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Nationalism and the City, Cambridge University, 10-11 February 2012‏

International Conference - Nationalism and the City
Cambridge University, UK

Friday, 10 February 2012 to Saturday, 11 February 2012

Application Deadline: 1 October 2011

Blame it, perhaps, on a hangover from nationalism’s early mingling with European romantics, but the primacy of ‘the rural’ in nationalist imaginaries remains well established, recurring in political and cultural discourse as the fundamental site of national authenticity, tradition and identity. This tendency has resulted in a distortion of nationalism’s crucial yet ambivalent relationship with the pastoral inverse �" the smoky, crowded, dynamic space of ‘the urban’ �" and despite the usual eagerness of scholars to dismantle any and all ‘myths’ propagated by nationalist paradigms, very little has been done to theorize this pivotal interplay between nationalism and the city.

How are we to understand the role of cities in nationalism’s pasts, presents and futures?

The urban landscape is at once intensely local and profoundly global, while commonly appropriated (internally or externally) as a compelling (though never uncontested) representation of ‘the national whole’. It was through cities that intellectuals traded early ideas of ‘the nation’, and it is in cities that national identities have been pushed to their breaking points. The urban has helped to shape the national and this relation also works in reverse: cities can be sites for national consolidation and commemoration, but also facilitate the emergence of ‘spaces of alterity’ and zones of conflict.

This conference will move to ‘re-centre’ the urban in theories of nations and nationalism, facilitating a dialogue across disciplines to address the many layers of what has been described as ‘the urban palimpsest’. A special emphasis will be placed on integrating the insights of those focused on dynamics in the city and those addressing the broader phenomenon of nationalism, to enliven debates on space, identity, and politics and to illuminate important convergences and contradictions, conjunctures and disjunctures.

The task for researchers is as follows: how are we to conceptualize the role of cities/urban environments in the origins/spread/perpetuation/undermining of nations and nationalism?

The continuities and variations in urban forms across continents necessitates a global focus, and participants are encouraged to consider the transnational dimension of both ‘the urban’ and ‘the nation’ as sociological phenomena and cognitive categories.

Suggested focal points include:

_Urbanization/modernization and the conditions of nationalism’s emergence
_Urban intellectual networks and the global diffusion of nationalism
_Cities as battle-space and/or as sites for mobilization
_National unity and the urban/rural ‘divide’
_The city as metaphor for nation
_Globalizing cities, ‘post-nationalism’, and notions of urban reclamation
_Cosmopolitanism, nationalism, and layers of belonging
_Multiculturalism, heterogeneity and the urban
_Disintegration, dystopia and ‘spaces of alterity’

Call for Papers
Paper proposals for this conference are now being accepted and will be considered if submitted before the deadline of 1 October 2011. Please send an abstract of no more than 250 words to

Proposals creatively addressing aspects of the above conference summary are most welcome. Applicants are especially encouraged to engage with the existing theoretical literature on nations, nationalism and the city.