This MA level seminar offers a transdisciplinary take on the study of nationhood, nationalism, and transnationalism and engages with various conceptualizations of these notions in both the humanities and the social sciences. Using Benedict Anderson’s influential idea of Imagined Communities as one of its departure points, the course takes seriously the idea of the social constructedness of the nation and tries to situate nations in their historical and geopolitical contexts. It questions how the nation came to be considered as culturally given and why it is regarded as the most potent unit of political organization and expressing sovereignty. In keeping in tune with this interrogation of how the idea of the nation and nationalism came to be, the seminar also engages with countervailing trends (such as transnationalism, globalization, and cosmopolitanism) which undercut the resilience of nationalism. The course also explores how related notions of gender, race, class, citizenship, imperialism, decolonization, and migration feature in the (de)construction and reproduction of nations. The main course aims include:
- Placing contemporary theoretical debates into a wider historical context and considering earlier theorizations and discussions on the ‘origins’ of nations
- Providing an overview of key theoretical approaches to nationalism and considering some of the main criticisms levelled against them in a comparative perspective
- Considering how alternative forms of knowledge including ideas of decolonization challenge dominant Euro-American conceptualizations of nationhood and nationalism
- Examining the ways in which cultural products such as novels, art, music, media, film, language, etc participate in both entrenching and undermining the idea of the nation, as well as transcending it. Students are particularly encouraged to engage with diverse forms of cultural artifacts such as fashion, gaming, sport, celebrity, media, TV to understand ideas of nation, nationalism and transnationalism.
Course readings will be made available in a course folder on Learnweb. A separate introductory reading list for independent study will also be made available. This is a reading-intensive course and students are encouraged to complete all their readings in readiness for class discussions. To pass this course, students will be expected to complete and pass a final exam.