February 2019


‘Talking about the nation: history and national identity’

The Council Chamber, Main Arts Building, Bangor University
Wednesday 20 February 2019, 13:00–14:00
School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences
Dr Marcel Stoetzler

‘Talking about the nation: history and national identity’

Robin Mann, (Bangor University)

Historical and causal approaches to nationalism have focused on the long term social and economic changes which may explain the rise and fall of nationalist politics. More recent sociological research, however, has emphasised the everyday conceptions of nationhood in which there is an empirical concern with popular or ‘ordinary’ views of the nation. This has prompted a debate about the proper approach. Advocates of everyday nationhood are making an entirely proper plea for understanding the views and sentiments of ordinary actors. Whereas critics have made the case that if everyday nationalism neglects history and explanatory analysis, then it risks trivialising what people actually to have to say. Clearly, any explanatory analysis would need to take account of the world views of those at whom nationalist ideas and messages are directed. One way in which this ‘gap’ can be filled is by drawing on the historical allusions made in peoples talk about nation. To be sure, people do refer to historical events and to ideas which could be described as ‘myths’. The fact that people make historical references is itself highly illustrative. But for the analysis of popular talk to contribute to the theory of nationalism, it needs to further problematise the distinction between ‘elites’ and ‘ordinary people: which people? which elites?; and address the question of resonance: how and when do ‘messages’ find their mark in the population? These issues are explored by drawing on qualitative interview data examining English people's views of nation and Europe.