Nationalism, Secession, and Deglobalization
6th Conable Conference in International Studies
April 20-22, 2017
Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
The object is too important, the spirit of the British nation too high,
the resources with which God has blessed her too numerous,
to give up so many colonies which she has planted with great industry, …
and protected and defended at much expense of blood and treasure.
– George III to Parliament, 1775
How do “nation-states” extract themselves from global geopolitical entanglements? What conditions give rise to retraction, withdrawal, or exit? How do the many and varied contemporary economic, social, cultural, and legal manifestations of the globalized information age, on the other hand, impede nationalist, protectionist, and exceptionalist impulses? Why then do social or ethnic communities celebrate the rhetoric of deglobalization? In recent years, debates over exit strategies have gripped the public imagination and provoked unforeseen political challenges. Still debatable too is the older history of extraction, dating back at least as far as the anti-colonial and anti-imperial challenges of the modern era, if not further. Given this complexity, many new questions await our attention. Precisely how do nations undo treaty obligations? How are alliance-based and treaty-based “rights” rolled back? Can “sovereignty” be regained in a globalized political economy of mass migration? Can globalization be reversed?
Fantasies of deglobalization are at once both counter-hegemonic and obscure and ambiguous. Part of the problem with "nation-states" is that they instantiate a world from which one can exit, one where interconnections are severed and international co-constitution abandoned. An “exit” is sometimes offered as an alternative to “intervention,” but with a similar goal of resurrecting a status quo ante. Exit becomes a term one of the chief purposes of which is to mystify. But exits can’t erase or turn back; they realign existing ideas and practices. Exit from one domain foreshadows remaining within or even establishing interconnections in other domains. How then do we think about "exit" in an already and indeed always interconnected world?
Exiting a geopolitical context – such as a treaty body, empire, federation, or alliance – suggests either strategic or normative paradigms. Exit strategies may seek to save face, avert quagmire, or simply prevent further loss of “blood and treasure.” The hasty rush to invade Iraq has been heavily criticized for a lack of preparation and the failure to identify an exit pathway. Brexit is beset by confusion about timelines, deadlines, constitutional obligations, and shifting alliances. And the narrow British vote to leave the European Union has not only revitalized Scottish and Catalonian independence movements but it may have spurred secessionist momentum elsewhere, with further echoes in the form of renegotiating or dismantling “free-trade” deals. And yet contemporary exit movements also point to an inherent contradiction in globalization rhetoric and reality: if globalization is destined to accompany deterritorialization and transnationalization, do alternatives to geopolitical exit strategies exist that avoid recreating nations, ethnicities, or isolation?
The 6th Conable Conference will examine the complex and shifting terrain of “exit strategies.” Among others, withdrawals from alliances – such as France from NATO, or Pakistan from the British Commonwealth – were spearheaded by nationalist leaders and framed as political reprisal. Secessions from existing states – such as Croatia from Yugoslavia, Bangladesh from Pakistan, or South Sudan from Sudan – are sometimes the violent conclusion of decades of disequilibrium and discontent. Autarchic departures – such as Guinea’s 1958 vote to leave the Union Française or Southern Rhodesia’s unilateral declaration of independence in 1965 – have been interpreted as legitimate expressions of colonial resistance, or autonomous pronouncements of white supremacy. And growing resentment against “free-trade” pacts, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, pitting workers and activists against corporate lobbyists and multi-national interests, has provided openings for jingoistic, natalist, nationalistic, and neo-nationalistic political movements.
We welcome individual abstract submissions based on new, unpublished work from any and all disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives. 500-word abstracts accompanied by two-page résumé should be submitted electronically by February 1, 2017. Suggestions for complete panels should be emailed to BNL@RIT.EDU. Decisions will be announced by email February 15, 2017. Some support for travel may be available to advanced graduate students or junior untenured-faculty. Participants must bear costs of accommodation, travel, and a modest registration fee. Previous conferences have resulted in peer-reviewed publications.