The idea of a nation and narratives of independence
Evolution in the meanings of nationalism, statehood, national identity, freedom and autonomy 100 hundred years after the conclusion of the Great War (Czechia, Poland and Ireland)
Univerzita Hradec Králové, Czech Republic, October 25th-27th 2018
Nationalism today seems to be more pronounced than in the last 50 to 70 years. While some claim its impetus mirrors that of the movements active in 1918, perceiving it in a rather positive way, others argue that its growing prominence is a proof of a backlash, a movement against multinationalism and multiculturalism upcoming in the Western World. Questions debating the issues of independence, sovereignty, or national feeling are currently particularly rampant in political discourse. These issues, however, permeate other discourses as well, what with their bearing upon – to choose one of the most obvious examples – various artistic disciplines.
The year 2018 sees the centenary of the establishment of two independent European states, Czechoslovakia and Poland. This occasion encourages the debate concerning national sentiment, independence and sovereignty in the context of the two states. It, however, also provides an opportunity to consider the aforementioned issues as theoretical concepts, and to assess how they have transformed (and/or evolved) throughout the years. The conference will offer a platform for retrospection, yet consideration of the discussed issues will be carried out with regard to how the assessment is currently perceived. Particular attention will be devoted to the discursive representations (qua constructions) and re-appropriations of the past, which are meant to fulfil specific (political) purposes.
Informed by the recent debate concerning nationalist discourse in the context of the centenary of Irish independence and its commemoration, the conference will explore use/misuse/abuse of such discourse related to establishment, development and continuation of states. While Ireland’s Heritage Minister promised a “respectful and inclusive commemoration” of the 1916 centenary, many were worried that the events to mark the occasion would turn into clerical and republican political fawning over the heroes perceivable during the 50th anniversary of the Rising. Some commentators suggested that the event to remember should be the first meeting of the democratically elected Dáil Eireann given its constitutional rather than violent foundation. Those who were more pronounced in their criticism claimed, as Robert Fisk writes, that Easter Rising was more of a “putsch” that had absolutely no democratic credentials – thus alluding to a supposition whether it should have been celebrated at all. The conference will, accordingly, seek to answer questions such as ‘How can tragedy which happens upon establishment of a state be turned to epic?’
The conference invites contributions in the disciplines of cultural, linguistic, literary, political, and sociological analysis focusing on the idea of a nation and narratives of independence. Priority, however, will be given to cultural discourses and those that can communicate academic messages to a wider public (e.g. transdisciplinary discourses intended to popularize the humanities). Projects that involve the participation of a non-academic audience/readership and assume a broad scope (outreach) might be promoted by being allotted extra space in the format of a poster presentation.
Suggested topics to be addressed might include (yet are not limited to):
- Actual and invisible/implicit (state and regional) borders – how do they affect our identities and sense of independence today? How are they constructed/erected by various discourses? To what extent are they natural and to what extent are they purely constructed/imaginary?
- In what way (examples) is popular culture responsible for the transformations (evolution) in our thinking about national/local/regional identity, independence, autonomy, nationalism, and the like?
- How does literature/fiction try to challenge our notions of national identity and images/memories of independence at the dawn of its centenary?
- Independence and identity on a national level – what were the major threats and problems 100 years ago and what are the major fears and anxieties today? How are they expressed in various (political, cultural, ideological) discourses? Are the traumas from the post-1918 period reflected in the current anxieties in any way?
The organizers particularly welcome papers/posters reflecting on topics such as:
- Contemporary Czech/Irish/Polish nationalism – what is its influence on the sense of national identity and on our cultural constructs of independence?
- Cultural representations of the Czech/Irish/Polish nation between 1918 and 2018 – how have those representations shaped our sense of national identity? What about representations of ethnic minorities: how have those been repressed, encouraged, vindicated, and valorized depending on various historical periods and political regimes?
- What are the contemporary manifestations of post nationalist identities in Poland, Czechia and Ireland (both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland)?
- Is the issue of autonomy in some regions of Poland (e.g. in Upper Silesia) a potential threat to national independence? Is the historical and political context of post-1918 independence identical for every region of Poland?
- Comparative perspectives on postcolonial Ireland, Czechoslovakia/Czechia and Poland.
The conference is generally open to academics and scholars of all career stages, but we warmly encourage PhD students and early career researchers to submit contributions. It seeks to bring together experts in history, classical reception, heritage management, politics, memory studies, and literature/film/theatre to examine the impact and significance of the idea of a nation and narratives of independence.
Contributions may take the form of traditional paper presentations (20 minutes plus 10 minutes question time) or of standard poster presentations. Abstracts of approximately 200 words together with a short bio are to be submitted as MS Word (.doc or .docx) file to firstname.lastname@example.org by 20th September 2018, while the notifications of acceptance will be sent out by 1st October 2018. Selected contributions will be published in a book form, and the organizers already accept expressions of interest at this stage.
Conference fees: established academics/scholars €40, unwaged/PhD students €20.
The main language of the conference is English, but contributions in Czech and Polish are also welcome.
On behalf of the organizing committee,
Dr Michaela Marková, Department of English,
University of Hradec Králové, Czech Republic
Dr hab. Leszek Drong, Institute of English Cultures
and Literatures, University of Silesia, Poland