24 March 2011

“A Nationalism neither Chauvinistic nor Closed” by Professor Jeremy Webber (University of Victoria) and 2009 Trudeau Fellow.The Lecture will take place at “Cercle,” Pavilion Alphonse-Desjardins, 4th floor, at Université Laval in Québec City, an

Much of the literature on nationalism, especially cultural nationalism, takes the position that nationalism is an abomination, productive of much harm in the world. Many of the defences of nationalism, including many defences of Quebec nationalism, take refuge in some notion of civic nationalism, in which the nationalism is said to have no cultural content whatever but to be concerned purely and simply with attachment to a nation defined in institutional terms alone.

In this lecture, Professor Jeremy Webber takes issue with both of these positions. He argues that nationalism cannot be defined in purely civic terms - or at least, that such definitions misstate the true foundation and driving force of contemporary nationalisms, including Quebec nationalism, the quest of Indigenous peoples for self-government, anti-colonial struggles in the Third World, and even the commitment of Canadians to their continued separate existence from the United States of America.

At the same time, he argues that there is a form of cultural nationalism that does not fall into the pathologies often associated with nationalism - that is neither chauvinistic nor closed. Drawing upon an analogy to national traditions in music (among other things), he sketches the nature and justification of that form of nationalism, and shows that such nationalist commitments, rightly conceived, can allow us to cherish what is most valuable in national communities and nevertheless guard against xenophobic and oppressive deformations.