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Nationalizing the dynasty - dynastizing the nation, University of California, LA, 12-14 April 2012‏

International Graduate Conference
Call for Papers
Milinda Banerjee, Ulrike Büchsel, Verena Gander, Elise Wintz (Heidelberg University, Germany); Julia Schneider (Ghent University, Belgium)
In cooperation with:
Prof. Patrick Geary, UCLA Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies
Keynote Speakers:
David A. Bell, Princeton University
Joseph Esherick, University of California, San Diego
Nile Green, University of California, Los Angeles
Date and place:
April 12th-14th, 2012, University of California, Los Angeles, Royce Hall 306

Deadline for applications: October 1st, 2011

Conference description:
Dynasty and nation are often considered as providing fundamentally different structures of articulating the legitimacy of political rule. It is assumed that dynastic rule, a fortiori by divine grace, has been replaced or overwritten by a national body of free and equal citizens as the principal source of political legitimation (e.g. Anderson 1983/2003; Chatterjee 1994/1999). However, there are many cases in which both systems were or still are intertwined and complement each other. The most basic of these forms are the numerous constitutional monarchies existing until today, in which the nation accepts the monarch as symbolic head of the state and role model. In other instances, which have hitherto been little studied, the monarchy might have disappeared on the surface, but is living on in different aspects. In many, but not all, instances, the ability of nascent nationalisms to appropriate past or present dynasties was facilitated by the efforts of the dynasties themselves to project themselves as model representatives of the nation. Thus, the research group "A5 – Nationising the dynasty", part of the Heidelberg University Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context", argues that the shift from dynasty to nation might not be the paradigmatic break presented by nationalist historiography, but rather a complex metamorphosis with each system adapting to, or even (re-)constructing, the other. The underlying aim behind this conference is to critique the nature of the modern national body politic by looking at it from the point of view of its putative Other: the dynasty. By doing so, and especially by locating the dynastic-genealogical nature of many of the discursive assumptions of nationalism, and also investigating the specificities of this in different polities, we hope to contribute to a better understanding of the self-formulation of nationalism as a mode of historicity and identity. A study of the ways in which royal dynasties have adapted to nationalism enables a critical understanding of the politics of representation, and destabilizes any unilinear historicity which claims that dynasties cannot represent the people. It also provokes important questions, such as on the continuities between dynastic modes of violent territorialism and national modes, or the commonalities between them as regards the creation of a monistic centre of sovereignty.
Summarily, by combining an approach `from above' (dynasties adapting to nationalism, that is, nationising of the dynasty) and an approach `from below' (nations appropriating dynastic concepts into their symbolic repertoire, that is, dynastising of the nation), we aim to present a theoretical perspective which deconstructs the category of nationalist modernity by understanding it from the point of view of one of its so-called `premodern' ancestors: the princely dynasty. We open up our perspective to all instances of interaction between dynasties and nationalisms in world history. Dynasties and monarchic forms of government were present in Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe, and their interactions with concepts of nationhood or nationalist movements in pre-colonial, colonial or postcolonial contexts will be important fields of exploration at our conference.

Sample themes:
Papers are invited on any theme related to the dialogues between dynasties and concepts of nationhood. Possible themes may include:

• How did princely dynasties try to present themselves as both representatives and part of the nation, i.e. through the construction of new, or utilization of existing, liturgies, forms of oath-taking, iconographic conventions, representation of royal births, marriages and deaths, moments of coronation and abdication, victory celebrations and systems of honor.
• How dynasties and the public sphere communicated and what was the role played by media in this communication?
• How were dynastic concepts appropriated by nationalist thinkers, artists, historians, politicians, writers?
• What are the relationships between dynasty and religion in nationalist self-perception (such as the idea that the nation inherits from the dynasty a certain sacred heritage of national religious culture)?
• What kind of subaltern uses of dynastic concepts exist, for example among ethnic and religious minorities, or economically disempowered sections of society?
• How can gendered readings help understand the relationship between dynasties and nationalisms?
• What kind of relationship can one find between dynasties and anti-colonial movements?
• How could a multi-ethnic dynastic state be transformed into a nation-state and what would be the role of nationalism in such a transformation?

These are only a few instances, and researchers are encouraged to send papers on any other theme related to the dynasty-nation dialogue which this conference interrogates. In the process, we hope to develop more enriching conceptual histories of `dynasty' and `nation', going beyond the various definitions of these structures in existing scholarship. Such conceptual histories will also question the universality of the definitions of "dynasty" and "nation" and attempt to rather study them as rhetorical tropes legitimating diverse forms of polities which in fact share little definitional commonality. The extent to which the very usage of these concepts entails the imposition of `European' concepts (such as primogeniture and natural right) on other societies will also be investigated.


While we especially invite proposals for panels formed by three doctoral candidates or postdoctoral researchers, individual applications are also welcome. Talks should be no longer than 20 minutes . Please send your application including a proposal of no longer than 200 words and a CV until October 1st, 2011 to Ulrike Büchsel at In case of a joint application for a panel, the application should include a panel proposal of 200 words, proposals for the individual papers of equal length, and the CVs of all panelists. Successful applicants will be informed by beginning of November 2011.