IMC 2018: Sessions

Session 627: Memories of Nation, Medieval and Modern, II: National Medievalisms in the 20th Century

Tuesday 3 July 2018, 11.15-12.45

Sponsor:Richard Bland College of William & Mary, Virginia
Organiser:Daniel Franke, Department of History, Richard Bland College of William & Mary, Virginia
Moderator/Chair:Daniel Franke, Department of History, Richard Bland College of William & Mary, Virginia
Paper 627-aPerforming the Hindu Nation: Quotidian Simulations of Hindu Nationalism
(Language: English)
Sushant Kishore, Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, Birla Institute of Technology & Science, Pilani University, Goa
Index terms: Anthropology, Daily Life, Historiography - Modern Scholarship, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Paper 627-bIbn 'Asakir and the Making of Modern Syrian Nationalisms
(Language: English)
Suleiman A. Mourad, Department of Religion, Smith College, Massachusetts
Index terms: Historiography - Modern Scholarship, Islamic and Arabic Studies, Medievalism and Antiquarianism, Political Thought
Paper 627-cBrabantia Nostra: Appropriating the Medieval Past in Constructing a Brabantine Regional Identity, 1900-Present
(Language: English)
Arnoud-Jan A. Bijsterveld, Department of Sociology, Tilburg University
Index terms: Historiography - Modern Scholarship, Medievalism and Antiquarianism, Mentalities, Politics and Diplomacy

How people collectively remember their past creates or reshapes the political realities of the present, and nowhere perhaps is this better displayed than in the contentious question of ‘the nation’ and its origins. This thread gathers leading and emerging scholars, from across disciplines and geographic areas, to interrogate, in a focused way, the connections and divergences between medieval nationalisms and national medievalisms. The panels are arranged from the modern to the medieval, to foreground the ways in which current realities influence our study of the past, and particularly how searching for pre-modern nationalisms is particularly susceptible to teleology.

This second session examines three case studies of political movements in the Netherlands, Syria, and India using the Middle Ages to construct national identities.

Paper -a: In recent decades India witnessed a rise in ethno-centrism culminating in the unprecedented electoral victory of an ethno chauvinist political party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP: Indian People’s Party) and their succession to governance in 2014. The paper explores the discursive and embodied re-imagination of India – a secular, democratic, multi-ethnic republic – into a primordial nation of the Hindus with stringent configurations of citizenship and belonging derived from a singular distortion of indigenous religion and culture. Based on qualitative ethnographic research into the organisations of the Hindu right, the paper explores their structures, systems, routines, and rituals as simulations of the Hindu Nation.

Paper -b: This paper will discuss how the process of shaping the Syrian national identity in the early 20th century tapped an influential medieval scholar – Ibn ‘Asakir of Damascus (1105-1176) – precisely on account of his advocacy for a medieval form of Syrian nationalism based on association with Syria (Bilad al-Sham). For its advocates, Ibn ‘Asakir was the ideal ‘Syrian nationalist’. Irrespective of whether or not he would have identified with their cause, Syrian nationalists found in his massive Ta’rikh Dimashq (The History of Damascus and Its Environs) the kind of material that shows Syrian nationalism as rooted in history. Thus, they were simply its modern revivers. Efforts to produce the first printed edition of Ibn ‘Asakir’s History were undertaken and led to the publication in 1911-1914 of a five-volume abridged edition. It was then followed in 1930-1932 with another effort to complete it. These initiatives can be linked to two phases of Syrian nationalism: the phase that started during the last decades of Ottoman rule (the infancy phase), and the phase under the French mandate/occupation 1920-1946 (the maturity phase). The paper will conclude with some reflections on the redeployment of Ibn ‘Asakir in the last decades of the 20th century by a newer form of Syrian nationalism; this time a religious nationalism that appealed again to his Ta’rikh as well as to his other work on The Forty Hadiths for Inciting Jihad. In both cases, we see dynamics of appropriation of history for modern nationalist agendas.

Paper -c: