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Seminar in Spui25 organized by Ellen Rutten |In McNation, we examine recent theorizing of the new nationalist turn of the 2010s as a largely commercially driven social shift.

Detail Summary
Date 19 May 2020
Time 15:00 - 18:00

In McNation, we examine recent theorizing of the new nationalist turn of the 2010s as a largely commercially driven social shift. Scholars in nation branding argue that, now that ‘national governments around the world are turning to branding consultants,’ ‘the social, political and cultural discourses constitutive of the nation have been harnessed in new and problematic ways’ (Aronczyk 2013). With a team of internationally renowned expert scholars, writers, and artists, we explore nation branding and popular geopolitics by zooming in on Putin-era Russia – a place and time that allow us to study neo-nationalism as a vivid joint interest (and, in some cases, object of mockery) of both official institutions and rappers, poets, designers, and other ‘other’ voices.

In short talks (3-5pm), followed by a group discussion (5-6pm), we analyse both the local and national scale (recurring myths & memes; actors of nation branding) and the transnational scale (self-branding against ‘the West’; the influence of global media flows) of nation branding. With this seminar, we aim to encourage critical thinking about nation branding and the consumerist logic on which nation-branding practices build.

Among other topics, in the joint discussion we will ponder the following questions:

  • What are the potential bonuses and/or pitfalls of using nation-branding studies to understand neo-nationalism and the new nationalist turn?
  • How do various media and cultural practices (social-media debates, rap/literary cultures, fashion cults) constitute, intervene in, or otherwise negotiate nation-branding processes?
  • How to boost public awareness of nation-branding and its reliance on ‘stranger fetishism’ (Ahmed) and local and global cultural stereotypes?

The meeting targets PhD candidates and RMa students, but is also a public event. We warmly welcome guests both from within and outside academia.


Maria Engstrom (Associate Professor of Slavic Languages, Uppsala University)

Alexander Etkind (Professor of Russia-Europe Relations, European University, Florence)

Ksenia Galiaeva (Visual artist/director, Willem de Kooning Academy; Antwerp/Pskov)

Ilya Kalinin (Associate Professor, Liberal Arts & Sciences, St Petersburg State University)

Ilya Kukulin (Associate Professor, Cultural Studies, HSE Moscow; winner Belyi Prize)

Metahaven: Daniel vd Velden, Vinca Kruk (Design/art collective; Sandberg, ArtEz; Strelka)

Readings: required readings for students who attend the meeting as a seminar are:

* Michael Hirsh, ‘Why the New Nationalists Are Taking Over.’ Politico, June 27, 2016.

* Robert Saunders, ‘The Supermarket of Nations: Competitive Identity and the Brand State.’ Ibid., Popular Geopolitics and Nation Branding in the Post-Soviet Realm. NY: Routledge, 2016), 44-70.

* Metahaven, ‘Brand States: Postmodern Power, Democratic Pluralism, and Design.’ e-flux #1, December 2008.

Assignment: a. Please select one quotation from each required reading that you find particularly relevant to the discussion of nation branding; and b. connect a case study (in a short description or in key words) to one of the selected quotations. Please share your quotations and the case study before May 14 with Dianne Teunisse ( NB the case study does not need to relate to contemporary Russia. At the seminar, students can be asked to explain why they chose a citation, or how, for instance, a citation relates to the text as a whole. Students can also select passages that they find important but do not understand fully. The student explanations will form the basis for joint discussion.

Date: May 19, 2020, 3-6pm

Venue: Spui25

Open to: PhD Candidates and RMa Students,

Credits: 1EC

Instructor: professor Ellen Rutten (the University of Amsterdam)

Institutional support: Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, (unconfirmed) Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis

Further readings in case of interest:

Melissa Aronczyk, Branding the Nation: The Global Business of National Identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Sarah Ahmed, Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality. NY: Routledge, 2000.

Maureen A. Eger, Sarah Valdez, ‘Neonationalism in Western Europe.’ European Sociological Review 31 (1) (2015), 115-130.

Metahaven, Uncorporate Identity. Zürich: Lars Müller, 2010.

Robert Saunders & Vlad Strukov, Popular Geopolitics: Plotting an Evolving Interdiscipline. NY: Routledge, 2018.