Between heritage and utopia: forging national identities

Charles La Shure (Seoul National University)
Start time:
24 June, 2015 at 10:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

National identities are often forged in the crucible of competing interpretations of utopia, reality, and/or heritage. This panel will examine the various ways in which the tension and interplay between such conflicting ideas shapes how people identify themselves as (imagined) communities.

Long abstract:

In any community, the creation of a communal identity invariably means conflict between the members of that community. These conflicts can be very pronounced when we reach the scale of nations; defined by Benedict Anderson as “imagined” communities, in the sense that it is impossible for each member to know every other member, nations are particularly susceptible to broad rifts in ideas and interpretations. The concepts of heritage and utopia are particularly useful building blocks in the construction of national identity, and the conflicting interpretations and applications of heritage and utopia play an important role in determining what shape this national identity may eventually take. The nature of these conflicts may be temporal, such as competing visions of an idealized past or future set against the fluid reality of the present; spatial, such as opposing conceptions of a given space and to whom that space belongs; or ideological, such as philosophies or worldviews competing for the hearts and minds of the community. While these interpretations may often be presented as literally opposing, such a binary view is merely a conceptual simplification of a complex reality in which everything may not fit neatly into one of two pigeonholes. Thus, in seeking to understand how conflicting interpretations of utopia, reality, and heritage shape national identity, this panel offers a nuanced and comprehensive analysis of these various threads and how they are woven together.