Civilizational Identity and Politics in Europe and Eurasia

  • Date:
  • Location: IRES Library, Gamla torget 3, 3rd floor, or via Zoom:
  • Lecturer: See programme
  • Organiser: Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES) and Uppsala Forum
  • Contact person: Mattias Vesterlund
  • Föreläsning

Over the last two decades, a new type of identity, civilizational, that transcends the narrower focus of the nation-state, is being promoted on the state level in a variety of countries. There is evidence that civilizational imaginaries have been changing political and social realities in and between a number of rising and re-emerging powers. In the current period, this ‘civilizationalism’ is also visible in European populist-nationalist movements, and can be detected in counties such as Turkey and China. What is unclear is how fundamentally new this 21st century ‘civilizationalism’ is and what relationship it has to nationalism.

With its attempts to ‘protect’ liberal values, curb globalism and control migration, ‘Civilizationalism’ in Western Europe has been interpreted as simultaneously a new form of nationalism and an alternative to it (Brubaker 2017). In Central Europe, the illiberalism of Poland and Hungary looks more to stop further imitation of Western models, which are held to threaten the survival of the nation (Krastev, Holmes 2018). While the degree to which these movements in Western and Central Europe warrant the labels ‘populist’, ‘nationalist’ or ‘radical/far right’ remain a key issue of scholarly debate; the transnational interactions linking these countries is not in question (Bob 2019). Yet, the target of inquiry requires refining: is it ‘conservatism’, ‘populism’ ‘illiberalism’ or the ‘far right’?

Moving further east, the Russian case shows important similarities with Central Europe in advocating traditional values and the “silent majority” and rejecting the normative superiority of the West. What sets Russia apart from Central Europe is its great power nationalism, far clearer pretentions to hold together a distinct “civilizational space” across Eurasia’s multi-ethnic population and its anti-Western geopolitical alignment, factors that give Russia more in common with other former non-Western empires such as Turkey, Iran and China. The ‘civilization-state’ model of nationhood legitimises autocratic great powers with ethnically diverse populations who imagine themselves to be struggling against hostile forces in “the West” intent on inflicting state collapse or regime change.

This two-day workshop approaches the question of civilizational identity in the 21st century in an interdisciplinary fashion, bringing together specialists in the History of Ideas, International Relations, Political Sociology, Cultural Studies and Political Science. It is funded by the Uppsala Forum for Peace and Democracy.

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