Book presentation and discussion:
Nation Building and Identity in the Post-Soviet Space: New Tools and Approaches
edited by Rico Isaacs and Abel Polese
Abel Polese, Tallinn University
Since its first uses in the sixties, nation-building has remained at the centre of debates in a variety of social science disciplines. In spite of initial strong critiques, the concept has survived to our days and there is a widespread consensus that a national identity can be fostered by a number of actions. What remains to be debated, however, is the role and relevance of a number of actors in national identity construction. Having acknowledged the existence of a variety of nation building approaches, current debates concentrate on “who really builds the nation”. Scholars have explored a myriad of actors potentially influencing national identity, from national political actors to unaware or unconscious efforts to seek for coherent narratives in what Billig has defined as banal nationalism. What most of these efforts have in common is the attempt to, partly or totally, outplay one another, this leading to two extreme positions. One, by supporters of top politics, is that micro process can be neglected in the study of national construction. The other, coming from critical scholars suggesting a considerable gap between how things should happen and how they happen in theory.
The seminar will open with a presentation by Abel Polese, who will introduce a discussion on what is, and will be, nation-building and why it is relevant to a number of disciplines. He will present the idea of the book and how the volume came to be conceived in this way. The audience will be invited to discuss the relevance of the topic and the approach and share their ideas about possible approaches to the study of identity and nation-building. Viacheslav Morozov will then sum up the discussion in his concluding remarks.