Yesterday saw an opening session on the state of the subdiscipline, with individuals from various points inside/outside the subdiscipline (including yours truly) commenting on lower-case ‘p’s, capital ‘P’s, and everything in between. Yesterday also featured topic-specific workshop discussions as well as a keynote by John Agnew. Today there were paper sessions, methodology working groups, a publishing roundtable, and a concluding lecture on Human Security and Climate Change by Exeter’s Neil Adger.
John Agnew’s keynote built on his longstanding interest in Italian politics, and his paper focused on how ideals of nationhood often incorporate heterogeneity. Thus, for instance, Agnew stressed how the North-South divide in Italy is constitutive rather than disruptive of the Italian national ideal; the telling of jokes and reproductions of stereotypes about the north and the south, while seeming to indicate difference, actually construct a unity of understanding that is reproduced through the performance of defining internal difference. But several of us in attendance at the conference noted that while shared stories of difference may reproduce Italian national identity they also reproduce uneven power relations within Italian society. Would John’s vision of unity-in-difference, largely based on his study of the northern autonomy movement, have been the same if he had focused on the perspective from the South? The conference ended with the RHUL contingent (myself and Fiona Nash) making the train journey back to London.
Tomorrow I return to the US to obtain my UK work visa. Follow along as I blog my journey through the US Department of Homeland Security and the UK Border Agency.
— Phil S.