal inconsistency of condemning the former by manipulating the latter. The cartoon clearly demonstrates the political opinion that Quebec sovereigntists have hijacked the memory of the historical event to air their modern grievances regarding perceived slights from the Anglo-majority of Canada. The concept of a “useable past”, coined originally by cultural critic Van Wyck Brooks, involves the mobilization of a past historical memory as a modern political resource for various movements (1918). This process is manifesting in the re-enactment debate. 250 years of temporal separation thus actually rendered the re-birth of the issue in a new light under the sovereigntist debate possible. Cartoonist Tim Dolighan mediates his opinion of the ‘ignorance’ of such historical appropriations through the father and son standing apprehensively in the background, observing the scene. The son is wearing a red scarf, hat and a sweater displaying the iconic, red Canadian Maple Leaf (It is also interesting to note they are the only figures in full colour range). This illustrates the use of banal nationalism; the normalized, ubiquitous and seemingly innocuously passive use of national symbols in everyday life (Winland, March 6, 2013). As banal as it may seem, the performative processes of banal nationalism actually constitute the very fabric and dominant narrative of nationalism (Winland, March 6, 2013). Even the planned re-enactment itself was demonstrative of the performativity (albeit on a grander scale in this case) of nationalism. In essence, the cartoon pits symbolic imagery belonging to two opposing political narratives to flesh out its own editorial sentiment. By observing this phenomenon, it is possible to recognize the mechanisms of nationalism—powerful yet often quite polarizing.

Sources (APA)

britishbattles.com (2007). The Battle of Quebec 1759. Retrieved from http://www.webcitation.org/5ctwr45mb

CBC News. (2009, February 17). Organizers cancel mock battle of the plains of abraham. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2009/02/17/mtl-plains-battle-cancelled-0217.html

CTV.ca News Staff (2009, February 17). Plains of abraham re-enactment cancelled. Retrieved from http://www.ctvnews.ca/plains-of-abraham-re-enactment-cancelled-1.371078

Brooks, V. W. (1918). On creating a usable past. The Dial, 64(7), 337-341.

Assignment #4: The Schengen Information System and the (un)Desirability of Movement

The Schengen Information System (colloquially referred to as SIS) is a governmental database containing a variety of data on individuals, vehicles and objects of interest for the purposes of border control, law enforcement and national security (Brouwer 2008). The Schengen Agreement, signed in 1985, was an accord struck by 5 of the then 10 EU member states to abolish internal border controls for the purposes of standardizing international travel between nation-states comprising the Schengen Area, which itself was formally established in 1995 (ibid). Citizens of member states are able to travel between other member states using a single, standardized visa (ibid). Since its inception in 1995, the SIS has been adopted and used by 27 European countries, including three that are not formally part of the EU (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) (ibid). There are more than 31 million records stored in the SIS and that number is steadily rising (ibid).

(Figure 1: Map of the Schengen Area)

The SIS is an exemplary mechanism of the concept of ‘delocalized borders’; apparatuses of globalized surveillance and immobilization (Winland 27 Feb. 2013). Coined by sociologist David Lyon, the term is used specifically to describe the delocalisation of borders, as travellers are monitored and legally assessed “before they reach physical borders of ports of entry” (2003: 110). With time-space compression and modern information technologies, the mobilization of surveillance records are now digital, ubiquitous and thus, highly itinerant (Lyon 2003).

This new fluidity of surveillance mechanisms has both discursive and material transformative effects on border policing. Firstly, there are numerous intervention points, consisting of a multiplicity of actors and “geographic dispersal points of control” (Crawford 2007: 396). Therefore, the border no longer has a fixed location at all but functionally exists everywhere. While the formal purpose of the Schengen agreement is the abolishment of internal borders within the designated area, the SIS (which has been presented as a compensatory tool to the Schengen agreement) actually facilitates an increase in internal policing and identification of potentially undesirable persons (Crawford 2007).

Here lies an almost paradoxical consequence of delocalised borders (and globalization on a broader scale) as it both enables amplified transnational mobility yet controls it to a hitherto unprecedented degree based on the “state monopolization of legitimate means of movement” (Pratt 2005: 9). This modernist propensity to distinguish amongst the desirability of transnational movements has been accompanied by the growing criminalization of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in general (Winland 27 Feb 2013). This determination of risk is furthered by media/state-fuelled fear mongering and stigmatization regarding the “Other”, namely minorities and migrants (Appadurai 2006).

In conclusion, the informationalisation of European policing compels the acknowledgement of the central role technology occupies concerning the “reconfiguration of [spaces of governance]”, as these spaces shift from being categorically territorial to being based on the circulation of technological practices and devices (Crawford 2007: 397). Regrettably, as criminologist Anna Pratt astutely notes,

“While inclusionary and enabling governmental technologies certainly act upon those deemed worthy of citizenship who are ushered into ‘zones of inclusion’, coercive and despotic practices persist in relation to those deemed unworthy and who are confined within ‘zones of exclusion’ and ultimately expelled from the nation” (2005: 13).

A group of refugees sits wrapped in blankets before a ship

(Figure 2: Refugees wait for processing at a port in Greece)

Sources:

Appadurai , Arjun. Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger. London: Duke University Press, 2006. Print.

Brouwer, Evelien. Digital Borders and Real Rights: Effective Remedies for Third-Country Nationals in the Schengen Information System (Immigration and Asylum Law and Policy in Europe). Boston: Martinus Nijhoff, 2008. Print.

Crawford, Adam. International and Comparative Criminal Justice and Urban Governance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Print.

Lyon, David. Surveillance after September 11. Cambridge: Polity, 2003. Print.

Pratt, Anna. Securing Borders: Detention and Deportation in Canada. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2005. eBook.

Assignment #3: The Koguryo Controversy in the Context of Nationalism

In 2001 and 2003, China and North Korea submitted the tombs from the ancient kingdom of Koguryo, of which sites are currently extant in both nation-states, to UNESCO for world heritage site status (Gries 2005: 2). The ancient kingdom of Koguryo was one of the three kingdoms (along with Baekje and Silla) that later formed a unified kingdom on the Korean peninsula. A substantial portion of Koguryo’s territory was also located in what is present-day North-East China.

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(Map of Goguryeo at its zenith, around 391-531 AD)

UNESCO deferred making any political statements one way or the other, eventually granting world heritage status to both sites on July 2004 (ibid). However, the controversy had only just erupted. Characterizations and implications of a Chinese Koguryo followed in Chinese media, the official PRC website and academia, subsequently igniting a massive uproar amongst Koreans (Gries  2005: 4). Why and how exactly was Koguryo, a kingdom that ceased to exist over 1.5 millennia ago (and thus bearing little resemblance to any modern-day culture or society, even that of its “successors”) appropriated as cultural warfare fodder between the modern nation-states of Korea and China?

Historian Peter Gries asserts that it is because Koguryo was seminal to the construction of modern-day Korean nationalism (2005). Korea has had a lengthy historical relationship spanning thousands of years, of both resistance against and subjugation to China. China was the “Other” against which Korea (and Japan as well) defined its own identity (Gries 2005: 6). Conversely, China constructed its own national identity in the 20th century on the basis of being the dominant, hegemonic power of Northeast Asia in the past and into the future (ibid). Therefore, the Chinese national narrative found it favourable to construe Koguryo as a vassal of China.

Lee Jae-won/Reuters. Costumed protesters at a rally in Seoul. South Korea’s love affair with China has dissipated and given way to a national furor over the dispute.

For Koreans however, Koguryo is perceived as a period of resistance in Korean history and therefore was evoked by nationalist writer Sin Chae-Ho in the 1910’s-20’s (Japanese occupation era) as he attempted to construct a “martial spirit” from the Korean past, one that could be selectively associated with the growing independence movement (Gries 2005: 8).

According to Hobsbawm in The Nation as Invented Tradition, this is a deliberate “social invention” to create the illusion of continuity with the past (Hobsbawm 1983: 76). Koguryo was an important element in this construction of Korean nationalism, deliberately chosen to grant historical legitimacy to a country in need of ideological redemption after the humiliation of being annexed by the Japanese Empire.  Koguryo was a symbol of resistance against foreign invaders and therefore central to the configuration of a virile and militarist Korean nationalism. The Korean War Memorial (erected in 1994) echoes the heroic nationalist discourses of Koreannationalist writers including as Sin Chae Ho (Gries 2005: 10). As Hobsbawm writes, “buildings and monuments [are] the most visible form” of delineating a new interpretation of history (Hobsbawm 1983: 80)

When Koguryo is not viewed through a nationalist lens however, it becomes further clear that the imposition of modern nationalist sentiment on the ancient past is invented and problematic. According to scholar Andrei Lankov,

“The real-life Koguryoans would have been surprised or even offended to learn that, in the future, they would be perceived by Koreans as members of the same community as their bitter enemies from Silla. Describing Koguryo as Chinese or Korean is as misleading as, say, describing medieval Brittany as French or English or Irish” (Lankov 2006)

You Sung-Ho/Reuters. South Korean history teachers prayed at a rally to protest China’s claiming the ancient kingdom of Koguryo. Her forehead band reads ‘Minjok’.

The notion of minjok, or a pure bloodline (additionally authored by nationalist writer Shin Chae Ho) as the basis for the modern nation-state of Korea (both South and North—though they are each vying to be the legitimate administrator of a unified Korea, based on the minjok ideology) continues to linger even whilst South Korean society itself is becoming ever increasingly metropolitan and pluralist. As Walker Connor describes in A Nation is A Nation, the conflation of the nation (imagined community) and the state (political entity) has led to the common acceptance of an essentialist basis for a modern, constructed phenomenon: the nation-state (1978). Meanwhile, the Koguryo controversy continues to wage, though its purpose is perhaps less about historical accuracy than a modern construction of the past for nationalist means.

Sources

Gries, Peter H. “The Koguryo Controversy, National Identity, and Sino-Korean Relations Today.” East Asia: An International Quarterly. 22.4 (2005): 3-17. Print.

Shin, Gi-Wook. “Ethnic pride source of prejudice, discrimination.” Korea Herald. 08 02 2006: n. page. Web. 31 Jan. 2013.

Hobsbawm , Eric J. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983. 76-82. Print.

Connor, Walker. “A nation is a nation, is a state, is an ethnic group is a … .” Ethnic and Racial Studies. 1.4 (1978): 377-400. Print.

Multiculturalism: Failed Experiment or a Just National Model?

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“Although there are two official languages, there is no official culture, nor does any ethnic group take precedence over the other”. – Pierre Elliot Trudeau

This statement by former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, made as he introduced the Multiculturalism Act of 1971, was meant to describe the new official policy: “Multiculturalism within a Bilingual Framework” (Mackey 1998:64). Multiculturalism entails state recognition of diversity, promotion of plural cultures co-existing together and is characterised by tolerance (Mackey 1998). However, this institutionalization of managing diversity was not as innocuous as merely wishing to embrace a more pluralistic Canada but rather, was politically motivated. It was an attempt to flesh out a unified Canadian identity, distinct from that of imperialist Britain or the United States (Mackey 1998).

 

This official policy of managing difference was thusly created, not to subvert or to challenge the status quo or dominant culture, but rather to ensure its continued hegemonic survival through inclusion. To insist that there was no “official culture” was more favourable than actually selecting an “official culture” as such a move would inevitably alienate other groups. The policy of managing difference also dictated how/what forms of difference was acceptable and contributed to Canadian society (Mackey 1998:66). As Mackey notes, “the policy was, after all, called ‘multiculturalism within a bilingual framework’. Only the two founding nations have linguistic and political rights as members of their groups. Members of ethnic minorities only have rights as individual citizens” (Mackey 1998:66). This was also illustrated recently in 2009, when Tamil-Canadians held extensive protests aimed at raising awareness regarding the plight of Tamils in the Sri Lankan civil war. The Tamil diaspora was characterized by much of mainstream Canadian media as pandering to an issue that was culturally bound to another nation (Sri Lanka) and not an arena for Canadian intervention, ignoring the conflict’s locus within the larger global discourse of human rights (George 2012). The Tamil diaspora was therefore portrayed often (but not totally) as an “other” group, whose interests were irretrievably distinct from “Canadian interests”, and their allegiance to Canadian citizenship was implicitly challenged, prompting questions about their belonging (or lack of) to Canadian society (George 2012).

 

Tolerance, as a characteristic of multiculturalism, also presents its own challenges and associated assumptions. Tolerance, in multicultural discourse, is the bare minimum that one should aspire to, with celebration of difference going a step farther. Mackey argues that despite the British being supplanted by multiculturalism in this new configuration of Canadian identity, tolerance as one of its key features was part of “a continuum with earlier forms of British/Canadian identity, for example, the nationalist image of the gentle and tolerant Mounties (being kind to native people) as a symbol of Britain’s superior justice” (Mackey 1998:65). Nevertheless, it becomes apparent that there exist limits to multicultural tolerance, when national values or cohesion is seemingly threatened. Evidenced by the French ban on face covering (targeted mainly at niqab/burqa wearers) in public space, the national value of secularism triumphed over tolerance of this particular practice. Limits to tolerance raise questions regarding cultural relativity, which are murky waters to traverse due to the ambivalence it imposes on societal moral objectivity.

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Recently, heads of state such as Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and former UK Prime Minister David Cameron made statements about multiculturalism as a “failed experiment”. Chancellor Merkel remarked on immigrants (mostly Arab) inability to successfully assimilate into German society and subsequently, eroding national unity. Cameron asserted that state multiculturalism had culminated in ethnic groups sequestering amongst themselves and not participating in mainstream society. It must be noted that their sentiments espouse integration and assimilation, not necessarily the mosaic that multiculturalism embodies within the Canadian context (despite its own set of problems). The way multiculturalism has been enshrined legally under the Canadian, British and German contexts, is different and manifests in different forms. While mostly celebrated in Canada as a part of our national identity, multiculturalism is disparaged as a “failed experiment” in others, highlighting the discrepancy between the approaches to multiculturalism.