The 1927 School of Cultural Criticism and Postcolonial Studies is an informal institution initiated by the team of 1927 art space, that aims to offer seminars and classes on specialized academic topics not usually covered by Greece’s traditional academic departments. We collaborate with young and more seasoned researchers and academics to provide an in-depth understanding of topics relevant to the present social, cultural and political condition we live in. Researchers interested to teach at the school may write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The school provides a rigorous academic environment and is open to anyone who wishes to broaden their knowledge on the given topics regardless of educational or professional background. It does not confer a certificate. The cost of attending is 120 euros per class and each class consists of four 3-hour meetings.
Sustaining myth in time, with difference: on nationalism and performativity
Instructor: Macklin Kowal
Mondays March 2, 9, 16 and 23 from 6-9pm
Contemporary times witness the ascent of new nationalisms throughout the global political order. Around the world, appeals abound to revive nativist politics of belonging and to install these as the hegemonic standard of citizenship. Distinct in many such cases is the essentialist vision they proffer of the nation: as an enduring site of truth, threatened by globalism. In order to level viable criticism and challenges to the nationalist surge, one must ask: How to grasp the technical mechanisms of contemporary nationalism’s appeal, and how to level tenable critiques to its ever-mounting popularity?
This seminar proposes to understand and critique nationalism through its relationship to temporality, specifically through the theoretical frame of performativity. Following Stavrakakis, De Cleen, Moffitt, Laclau, Mouffe, Athansiou, and others, we will examine nationalism as a site of collective identification, delimited by ethics of nativism and chauvinism. Following Austin, Derrida, Felman, Butler, and others, we will take performativity to refer to repetitive acts that proffer semblances of enduring meaning—micro-reiterations whose ongoing nature conveys, cunningly, an image of stability. Our inquiries intersect in a consideration of nationalism as an aesthetic and political orientation to national narrative within time—and how nativist, xenophobic, or racist delimitations are cunningly deployed within the repetitive acts that otherwise purport the nation’s enduring semantic stability. Beyond this, we will explore what other socio-political temporalities exist alongside today’s nationalisms (namely, globalist teleology and fatalist eschatologies) and how their understanding permits deeper insight into the phenomenon of our study. Taking broad theoretical stock of nationalism, performativity, and their imbrications, we will narrow our inquiry with focus on contemporary case studies of the Euro-Atlantic. We will conclude the seminar with a deconstruction of nationalism’s performative mechanisms; here we will ask how the contingent and thereby inessential bearings of nationalist performatives can be critically occupied or disidentified with. Through a combined discussion of readings and analysis of contemporary practices, we will ultimately ask how one might radically steer or even dismantle discourse on the nation.
This seminar is intended for academics, artists, activists—particularly those who have keen interests in the limits of national belonging, critiques of state politics, and the imbrications of aesthetic and political values. Seminar discussions will be in English; assigned readings will be in English though when possible Greek translations will be offered.
Cost: 120 euros. Maximum number of students: 15. Register here.
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About the Instructor: Macklin Kowal is a multi-hyphenated artist-curator-researcher-writer, based in Athens. A PhD candidate in Political Theory at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, his thesis examines contemporary far-right nationalisms of the Euro-Atlantic through the frames of discourse analysis and theories of performativity. He is additionally Founding Director of Sub Rosa Space, an independent venue for performance in central Athens. Broadly speaking, Kowal’s work examines the aesthetic bearings of political culture, and conversely the political undergirding of aesthetic practice. More specifically, his writing and curation examine contemporary liberalist authoritarianism and late capitalist cultures of subjectivism; against these, his work articulates visions of coalitional dissent within the anti-colonial, feminist, and queer struggle. He has presented his original research, whether in conventional or lecture-performance form, throughout Europe and North America. Kowal is titular of an MA in Performance Studies from New York University, and additionally held the danceWEB scholarship at ImPulsTanz International Dance Festival (Vienna, AT).