Ulf Hedetoft, Mette Hjort, eds. The Postnational Self: Belonging and Identity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002. 360 pp. $25.00 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8166-3937-3; $75.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8166-3936-6.
Reviewed by Aysegul Baykan (Yildiz Teknik Universitesi, Istanbul)
Published on H-Gender-MidEast (May, 2004)
Since the late 1980s, the literature on globalization has dominated the interdisciplinary scene of academic writing and issues of identity and politics of difference have followed suit. Social, political, and cultural matters pertaining to this interest range from the micro level affective nature of individual constructions to macro structures of international, transnational, and postnational orders. The Postnational Self: Belonging and Identity, edited by Hedetoft and Hjort, is an addition to this literature. The contributions to this volume are by prominent scholars who have been participating in the debates on aspects of these thematic issues for more than a decade. Given below is firstly a rough outline of the broad problematic of this volume and consecutively reviews of individual contributions.
The general backgrounds of the information age we currently live in, and the reorganization of the societies? articulations to this new order, are being speculated from various angles by most scholars and the public at large. Especially in the post-Cold War era, the re-configuration of the forms of governance of the already existing nation-states and new ones that emerged spurred an interest into various domains of analysis. On the one hand, matters of agency, subjecthood, and forms of structures and establishment of civil societies, and, on the other, the balance of power between different constructs such as civilizations and/or geo-political articulations that divide the globe into different spheres of influence have been analyzed from predominantly the perspective of culture. From an analytical perspective of spatial references, one of the levels of contestation has been the global domain at large and the nation-state in its particularity. The literature, in general, agrees that the relation between these two domains is dialectical. That is, the particular nature of the nation states are, performatively, responses and constructions vis a vis global dynamics of power, be it cultural, political, or economic.
Another spatial-analytical domain is the one that confronts the ?new identities,? ?differences,? minority cultures, and/or diasporic communities vis a vis a host-culture of nation states. Here, the problematic of defining the nature and boundaries of identity groups has resulted in an array of multiple discourses that contest the primordial and essentialist foundational basis of communal constructions from one end to the political and cultural emphasis on ?rights? to one?s own identity in confrontation to a majority culture and hegemonic power on the other end. The fact that these debates have become parts and parcels of the general networks of communications across the world has resulted in perceiving these claims to identities as global and transnational in field of operation. The dilemmas on the relationship between contested identities and the nation-states they are embedded in have led social theorists and political philosophers to reanalyze the historical and foundational nature of the nation-state from the premises of individual liberalism, republicanism, and citizenship. An identity between citizenry based on pre-politicalprimordial--ethnicity and a bounded system of nation-state is disputed on several grounds. On the premises of this non-identity, the question has become the ways and means of coexistence, the construction of one or many public spheres, or even of constitutional patriotism à la Habermas. The possibilities of social, cultural, and political rights within and without citizenship are viewed as challenges to redefining the claims to nationhood. The discourse on the post-national state or the naming of the present stage as post-national is based on these yet unclear questions.
A third spatial-analytic debate focuses on the identity of constructions brought about by the union of nation-states, such as the European Union. Here again, the issue of boundaries, the cultural identity, and the raison d?etre for supra-national bureaucratic and ideological unification is contested. More importantly, from the globalization perspective, against and with whom, the EU stands is contestable. Finally, the already questionable relationship of the immigrant populations? rights, compared to the status of the nationals of the member states, is contestable as, at this time, works for an EU constitution is under way.
Given this background, Hedetoft and Hjort have sectioned this volume on the postnational self into three: ?Nationalism and Postnationality,? ?Self and Community,? and ?Images of Home, Belonging, and Exile.? In their introduction, the editors question the concepts of home and belonging and how they are discursively constructed and imagined as driving either from ethnicity and culture (a pre-political and organicist approach), or as political and civic, therefore rational. Either way, belonging, they argue, is a contested field. During the national phase, the pre-political and the political levels coincided on the same community to accrue citizenship to members of a particular nation-state, whereas the postnational order separates ethnicity and identity. Belonging becomes a property of a rational kind of politics. Therefore, liberal and civic nationalism and cosmopolitanism go hand in hand with subjective demands for individual freedom, communal rights, and negotiated identities. Belonging belongs to various levels, national, subnational, and cosmopolitan, at the same time. However, Hedetoft and Hjort claim globalization itself is not a substitute for home and belonging, as one does not belong to the globe even as one supports responsibility for global issues.
The first section, ?Nationalism and Postnationality,? contains articles by Mark Jurgensmeyer, Ray Taras, Philip Schlesinger, John Hall, and Richard Jenkins. In summary, Jurgensmeyer?s contention is that globalization has undermined the secular nationalism of Western models and replaced it with ethno-religious nationalisms where identity and power are threatened. People of particular nations have feared and reacted to transnational and secular modernity and hence targeted the United States which, according to Jurgenmeyer, defends secular governments and stability of regimes. We have to make note that Jurgensmeyer would not have foreseen the war on Iraq but his model goes against the grain of the historical consequences of United States-led actions against secular nationalisms. As examples, we can count its role in the coup against the legitimate government of Mossadeq, which was trying to nationalize the oil industry in Iran in the early 1950s, in favor of the autocratic regime of the Shah, and the aid to Islamists in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. Contrary to this first article, Ray Taras argues for taking into consideration the multifaceted nature of the instability in the international order, from mass poverty to internal political conflicts and fragmentation of central authorities, rather than explaining it solely as consequence of ethno-religious nationalisms. His point is, U.S. intervention into international order is arbitrary, disfavoring nationalisms in certain cases and rejecting others. In one sentence, according to Taras, while in the bipolar world before the collapse of the Soviet Union the national conflicts were internationalized, ?in the post-bipolar world, a ?nationalizing? international system emerged? (p. 18).
Schlesinger in his article reflects on how the politico-communicative space in Europe has changed. On the lines of Habermas and Castells, he emphasizes the communicative networks in the construction of social cohesiveness and the informal processes leading to a political identity and a political culture for the EU. To the earlier space of the practice of democratic politics and citizenship identifiable on the basis of individual nation-states, supranational formations in the European Union look for communicative relations between the individual public spaces of nation-states. In other words, the European public sphere must be thought of as interrelated spheres of European publics. However, this does not result just on the principles of economic and political unification but through an idea of citizenship that transcends the level of member nation-states. Although, together with a small group of media and communication networks, groups of bureaucratic and business elites have emerged Schlesinger does not believe the EU has transcended the national spaces to become an identity above those nation-states yet.
The essence of the next two articles, by Hall and Jenkins, is a critique of a broad globalization view. According to Hall, images of belonging are imaginary not primordial and on that basis, strong transatlantic images of belonging are unfounded. Immigrants do long for their origins yet this is not the same as feelings of belonging. As in Canada and United States, the prevalence of multiculturalism does not support the thesis that the national culture in these countries is not homogenized around the idea of belonging. Jenkins as well, similarly, questions the adjective ?global? in explaining the formerly multinational now transnational corporations. In the corporate business environment, which in larger volumes take place among the core nations, and in certain institutional forms, a transnational culture emerges in ?meaningful international social networks?. However, Jenkins notes, percentage wise this is a very limited population when the globe is our reference.
The second part, ?Self and Community,? in this writer?s opinion, is the strength of this volume. The articles by Seyla Benhabib, Riva Kastoryano, Yasemin Nuhoðlu Soysal, and James Tully are on how to construe citizenship. While they contribute an analytical approach to claims of identity and citizenship membership, they provide insights towards new directions in social analysis. The minority groups in Europe, the immigrants and the diasporas, in the environment of host cultures of Europe?s nation-states underline authors? concerns, but their theoretical frame is well detailed in terms of applicability to other settings as well. Even in Europe, today, their arguments are cogent in the face of strict laws prohibiting religious scarves and other religiously symbolic items in public schools in France and with the decision to expel more than twenty thousand foreign residents from Holland. Benhabib aims to find an intermediate alternative to open-borders and universal human rights claims on one side and the civic republicanism with ?thick conceptions of citizenship? on the other. Given the ambiguous situation of the non-national inhabitants of Europe, the liberal democracy position of the European Union and the varying citizenship laws among the member nation-states open the space for further controversy. When citizenship is not a communitarian normative principle and is broken down into components of collective identity, political membership ,and social rights and benefits, the situation of foreigners becomes a differential of many factors. Do these groups act as communities, or subjects to rules as individuals? To which level do social rights belong? Are rights separate from identities they choose in terms of loyalties to country of origin? Do these loyalties exclude them from political participation and claims to membership? Benhabib seeks answers to these and similar questions. Kastoryanis also breaks the link between national sentiments and political identity and civic republicanism by positioning national identity separately from the rights to political participation. She argues that the supranational construction of the idea of European citizenship as a transnational identity, independently from membership to nation-states, is paradoxically exclusionary against the immigrant populations. This shows how the nation-states are still the basis of transnational experiences. Following on these lines, Soysal argues that membership to national community has become decoupled from rights, the latter becoming more abstract and transnational. As a consequence, citizenship is also decoupled from the national level, becoming a matter of practice at local and supranational levels as well. The practicing of civic rights of immigrants becomes focused on the rights to identity--existence as universal human rights principles--and occupies public space on those grounds.
Theoretically, Tully analyzes the important value of identity politics as a process of democratic engagement for citizenship rights, rather than seeing it as a source of social fragmentation. He presents a coherent yet detailed argumentation for explaining the meaning of subjective identity and its construction vis a vis other identities. Belonging, he says, is not a matter of a discrete end-product but the practice of recognition of each claim to identity even as they may be antagonistic. Furthermore, identities are not bounded but overlapping. Democratic principles have to be inclusive of all claims and have the sphere to reason its position, rather than building a homogenizing space against fragmentation.
Michèle Lamont and Michael Herzfeld offer not so much abstract principles of citizenship but more sociological findings on how particular nationals react to issues of identities. In her essay, Lamont cites the differences in attitudes between individual community members of United States and France, based on her study of sample populations. The processes of exclusion and inclusion work differently in these two societies. According to Lamont?s findings, the United States has weaker external boundaries and strong moral boundaries in denying social membership to blacks and the poor, constructed around the moral value of the work ethic. However, France has strong external boundaries and holds negative values against Muslims on the moral claim of universal values of the collective republican French identity. Herzfeld?s discussion is on the resurgence of neo-Orthodox religious identity in Greece. Here, in the process of modern nation-state making, classicism was presented as the source for the new identity, with disregard to religious elements of culture prevalent in the society, in order to put Greece more on the European direction, and to offer a more rationalized and ?Protestant? role for an official view on religion. Herzfeld suggests that there is a reversal in Greece in the direction towards neo-Orthodoxy in the last two decades.
The last section of the volume, ?Images of Home, Belonging, and Exile,? offers articles by Ulf Hannerz, Benjamin Lee, Orvar Löfgren, and Jeffrey Herf. Hannerz takes on the meaning of home, mainly in terms of the nature of defining home in contrast to what is away, and he presents the ways in which home is constructed away from home, in biterritorialized or multiterritorialized contexts. Hannerz also discusses how cosmopolitanism may be both aesthetic and experiential and political in terms of supporting political programs with respect to the cosmopolis at large. He, in addition, offers support to another perspective to cosmopolitanism, following thinkers like Martha Nussbaum and Kwame Anthony Appiah, as a general understanding and acceptance of differences and living with them while being ?at home.? Benjamin Lee?s piece, ?The Subjects of Circulation,? is a metatheoretical argument on the social imaginaries of flows of financial and technological systems, of people, images, and ideas. When in circulation, these imaginaries have a performative nature, with tropes to acquire semiotic values, which in fact enter into circulation. From images of nation states to citizenship, to capital, social imaginaries become objectified within circulation. In new semiotic spaces, in circulation, they attribute values to identities and new processes of globalization. In contrast to Lee?s article, Löfgren?s narrative on the anxiety of border crossing directly faces one?s own memories and experiences of similar contexts, whereby home and abroad is designated value. With the emergence of practices of issuing passports and visas, countries have contributed to nationalizing spaces across borders and attributing values to border crossers as nationals, foreigners, or even undesirables. Technologies of border crossings and symbolic signs also contribute to the territorialization of culture, history, and identities. In the final essay, Jeffrey Herf discusses the reasons behind the ways West Germany came to terms with the memory of the Holocaust, going back to the 1950s, whereas there was a deliberate avoidance in the East, in the German Democratic Republic. The reasons lie, according to Herf, in how in the Federal Republic of Germany, under the guidance of conservative Christian Democrat Konrad Adanauer, a supranational, pro-liberal, individual rights discourse attempted to override the nationalist premises--whereas, in the GDR, the evil of fascism became a generalized concept and its victims were also constructed in the same manner, with emphasis on patriotism and antifascism.
The Postnational Self is a volume that deals with the uncertainties of the contemporary world where issues of nationalism and globalization are debated on more specific forms of postnationalisms and supranationalisms. The controversy regarding globalization is salient, but nevertheless contested as well in certain articles. The theoretical and conceptual framework around the problematic of citizenship is especially strong. Unfortunately, this book does not offer a satisfactory approach to interpret the nature of social and political events that have taken place since its date of publication. Namely, what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the ongoing fight between the Palestinians and Israel are of significant importance to understand the reordering of the globe among sources of power and transnational alliances, as they aim towards making new selves of belonging and identity. The enlargement of the European Union and hence the increasing complexity and variation among the members have also led to new questions regarding the feasibility of constructing supranational identities in such a union.
Having read this volume, one wishes to read more, but this time with an approach that would focus more on the particular yet similar problems that face societies of the South, as much as those of the North. This is not to claim that they are different, but there are more particularly significant dilemmas that the societies of the South face in matters concerning the making of the subjects of nations and societies, and theory might be able to write itself there first based on given histories and social structures. Overall, this volume offers a good addition to the subject as it offers insights to start debating similar problematics.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-gender-mideast.
Aysegul Baykan. Review of Hedetoft, Ulf; Hjort, Mette, eds., The Postnational Self: Belonging and Identity.
H-Gender-MidEast, H-Net Reviews.
Copyright © 2004 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.