Nationalism, Ethnicity and Boundaries: ASEN Conference 2012

By Jennifer Kimberly Jackson and Lina Molokotos-Liederman, ASEN 2012 Conference Chairs

The 22nd Annual ASEN Conference “Nationalism, Ethnicity and Boundaries” will take place at the London School of Economics and Political Science from the 27 to29 March 2012 and will feature an exciting range of keynote addresses and workshops.

The central concerns of this year’s conference are the origins, formulation, enforcement and conflicts related to national boundaries. Disputes arising from claims over boundaries both originate and intensify nationalist assertions and actions in pursuit of such claims. The second thrust of the conference is a focus on social and symbolic boundaries and how they influence nationalist behaviour within nation-states. Citizenship rules, symbolic representations of the national, and practices of discrimination highlight and enforce many kinds of boundaries which often cut across the physical boundaries of nation-states and national homelands.  A third focus point of the conference is the fluidity of boundaries – where boundaries may once give rise to fierce conflict, they can at another time either be forgotten or transformed into a site of agreement and reconciliation.

These are important issues in the fields of ethnicity and nationalism, and this conference will offer an opportunity for academics to share and discuss the most recent scholarship in this emerging area of study.

Here are some highlights from this year’s conference programme:

Plenary session 1 featuring Rogers Brubaker and Mary Fulbrook

Rogers Brubaker’s talk will analyse nationalising projects and processes in relation to ethnonational boundaries in Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. Brubaker is Professor of Sociology and UCLA Foundation Chair at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is an internationally renowned scholar and has published extensively on citizenship and nationalism with a focus on the West and more recently Eastern Europe.

Mary Fulbrook will discuss a possible conceptual framework for understanding what is often loosely termed ‘collective memory’. Seeking to escape both an unduly restrictive national framework and unwarranted assumptions about the transmission of ‘cultural memory,’ her talk will suggest an approach focusing on communities of experience, connection, and identification. Fulbrook is Professor of German History at UCL.

Plenary session 2 featuring Richard Jenkins and Wendy Pullan

Richard Jenkins’ plenary will focus on the apparently simple question “What are boundaries?”. He will draw on his own research over the last thirty years to develop a model of boundary complexity that seeks to avoid the reification of boundaries that Barth, for example, has warned against, without lapsing into postmodern hyper-fluidity. Jenkins is Professor of Sociology at the University of Sheffield.

In her plenary, Wendy Pullan will consider cities that have experienced prolonged and intense levels of conflict and will ask if they are qualitatively different from other urban centres that are not characterised by such strife. In doing so, she will question what sort of spatial qualities may be attributed to cities in conflict. Pullan is Senior Lecturer in the History and Philosophy of Architecture at the University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on meaning and change within urban conditions, both historical and contemporary. She directed the ESRC funded ‘Conflict in Cities: Architecture and Urban Order in Divided Jerusalem’ project and is the Principal Investigator for ‘Conflict in Cities and the Contested State’, a research project which focuses on divided cities as key sites in territorial conflicts over state and national identities, cultures and borders.

Plenary Session 3 featuring Michele Lamont and Miguel Centeno

Drawing on collaborative research, Michele Lamont’s plenary will contrast strategies for responding to stigmatisation across national contexts and discuss their impact on group boundaries in Brazil, Israel, and the United States. Lamont is the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and Professor of Sociology and African and African American Studies. A cultural sociologist, Lamont specialises in the sociology of inequality, race and ethnicity, the sociology of knowledge, the sociology of higher education, sociological theory, and comparative and qualitative sociology.

Miguel Centeno’s talk will focus on the decade-long call to de-center national territory as the exclusive geographical unit of work on nationalism, applying this insight to the specific case of the United States. Centeno is Professor of Sociology and International Affairs at Princeton University. Starting out as an expert in Latin America, his more recent work has focused on various aspects of globalisation such as global flows, the legacies of empire, but also current events like the Arab Spring.

The conference will also feature three interactive workshops:

“Avoiding ethnicity through boundaries and categories” with Professor Michael Banton and Dr. Jon Fox (University of Bristol)

The aim of this workshop is to think about how it is possible to capture the variation in ethnicity found in the empirical world without imposing it where it is not. Two fruitful approaches will be explored: one premised on ethnic boundaries, and the other on ethnic categories. The first focuses on processes of boundary maintenance that produce and reproduce ethnicity; the second on cognitive habits and practices that invoke and confirm an ethnic view of the world.

“Ethnic’ boundaries in complex conflicts: assessing concepts and theories in practical research. Northern Ireland and beyond” with Professor Jennifer Todd (UCD), Dr. Andrew Finlay (TCD) and Dr. Duncan Morrow (University of Ulster)

This workshop is intended to show how quite different theoretical perspectives on boundaries and identity play out in detailed analysis, in particular in the participants’ convergent interest and expertise on Northern Ireland.

“State borders and nationalism – difficulties analysing national borders: the Irish border as a case study” with Professor Liam O’Dowd (Queen’s University Belfast) and Professor James Anderson

There are at least two main approaches to issues of state borders and ethnic and national belongings. The first approach concentrates on a particular border and its relations with particular ethnicities or nationalities. The second approach focuses primarily on the general nature of state borders, their development and specificity, and their structural relations with wider questions of socio-economic development and democracy. This workshop will attempt to address these approaches by looking at some general historical and theoretical questions about borders.

If you would like to find out more about the conference, please visit the conference website here 

A more detailed conference programme can be found here

If you would like to attend the conference, please follow this link to register

If you have any queries about the conference, please email

SEN Editor’s Note: We are always interested in learning about future conferences on ethnicity and nationalism, so if you would like to feature your conference here, please get in touch with us by emailing

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