This course surveys questions and controversies in the history of the nation and nationalism in Central Europe, from the late 18th Century to the present.
After general background and theoretical approaches to the subject, we consider the emergence of the idea of the (ethnic) nation, and its translation into politically relevant movements, like social clubs, scholarly academies, sports societies or savings and loans associations. How did an idea shared by a few intellectuals in 1815 become a pervasive social and political event two generations later, shaping and distorting discourse on social, political and civil rights? We also consider countervailing trends. What spaces remained in the empires that governed pre-WWI Central Europe for a-national and non-national identities? How did nationalism clash or conspire with other reigning ideologies, for example socialism, or the regions' major religions?
In the post-WWI period brand new would-be nation states endeavored to count and make national subjects and to improve the national body through eugenics; in some places the measures extended to the extremes of fascism. The Second World War witnessed efforts led by Nazi Germany – but aped by allies like Romania and Croatia – to purify nations through ethnic cleansing and genocide; yet after World War II socialist states continued the process of ethnic homogenization. The question in both cases is why. Yugoslavia seemed distinct, remaining multiethnic until its bloody dissolution in the early 1990s. Again we confront the overlap but also tension between the social and national. The course concludes with post-communist Europe, where much of the region, though entering pan-European organizations, still argues for national distinctiveness. "Europe" can even serve as a vehicle for assertion of national rights.
Readings include classic and recent scholarship, spiced with memoirs and essays. Students have to submit weekly critical responses to readings but are encouraged to identify and begin their own research on topics related to the course.