Nationalism between pleasure and hate I

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Political Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Bayside B, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Organizers: Natalie Koch
Chairs: Natalie Koch


Recent public expressions of xenophobia in the United States have led scholars and other observers to give renewed attention to the hate-mongering of professed nationalists. As an identity narrative and grammar of political subjectivity, nationalism is imagined, internalized, and performed in myriad ways. Certain actors, such as the white supremacists in the “Alt-right” movement, the ascendant Hindu nationalists in India, and various far-right politicians across Europe, primarily mobilize around hate-centered nationalist frames. However, mainstream commentary tends to overlook the pleasure that individual members take from embracing – and embodying – the exclusivist vision of national identity they advance. These individuals often experience nationalist zeal as something positive and pleasurable, even if (and in some cases because) they publicly express it through egregious acts of violence.

Nationalist ideology can take many forms, but it is uniformly underpinned by internal tensions and contradictions. It can be aspirational or it can celebrate a fait accompli (or both), it can be ethnic or civic in orientation (or both), exclusive or inclusive (or both), forward-looking or backward-looking (or both). Likewise, nationalism’s emotional fuel can be drawn from both positive and negative feelings, frequently mixing both pleasure and hate. Indeed, this comingling of pleasure and enmity has long been a concern of nationalism scholars, who have consistently asked: how do individuals come to identify so strongly with the nation or the state, such that they are willing to kill and die for it? Those who examine nationalist separatism or state-based militarism have shown that nationalism is not just about building up a sense of hatred for the Other through combat, but that the pleasure of wartime bonding or pride in serving one’s country is also the vital glue for acts of violence in the name of the state or the nation.

Yet nationalism can also have many celebratory and inclusive manifestations: nationalist spectacles, holidays, sporting events, and other mundane rituals like the US pledge of allegiance in schools can be immensely pleasurable for participants. This might be experienced as joy in victory during the Olympic Games, reveling in the aesthetic appeal of a decorated city, home, or holiday cake, or simply the pride of feeling like and performing the role of a “good,” obedient citizen. But to the extent that any expression of nationalism is political, these cases of mobilizing around positive nationalist frames can never be neutral. Insofar as they normalize a particular way of dividing global space and defining subject positions within a world of “states” and “nations,” ostensibly positive expressions of nationalism are often connected forms of exclusionary practice that go unnamed – never explicitly identifying but normatively reinforcing the non-inclusion of Others, such as non-citizens, women, sexual or ethnic minorities, Indigenous communities, and any range of socially-marginalized individuals or groups. They may not be a public target of hate, but their marginality can be experienced and reinforced through the simple denial of participation in such pleasure-inducing expressions of nationalism.

This paper session aims to critically examine both the positive and the negative energies of nationalist thinking and practice. The existing literature on nationalism tends to treat one or the other, but rarely focuses squarely on the overlap between pleasure and antagonism/violence in specific nationalist expressions. The papers thus include empirically-grounded studies that interrogate nationalism at the intersection of pleasure and hate, or which consider the silent violence of pleasure-inducing or positive expressions of nationalism. With the goal of advancing the geographic literature on nationalism, questions addressed include: What can a critical geographic perspective on nationalism between pleasure and hate tell us about contemporary and historical expressions of nationalism? How might a spatially-informed analysis, attending to public/private divides, subjectivity and intersectional identity politics, and the capillary power relations running through the production of space and place, shed light on nationalism as a force global affairs, from the extraordinary to the mundane?


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Pauliina Raento*, University of Tampere, The dilemma of defense in radical Basque nationalism 20 8:00 AM
Presenter Robert Kaiser*, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Imagineering the homeland: the affective geographies of nationalism 20 8:20 AM
Presenter Gerard Toal*, Virginia Tech, Passions, Prayers and Paranoia: The Birth of Atlanticism 20 8:40 AM
Presenter Franck Bille*, University of California - Berkeley, Territorial phantom pains 20 9:00 AM
Presenter Jennifer Titanski-Hooper*, Francis Marion University, “Ti si meni sve”, “You are my everything”: (Re)Imagining the Nation through Sports in Croatia 20 9:20 AM

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