International workshop, St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford,
23-24 November 2018
The end of the First World War and the resultant international order established the nation-state as the normative basis of global political life. The consequences – for national identity, minorities and the nature of sovereign power – have played out over the subsequent hundred years in ways that continue to trouble the international order today.
The displacement of empire by nation resulted in the identification of (majority) nationals and ethnic ‘minorities’, national religions and religious minorities. While the League of Nations came to be defined by mandates and minority treaties, the institutionalization of majority and minority status, often in the form of religious difference, defined not only the post-WWI post-imperial European order but also identity and difference was conceptualized in places such as India. The nation with its majorities and minorities was thus globalized even before the establishment of nation-states throughout the non-western world.
This largely imperial and non-European pre-history of the nation and its majority and minority provides an alternative historical trajectory outside the European norm that may better allow us to understand the current crisis of the international. This crisis can be seen both in the emergence of new kinds of secessionist and national movements globally, and the so-called “return of religion” to political life in the West.
Secessionism, after many decades of seeming irrelevance, is today a growing global issue. Around the world, from Catalunya to Cameroon, from Kenya to the United Kingdom, seeming inviolable nation-states are being challenged by the threatened breakaway of minorities. How should this growing challenge to existing nation-states be understood? Does it reflect the weakening of the nation-state in the face of globalisation, or the (re)assertion of more powerful, local identities? To what extent do new secessionisms build on historical antecedents and in what ways do they represent something altogether new?
This workshop, supported by the AHRC-funded ‘The First World War and Global Religions’ project, will examine the alternative history of nationality, majority and minority in the context of the new nationalisms of our time. Does today’s crisis of the international order, itself possibly a delayed reaction to the end of the Cold War, permit us to rethink these categories and their future? How might current debates over sovereignty and secularism be understood in the light of such an alternative ‘global’ history of nationalism?
Potential participants should submit titles and paper abstracts of no more than 750 words to the organisers at email@example.com by 30 April 2018.
Conference organisers: Paul Betts, Faisal Devji, Miles Larmer, Hussein Omar