A Plural Conception of the Nation

Nationalism and the political salience of national identities are on the rise in contemporary Europe and beyond. This rise is often associated with populist movements. These include populist political parties, several in position across Europe today, whose politics are characterized by isolationism and anti-immigration stances, and right-wing populist groups, characterized by xenophobia, sometimes overt racism and anti-Semitism.

A group of youths in Oslo, Norway. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, mobilizations of the nation need not only be analysed as causally connected with populism. In fact, there is a critical need to engage with the national from contrasting vantage points, in order to unravel the roles which the nation as a shared fate community continues to play in today’s globalised world. In this blog post we explore how nationhood in contemporary Europe is being shaped, affirmed and changed, foregrounding the roles of what is often assumed to be troublesome migration-related diversity.

Whom is one willing to think of as a member of the nation?

Feeling reasonably at home in your neighbourhood, on the football pitch, in your local shop, at work or at school reflects a sense of belonging. Feeling at home, is something which is experienced – or not – in everyday life. Membership of a ’nation’ is about one’s own sense of belonging, but also about whom one is willing to think of as being a member of that same national community. Relatedly, it is also about the experience of not being seen as a legitimate and equal member of a national community. This then boils down to inclusion and exclusion in the nation. Conversely, where inclusion and exclusion are practised and experienced, the boundaries of the nation are shaped, affirmed and changed. Through these processes of shaping, affirming and changing the boundaries of the nation, our understanding of the nation itself, and its key traits, also changes.

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Being Policy Relevant in Peace Research means Forecasting

Driven by the ever-increasing availability of (big) data, as well as computational power and resources, we are currently witnessing an important academic debate about the promises and pitfalls of predicting social and human behavior.

Given its potentially disastrous consequences, the prediction of armed conflict and political violence more generally, not surprisingly takes a central place in this discussion.

Why should we welcome this debate, what is the current state of the art, and what are some key future challenges?

CC0 Public Domain. PublicDomainPictures.net

A special issue on forecasting in peace research published earlier this year in the Journal of Peace Research addresses these and other issues. The guest editors here offer a brief summary, as well as some additional reflections.Read More

Performing Grief

As we discuss the relationship between public and private mourning and grief, consider the emotional handling of the Newtown school shooting in 2012, where twenty children were killed at Sandy Hook elementary school.

Such a traumatic event destabilizes people, creating a felt deficit in emotional support. When President Obama visited the community, his role was clear: he needed to voice strongly the entire nation’s support for the affected community.

President Obama with women who lost family in the School shootings in Newtown. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Newspapers reported factually on the visit, quoting parts of the speech, but leaving it up to the reader to respond emotionally. Television, by contrast, revealed itself to be a far more potent medium for evoking emotions.Read More

Private Loss and Public Mourning

After dehumanizing events – such as the 2011 Norway terror attacks – emotions play a significant role in the public sphere.

Let me offer a couple of examples:

On August 21, only one month after Anders Behring Breivik killed a total of 77 people, Norway’s King Harald held a deeply emotional speech at the national memorial ceremony. Here, and on behalf of the survivors, the bereaved and society at large, the King expressed such emotions as grief and loss.

And during the trial against Breivik in 2012, the proceedings were interrupted as a victim’s brother threw a shoe at the perpetrator, emotionally expressing anger in the midst of institutionalized, legal procedures.

What these incidents have in common are the ways in which they contribute to a dynamic between the private and the public sphere. By this I mean that politics, in such moments, is being conceived as based on both rational argumentation and emotions. Hence, the location of private loss and public mourning coincides. This stands as a contrast to most mainstream political thought, which presupposes a division between the private and the public. Therefore, these examples force us to think again about this dichotomy.Read More

Rudy Rummel – a Many-Faceted Scholar

Self-portrait of RJ Rummel, from his website

From mathematics to democide

Rudolph J Rummel always published just as RJ Rummel but was well known in the profession as Rudy. He was a man of many talents, and to some of his readers he may also have seemed to present many different faces.

  • He came from a broken home, yet became a devoted husband and father.
  • He had an extensive academic publication record, but he also wrote six novels.
  • He was an academic loner, but acquired a wide following, which has continued to expand after he withdrew from the academic scene and promises to continue to grow even after his death.
  • He interacted with many leading scholars in international relations, but developed troubled relations with several.
  • He started out as a socialist but became a libertarian or, as he himself eventually phrased it, a ‘freedomist’.
  • He became a pioneer among liberal international relations scholars in his pursuit of the democratic peace, but he joined the neoconservative wing of the realists in his work on the nuclear arms race in the mid-1970s and in his support for the Iraq War in 2003.
  • His work on democide was embraced by liberals and realists alike, but also harshly criticized by writers of varying backgrounds.

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In addition to states, a wide range of actors are involved in the performance of sovereignty today, including private security companies, civil society movements, militant groups, multinational corporations, international non-governmental organizations, and multilateral agencies. Terms such as popular, hybrid, public-private, graduated, shared, parallel and social sovereignty have been used to describe their state-like practices.

Photo: Michael @ Flickr

As people, citizens and consumers, we are more sovereign, though at the same time more dependent than ever before. The sovereignty trademark is being reinvented.

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This Week in South Sudan – Week 27

Monday 3 July Al Jazeera: “South Sudan’s Wau: Fear and displacement one year on” Tuesday 4 July A new report by Amnesty International, focused on the escalating conflict in the Equatoria region, describes grave human rights violations, including using hunger as a weapon of war, against the civilian population. Wednesday 5 July Unidentified gunmen abducted… Read more »

Jihadi Brides or Female Foreign Fighters? Women in Da’esh

Da’esh has stunned the world with its gross human rights abuses, gendered violence, and practices of sexual slavery, and yet, the organization has attracted a large amount of female recruits. Women who have joined Da’esh have been met with a storm of disbelief and gendered commentary, and have even been designated their own term – ‘jihadi brides’.

A screen shot of an Islamic State propaganda showing the Al-Khansa, an all-female police squad.

A recent policy brief explores agency and women in Da’esh: why women join, their roles, and how women are treated if they return to the West. The brief illuminates how gendered understandings of Western female foreign fighters are affecting judicial processes and potentially creating gaps in our security structure.Read More

This Week in South Sudan – Week 26

Wednesday 28 June The Government of South Sudan (GoSS) denies closure of embassies abroad, saying it has routinely recalled the heads of diplomatic missions in seven countries as the period of their assignments have ended. Thursday 29 June GoSS said it could deny humanitarian aid workers access to rebel-held areas due to security concerns. The… Read more »