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Accepted Paper:

Islands Against Insularity: Creativity as Cosmopolitical Praxis in the Margins of the Nation State  
Stuart McLean (University of Minnesota)

Paper short abstract:

Since the Brexit vote of 2016, Britain’s island character has often been figured in defensive and exclusionary terms. As a challenge to this view, I explore here the work of writers, and artists who have engaged the material presence of islands as sites of experimentation, encounter, and becoming.

Paper long abstract:

Characterizations of Britain as an island nation have enjoyed renewed currency in the wake of the 2016 Brexit vote. More specifically, Britain has been portrayed as an island under threat. Recent films such as Dunkirk and Darkest Hour (both 2017) revisit fears of German invasion during the early stages of World War 2. The anti-immigration rhetoric of Boris Johnson’s right-wing, English nationalist government and of neofascist groups such as Britain First and the English Defense League evokes the political, economic, and cultural threat allegedly posed both by immigrants from the countries of the EU and beyond, and by refugees and asylum seekers (visualized most pointedly in the form of those attempting to cross the English Channel by boat from France). In each case, Britain’s island character is portrayed in defensive terms, the sovereignty and identity of the island nation needing to be protected against the perennial danger of foreign incursion. But do islands inevitably lend themselves to such paranoid and exclusionary political imaginaries? This presentation explores the very different vision of islands that finds expression in the work of philosopher Gilles Deleuze, film-maker Bertrand Mandico, novelist Michel Tournier, and in the curatorial vision informing the Papay Gyro Nights Art Festival, held annually on the island of Papa Westray, Orkney, between 2011 and 2017. Islands feature here not as embattled enclaves of sameness, but as sites of experimentation, the setting for strange encounters, unforeseen combinations, and wayward becomings, affording potentially transformative openings to pre- and post-human vistas of deep time.

Panel P094b
Hope from the Abyss? Deep Time, Contemporary Crises, and the Reimagining of the Commons II
  Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -