Ethnicity, Nationalism and the Politics of Gender: ASEN Seminar Series 2012

By Durukan Kuzu, ASEN and ASEN Seminars Co-chair

The theme of ASEN’s 2012 seminar series is “Ethnicity, Nationalism and the Politics of Gender”. The overall aim of this seminar series is to scrutinize the relationship between the politics of gender, nationalism and ethnicity. It has been argued that gender inequality is inherent in nationalism as “all nationalism, tends to be conservative,” and ‘conservative’ often means ‘patriarchal’. This is partly due to the tendency of nationalists to be ‘re-traditionalisers’ and to embrace tradition as a legitimating basis for nation-building and cultural renewal. Civic-secular, liberal, and multicultural formulations of nationalism have been claimed in order to rectify gender inequalities, yet these formulations of nationalism have brought about new problems with respect to gender equality and liberation.  Seminar speakers are invited to discuss whether the civic/secular, liberal or a multicultural formulation of nation is able to promote gender equality.

Upcoming Seminars

Emeritus Prof. Mike O’Donnell: ‘Uncertain Masculinities: Youth, Ethnicity and Class in Contemporary Britain’ 

Wednesday, March 7th – 18:00 – 20:00   KSW.1.04, London School of Economics and Political Science

The talk will draw primarily on the research published in Uncertain Masculinities which focuses on how a sample of year-eleven boys from four London schools construct their masculinities, particularly in relation to their ethnicities. Reference will also be made to a later piece of research indicating that significantly different cultural values and reference points between a small sample of Muslim and non-Muslim students exist. This point opens up into a wider argument that while difference should generally be respected there is a need for substantial inter-cultural communication to avoid misunderstanding, stereotyping and social fragmentation.

Dr Joanna Michlic: ‘Symbolic Categorization of Dedicated Christian Polish Women Rescuers as Outcasts, and its Everyday Practices in Polish Society During and After the Second World War.’

Wednesday, March 14th – 18:00 – 20:00   KSW.1.04, London School of Economics and Poltical Science   

It is recognized that anti-Jewish prejudices played an important role in the formation of modern Polish national identity and nationalism. Starting in the late nineteenth century, anti-Semitic attitudes and practices were not only directed against members of the Polish Jewish minority, but also against those members of the ethnic Polish community who the ethno-nationalists symbolically categorized as “Jews,” “Jewish uncles,” and “Jewish saviors”.  This talk considers the history of symbolic categorization of dedicated Christian Polish female rescuers as “Jews,” during the Second World War and its aftermath, by members of their local communities who disapproved of their rescue activities, arguing that the rescuing of Jews “served against Polish interest.” It focuses on the discussion of emotional communications and everyday practices that categorized ethnic Polish female rescuers as “Jews” and “Jewish aunts,” and the impact of these categorizations on the rescuers’ sense of social belonging.   Dr Michlic’s main argument is that the dedicated women rescuers constituted a rather atypical cohort within Polish society, and for that reason were marked as outcasts within their own communities, or in extreme cases, within their own families. By studying the everyday manifestations of the symbolic exclusion of the rescuers, we learn a great deal about the making of symbolic boundaries within society in which ethnonationalists employ anti-minority prejudice in discourse about national belonging. We also learn a great deal how these symbolic boundaries impact destructively on humanitarian action in time of war and genocide.

For information on how to get to LSE, please see:

For any enquiries about the ASEN Seminar Series, please contact:


Past Seminars

Dr. Michael Skey ‘National belonging and Everyday Life in Britain’ November 9th, 2011  

Why do nations matter? Debates over what it means to be English or British assume that such identities are important to people but is this really the case? And, if so, how are we to understand their significance, notably in an era of mass travel, global media, and international emergencies? In this thought provoking seminar, Michael Skey addressed these issues by examining the views of a group that has been overlooked in much of the recent literature; the ethnic majority. Taking as a starting point debates in Britain, and beyond, over immigration, multiculturalism and community cohesion, he explored how members of the ethnic majority in England discuss their own identity and place their concerns and anxieties, and in particular their relations with other groups.
Drawing on insights from sociology, cultural studies, social psychology and anthropology, Skey argued that different people within a given nation are seen to be more or less national than others and that those who are recognized as belonging ‘without question’ are offered an important sense of selfhood, agency, community, and security. It is for this reason that perceived challenges to the nation are often so vigorously resisted, notably during times of crisis or transformation.


Dr.Ruba Salih ‘Muslim women in Europe: Secular normativities, bodily performances and multiple publics’ – November 16th

At this event Dr. Ruba Salih  investigated the interface between the discourses of political actors about the abstract category ‘Muslim women’ and the micro-politics of Muslim women’s everyday life. Moreover, focusing on ‘Muslim women’, she also engendered a better understanding of how the secular and the religious co-constitute each other and how both secularism and religion shape particular subjectivities and communities of affection. Rather than considering the public as a site of rational deliberation (only), she argues for the need to include affective discourses and non-verbal, corporeal modes of communication into an analysis of how liberal, secular or religious publics are produced and operate.


Prof. Nira Yuval Davis ‘An intersectional gaze at nationalist projects: Women and Men of Particular Contexts’ – January 25th

In this event Prof. Nira Yuval Davis discussed the ways in which it is often not just women and men but women and men of particular intersectional social locations that are constructed in particular roles in nationalist discourses.

Podcast coming soon!

Prof. Anne Phillips, ‘The Rights of Women and the Crisis of Multiculturalism’, February 1st

This seminar considered ways in which debates about immigration and multiculturalism have shifted in Europe in last decade, and the curious role of the rights of women in this. It looks, as one exemplification, at the increasingly restrictive regulations on family reunification, often adopted with the declared aim of reducing the threat of forced marriage, and uses this example to explore issues of gender, culture and nation.

Podcast coming soon!

Prof. Michel Seymour ‘Peoples, Self Determination and Secession’ – February, 23rd

In this lecture, Prof Seymour first defended a plural account of peoples referring to ethnic, cultural, socio-political, civic, multi-societal, diasporic, and multi-territorial peoples. He also distinguished peoples from minority fragments of peoples. Then he showed that, on the basis of a liberal political philosophy, we are able to derive the existence of a right to self-determination for all peoples.  Seymour argues that we must, however, allow for a flexible and diversified application of the principle of self-determination. Depending on the context, we can allow for political representation, self-government, special constitutional status or secession. Finally, Prof. Seymour argued against the idea that peoples have a unilateral right to own a sovereign state even if they do not have a just cause to support their claim. He formulates a ‘just cause’ theory that steers a course between traditional nationalism and the actual popular versions of the remedial right only theory of secession.

Podcast coming soon!

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