Monday, 16 March 2009

Competitive Edges Symposium : Culture, Nationalism & Migration

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Competitive Edges Symposium : Culture, Nationalism & Migration


10.30am - 5.30pm Saturday 28th March 2009

CCA (Centre for Contemporary Arts)
350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, G2 3JD
Event free but ticketed
Box office: +44 (0)141 352 4900


At the 2008 Lothian Lecture given in Edinburgh Professor Tom Nairn and Scotland's nationalist First Minister, Alex Salmond envisioned Scotland as a nimble nation "light on its feet" and "possibly out-smarting heavyweights". In many ways this idea draws upon Ireland's boom time image of the Celtic tiger. Given that nation states are not in fact mobile entities within the international juridical system of sovereignty, we aim to involve internationally acknowledged researchers, academics, writers and artists, who are engaged with the issues of globalisation, to explore what such ideas mean for culture and the arts, particularly in relation to identity and migration, and ultimately for the policies that shape culture.

This will be a vital opportunity for a wide range of people to historically locate contemporary cultural trends and to situate the politics and discourse of diversity in a comparative international context. We think it is particularly important to examine cultural policies in the context of uneven development and the phenomenal rise of the speculative international economy.

Historically, Scotland has experienced mass emigration particularly as a result of enforced rural 'improvements' in the 19th century. This has influenced the way the country imagines itself today. In 2004 the Scottish Arts Council held a major conference in Dundee, 'New Voices Hidden Histories', which created a debate about how mass immigration had also influenced the cultural landscape of Scotland and whether artists and arts organisations effectively represented contemporary Scottish society. One of the things that emerged from the conference was that the philosophical foundations of multiculturalism are vague and its politics potentially divisive or sectarian. As has similarly been described of contemporary multi-ethnic Ireland, 'multiculturalism' is a common linguistic currency which disavows everyday, institutional and state racist undertones in the name of racelessness. Far from promoting tolerance of cultural difference, orthodox multicultural policies have presented a number of paradoxes which work to harden territorialism and racism. Increasingly, the ideology of nations as lively corporate entities, such as 'UK PLC', appears to have no answer to the everyday experience of life in immobile unlimited states that do not enjoy an option for bankruptcy under international law.

Five years on, the issues raised in Dundee have been recast by the troubled progress of the Scottish parliamentary Creative Scotland Bill which, despite a confusing series of political twists and turns, still seems set to position culture closer to political and economic policies, possibly eroding the material basis of "the arms length principle" which informed cultural management after 1945. What is extremely unclear from orthodox multicultural ideas is how the complex values of multiculturalism will continue to function in practice: can there be a substantial critical relationship with the promotional model of culture that now informs cultural policy in many countries, and if so how successful would this be in relation to defending democratic rights and freedoms in culture? It is therefore especially timely to have the above symposium in Glasgow to comparatively explore how cultural freedoms and human rights might be upheld or eroded in the era of competitive nationalism.

Some of the key areas to be addressed are:

• the economic structuring of migration and national responses
• the policies that define 'diversity'
• the place of non-white academia
• development, sovereignty and citizenship
• cultural autonomy - communication or self-expression?

Speakers:

Femi Folorunso - works as arts development officer at the Scottish Arts Council. Prior to joining the Arts Council, he lectured in drama and cultural studies at universities in Nigeria and the UK. Femi continues to retain strong academic interest in drama and cultural theory as well as in cultural policy development. He is currently researching the disenfranchisement of immigrants under the neoliberal reconstruction of citizenship. His contribution will focus on the interconnections between race, migration and international development.

Ronit Lentin - director of the MPhil in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Department of Sociology, Trinity College Dublin.
['From racial state to racist state: Ireland on the eve of the citizenship referendum', Variant, issue 20, Summer 2004]

Sarah Glynn - Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Edinburgh and a Public Interest Research Fellow at the University of Strathclyde.

Robbie McVeigh - Derry-based human rights activist and researcher on racism and sectarianism, equality and human rights.

Stephen Mullen - co-ordinator/researcher with GARA (Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance) - will argue that there is romantic view of the ubiquitous Scot abroad, which is symbolic of the selective perception of Scottish history. In spite of sustained Scottish emigration to the Caribbean slave plantations from c.1650 onwards, this period is sometimes viewed through a deliberately obscured lens. Stephen will explore factors contributing to this national amnesia and illustrate implications for the national identity. The omission of the less glorious aspects of our history means there is an unacknowledged legacy of Scots emigrants. There are many tangible examples of this legacy in the Caribbean, although this is not reflected in the narrow scope and focus of the Homecoming programme in 2009. The Homecoming encourages the Scots Diaspora to return home to participate in festivities, celebrate the birth of Robert Burns and to revel in the achievements of notable emigrants. However, this legacy extends to more than pioneering inventions, whisky and golf. Indeed, the kilt has many colours.

Introduction:

Owen Logan - photographer and Research Fellow, University of Aberdeen. Owen works with the 'Lives in the Oil Industry' oral history project in the Department of History at the university, and is currently working between Scotland and Nigeria.

Chairs:

Daniel Jewesbury - artist & co-editor of Variant magazine
['The End of Tolerance: Racism in 21st Century Britain', Daniel Jewesbury, Variant, issue 32, Summer 2008]
Alex Law - Lecturer in Sociology at University of Abertay Dundee whose research interests include Nation and Society, and Urbanism.
['Social Capital and Neo-Liberal Voluntarism', Alex Law & Gerry Mooney, Variant, issue 26, Summer 2006]

For further information, please contact Variant:
t. +44 (0)141 333 9522
e. variantmag@btinternet.com

Or check the website for updates: http://www.variant.org.uk/events.html

This event is kindly supported by CCA.
http://cca-glasgow.com

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