Exile, Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism

Exile, Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism

Institut fuer die Geschichte der deutschen Juden, Hamburg, PD Dr. Kirsten Heinsohn; Lehrstuhl für Neuere Geschichte, Schwerpunkt Nordamerikanische, Atlantische und Karibische Geschichte, Historisches Seminar, Universität Hamburg, Prof. Dr. Claudia Schnurmann, Dr. Susanne Lachenicht
Vom - Bis
21.06.2007 - 23.06.2007
Url der Konferenzwebsite
Susanne Lachenicht, Historisches Seminar, Universität Hamburg

Research on migration, diasporas and exile suggests that the specific trans-national situation with which exiles are confronted frequently leads to the emergence and development of nationalist or cosmopolitan attitudes towards other ‘nations’ or ethnicities, political and social groups. Nineteenth and early twentieth-century national historiography suggests that during the process of nation-building and the formation of national identities in western Europe, tendencies to develop rival national identities in exile were much stronger than in the so-called ‘cosmopolitan age’ of the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries. In the case of the Italian Risorgimento exile in France reinforced those exiles’ ‘nationalism’, other groups in diaspora, including the Huguenots, who migrated to different European and overseas destinations between 1548 and 1787, are identified as ‘cosmopolitans’. However, a closer assessment of diasporic groups and of exile makes evident that exiles frequently developed attitudes that would be identified as simultaneously cosmopolitan and nationalist.
This conference sought, first, to discuss different forms of exile in order to gain a more differentiated perspective on exile and its consequences for groups living in a trans-national context. Second, the papers attempted to define and explain ‘nationalism’ and the so-called ‘rise of the nation-state’ in the context of ‘exile’ and diasporic movements. Third, the conference was meant to (re-)define and explain cultural, political or social ‘cosmopolitanism’ in the context of ‘exile’ and diasporas. Fourth, some of the papers were concerned with the interconnectedness of or the ‘creative’ tension between cosmopolitanism and nationalism.

Stefanie Schüler-Springorum, director of the Hamburg Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden and Claudia Schnurmann, Historisches Seminar, Universität Hamburg, welcomed the participants. In her introduction, Susanne Lachenicht, Historisches Seminar, Universität Hamburg, asked whether the notions of ‘nation’, ‘nationalism’ and ‘nationhood’ are concepts that are familiar to all historical periods. She suggested that, generally, ‘nations’ are meant to protect ‘imagined communities’ (Benedict Anderson) against other communities that are at odds with one’s own community. Exile or diasporas are hotbeds where ‘nationalism’ evolves and where the notion and the dream of the ‘homeland’ becomes a strong uniting element. Other diasporas, though, or at least some representatives of these diasporas, see cosmopolitan and non-territory related elements at the very heart of the ‘nation’ in question. Following Daniel and Jonathan Boyarin, Lachenicht suggested that national identity can also manifest itself in a perpetual, creative diasporic tension. This could mean that for ‘nations’, forms of cosmopolitanism can guarantee as much as nationalism the survival of the group, and more specifically group identity. Cosmopolitanism, a concept that traditionally described attitudes of people standing outside existing cultures, is today often identified with hybridity or syncretism. However, the postmodernist ‘dissolution of authentically national cultural life into multinational eclecticism’1 is not generally accepted. Universal principles, such as human rights, democracy, the acceptance of ‘otherness’2 can be at odds with new nationalisms, local, regional and religious identities that seem to evolve as a counterpart to what is perceived as global homogenisation. Lachenicht sugged that analysing cosmopolitanism and nationalism as two antagonistic but more often than not complementary concepts might help to explain problems resulting from historical forms of and present-day nationalisms.

In the first panel on The Cosmopolitan Age?, W. Douglas Catterall (Cameron University, Lawton, Oklahoma, U.S.A.) explored in Nations, Ethnicity, and the Swedish Nation in the Age of Freedom (1730-1760) a ‘pathway to a collective sense of nation and ethnicity’ that allowed ‘Göteborg to enter the modern era as a cosmopolitan community’. While Scottish immigrants were able to develop and safeguard a strong ethnic identity, ‘Göteborg very much included outsiders such as the Scots, albeit within a vibrant Swedish nation-state’. In his ‘Une maison particulière et isolée?’ Migration, National Identity and the Irish Colleges, Paris, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Liam Chambers (Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland) argued that the administrators, students and priests of the Irish Colleges in Paris developed a strong sense of Irish Catholic identity and simultaneously fostered ‘an adaptable approach to identity, which encompassed Irish, British and French aspects’. Chambers emphasised that during the nineteenth century it became more difficult to maintain a flexible and thus pragmatic approach to identity, partly as a result of increasing nationalism.

In the second panel, on Cosmopolitanism, Kate Daniels (University of Cambridge) discussed in her paper on ‘The Song for everyone without a Homeland’: A Palestinian Writer in Cosmopolitan Beirut specific forms of cosmopolitanism as represented in Mahmud Darwish’s work. She finds in both his biography and his work a form of cosmopolitanism that, in close contact with the competing Lebanese and Palestinian nationalisms, between sects, ethnicities, political parties and factions, develops universalising humanistic visions of cosmopolitanism while simultaneously relating itself to the ‘Palestinian return and self-determination’. A related universalised humanistic approach can be found in the contributions of Emigré Economists after 1933. Their cosmopolitanism, being a result of their experience of exile, as Harald Hagemann (Universität Stuttgart-Hohenheim) showed, embraced a ‘deep concern for the problems of the developing world’ and a ‘liberation from a deep embeddedness in national academic traditions’. In his paper on Nationalism and anti-Cosmopolitanism in Russian and Soviet Ideology Frank Grüner (Universität Heidelberg) demonstrated that anti-cosmopolitanism, identified as an anti-Semitic and anti-modernisation ideology, was rooted not only in the pre-Soviet Russian Radical Right but in Russian society. Thus, Stalin, reviving anti-cosmopolitanism after the Second World War, drew on long-established traditions that enabled him to mobilise large part of the ‘Soviet’ society for an anti-western and anti-Semitic orientation in ideology. While, in a western perspective, cosmopolitanism is often identified as a positive value, the Russian and Soviet context makes evident that this is not universally accepted.

In section three on Revolution and Exile, Maurizio Isabella (Queen Mary University, London) investigated in A nationalism of the diaspora: Italian Risorgimento and cosmopolitanism, 1796-1848 ‘how [early] concepts of Italian nationhood were reconciled with cosmopolitan ideals’. While early protagonists of the Risorgimento had plans for ‘perpetual peace’ and visions of a unified Republican Europe as imagined by French Jacobins, later patriots such as Giuseppe Mazzini replaced these early cosmopolitan and liberal attitudes with an ‘ethical notion of Europe’ and a nationalisation of the Italian patriotic movement. Michael L. Miller (Central European University, Budapest) presented the case of Simon Deutsch and the 1848ers in Exile tracing Deutsch’s shift from ‘liberal nationalism to rootless cosmopolitanism’. Deutsch’s networks, established in exile, ‘helped inform the perennial tension between liberal nationalism and international socialism’ and can – as well – be qualified as a pragmatic approach to survival in exile. Niall Whelehan (European University Institute, Florence) analysed in his Paris, New York, and the Role of Exile in Irish Nationalism 1860-1885 how the Fenians, refusing sympathy and co-operation with other European nationalists during their exile in Paris, developed, in the ‘cosmopolitan environment of the United States’ and confronted with social problems in New York, both a ‘transnational repertoire of revolutionary violence that was conscious of nationalist discontent in other British colonies’ and a ‘greater access to ideological and strategical variety’ in their aim to establish an independent Irish Republic.

The public lecture was given by Bertrand Van Ruymbeke (Université de Paris VIII). Talking on_Diaspora, Exile, Identity and the Refuge in an Atlantic perspective_ he stated that the Huguenots in the Atlantic World retained a residue of their cultural, religious, and familial identities while fully participating in American life. While many of them had been naturalized, conformed to the Church of England, married outside the group, acquired a thorough command of the English language, and had taken part in local elections, they, upon closer inspection, practiced religious conformity not as thoroughly as envisioned by the Anglican authorities. Therefore – as Van Ruymbeke made clear – it seems that what appears like rapid assimilation is instead an intricate phenomenon of creolization.

In section four From the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, Bartosz Awianowicz (Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun) presented Two Poets in Exile: Ovid and Philip Callimachus Buonaccorsi. While Ovid never accepted his exile as permanent, Buonaccorsi, after having received an amnesty in 1471, refused to return to Rome. Ovid defined Rome as his ‘patria’. Without his audience and the City as his creative home, exile proved to be unacceptable. In the case of – voluntary – exile, his home abroad enabled Buonaccorsi to become the cosmopolitan poet and diplomat that Rome would have refused this humanist. For the Greek diaspora in the Italian peninsula 1453-1830 Heleni Porfyriou (CNR-ICVBC Rome) detected in the Greek communities ‘strong nationalist feelings’ translated by and in the Greek, church, language and culture but also cultural exchange that could be identified as internationalist and even cosmopolitan. For the Huguenots in the Colonial Floridas, Daniel S. Murphree (University of Texas at Tylor) finds in his Cosmopolitanism and Paradise: French Exiles, Racialization, and National Identities, 1564-1573 the abandonment of cosmopolitan ideas and tolerance in the face of struggles ‘with both Indians and Spanish adversaries’. ‘Harmonious relationships with local native peoples’ as envisioned by the French colonizers gave way to dominant national identities and transnational racialization processes.

Section five on Jewish identities presented two papers on shifting Jewish identities in the face of assimilationist and Zionist movements. Markus Bauer (University of Portsmouth) presented different Western and Eastern Jewish representations of galuth and the end of Jewish exile, while Anne-Christin Saß illustrated Eastern Jewish self-understandings in Weimar Berlin ‘ranging from partial integration and acculturation to isolation’ and oscillating between ‘cosmopolitan cultural traditions and the Prussian national heritage’.

Twentieth century Nationalism was discussed in panel six. Beatrice Penati (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa and EHESS, Paris) presented the case of Russian Muslim émigrés attempting to define their identities between ‘Muslim’ and more ethno-national concepts. How the non-nationalist term ‘Muslim’ or a Pan-Russian Muslim movement could be reconciled with nationalist movements in and outside Kazakhstan or Tatarstan is an important question that might need further research. Anna Holian’s (Arizona State University) paper Between Nationalism and Internationalism: Displaced Persons at the UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) University of Munich, 1945-1948 moved beyond the period of ‘extreme nationalisms’. The UNRRA’s sponsors attempted to re-introduce humanist values in an environment where protagonists and victims of nationalist and National Socialist ideologies met. Defining itself as a ‘Erziehungsstätte zum Weltbürgertum’, Anna Holian was able to show how the tension between a ‘liberal internationalism’ and a ‘cosmopolitan internationalism’ challenged nationalism as typical of many displaced persons studying at the UNRRA University. While the ‘liberal internationalism’ envisioned ‘the world as a community of nations in which each nation can be seen internally united and externally differentiated, and in which individuals appear as representatives of given nations’, ‘cosmopolitan internationalism’ ‘sees the world as a community of individual world citizens, in which differences of nationality do not come into play and may in fact be transcended’. The UNRRA University example suggests – as many other papers presented at the meeting – that nationalism and cosmopolitanism are two antagonistic, complementary and dialectic principles and that the tension between the two are inherent to many if not all nations, periods and historical contexts.

In panel seven on Structuring Space – Structuring Identity, Samuel D. Albert (New York) illustrated how, in Mandate Palestine, national identities were translated into specific national building materials and architecture. It became evident that hybridity and syncretism were at the very heart of British, Armenian and Palestine architecture, drawing on what they perceived as their historical contribution to Palestine. Jewish architects, however, fostered modern and non-territory related architectural styles. Anne Hass’s paper on The Chicago School. How to justify social discrimination and exclusion by transforming the bio-ecological Monoclimax theory into a theory of city development showed that for the Chicago School the cosmopolitan city necessarily accepts the discrimination of both American born people and immigrants from all over the world. The displacement of social [and ethnic] groups and the rise of city areas dominated by one ‘race’, ‘nation’ or religious group inside the cosmopolitan city are – from the Chicago School’s perspective –‘considered to be the result of the natural law’ of the development of societies.

In the last panel on Postcolonial Perspectives William O’Reilly (University of Cambridge) and Birte Timme (Universität Erfurt) presented two examples of how nationalism and cosmopolitanism were interconnected in the period of de-colonisation. In The Cosmopolitan Club and the Migration of Nationalism: Oxford, Berlin and Harvard, William O’Reilly demonstrated that the Oxford Cosmopolitan Club, ‘created for the discussion of politics, philosophy, race and creed’, became a hotbed for the discussion and dissemination of ‘ideas of nationalism and pan-nationalism, colonialism and proto-post-colonialism’. The club brought about leaders of the South African or the early Indian nationalist movement who, thus, responded to racism and discrimination as experienced at Oxford University. Birte Timm investigated the Jamaica Progressive League’s impact on the history of Jamaican decolonisation and the process of nationalisation. Racism as – in this case – experienced by Jamaican immigrants in New York proved to be a very stimulating element in creating a Jamaican national identity of its own.

The papers created a need for a clear definition of nationalism and – particularly – of cosmopolitanism: Some participants suggested that cosmopolitanism has to be identified as an idea and an ideal that structures elite networks such as humanist networks in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries or the Republic of Letters in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. However, extreme manifestions of national identity and nationalism – as the case of the UNRRA University and many of the early modern and modern examples demonstrated – ensure a growing desire for universal humanist values which are often identified as cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitan ideas, therefore, are not related to specific historical eras. And nationalism(s) and strong national identities are not restricted to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Other participants labelled survival strategies of diasporic artisans, labourers and tradesmen both in their commercial networks and in their intermarriage policy as internationalist and even cosmopolitan, as they often tolerated or ignored – for economic purposes – the other’s differing ethnicity and religious convictions. Catholicism and socialism were characterised as mass phenomena where elements that can be identified as internationalist and cosmopolitan mix. Cosmopolitanism, thus, cannot exclusively be attributed to elites. Other participants found that strong expressions of nationalism still are dependant on international networks and strongly influenced by trans-national and supranational ideologies.

While the conference did not come up with one definition of exile, cosmopolitanism and nationalism and one model for their interconnectedness, some conclusions can be drawn from the papers presented: Indeed, exile and diasporas are hotbeds for nationalism, internationalism and cosmopolitanism. Up-rootedness and the necessity to redefine one’s own identity entail a stronger consciousness of [national] identity, an increasing desire to protect and safeguard this identity and to relocate it in a distinct territory that excludes other nations. Diasporas, though, can satisfy these needs, too, and can – in the case of the Huguenots and others – ensure a lasting survival of group identity that in a non-diasporic situation might not be guaranteed. For individuals and groups, exile and diaspora can be spheres of creativity. They can also be places of discrimination, racism and pathological struggles between different nations and/or ethnic and/or religious groups. We have to distinguish between nationalism and cosmopolitanism as ideas, ideals, attitudes, labels and strategies of survival of individuals and groups in order to successfully analyse how they intertwine and how they interact. In the context of exile, nationalism and cosmopolitanism are not related linearly but in a dialectic tension that in each individual context has to be carefully analysed. And both, nationalism and cosmopolitanism, should be categories of and for analysis.

An edited volume on the topics of Exile, Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism is going to be published in 2008.

1 Shustermann, Richard, Next year in Jerusalem: postmodern Jewish identity and the myth of return, in: Goldberg, David T., Krausz, Michael (eds.), Jewish Identity, Philadelphia 1993, pp. 291-308, here p. 302.
2 Beck, Ulrich; Grande, Edgar, Das kosmopolitische Europa. Gesellschaft und Politik in der Zweiten Moderne, Frankfurt am Main 2004, p. 27.


Susanne Lachenicht

Historisches Seminar, Von-Melle-Park 6, 20146 Hamburg

E-Mail: <susanne.lachenicht@uni-hamburg.de>

Veröffentlicht am