Congress 2021

Scotland and Nationalism: cultural and political aspects of Scottish identity from the medieval period to the present

20th Congress of the Société Française d’Études Écossaises

Logis du Roy, Université de Picardie Jules-Verne, Amiens, 7-8 October 2021.
Organised by Dr. Clarisse Godard Desmarest: clarisse.godarddesmarest@u-picardie.fr

Confirmed speakers: Prof. Tom Devine, Prof. Ian Brown and Dominic Grieve QC

Scottish Parliamentary elections take place on 6 May 2021 and, in the event of victory for the Scottish National Party (SNP), there may be a mandate for a second referendum on independence. This quest for national political identity coincides with wider trends in nationalism, both cultural and political, and exhibits both parallels and marked contrasts with them: thus the question of how culture interplays with politics, in the context of nationalism, is both topical and controversial.

‘Cultural nationalism’ arguably seeks to present a coherent vision of a nation’s identity, history and destiny. It is often associated with social, cultural and political crises, and especially with the advent of modernity. In contrast to the medieval Church’s universalism, and the Enlightenment’s emphasis on rationality and cosmopolitanism, it was the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries which saw a resurgence of interest in historical and cultural particularity.

Cultural nationalism, and its relationship with political nationalism, has been intensely debated by historians and sociologists (including Ernest Gellner, Eric Hobsbawm, Terrence Ranger, Benedict Anderson, Hans Kohn, Miroslav Hroch, Anthony D. Smith and John Hutchinson).

We propose, here, to explore how and why cultural nationalism has (or has not) coincided with political nationalism in the history of Scotland. What are the historical roots of Scotland’s contemporary cultural and political identities? How have cultural and political expressions of ‘Scottishness’ developed over time? And how do they relate to Scotland’s constitution, administration and economy, past and present?

By looking at the relationship between political and cultural nationalism from medieval to contemporary times, this conference affords the opportunity for social, political and economic historians, cultural and literary scholars, and historians of art and architecture to engage in the discussion. Presentations might, for example, explore the following themes:

  • the origins and development of a distinct Scottish cultural and/or political identity;
  • the relationship between Scotland’s national identity and the identities of the UK and Europe, in cultural and/or political terms;
  • the ways in which Scottishness has been articulated culturally including in literature, art, architecture and heritage;
  • the relationship between literature and nationalism (MacPherson, Burns, Scott, Carlyle, Stevenson, Buchan…);
  • the relationship between Scotland’s sense of itself as a ‘narrow place’ and its wider cultural relationships with other parts of the British Isles, Europe and the wider world;
  • the identity of, and/or relationship between, Highlands and Lowlands in Scottish culture;
  • why (or whether) there was a distinctively Scottish intellectual culture, and its role within a greater sense of Scottish identity (e.g. Buchanan, Common Sense Realism and the post-war Scottish nationalist intelligentsia);
  • the relationship between Scotland’s economic development and its concern with national identity and/or autonomy;
  • the role of language in the formation of Scottish identity, including the relative status of, and relationships between, Standard English, Lowland Scots and Gaelic;
  • contemporary debates over Scotland’s political destiny, including relationships within the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the European Union;
  • the relationship between Brexit and the case for independence; and
  • the relationship between Scottish and other examples of nationalism, and the reasons for any convergences or divergences.

Proposals should be emailed to Dr. Clarisse Godard Desmarest (clarisse.godarddesmarest@u- picardie.fr) by 30 May 2021 and should include, for 20–minute papers: name and email address of speaker, paper title, abstract of 300 words and brief (three or four lines) bibliographical note of the contributor.