10 Feb 2012 5:00pm - 7:30pm CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge


Please note that registration for this lecture is now closed because we are at capacity. 

Public Lecture

Thomas Blom Hansen (Anthropology and South
Asian Studies, Stanford University)

Professor Blom Hansen will give the keynote address to the conference Nationalism and the City. His lecture is free and will be followed by a wine reception.

Ben Anderson begins his canonical book on
nationalism by describing the crucial sentiment it produces as one of deep
camaraderie with people one has never met, or will ever meet. Inhabiting the
nation is thus like inhabiting the city – living close to people who are
perfect strangers. However, rather than seeking a functional and causal
relationship between urban mass culture and nationalism, as Ernest Gellner
would have argued, I propose that nationalism gave shape and institutional form
to urban life because it provided a medium and categorical schema through which
urban life could be interpreted: some were friends and allies (sharing
language, color or religion), there were recognizable ‘others’ by way of
language, class, color or religion, and there were the real strangers in Simmel’s
sense, people who could not be assimilated into known categories and therefore
were regarded as dangerous and unsettling.

Drawing on examples from India and
Africa, I argue that nationalist and ethnic sentiments often were mobilized
against the perceived alienation and moral corruption associated with city
life.  National and cultural sentiments
became the moral force engendering a wide range of urban institutions – housing
colonies, clubs, associations, recreational activities, trade unions, political
parties – that in various ways addressed and ameliorated the problems and
consequences of urban mass society. Unlike Lefebvre’s idea that the ‘right to
the city’ is a sentiment and demand that emerges from shared life circumstances
in the city, I argue that when ‘the right to the city’ became an real
collective sentiment it was always/already captured within a nationalist
imagination and attendant ideas of majoritarianism and the rhetoric of
autochthony. Nationalism flowered in the city but more often as a divisive
factor than as a unifying force.

Places are limited. Please register via the link on the right.



The conveners are grateful for the support of The Centre for
Research in the Arts, Social
Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) and the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridge, and the Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism (ASEN).



Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk