Convening 25 May 2023 Boston College
Dublin Conference and Seminars 2023
Nationalism, Nation-Building, and the Decline of Empires
Dublin, Ireland

Dublin Seminars – 22-27 May, 2023 // Dublin Conference – 25-27 May, 2023

*** To participate in the Conference in personclick here and fill out the form.***

*** To participate in the Conferenc over Zoomclick here and register.***

***To view the conference program, click here.***

Nationalism, Nation-Building, and the Decline of Empires

Nationalism is reappearing on the international scene in acute and aggressive forms, despite decades of economic globalization, the development of a cosmopolitan culture, and supranational integration as in the case of the European Union and other centers of global or regional aggregation on the economic, financial, legal, and institutional levels. It is reappearing also as a reaction to these phenomena and is feeding political forms such as sovereignism and populism in Western democracies. This is leading to exclusionary forces, intolerance, racism, and the search for scapegoats within minority, foreign, and migrant communities. The ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine stems from Russian nationalism in its most extreme and radical forms arising from the collapse of the Soviet Union, heir to the Tsarist imperial system. Ukraine, like so much of Eastern Europe, lies at the crossroads of the decline of the three empires, Habsburg, Ottoman and Russian between the 19th and 20th centuries. The Balkan crisis of the 1990s with its civil wars and ethnic cleansing is part of the same cycle of events that followed the fall of communist regimes. The process of the formation of European nations suggests the usefulness of a comparative analysis of the history of these supranational imperial systems.

Europe seemed almost to have built up immunity towards conflict through unitary policies and a refocusing of identity as a continental aspiration rather than a nationalist one. However, destabilizing forces have taken root in Western society, plying nationalist ideals as a catchall cure for internal dissatisfaction and despondency. Nowhere is this playing out more evidently than in Russia, but the effects of this ideology can be spotted all over Europe and the world. Where there are no military wars going on, it is possible to identify another type of conflict, cultural wars, taking hold in the Western world, strengthening nationalist movements by manipulating religion and gender debates.

The conference will seek to provide structural, in-depth understanding of the way wars and the collapse of empires allow for the formation or strengthening of national identities and narratives, as well as the self-recognition of nations emerging from such processes in the global arena.

This project will seek to provide answers through high-level scientific insight and debate, involving, historians, political theorists, and philosophers to the following key research questions to be addressed in expert panels and seminars with young scholars:


_ How have different cultural, linguistic, ethnic, religious differences been managed during the different phases of empires, with particular interest in the Habsburg and the Ottoman cases? How do they differ from the Russian Soviet case, during and after their decline and at their end?


_ Can the concept of “Liberal Nationalism” really find an application in the European post-imperial context?


_ How do former colonies and new states perceive themselves and create national identity after colonization? How can this be harnessed to create a stronger (i.e., corruption-proof, solid democracy) Ukraine after the war.


_ Isaiah Berlin before ’89: “I can already see the list of the wars that will come out from the end of the Soviet Union.” A reality that he happened to call “the Soviet Babel”. Was this epilogue unavoidable?


_ How is this process defining and redefining new nations, new states (e.g. Italy two centuries ago, Greece and other cases in the 19th and 20th centuries?


_ What are the consequences of decline and end of empires on the very identity of the successor states and nations, like Austria , Turkey and Russia today? Are illiberal outcomes more likely than in other countries that have never lead an empire?


_ Is the Russian invasion of Ukraine the consequence of a “colonizing” imperial vision? What is the connection with the legacy of the Soviet Union and Russian history?


_Can this situation be compared with major cases of imperial decline and collapse?



The Seminars

The seminars will take place over the first three days before the conference (i.e. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) and it will include a two day conference. Sessions will take place over a full day (9am to 6pm).

If you are interested in applying to the Seminars, click here.


Organizing Partners

Reset Dialogues on Civilizations, Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme, the Clough Center for Constitutional Democracy at Boston College and Boston College – Ireland. With the support of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation – France Delegation.





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