Archive for February, 2015

Religion and Nation-Building in Modernity

Religion and Nation-Building in Modernity

Authored by Matthew Elder, Ho Can Hao, and Felix Wadsworth

Our entry focuses on the role religion has played and continues to play in nation-building. In many nations, religion has been incredibly important in fostering a sense of national identity. In many areas, we can observe that religion has managed to survive as an integral part in nationalism even in the face of a growing overall secular culture. Where Malaysia’s unity came about through Islamisation, Northern Ireland’s religious divide providing an uncertain future, and Quebec’s transition from a heavily religious to incredibly secularised nation, we look at how these three cases contrast in their history and the evolution of national identity in modernity.


Malaysia is a particularly interesting case in the research of nation-building. As a multi-ethnic country, Malaysia has been deeply divided along ethnic line despite relentless effort from the state on integrating minorities into Malay majority (60.3% according to 2010 census); such process of nation-building is often considered as being based on the concept of “Malay Nationalism”. Though the concept is supposed to be based on Malay culture, the case study seeks to analyse how Islam has been playing an increasingly important role in the process, even to the extent that Islamization has been deeply entwined with nation-building.

Islam was first introduced to Southeast Asia in 12th century and eventually become the most widely practiced religion in this region. For Malay Peninsula in particular, there was a powerful and influential kingdom, Malacca Sultanate, embracing and spreading Islam in 15th century. Since then, most Malays became Muslim and Islam consequently profoundly influenced their culture, which remained unchanged during the colonial governance of Portuguese, Dutch, and British despite the dissolution of Malacca Sultanate in 16th century. The most important legacy of British governance for Malay Peninsula between the late 19th century and mid-20th century is that of demographic change; in order to exploit natural resources for British economic interest, Chinese and Indian labours were recruited to this area in large scales. Facing these labours with completely different language, custom, culture, and religion, Islam turned out to be a crucial ethnic identifier.

After gaining independence from the British in 1957, the most critical problem confronting the state is that of nation-building, which is even more problematic than other post-colonial states considering the deeply-divided nature of different ethnic groups in Malaya (and Malaysia after 1963). As Malays considered themselves as “son of the soil”, they believed that nation-building should naturally be predicated upon Malay culture. In this process, religion was not that relevant in Malaysia’s political arena as language assimilation and integration of separated education systems are much more important from state’s viewpoint. Since the dominant party of ruling coalition, United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), is a secular nationalist party, Islamization was not in their agenda at first; their core principles remained unchanged even until now, i.e. protection of Malay interests and national modernization.

The programme of Islamization initiated by UMNO from 1980s onwards is considered as a response to accommodate Islamic Revivalism in Malay society, which is increasingly influential especially after Iranian Revolution in 1979. There were widespread scepticism among the youth towards secularization and westernization; some Islamic organisations (e.g. Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM) or the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia) even chastised Malaysia’s modernization as “Un-Islamic”. Such transformation within Malay society gave rise to UMNO’s political opponent, Pan-Malaysian Islamic party (Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, commonly known as PAS); its aim to establish an Islamist State was rather appealing in a certain section of Malay society. It was especially shocking for UMNO after PAS’s winning control over Kelantan’s state in 1990’s general election. From then on, in order to win over Malay’s vote, UMNO fall into a trap for competing with PAS over which party is more Islamic.

During this “Islamization Race”, Malaysia’s national culture witnesses a silent yet significant transformation, in which the emphasis of “Malayness” has been shifted from Malay culture to Islam: 1) in private sphere, “un-Islamic” behaviours of Muslim are more strictly controlled. For examples, Muslim couples who show intimacy in public place could be arrested by Department of Islamic Development; Muslim females are not encouraged to show up in public without wearing headscarves though it was rather common before 1980s. More significantly, some “un-Islamic” Malay tradition, e.g. sprinkling ‘beras kunyit’ (yellow rice) and burning ‘kemenyan’ (incense) are also discouraged by the authority; 2) in institutional level, Islamic organisations, e.g. mosques, Islamic bank, religious schools, are largely expanded during this period. The typical example of this development is the establishment of International Islamic University of Islam and more international students were sent to Middle East for studying Islam.

As far as the rhetoric of national-building is concerned, Islam has also occupied the centre role. Since 2003, the latest edition of Malaysia history textbooks witnesses the dramatic increase in the proportion of Islamic history yet the pre-Islamic Malaya history and the contribution of other ethnicities towards the nation is largely ignored. Under such narrative, Malaysia’s history can be traced back to the Middle East, the birthplace of Islam, and Malacca Sultanate is its great civilizational extension and the root of Malaysia. In other words, Malaysia is no longer a post-colonial multi-ethnic “imagined community” shaped by British government; it is instead a part of the wider Muslim world.

Despite the heightened position of Islam, communalism and the tension between different ethnic groups remains the most important framework for analysing Malaysia’s nation-building. Nevertheless, under the multi-ethnic context of Malaysia, such foregoing Islamization project have made religious identity (Islam) deeply entwined with ethnicity (Malay) and eventually transformed the nature of ongoing nation-building (Malay Nationalism).

Northern Ireland

II. Religious ‘warfare’ in nineteenth century Ireland

Writing in 1848, the Presbyterian missionary in Birr, King’s County (now: Offally) recorded a convert from Catholicism on her deathbed imploring her daughter:

Go, my dear daughter, with your husband and children to some place of worship where the pure word of God is preached […]. If I had the hope of meeting you at the right hand of my Saviour, I would die happy’1

This created considerable anxiety with her Roman Catholic daughter, who hoped that her mother would receive the last rites.2 In the end, the question was whether or not the two would be separated by death, of whether ‘[her daughter will] go to heaven with [her] mother, or to hell and never see her anymore’.3 This episode happened during the ‘Protestant crusade’ of the early to mid-nineteenth century, when there was an unprecedented campaign by evangelical Protestant missionaries to achieve a large number of conversions to Protestantism among the Catholic population.4

II. Contemporary Northern Ireland: ‘break with the past’ or continuation?

I dislike the use of the term because it suggests the conflict is about religion, when it’s about politics. I prefer the term ‘tribalism’ (…) [. R]eligion is used to keep people in tribes5

The term in question is ‘sectarianism’, or more precisely, sectarianism in the context of Northern Ireland. Research on Northern Irish, and in a sense Irish, sectarianism, past and present, has indeed continued to grapple with the question of how much ‘religion’ there was, and is, behind the continued division into ‘Catholic’ and ‘Protestant’. Overall, there is extensive academic research maintaining an ‘ethnic’ interpretation of the conflict. In this view, the recurrent upheavals in the north of the island, down to the ‘Troubles’, were – in a sense – a reiteration of the confrontation between Protestant ‘settlers’ and Catholic ‘natives’.6 Both sociological studies and historical studies of Northern Ireland, as well as research on more broadly ‘Irish’ history, have further underpinned the idea of religion as a ‘marker’. Sectarian conflicts in Ireland did not necessarily arise from theological difference, but were the result of challenges to, or the reassertion of, the power dynamics between two competing communities.7

III. Religion: reappraisal and limitations

Although this offers a concise and comprehensive explanation, there are reasons to be cautious in dismissing ‘religion’ as unimportant. On the one hand, given the resilience of ‘sectarian’ definitions of group boundaries despite increasing secularisation,8 one might be tempted into a ‘presentist’ interpretation, disregarding the possibility that spirituality may well have had some significance in the past. In line with a resurgent interest and reappraisal of Irish religious history, historians have begun to question traditional assumptions of the ‘fixed’ nature of Irish religious identities.9 At the same time, there has been a wider ‘revival’ of religious history in a British and Irish context, which has begun to appreciate religion as not just a proxy, but a legitimate object of study in its own right.10

A reversion to a more ‘generous’ appreciation of religion obviously has its limits; the problem remains that ‘religion’ continues to be an elusive concept.11 More precisely, religious beliefs and practice, when integrated into a wider study of inter-communal relations, can add more detail to our understanding of how boundaries were constructed, but do not necessarily challenge the ‘ethnic’ interpretation of identities, sometimes even reproducing them in a different form.12

The spiritual experience only goes so far in transcending the material world. Thus, as Marcus Tanner has argued, conversions from Catholicism to Protestantism, even with genuine attempts on the part of proselytisers, remained rare, since ‘to join the Church of Ireland meant more than abandoning transubstantiation. It implied joining the world of the magistrate, the landlord and the big house’.13

IV: A last appeal: the worldly and the supernatural

A greater focus on religion can therefore not be expected to readily offer an explanation of how the fault-lines within Northern Irish society developed because it is, as a concept, necessarily wound up with ‘material’ elements. This is necessarily so if we look at the ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ elements of spirituality: religion can be manifest in organised worship, in practices, in communal society, in writing, etc. It, however, can also occupy a sphere that is vastly more difficult to observe: the individual spiritual journey, clandestine worship in opposition to communal pressure or orthodoxy, and, most elusive of all, the experience of the supernatural.14

It might therefore be important to firstly achieve some degree of separation between what is essentially ‘material’, and that which is not. This means reinterpreting the label of ‘religion’ as not inherently ‘transcendent’ or ‘worldly’.

1 James Carlile, Fruit gathered from among Roman Catholics in Ireland (London, 1848), p.22.

2 Ibid., p.23.

3 Ibid., p.28.

4 Over the years, several works have been written on the subject, but Desmond Bowen’s seminal work on Protestant proselytism during the Famine remains highly important [see: Desmond Bowen, Souperism: myth or reality. A study in Souperism (Cork, 1970)].

5 Quote by David Ervine, terrorist-turned-politician representing the loyalist paramilitaries during the negotiations that led to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement of 1998 [quoted in: John D. Brewer and Gareth I. Higgins, Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland, 1600-1998: the mote and the beam (Basingstoke, 1998), p.211].

6 A standard reference elaborating this idea of a continuous quasi-ethnic conflict is: A.T.Q. Stewart, The narrow ground: aspects of Ulster, 1609-1969 (London, 1977).

7 John D. Brewer and Gareth I. Higgins, for instance, have argued the case that sectarianism in Northern Ireland functions as a justification of social exclusion and traditional group boundaries [see: Brewer and Higgins, Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland, ch.4, ch.5]. Marianne Elliott and Frank Wright further explored the theme of continuities in Ulster’s sectarian history, the former with more focus on the role of culture in transferring group identities across generations, and the latter with greater emphasis on recurring patterns in politics [see: Frank Wright, Two lands on one soil: Ulster politics before Home Rule (Dublin, 1996); Marianne Elliott, The Catholics of Ulster: a history (London, 2000).

8 Ami Sedghi, ‘Census 2011: Northern Ireland’, The Guardian, 11 December 2012, Tuesday, accessed 25 February 2015, Wednesday, http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/dec/11/2011-census-northern-ireland-religion-identity.

9 S.J. Connolly, ‘The moving statue and the turtle dove: approaches to the history of Irish religion’, Irish Economic and Social History 31 (Dublin, 2004), pp.1-22, p.6-7.

10 An example would be Stewart J. Brown’s extensive work on the history of established religion in early nineteenth-century Britain and Ireland [see: Stewart J. Brown, The national churches of England, Ireland and Scotland, 1801-1846 (Oxford, 2001)]. Andrew Holmes’ study of the Ulster Presbyterian community, which he argues was crucially defined through its religious character, is particularly interesting in the Northern Irish context [see: Andrew R. Holmes, The shaping of Ulster Presbyterian belief and practice, 1770-1840 (Oxford, 2006)].

11 In the Irish case, S.J. Connolly has argued that the study of religious practices sometimes almost forces accepting spiritual experiences as an externality [see: Connolly, ‘The moving statue and the turtle dove’].

12 David Hempton and Myrtle Hill argue in their study of evangelical religion in Ulster that attempts to convert Roman Catholics, seemingly paradoxically, only widened the cultural gulf between the two communities [see: David Hempton and Myrtle Hill, Evangelical Protestantism in Ulster society, 1740-1890 (London, 1992), p.60-61].

13 Marcus Tanner, Ireland’s holy wars: the struggle for a nation’s soul, 1500-2000 (New Haven, 2001), p.210-211.

14 These themes are explored in greater detail in Lewis Rambo’s book on religious conversions [see: Lewis R, Rambo, Understanding religious conversion (New Haven, 1993)]. For a collection of essays on various approaches to religion, especially in the case of conversions, see: Lewis R. Rambo and Charles E. Farhadian (eds.), The Oxford handbook of religious conversion (New York, 2014).


I. Background

Quebec is overwhelmingly Catholic, a legacy from colonial times where Catholicism was a requirement in order to settle in New France. As education in Canada is under the purview of the provinces, the Church was responsible for education in Quebec. This led to the continuance of a Catholic upbringing for the Quebecois, allowing the Church to remain a fixture in the public sphere for hundreds of years. Additionally, the education system of the Church was entitled to public funds. Under the conservative party of the Union Nationale, this trend continued into the 1950’s. The leader of the Union Nationale, Maurice Duplessis, argued that the culture of the Catholic Quebecois was to uphold their traditional values and society against an anglophone, Protestant Canada. Nationalism in Quebec at the time was heavily influenced by this clericalism. Rather than developing Montreal in the post-war period, Duplessis focused on his rural, agricultural base. Duplessis usually had the backing of the Catholic church in his initiatives, giving him much political credit in a culture that still viewed the clergy as an authority. Clericalism greatly affected the direction of Quebec politics, allowing the clergy to consolidate its power even into the 1950’s. If anything, Duplessis’ regime in the post-war period was actively working against the typical post-war modernisation seen in many post-colonial states.

II. Quiet Revolution

The Quiet Revolution marked the beginning of the evolution of the Quebecois into one of the most secularized nations in modernity. After the death of Maurice Duplessis, the conservative and clerical-focused regime was ushered out and replaced by a new regime focused on liberalism. Quebecois values shifted towards a support of trade unions and industrialisation. The politics became less about the acquiescing to the demands of the rural clergy and focused on urbanisation as a way to modernise Quebec. Montreal became the business centre of Quebec and a liberal stronghold. Public services, most importantly health care and education, were brought under the control of the provincial government, largely marking the end of Church control and influence. At this time, the development of Quebec had much in common with the welfare state that it had previously missed out on in the post-war period. Having taken control of their province, self-determination in the form of the sovereignty movement became an increasingly visible topic of debate in the politics of Quebec. The 1976 provincial elections saw the rise of the Parti Quebecois, a political party focused on attaining sovereignty for Quebec.

III. Modernity

While the Liberal Party had seen incredible support at the federal level in Quebec politics, the 1990’s saw the rise of the Bloc Quebecois. The BQ, while not a federal version of the PQ, was the federal political party that focused on advocating for Francophones as well as the issue of sovereignty. By removing the church’s control and influence in favour of the welfare state, the role of religion became much less important in both the social and political realm as well. This was reflected in the BQ, whose platform is social democratic in nature. The secularisation started with the Quiet Revolution reverberated throughout the nation, with the modern Quebecois transforming into one of the most secularised nations in modernity. While many Quebecois identify as Catholic, the traditional values of the Church have not been kept, exemplified by indicators such as half of all parents being unmarried and a very small portion of the population attending weekly religious services. Where before the Quebecois were nation that exemplified the power of clericalism, it is now a nation very much so defined by its secularisation and social democracy. Therein lies the paradox of the Quebecois – a nation that identifies as Catholic, yet is deeply irreligious.

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Niall O Gallagher Seminar Poster

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MSc International Development students Philip Kirk and Taylor McConnell will present their projects, “Fresh Memories” and “The Rescuers,” during Innovative Learning Week, Monday through Thursday, 16-19 February 2015.

Phil Kirk is a photographer and activist. Between 2010 and 2013 he lived in Dharamsala, India, where he documented the stories of Tibetan refugees.

Taylor McConnell works for the Post-Conflict Research Center (PCRC) in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and will be moving to Sarajevo in April to begin work as PCRC communications manager and to complete his Work-Based Placement on PCRC’s BalkanDiskurs youth blogging and media literacy project.

The exhibits will be displayed in the Chrystal MacMillan Building Lobby, Monday afternoon to Wednesday morning, and in the George Square Lecture Theatre Wednesday afternoon to Thursday evening.

“Fresh Memories,” Philip Kirk, freshmemories.net/project
This project combines landscape images of Tibet’s mountainous border with interviews and portraits of Tibetans who have journeyed into exile since the Tibetan uprising of 2008. In their own words, former political prisoners tell tales of imprisonment and torture, while others recount their experience of economic, educational, and cultural oppression.

Images of Tibet often show stunning mountain vistas, saffron robed monks, and smiling ruddy faced nomads. Such images ignore or deny the complex situation on the “Land of Snows. This project offers a counter narrative in the story of Tibet, shedding light on events that have been obscured by the ongoing media blackout.

“The Rescuers,” Post-Conflict Research Center, p-crc.org/project/rescuers
The exhibition consists of photographs and testimonies of rescuers – those who selflessly protected others from harm during conflict – from Cambodia, Rwanda, the Holocaust, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, taken by Nicolas Axelrod, Sonia Folkmann, Riccardo Gangale, Paul Lowe and Mirko Pincelli. The photos printed for this event will also be used for the Ordinary Heroes workshop and documentary screenings funded by the SPS Graduate School and Global Justice Academy on 26-27 February 2015 and for future events in Bosnia and beyond.

“The Rescuers” is part of PCRC’s Ordinary Heroes project, which was awarded first prize in the UN Alliance of Civilizations and BMW Group Intercultural Innovation Award in August 2014. Ordinary Heroes emphasizes that “peace is possible.” It breaks with the traditional, high-level political news propaganda, drawing from positive examples of reconciliation and peacebuilding that are happening at the community level and bringing to the forefront people who exemplify moral courage and tolerance. The concept is peace, truth, and people- and solution-oriented. As it focuses on solutions and vivid examples of peacebuilders, it aims to create awareness about the possibilities that exist for reconciliation in BiH.

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“National identity is dynamic, contested, multiple and fluid” (Edensor 2002:vi).

In this blog and our subsequent presentation we will focus on three different case studies which engage with this idea. The first case is Australia and the so called ANZAC legend. This example demonstrates what we call grand-scale national symbols. The second case examines three different monuments in the United States of America. We consider these examples of mid-scale national symbols. Our final case looks to the the capital of Austria, Vienna. The example we discuss here could be an example for micro-scale national symbols.

1. Australians in World War I and Canberra, a monumental city

1.1 Gallipoli and the Australian foundational myth

The Gallipoli campaign was a campaign during World War 1 that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916. The peninsular was considered strategically important because it offered water-based access the Russian empire.

After the Western front had stagnated in 1915 the Dardenelles Strait, which Churchill described as the “soft underbelly of Europe”, was considered a sea lane to the Russians through the Black Sea. After victory here, the allies could use it is a foothold from which to attack the Central Powers and divert enemy attention from the Western Front.

The landing commenced on the 25th of April 1915 and was spearheaded by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs). All in all it was a fiasco, a bodged landing and military campaign. The Allies lost 56,707 in total with some 8,709 Australians and 2,721 New Zealanders among the dead.

However, the Gallipoli campaign has become the seminal moment in Australia’s national identity, both because of its temporal relationship to Australia’s “independence” and the legendary status it has come to acquire.

The dominant legend suggests that Australian soldiers possessed the shared characteristics of endurance, courage, ingenuity, good humour, larrikinism, and mateship. Romantic images of the Australian soldiers as innocent and fit, stoical and laconic, irreverent in the face of authority, naturally egalitarian and disdainful of British class differences are now prevalent themes in Australia’s national consciousness.

The Gallipoli Campaign is often described as the birth of Australian nationhood. John Howard, Australian prime minister from 1996 to 2007, describes the ANZAC spirit in the following way:

Participation in World War I was to both accelerate and sharpen Australia’s sense of separate national identity. The landing on Gallipoli which gave birth to the Anzac spirit became, in fullness of time, the most defining event in our history. Anzac Day remains more evocative of the Australian spirit than any other day in our calendar. The emotional pull of Anzac has grown and not diminished through time, especially amongst the young. Such is the ownership of the Anzac legend now, instinctively felt by young Australians that in their thousands they flock to Anzac Cove on the 25th of April seemingly as some patriotic rite of passage […] Australia seamlessly entered World War I as part of the British Empire. By November 1918 Australians might still see themselves as British but the furnace of war had decisively tilted the balance. Pride in battlefield successes, the magnitude of our losses, sometime dismay at British High Command decision making and some starkly different attitudes held by Australians and their British cousins in respect to class and discipline helped entrench a feeling of separate identity. That sense of separate identity led Billy Hughes to insist that Australia’s interests be represented independently from those of Great Britain at the Paris Peace Conference. “I speak for 60,000 Australian war dead” he declared. We had earned that separate voice (Howard 2003).

We should treat the assumption that mass (perhaps needless) loss of life constitutes the birth of nationhood circumspectly. However, the political effect of Gallipoli was almost immediately evident.

1.2 Canberra

In 1912 Walter Burley Griffin’s plan was selected as the winner of an international competition held by the Australian government to produce a design for Canberra, its new capital city. He famously stated:

I have planned a city that is not like any other in the world. I have planned it not in a way that I expected any government authorities in the world would accept. I have planned an ideal city – a city that meets my ideal of the city of the future.

The city’s design was influenced by the garden city movement and incorporates significant areas of natural vegetation that have since earned Canberra the title of the “bush capital”.

Lake Burley Griffin deliberately designed Canberra so that the orientation of the components was related to various topographical landmarks in Canberra. The lakes stretch from east to west and divided the city in two; a land axis perpendicular to the central basin stretches from Capital Hill (parliament house)—the eventual location of the new Parliament House on a mound on the southern side—north northeast across the central basin to the northern banks to the public house at the base of Mount Ainslie.

However, in the aftermath of the Great War some significant changes took place. In 1920, after Griffin’s city ideal parted ways with the Australian government’s new vision and Griffin’s contract was not renewed. It became evident Australia’s political landscape had shifted since WWI.

Charles Bean, Australia’s official World War I historian, first conceived a museum memorial to Australian soldiers while observing the 1916 battles in Europe. He began collecting historic resources and working towards the construction of a war memorial, which was completed in 1941 on the site originally intended for the casino/public house. The green Land Axis and the “playgrounds of the city” were transformed into a red marching axis constructed from red gravel to resonate with soldiers’ boots during ceremonial marches. After WW2 the market centre was transformed into a military complex at Russell, and after 9/11 and the insertion of the huge monolithic block of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation after 9/11.

The green Land Axis is now known as ANZAC Parade named in honour of the ANZACs. It stretches from near the north shore of Lake Burley Griffin to the foot of the Memorial proper. Whether from Parliament house or from the Memorial, the two are linked by sight and by symbolism. As the official historian, Charles Bean, put it:

During four years in which nearly the whole world was so tested, the people of Australia looked on…They saw their own men – those who had dwelt in the same street or been daily travellers in the same trains – flash across the world’s consciousness like a shooting star […] In the first straight rush up the Anzac hills in the dark; in the easy figures first seen on the ridges in the dawn sky; in the working parties stacking stores on the shelled beach without the turning of a head; in the stretcher bearers walking, pipes in mouths, down a bullet-swept slope to a comrade’s call, unconsciously setting a tradition that may work for centuries; in things seen daily from that first morning until the struggle ended, onlookers had recognised in these men qualities always vital to the human race […] Australians watched the name of their country rise high in the esteem of the world’s oldest and greatest nations. Every Australian bears that name proudly abroad today and by these daily doings, great and small…the Australian nation came to know itself.

Those young men died so we could have a nation. On 25 April each year ANZAC day is observed as a national holiday in Australia.

2. Monuments in the United States, 3 Cities

The monuments that the United States are known for put a high degree of importance on ideas that are believed to be those which shape our population. They are concepts of our country that we believe make the U.S. ‘unique’ and show what the populace values as core ideals. Although it is a relatively new country, we believe that these monuments give validation to the ideas of the founding fathers and give us a history that spans back to the beginning of our nation. They are taught as symbols of America in grade school and are synonymous with our understanding of what our culture strives to accomplish. But are these monuments an over-idealized perception of America? Are they simply generalized themes that we have plucked from the best of our forefathers while ignoring the negative aspects of American history? How do these monuments created the ‘imagined community’ and ‘imagined history’ of America, which accommodates so many different backgrounds and geographical regions?

2.1 Statue of Liberty

The statue of Liberty is commonly thought of as one of the most significant U.S. monuments and is commonly associated with immigration and the opportunities one can gain in the United States. Its location near Ellis Island has made it a symbol for bringing immigrants together to create one ‘melting pot’ of America. What about the negative aspects of immigrant life in the U.S., such as the discriminatory treatment of the Irish and Italians?Inline image 2

2.2 Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell, located in the beautiful city of Philadelphia represents to many Americans the freedom that we are all given as part of our citizenship. It represents our separation from the British Empire and one of our first steps into a free nation. Inscribed on the bell is a line from Leviticus 25:10 “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof”, a line that is in reference to the Old Testament “Jubilee”. It is also a commemorative bell for William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges. This statement claims to give liberty to all of the inhabitants of the United States, but this was really only true for a select few – white, male landholders.Inline image 3

2.3 Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial, located in Washington D.C. is in memory of Abraham Lincoln, a man who rose from humble beginnings in rural Kentucky to become one of the most well-known American presidents. In many ways his massive memorial structure and statue shows that anyone from any background can achieve success with the ability to work hard, this structure also has obvious references to equality and the reunification of the states after the Civil War. But the U.S. also has a very large income gap that is harder to overcome than the ‘American dream’ makes it seem.Inline image 1

3. Karl Lueger – Reinterpreting a nation’s past through street names

Recently, there have been debates in Vienna to investigate the city’s street names and whether the persons that streets have been named after have an infamous historical past. An investigation report released in 2014, concluding there are about 160 street names that are somewhat dubious and should be discussed. In this case study, the focus will be on one street name, or rather the person behind the street name: Karl Lueger.

3.1 About Karl Lueger

Karl Lueger (*1844, +1910) was mayor of the city of Vienna from 1897-1910.

He was co-founder of the Christian Social Party, whichLudwig Grillich7.jpg is a predecessor of today’s Austrian People’s Party. He lobbied against a “Großdeutschland”, because he didn’t want to unite Catholic Austria with Protestant Germany. Also, he pursued the municipalisation of gas and electricity works, and he established public transportation. In short, “handsome Karl” (how they called him) was a very famous politician in Austria at the time. The interpretation of this part of his history earned him a great deal of memorial sites, such as a monument, an oak and a street named after him.

However, a great deal of his political rhetoric consisted of anti-Semitism. It was not ethnically but religiously motivated, and there are discussions about to what extent he really was an anti-Semite.

Nonetheless, he used popular anti-Semitism as a political tool and made it socially acceptable.

Adolf Hitler was originally opposed to Lueger; however, when he lived in Vienna for some time and got to know his work, he noted in Mein Kampf that “I today regard him as the greatest German mayor of all times”.

3.2 Debate over renaming the street
The Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Ring is part of the Ringstraße, a main boulevard in Vienna and a main tourist attraction. The University of Vienna’s main building is located at the Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Ring and demanded that the street be renamed, because they felt “inappropriate” having to use his name on their official documents, knowing he was an anti-Semite.

They argued that there would be a lot of attention in 2015 when all eyes are on the university during its 650th anniversary. The request was that the street should be renamed to avoid external criticism.

Additionally, Karl Lueger was also opposed to the University of Vienna, having called it a “breeding ground of anti-patriotism and religiouslessness”. The Karl-Lueger-Ring has been renamed to Universitätsring in 2012.

3.3 Reactions

enthuellt.5072216The Green Party, having supported the demand from the beginning, was satisfied with the outcome.

The Austrian People’s Party’s reaction can be summed up through a rhetorical question: “What’s the Social Democrats’ opinion on the Dr.-Karl-Renner-Ring?” [a Social Democrat and first President of Austria after WWII, also an alleged anti-Semite – he definitely was in favour of the “Anschluss” to Nazi Germany]. The Freedom Party, too, criticised the biased decision to only rename this particular street.

To be sure, there is still a monument named after Karl Lueger in Vienna. It was only about the University of Vienna’s international appearance as the motivational force behind this act.

4. Interpretation

“[W]e assume that there is – in an essentialist sense – no such thing as one national identity. We believe rather that different identities are discursively constructed according to audience, setting, topic and substantive content. National identities are therefore malleable, fragile and, frequently, ambivalent and diffuse.” (Wodak et al 20094:)

In our presentation, we will discuss in how far the ideas represented in the quotes by Wodak and Edensor apply to our case studies, where you can find similarities between these case studies and where you can find differences.

5. Bibliography

Abbott, Tony (2014) “Commemorative Address, 2014 Anzac Day National Ceremony, Australian War Memorial, Canberra”, https://www.awm.gov.au/commemorative-address-2014-anzac-day-national-ceremony/ (Accessed 11/02/2015).

Edensor, Tim. 2002. National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life. Oxford: Berg

Fischer, Karl (2003) http://www.tu-cottbus.de/theoriederarchitektur/Wolke/eng/Subjects/032/Fischer/fischer.htm (Accessed 11/02/2015).

Howard, John (2003) “Prime Minister John Howard’s speech delivered at Australia House in London on November 10 at 6.30pm GMT” in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Stevens, Quentin (2014) “Masterplanning public memorials: an historical comparison of Washington, Ottawa and Canberra” in Planning Perspectives Vol. 30, Issue 1, pp. 39-66

Ruth Wodak, Rudolf de Cillia, Martin Reisigl and Karin Liebhart. 2009². The Discursive Construction of National Identity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

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It has been ruled by the International Criminal Court today that neither Serbia nor Croatia committed genocide during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. ‘Peter Tomka, president of the international court of justice, said crimes had been committed by both countries’ forces during the conflict, but that the intent to commit genocide – by “destroying a population in whole or in part” – had not been proven against either country.’


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