Everyday Chauvinisms

The Making of a Mentality in the Urban and Rural Life

Convenor: Pietro Saitta (University of Messina)
Contact: pisait@gmail.com 

A structural nostalgia, that is, in Michael Herzfeld’s words, “the longing for […] the primordial and self-regulating birthright that the state continually invokes”, is currently the political sentiment that appears to prevail in many countries. The working- as well as the middle-classes seem to share composite and contradictory sentiments that concern, among other things, the nation, its ethnic composition, the economy and the “sovereignty” of countries. But the list of contradictory aspirations that characterize our political present and the personal orientation of individual citizens is indeed endless, and it includes family and sexual orientations, immigration and race, guns and social control.

While these contradictory feelings, passions, and affects are aptly constructed, transmitted and nourished by a number of social and political actors, they are also continuously reinforced in the course of everyday interactions. There is, in other words, a “deep connection” between public discourse and popular feelings on certain matters. In fact, regardless of their social class, many people seem to share such sentiments and the aspiration to experience new forms of social cohesion based on nostalgia and aversion towards otherness. Beyond the media influence, thus, there is something in the current organization of social life that favors the emersion of these feelings  – probably what, with Bourdieu, can be called “the weight of the world”. That is, the experience and manifestation of a form of “social suffering”, linked to the quotidian, which produces insecurity, hatred, discomfort, fear, indifference, sense of loss, and the “political” need to direct aggression towards scapegoat figures.

The present call for papers, therefore, solicits contributions that investigate the making and the diffusion of a chauvinistic and nostalgic mentality in the life of communities. The urban areas as well as the rural ones, the middle classes as well as the new working classes, the private space of homes as well as the public space, should be at the center of ethnographic and qualitative accounts that reflect on the structural, ecological and cultural elements that shape certain feelings and generate visible and semi-visible forms of conflict in the social space. The proposed papers should pay attention to the intimate aspects of the process of construction of a chauvinistic mentality and put into connection different “worlds of life” (home, work, school, peer culture, media etc.) in order to show how different elements concur in creating authoritarian personalities and orientations as well as in constituting defensive forms of social cohesion that can operate in both private and public space.

Open Questions

- Are nationalism, chauvinism and jingoism truly related to class and material conditions, as many analyses suggest?

- If in the past ideologies were expected to offer consistent visions of the world, what are the aims that present political visions and pseudo-theories are expected to achieve today?

- If current academic social theories are often “assemblages”, what about the social re-assemblages of these same very ideas? In other words, how do ideas trickle from the top to the bottom and vice versa, being reinvented and re-signified by different social actors?

- What are the forms of “social suffering” in today’s world, and what different classes share in terms of oppression and fears? Are narrations of oppression and fear a way of creating and seeking social unity?

- Is indifference – namely, the silent acceptance by the majority of citizens of the arbitrary and selective processes that concede or deny basic rights to different individuals – a defensive tactic needed by some in order “to withdraw from the world”, a mark of impotence and “impoliticity”, or the sign of the substantial adhesion to a chauvinist political project?

- Is there a link between recent pedagogies and the emersion of a certain chauvinist civil character?

- If any, is this chauvinist civil character more complex, nuanced, and ambivalent than many current depictions would have suggested?

- Is there an esthetic of conformity that became prevalent in the public ethos (in opposition, or in paradoxical agreement, with the liberal principles of individuation)?

Keywords

Chauvinism, nostalgia, conformity, social cohesion/conflict, class, social change, social suffering.

Fields of Study

Political Sociology/Anthropology, Sociology of Emotions, Biographical Studies, Education Sciences, Symbolic Interactionism, Urban Sociology/Anthropology.

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