Who sings the nation? Aesthetic artefacts and their ownership and appropriation 
Nayanika Mookherjee (Durham University)
Howard Morphy (Australian National University)
Arnd Schneider (University of Oslo)
Start time:
12 December, 2008 at 13:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

This panel explores anthropologically how the idea of the nation is owned, appropriated and contested through various aesthetic artefacts and mediated by affective senses. This allows reflection on citizenship, ownership of discourses of identity and reconceptualises what constitutes property.

Long Abstract

The idea of a nation is a powerful concept through which claims of citizenship and ownership of discourses of identity are made. The intangible knowledge of the nation is kept alive by governments and communities through a range of aesthetic sources, namely memorials, museums, visual art, literature, songs, films, advertisements, landscapes and the heritage industry. Recently, the debate over repatriation of artefacts appropriated during contexts of imperialism has brought to the centre stage the issue of ownership of cultural property by nation-states.

Again, the representation of various conflict situations and contested pasts by governments and communities through various aesthetic artefacts seeks to evoke and regulate multiple senses. Through the acts of production, consumption and social participation in the aesthetic representation of these ruptured national pasts, the multi-sensorial responses of people enable them to contest and/or make claims of ownership on the idea of the nation, construct identity and citizenship.

The role of the affective senses in mediating the nation and its aesthetic manifestations is thereby crucial in identifying the role of the latter in political practice. This would highlight 'the limits of aesthetic interpretation, the workings of objects in practice, the relations between meaning and efficacy' (Pinney, C and N. Thomas. 2001. Beyond Aesthetics: Art and the Technologies of Enchantment. Berg Publishers) and the politics of postcolonial aesthetics. Finally, how do the sensorial engagements with the idea of the nation and its affective aesthetics create cosmopolitan citizens and allow a reconceptualisation of property and the relation between people and things?

[The panel draws from the title of the book by Judith Butler and Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak's (2007) Who Sings the Nation-State?: Language, Politics, Belonging. London and Kolkata: Seagull Books].

Accepted papers: