Nationalism, democracy and morality: a historical and anthropological approach to the role of moral sentiments in contemporary politics
Elisabeth Kirtsoglou (Durham University)
Quincentenary Building, Wolfson Hall B
Start time:
22 June, 2014 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel wishes to discuss the role of sympathy as recognition in the establishment of political selves. Its aim is to ethnographically capture and historically contextualise the ways in which 'sympathy' informs ideas about democracy, social interaction, inclusion and exclusion.

Long abstract:

This panel wishes to re-examine the historical foundations of political identity vis-à-vis core cultural ideals as these have been analysed by anthropologists who specialise in Europe. Its aim is to investigate how 'sympathy' as recognition informs ideas about democracy, social interaction, inclusion and exclusion. Careful ethnographic exploration reveals mirroring to be a mechanism and a marker for distinguishing between the 'Self' and the 'Other' in political terms in such a way that the non-national 'Other' can be cast outside the realm of sympathy and by consequence outside the realm of democracy and equal rights. The contributors are invited to think of the effect of nationalism on history, time and morality and to re-visit the ways in which history is perceived as linear, time is imagined as empty and homogenous, and ultimately morality succumbs to the limits of national identity resulting in the engendering of bounded spheres of moral sensibility. What it means to be 'a fellow-human' becomes not an uncontested matter in the process of being conflated with what it means to be a 'fellow-national'. At the same time however, it can be ethnographically substantiated that it is precisely 'sympathy' as recognition which comes in defence of the 'humanity of the Other', a perception of humanity that eventually transcends nationalist positionalities. The relationship between nationalism, democracy and morality is ethnographically documented as mutually constitutive, but its terms need to be carefully thought both in historical and in anthropological terms. This panel invites contributions from anthropologists, historians and political philosophers.