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Conversations on Europe. "Can Nationalism be Multicultural? Comparative Insights from Contemporary Scotland and Catalonia."

Thursday, April 17, 2014
12:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB, 1080 S. University

A referendum on whether Scotland should become an independent state will take place in September 2014, and a similar consultation is set to be held in the Spanish Autonomous Community of Catalonia before the end of the year. Whilst the right of people to self-determination is enshrined in international law, the membership and territorial boundaries delimiting the space over which this right can be exercised are almost always contested. Protracted migrations, shifting frontiers resulting from the break-up of multinational states, and the intermingling of nationalities across a single geographical space have often meant that one nation-building project could not be achieved without undermining another. Historical precedents as well as recent events in Crimea have given some credence to those who see minority nationalism as a fundamentally ethnic phenomenon, essentially prone to subjugate internal minorities and hostile to immigration. This widely held view, however, is at odds with contemporary developments in Scotland and Catalonia, where nationalists have increasingly couched their national claims claims in multicultural terms, seeking to accommodate immigration-induced pluralism into their own imagined political community. In this lecture, Jean-Thomas Arrighi compares the evolving relationship between nation-building and immigration in Scotland and Catalonia from a historical perspective and identifies the conditions under which nationalists came to embrace a predominantly territorial and multicultural conception of citizenship. He attributes this outcome to a combination of two factors, namely nationalists’ vested interest in using migration-related policies and discourses as a means to enhance their internal and external legitimacy, and contrasted dynamics of party competition at a sub-state level.

Jean-Thomas Arrighi is a visiting fellow at the Center for European Studies (CES) at the University of Michigan and a research fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute (EUI). He earned his PhD and MRes in political and social sciences at EUI, as well as an MA in contemporary European studies from the University of Bath. While in residency at the University of Michigan, he has taught a course in the Department of Political Science entitled “Migrations and the Transformations of Citizenship in Europe.” His research interests lie at the crossroads of territorial politics, comparative politics, migrations, and nationalism studies.

Sponsors: CES, WCED

Jean-Thomas Arrighi, European University Institute Visiting Scholar, U-M