National History and New Nationalism in the 21st Century

Anneke Viertel's picture
April 11, 2018 to April 13, 2018
Subject Fields: 
Nationalism History / Studies, Political History / Studies, Contemporary History

National History and New Nationalism in the 21st Century

Conference at the German Historical Institute Paris, 11th-13th April 2018


In recent years, the dramatic rise in nationalism, in politics but also in research, has accompanied a renaissance of national history as a genre and patriotic "exceptionalism" as narrative. Irrespective of national specificities, the structures involved are similar everywhere: Underlying a historical continuity stretching back hundreds or thousands of years lies the timeless, often religiously defined character of a people, which, through heroic freedom struggles conducted by towering leadership figures and the sacrifice of martyrs, has succeeded in asserting itself over the opposition of neighbouring peoples. Such portrayals of national history are implicitly, and often explicitly, directed against universalistic orientations; more concretely, they oppose that which, in recalling and taking responsibility for the nation’s own previous crimes and misdeeds or diminishing its alleged civilizational achievements, they deride as self-accusation, groundless remorse, inappropriate apology, or the erection of “monuments of shame”. And they argue that the media, and particularly school history curricula, should no longer be a place where the nation and its history are contested or questioned, as such doubts damage and dishonour the nation.

The aim of this conference at the GHIP (11th-13th April 2018) is to create a broad international overview of the techniques, contents, and contexts of this resurgence of national historical narrative, with contributions either focusing on a particular nation or comparing multiple cases.

The conference addresses the following questions:

  • What are the national specificities in the basic pattern laid out above?
  • On what empirical foundations (sources, secondary literature) are they built, and what do they obscure or neglect?
  • Are there new counter-narratives, within and beyond national history? Who advances them, and in what way?
  • What (possibly country-specific) factors explain the renewed growth of identitarian historical narratives?
  • What political, legislative, or administrative processes have been used to strengthen these national narratives? How do they relate to other history-related political interventions, such as prohibitions on the denial of a genocide?
  • What arguments are used to propagate or gain acceptance for patriotic historical narratives, notably in school curricula and the media, and through memorials, historical commemorations, and research commissions?

The languages of the conference are German, French, and English.

Contact Info: 

Niels F. May
Coordinateur scientifique / Wissenschaftlicher Koordinator
Deutsches Historisches Institut Paris
Institut historique allemand
8 rue du Parc-Royal, F-75003 Paris

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