The so-called transnational turn marks one of the most recent epistemological shifts in the humanities and social sciences. It has profoundly challenged traditional assumptions on what scholarly practice is supposed to be on a truly global and transdisciplinary level. This course explores a wide variety of texts, issues and concepts which are central to the study of nationhood, nationalism and transnationalism. It sets particular focus on tensions between competing national and cultural concepts as well as on epistemological differences between national and transnational approaches for the study of culture and society.
Our in-class discussions will draw on a wide range of shared readings. The selection of texts will invite class participants to an interdisciplinary perspective, focusing especially on the fields of history, the social sciences, as well as literary and cultural theory. Topics to be discussed include: pre-modern notions of political and cultural community; the historical formation of modern national identifications; the transformation of national(ist) discourses in different socio-historical and/or cultural contexts such as anti- and post-colonial nation building; the tension between pedagogical and performative dynamics in the ambivalent construction of the nation and the ongoing re-making of national belonging; critical strategies of questioning the nation’s imagined cohesion and the essentialist claim of people and home; (critical) cosmopolitanism; gendered aspects, racialized identifications, and class dimensions of and in national(ist) discourses; gender and sexuality in cross-cultural (mis-)representations; racism; ethnic nationalism, anti-colonial struggle, national liberation and the question of violence; nation(alism) and language policy; minorities; regionalism; stateless nations; civil wars and the refugee regime; transnational developments in the fields of supra-national cooperation; global capitalism, neo-colonialism and cultural globalization; (trans-)migration and diasporic identifications, eco-critical perspectives on the world society in the epoch of the anthropocene.
In class we will explore these and related topics by reading and critically discussing a number of theoretical texts and case studies from different parts of the world, including the British Isles, the Americas; South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. While the focus is on historical, political and theoretical issues, we will also include short literary representations and other cultural representations (e.g. audio-visual works) to see how wider socio-political phenomena are negotiated in the spheres of literature, music, film or the arts.
First in-class meeting 17. October