Archive for February, 2013

Cartooning the Nation

The topic we are looking at is on cartoons and their relation to nationalism. Three topics are covered: the infamous Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, that sparked off mass protests, and how they were used by political parties; the character of Superman and his relation to American national identity; and the use of children’s cartoons, such as Bugs Bunny, as propaganda, particularly during wartime.

The Danish Cartoons
The 2005 publication by Jyllands-Posten, a  Danish newspaper,  of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, resulted in widespread protest and a very public world wide dialogue on the sometimes complicated relationship between free speech and religious tolerance. Many Muslims around the world condemned the publication of the cartoons, suggesting that their publication represented an insult to Islam. The crisis caused by these protests, and subsequent boycotts of Danish products were described by The Economist as Denmark’s “biggest crisis since the Nazi occupation” (2006a). While the publication was defended  as an exercise in free speech that a liberal, democratic government could not oppose, it was also widely condemned as an unnecessary or irresponsible act that served no purpose other than causing offence.

After the publication of the Danish cartoons (and their republication in a variety of European news sources, two incidents occurred involving the use of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad by nationalist parties. First, the Danish Peoples Party,a far-right nationalist party, utilised a cartoon  in a campaign ad (http://bit.ly/WbZtMR). Though the cartoon used was not one of the more inflammatory set that had been originally published, its use was clearly referencing the earlier controversy.

A party spokesman commented that the party “were just trying to say that we are not bound by Islamic law” (http://bit.ly/WbZtMR) while the party leader elaborated that the cartoons were “part of an election campaign centring on Danish values, which we want to push forward” (http://bit.ly/WfPWnF). While condemned, the election ads were allowed to go forward in the name of free speech.

Around the same time, the Swedish Democrats, a similar far-right nationalist party in Sweden, created its own cartoon for publication on its website. After the publication of the cartoon gained the Swedish Government’s interest, and the host of the website took down the entire website, the Swedish Democrats cried foul, suggesting that their free speech had been illegally censored (http://bbc.in/15g1EiP). The subsequent firestorm of debate resulted in the resignation of the Swedish Foreign Minister, who, it was alledged, played a role in the removal of the website (http://bit.ly/XXiYpo).  

Significant differences between these two cases exist. First, the Danish People’s party is the third-largest party in Denmark’s parliament, while the Swedish Democrats are a far smaller party. Secondly, the reaction to the use of inflammatory cartoons differed, though the doctrine of free speech ultimately prevailed in both cases. A few questions that arise from these cases are:

1. To what extent do the publication of these cartoons represent the celebration of national values such as freedom of speech and expression?
2. Is the publication of the cartoons more rooted in an attempt to politically exploit xenophobia and/or intolerance?
3. Is the publication of the cartoons a nationalist act or a xenophobic one? In the case of far-right nationalist parties, is it possible to always separate the two?

Superman and his citizenship

On April 25th 2011 Superman stood before the United Nations and renounced his U.S. citizenship. His actions were condemned for showing a “blatant lack of patriotism” that “[belittled] the United States as a whole” (McKay, 2011). One commentator stated that “if Superman doesn’t believe in America, then he doesn’t believe in anything” (Batty, 2011)

Obviously, Superman is not a real person: he’s the fictional creation of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. As he is fictional, his citizenship is equally fictional. And yet the renouncement of his citizenship sparked outrage and was reported in national, and international, news (BBC, 2011). Despite some commentators talking as if Superman was real, others took the more prosaic line that those running the Superman comics were imposing their liberal beliefs and, naturally, their hatred of America (Gustines, 2011) on the character.

This raises an interesting point about how a figure as important in American popular culture can be seen to be identified with the values of the nation and, consequently, play an important role in that identity. Superman, as his slogan often states, fights for ‘truth, justice and the American way’ (though originally it was just truth and justice, the ‘American way’ was added during the Second World War and carried over into the 1950s TV series). He, despite being a fictional alien from a fictional planet, is seen to embody the qualities of America and specifically the values of the American nation. With his removal of citizenship, he is, or so it seems, implicitly rejecting the last part of the slogan. This, then, annoys ‘patriots’ who see the defender of truth and justice not agreeing with them that their values and their country is the best in the world.

Discussion points:

1) What difference is there between patriotism and nationalism? Is Superman lacking patriotism, or is that a nationalist claim?
2) Do fictional characters play a role in maintaining a sense of national identity? If so to what extent?
3) Can with think of Superman (and other superheroes) as being part of Michael Billig’s (1995) notion of ‘Banal Nationalism’? (see specifically chapter 7, or his article on Richard Rorty, “Nationalism and Richard Rorty: A Flag for Pax Americana”, in the New Left Review, Vol. 202).

Childrens Cartoons as Propaganda

During the second world war there were different cartoons for children used as propaganda. Especially America used this tool to educate children about who was right and who was wrong during the war. It was in 1942 that President Roosevelt created the Office of War Information to control the media. Everything was used to produce propaganda, so it is not surprising that they used for example Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny as anti-Japanese and Anti-Nazi propaganda. The movies were not just used to demonise the enemies, but also to glorify the own nation. See for example this Donald Duck videos (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gdM9Xitof8 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMTLMPcyprg).

During the war nobody thought there was anything wrong with these movies, but after the war a lot of these propaganda movies were banned due to their racist perceptions. It was argued that especially children were very susceptible and they would not see the difference between for example war enemies or the German/Japanese people. A good example of sterotyping can be found in this video of Bugs Bunny (http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=-4UPQ9-jw6M&feature=endscreen)

By the time the movie was showed the description was: ‘Bugs Bunny, castaway on a Pacific isle, thinks the setting is ideal until he finds his paradise infested with Jap soldiers. How he single-handedly exterminates the enemy makes for a laugh-filled few minutes of typical Bugs antics, off-screen remarks and action in this Technicolor cartoon produced by Leon Schlesinger’. It was just seen as good fun, and nobody was aware of the racial stereotyping (for example the yellow face and the teeth).

Besides the normal figures like Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck, also superheroes like Batman and Superman were on the side of America to protect the country from its enemies (Nazi Germany and Japan). One of the most famous comics, especially created during wartimes, was Captain America. Captain America can be seen as a very patriotic figure, totally dressed up in the style of the American flag. In 2011 the story of Captain America was told again in a movie called Captain America: the Avengers.

Discussion points:
>Patriotism or/and nationalism? What messages do you see?
>Superheroes or ‘normal persons’ > compare Donald Duck to Captain America/Batman/Superman
>Captain America during the second world war and nowadays: Does it still have the same message? Patriotic?
>Compare for example the US propaganda and the Soviet propaganda (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taA1cr85-L8)
>Compare the cartoons and the leaflets for adults (http://www.crestock.com/blog/design/the-evolution-of-propaganda-design-us-retro-posters-122.aspx)

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Germany – dual citizenship possible?

In autumn this year a new German government will be elected. The last months already saw hot-headed discussions in parliament and attempts at denigrating certain parties’  chairmen. Recently just another topic has entered the main stage of  election campaigns:  The discussions about the policy on “foreigners” in general, and about a possible dual citizenship in particular.

What is the current status?

Since the year 2000 children who are born in Germany by two parents of which one has lived in Germany for at least eight years are given the German citizenship (with the possibility of simultaneously holding a second, that is their parents’ original, citizenship).  However, when they turn 18 they have five years time to decide if they want to retain the German nationality – in this case they have to provide proof that they successfully relinquished their second citizenship.

One of many messages that can be inferred from this policy is the premise that you are only supposed to be German if you are willing to be exclusively so.  With respect to the so stylised “problem of second generation immigrants” this regulation also expresses the subliminal hope that young people, who in the eyes of the advocates of Germany’s rigid and parochial immigration policy did not integrate, would realise by themselves that they were better-off by not choosing the German citizenship.

While the current opposition parties (comprising, among others, the social democrats and the green party)  support the possibility of a dual citizenship, the coalition in power (consisting of Merkel’s conservative party and the liberals) used to adhere to Germany’s practice of only allowing one citizenship. In the face of the oncoming elections and it’s critical results the liberal party has recently tried to prevent its political demise – mostly by distinguishing itself from its conservative coalition partner. Hence it is not surprising that Germany’s liberal Minister of Justice has now announced that she might contemplate the legal establishment of a dual citizenship.

Since the conservative party rejects this proposal for “practical reasons”  the liberals thereby widen the growing gulf between the coalition partners. In terms of electoral results various outcomes are possible, ranging from a vanishing liberal and, concomitantly, a fortified conservative party to the latter’s supersedence by a coalition of social democrats and greens (and possibly: liberals).

With regard to nationalism studies it will be interesting to see how this discussion will develop within the next months, if it will become a pivotal topic for the election campaigns, and if it will entail a change of Germany’s perception, and legal definition, of national identity and belonging.

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Event: Debating Independence

Politics and International Relations is delighted to host an event ‘Debating Independence’ on 6 March (details below). The event is being hosted in association with the Edinburgh University Student Nationalist Association and Edinburgh Labour Students.

All welcome!

Event Details:

Chair: Brian Taylor, Political Editor BBC Scotland

Confirmed speakers:
Dennis Canavan, Chairman of Yes Scotland
Kezia Dugdale, Labour and Co-operative MSP for Lothian Region
Professor Neil Walker, Edinburgh Law School
Dr Nicola McEwen, School of Social and Political Science

When: 6.30pm, 6 March 2013

Where: Appleton Tower, Lecture Theatre 1.

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Our next ENNIN meeting will be Wednesday, February 20th at 5pm in Crystal Macmillan Building meeting room 4. Please note that the next few meetings will all be held in CMB.

Our presenter this week is David Marti, who will present his paper “The 2012 Catalan Election: The First Step towards Independence?”.

See you on Wednesday,

The ENNIN group.


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The Savage State: Violence in Nationalism and Nation–building
8 June, 2013
University of Cambridge

Whether it was through the dissolution of great multi–ethnic empires, the rise of violent anti–colonial insurgencies, internal revolutions against decaying old regime governments, or the aggressive and exclusionist rhetoric and propaganda deployed by secessionist movements, the history of the creation of new nations and nationalities seems to be almost inextricably mired in conflict, violence, and bloodshed. This one–day graduate symposium seeks to bring together interdisciplinary scholars in the humanities and social sciences in order to reflect on the complicated, often tortuous, relationship between conflict and the development of new states and national identities. It seeks new perspectives on questions of how the language, logic, tactics, and politics of violence and conflict have historically shaped conceptualizations of nationhood; whether nations must necessarily emerge from a baptism of fire, either physical or intellectual; and whether, in the twenty–first century, we have really moved beyond the ‘blood and soil’ response to that fundamental nineteenth–century question, ‘What is a Nation?’

We welcome papers on a wide range of topics, including, but not limited to:

• Ethno–linguistic nationalism and the dissolution of multi–ethnic empires
• The intellectual legitimacy of violence as a foundation for statehood
• Violence as a tool of political enfranchisement for the disenfranchised
• Anti–colonial insurgencies
• Violence in the language, symbolism, and aesthetics of the Nation
• Reflections on contemporary nationalist/secessionist movements in places such as India (Khalistan, Kashmir, Assam), Pakistan (Balochistan, Sindhudesh), Spain (Basque Country, Catalonia), Canada (Québec), South Sudan, eastern Congo UK (Scotland), and France (Brittany, Corsica)
• Displaced/destroyed peoples, and aboriginal resistance movements
• Minorities and the Nation
• Revolution and nationhood
• Disruption and destruction as the foundation for nations
• Nationalism, militarism, and jingoism

The deadline for submitting paper proposals is 15 March 2013. Proposals should include a title and an abstract of no more than 300 words, as well as the author’s name, address, telephone number, email address, and institutional affiliation, and should be emailed to violence.conflict@gmail.com.

For more information and updates, please visit us at http://www.hist.cam.ac.uk/research/conferences/savage-state

Mark Condos
PhD Candidate
Faculty of History
University of Cambridge

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With the referendum on Scottish independence drawing ever closer, Alex Salmond has oft been in the news of late. With some criticising the ‘in-out’ vote as a personal project that he is pursuing to the detriment of dealing with local socio-economic concerns, much of the media attention has been centred on Salmond himself as the figurehead of the Scottish nationalist movement, claiming that people are being won over by his personality and charisma more than by his politics.

The raft of media criticism of Salmond has also taken on a more sinister tone, with pundits comparing his leadership style to that of Slobodan Milosevic, Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Robert Mugabe, Kim Jong-Il, Caligula, Nicolae Ceasescu, Ghenghis Khan and Nero (see article: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2012/02/salmond-minister-mugabe-labour for details). An online game of “Alex Salmond Dictatorship Bingo” has now begun, with future comparisons with Pol Pot, Chairman Mao, Idi Amin and Darth Vader hotly anticipated!


(Source: http://wingsland.podgamer.com/alex-salmond-dictator-comparison-bingo/)

This may all seem to be media hype and misguided Twitter comments, but it got us thinking about the crucial role played by leaders of nationalist movements, and how ‘cults of personality’ have been formed around some of these key personalities; how does the ‘Salmond effect’ measure up to the ‘Kim effect’?

As a sort of thought-experiment, we decided to take the two divergent cases of Kim Jong-il and Salmond, which was originally linked by Conservative peer Lord Forsyth for allowing 16 and 17-year-olds the vote. However, is this all they have in common? Can they be taken as two examples of a time continuum of personality cults surrounding nationalist leaders, of which Kim Jong-Il represents the later stage of such a cult (as his family holds the record for the longest cult of personality, passed down to him from his father Kim Il Sung and now bestowed on his youngest son and current leader of North Korea Kim Jong-Un), and Alex Salmond representing the fledgling stage? After all, North Korean nationalism could be considered a representation of ‘archetypal’ East Asian dictatorship nationalism, with Scotland representing Western Democracy nationalism, obviously making out two polar opposites.

However, this comparison has merit: by taking two such different cases as a basis for comparison means that any similarities found between the leadership of Salmond and Jong-il can be ruled out as a result of similar culture/political organisation/regime. This type of comparison was inspired by Geertz’ comparative analysis of Islam in Marocco and Indonesia in Islam Observed (1971).

Considering the divergent nature of the cases of Scotland (historic democratic nation, western-style democracy) and North Korea (the world’s only communist dynasty), we decided to isolate official government rhetoric as a source of comparable material. Drawing on their representations of the place of their leader within the nation, we came up with the following list of actions credited to the leadership:

Action Kim Jong-il Alex Salmond
Starting a new calendar from the date that the leader’s revered father was born Yes. It is currently Juche year 102 in the North Korean calendar. No.
Allowing the rumour to circulate that the leader can control  the weather with his mood Yes. No.
Setting the political agenda for the nation, putting a personal spin on policies to differentiate themselves from previous leaders. Yes. Maintained his father’s legacy of Juche (self-reliance) but pushed for a new, self-styled ‘military North Korea’ during his time as leader. Yes. Has successfully guaranteed an independence referendum, has changed party positions on NATO, the monarchy and the pound Stirling.
Credited with changing the face of their party and politics within their nation. Not by himself. The rise to power of his father was however considered to be the birth of North Korea. Some commentators certainly think so (see following video clip)
Styled as a national leader, not just the leader of a particular political party. Yes. Kim Jong-il was named ‘Supreme Leader’ in the North Korean Constitution. Yes. Widely acknowledged to be the face of Scottish nationalism, not just leader of the SNP. Has achieved this far more than leaders of Scottish Labour or other MSPs.
Long-term leadership. The Kim family has been ruling over North Korea since 1948, with Kim Yong-Il ruling from 1994 until 2011. Yes. Alex Salmond has been leading the SNP since 1990.

In order to expand on these actions, we asked ourselves what similarities, or differences, could be drawn in their usage of gestures, symbolism and cartooning.

Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 20.52.03

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Kim Jong-il as a leader


Alex Salmond as a leader


(Especially between 3mins30 and 8mins)

Further comparisons of Salmond and Jong-il






In conclusion, the existence of lines of comparison between leaders of such distinct nationalist movements suggests that strong leadership is integral to nationalist movements as a whole, regardless of the official status of the nation, the political regime or cultural specificities. The influence of individual personalities on nationalist movements warrants further investigation.

With this quasi-serious comparison, we aim to open up discussion on the nature of persona-based nationalism and whether, arguably, this is the case in Scotland.

Can the current nationalism movement in Scotland be described as a persona-based movement?

What would Scottish nationalism look like without Alex Salmond?

Are important individual personalities integral to nationalist movements?

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ASEN 2013 Scholarship

Dear all,

ASEN is pleased to invite applications to the 2013 ASEN Scholarship worth £1000.

The application is open to ASEN members currently enrolled in doctoral research at universities in the UK and Ireland and working in the fields of ethnicity and/or nationalism. Applications will be reviewed by a panel and the result will be announced in early July 2013.

Please send the following to asen@lse.ac.uk by 15 March 2013:
• Cover letter and CV
• ASEN membership number
• 1000-word research proposal
• 500-word statement explaining how the scholarship
would contribute to your programme of research
• Reference letter from your supervisor

ASEN have previously funded: language tuition; conference costs; fiieldwork funds; acquisition of research materials. Proof of expenditure will be required in all cases.

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The Academy of Government at the University of Edinburgh has just launched a ‘Referendum Blog’ which aims to offer academic analysis and to inform the current debate. Details here:


In addition, a new podcast launched by the University draws together a range of University of Edinburgh academics to explore the topic of Scottish independence from a range of vantage points. During the show, academics will seek to answer questions about whether the wording of a referendum question can change people’s minds, what the main events of 2013 will be in shaping the independence debate, and whether Scotland will be better off as part of the United Kingdom or as an independent nation.

The Big Idea Podcast is available to download now for free from iTunes and iTunes U: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/itunes-u/the-big-idea/id598311327?mt=10

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