Dancing with the “Walking Dead”: Educational-Historical Research on Nation, Nationalism, and Nation States in the 21st Century

Wednesday, 15 December 2021, 5:00 pm, SR 1

Dr. Lukas Boser, Institute for Educational Sciences, University of Basel, Switzerland

As for the research on nations and nationalism, there are two observations that can be made. First, in academic discourses, the topics of nation, nationalism, and the nation-state experiencing a revival. This is true for the cultural and social sciences in general, as it is for educational studies. Second, this recent research on nation, nationalism, and nation-states often make use of theories and concepts that are at least several decades old (such as the “civic nationalism” by Renan (1882), the “imagined communities” by Anderson (1983), or the “banal nationalism” by Billig (1995)). And the explicitly educational-historical research that is readily referred to in connection with the study of nation, nationalism, and nation-states is also somewhat older, as the example of Harp (1998) shows.

The fact that contemporary research on the nation still and repeatedly refers to these works was recently described by German professor Aleida Assmann as a degeneration "into a zombie discourse”.

Based on more recent work in the field of nation, nationalism, and nation-state studies, this lecture will discuss possibilities of “dancing” with the “Walking Dead”, that is, dealing with the question of how research on nation, nationalism, and nation-states (especially in the field of history of education) becomes unstuck and alive. Acknowledging the concept of “national literacy” for being one such possibility, the lecture will explore alternative, or maybe better, further ways of doing original and up to date research. Thereby, the lecture will explore how concepts such as Billig’s “banal nationalism” or Anderson’s “imagined communities” can be developed further, for instance by adopting concepts that originate in recent “turns” in cultural and social sciences, such as the “linguistic turn”, the “emotional turn”, and the “material turn”.