2017 Wellek Lectures
Department: Humanities CommonsDate and Time: May 31, 2017 - 4:00 PM
Event Location: HG 1030
This year Professor AijazAhmad will be giving the Wellek Library Lectures, the thirty-fifth installment in the prestigious series. A renowned scholar of nationalism and an engaged intellectual, Professor Ahmad is the author of numerous books, including the groundbreaking In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures (Verso, 1992), Lineages of the Present: Ideology and Politics in Contemporary South Asia (Verso, 2002), and In Our Time: Empire, Politics, Culture (Verso, 2010). In 2015 he joined the faculty at UCI as a member of the Department of Comparative Literature and is an affiliate of UCI Critical Theory.
Under the title “The Return of the Repressed: On Nations and Nationalisms,” Professor Ahmad will discuss the long history of nationalism and theories of nationalism in the context of the current political climate. If the right wing appears resurgent across the globe, this resurgence is tied to a variety of contexts and takes forms specific to these contexts. The narration of these forms similarly takes place under various headings: populism, authoritarianism, illiberal democracy, Islamo-fascism, alt-right, proto- or pre-fascism, and so forth. Still, the one word that gets used most frequently and applied to all sorts of forces and individuals—from Narendra Modi to Donald Trump, Recep Erdoğan, Marine Le Pen, and even Vladimir Putin and his bloc of supporters—is “nationalism.” An extraordinary consensus seems to have emerged in our time that regards nationalism as ipso facto reactionary if not always an evil.
In these lectures, Professor Ahmad will reflect on the complicated history of “nationalism”—a history that extends to the counterrevolutionary thought that emerged under the shadow of the Enlightenment and the contradictory movements of which include the revolutions of 1848 (the so-called “Spring of the Peoples”) and the unifications of Germany and Italy. This history also includes a number of crucial intellectual engagements: the seminal theses of Marx and Lenin on colonialism and “the national question”; the work of German thinkers such as Carl Schmitt and Martin Heidegger; Antonio Gramsci’s rethinking of socialist strategy through the concept of the national popular; Franz Fanon’s reflections on the antinomies of nationalism in the Algerian context; debates on nation and nationalism with the Indian anti-colonial movement; and the complex discussions of nationalism in the 1990s by writers such as Eric Hobsbawm, Ernest Gellner, and Benedict Anderson. And now the repressed has returned…