EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination
Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010
Elite groups, crisis and imagination
Location Rowan Room 221
Date and Start Time 27 Aug, 2010 at 11:30
'History', Pareto argued, 'is the graveyard of aristocracies'. In the midst of a series of unprecedented global crises, the old social and political orders appear to be on the retreat, swept aside by the reconfiguration of the world we live in at personal, political and moral level. Or so it seems. Of course Pareto- and later on Gramsci- knew too well that the emergence of a new social order, and more often the preservation of the old, relied on the problematic of double-sidedness, to a contested relation of political consciousness and moral passion between the elites and people that cannot be taken for granted but has to be cultivated deliberately in times of radical change. 'Imaginative acts' are key to the elites strategies for change and/or preservation of the status quo in times of crisis.
The convenors of this workshop invite papers that explore the practices and histories of specific elite groups, focusing in particular on elite responses to crisis through "imaginative" acts. How do elite groups respond to crisis? Which "imaginative" acts are elites integral to and what expressions do they take? In what ways do elite groups attempt to understand, reintegrate and create alternatives to crisis? How does an increasing globalisation, changes in forms of communication and means for intellectual activity affect elite groups and crises?
This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.
Maison du Brésil: a student house for the brazilian elites in Paris
This paper proposal presents some reflections on the Maison du Brésil. My aim is to analyze the meanings that characterize it as a Brazilian territory in Paris, as a temporary residence for brazilian elite researchers. It looks at the international circulation of students and researchers who live there and have an educational experience of multiple dimensions, while experiencing deterritorializing identities and there consequences in a residential space that is simultaneously public and private. Based on documentary analyzis and ethnographical fieldworks, I present some aspects of its history and daily life, specialy how the brazilianness is used to support the elite crisis of identities. I will focus on the "uses and abuses" of the nation and of the region, to analyze the particularities of established mediation of living in the Maison du Brésil, to the education and international insertion of some researchers.
The fragility of the elite: on the double-binds of higher education in Beijing
At Chinese elite universities instances of suicide are common. This paper seeks to explore the existential tensions that are tied to coming of age under the One Child Policy, which was introduced by Dengxiao Ping in 1978. This entailed creating an elite of talented individuals who could lead China into the first world. This paper intends to bring together the perspective of individual lives in crisis and the public realm struggling to reconcile Confucian values with ideas of development and progress. The paper argues that elite university students to some extent face a double bind, as they try to live up to the imperative of filial piety, in the form of respecting their parents as well as teachers and the state: while simultaneously seeking to appropriate ideals of becoming self-actualized and to realize their inner potential. The notion of double-binds is seen as tied to moral quandaries that are part of the human condition.
Elite power: in defence
The Franco-Mauritians, the white elite of the island Mauritius, established a strong position in the colonial times through their involvement in the sugar industry but have since faced numerous challenges to their elite position. They have a history of dealing with change and crises of decline and I have come to realise by closely analysing changes and elite reactions that for a better theoretical understanding of elite power we have to take into consideration that elites often do not initiate power struggles but apply their power 'defensively' in order to preserve their position. In the analysis of 'defensive' power, moreover, the elites' perceptions and imaginations of 'threats' require special attention: the Franco-Mauritian case shows that elites tend to imagine the slightest change as targeting at them and respond accordingly. The elites' imaginations and perceptions then determine their 'defensive' use of power and, consequently, influence the outcome of crises.
Imagination, crisis and narratives among Colombian officers: citizenship and history among the military elites
In Colombia the National Army fulfils its duty in the fragmented national territory. The existence of alternative sovereignties forces the Official Army to establish alliances with the local powers, weakening its constitutional identity: a military cohesive body in charge of the defence of the citizens. It is to say that the officers, the military elite, invent the tradition, invent the history of the institution in order to maintain the ideal compactness in a context that could be defined as a permanent exception state. The discourses of the Colombian officers, not only permit the survival of the Army but define the characteristics of the nation, the characteristics of the citizens. In their discourses the officers not only establish the mythical origins of the institution, the foundational heroes, the symbolic repertoire; they also define the meaning of Colombia, they define who the Colombian is, and who is the internal enemy. More in detail I will talk about: the foundational myths, the heroes that constitute the epistemological corpus of the Colombian army, the characteristics of the State Nation present in this corpus and the definition of citizenship derived of this 'picture of world' (Wittgenstein, 2003).
Imaginative acts and the Kolkata elite
Examining some historical cases this paper will discuss the imaginative acts used by elite groups in Kolkata in times of crisis, change and transformation. The Kolkata intellectuals have played a key role in social, political and cultural processes in Bengal and they have been exposed to recurrent and significant events, social conflicts formed in historical processes, external forces and micro-processes of social existence, turning the social arena into a contested terrain of meaning. The responses to those events have been various and dispersed. The imaginative acts and practices, formed in symbiosis with diverse forces, include dynamic and plural forms. Particular events take different expressions at specific points in time and space, producing different meanings and rich ambiguities. I will suggest that the imaginative acts used by the Kolkata intellectuals might be described as a rhizomic dynamic, "series of discontinuous potentials whose direction and speed vary unpredictably from moment to moment".
The structure of informal authority in Danish alternative community Christiania
In 1971 antiauthoritarian movements occupied an abandoned Danish military base in the center of Copenhagen and established so called alternative community Christiania. Christianites experienced their social lives in a context of a perpetual crisis situation. 40 years of conflict with the state authorities only have managed to produce multiple unsuccessful attempts to reach a legal settlement (the last one - the normalization law adopted in 2004). Hereby I am presenting and discussing an ethnographic case that will demonstrate how Christiania community first timer settlers operate as figures of informal but legitimate authority (local elite). I suggest that community old timers' imaginative acts have a necessary capacity to bridge abstract alternative ideals with concrete everyday realities. At the same time, these practices strengthen the internal rift between community new comers and old timers and the local political game in practice is about how to avoid conflicts.
This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.