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Affective nationalism: bodies, materials and encounters with the nation in Azerbaijan


Militz, Elisabeth. Affective nationalism: bodies, materials and encounters with the nation in Azerbaijan. 2017, University of Zurich, Faculty of Science.

Abstract

This thesis unpacks the ways in which nationalism – understood as a feeling of national belonging and alienation – unfolds in moments of affective encounter between different bodies, objects and places in Azerbaijan. Focusing on the development of attachments and detachments to nationalising beliefs, corporeal experiences and everyday routines, rather than expanding on how narratives about the nation are represented, is relevant in times of a global trend to fight for the persistence of singular nations instead of dissolving national boundaries. Based on eight months of ethnographic fieldwork, consisting mainly of observant participation within families, field notes from attendance at public holidays and commemoration ceremonies and qualitative interviews conducted between 2012 and 2014 in Azerbaijan, the aim of the thesis is to explore the ways in which moments of bodily encounter perpetuate banal enactments and experiences of national belonging and alienation.
On a conceptual level, I combine feminist perspectives on Spinozist-Deleuzian affect with Lacanian psychoanalysis in order to develop my concept of affective nationalism – the banal affirmation of the national emerging in moments of encounter between different bodies and objects. I propose to examine the emergence of affective nationalism in Azerbaijan through an in-depth analysis of four processes: embodying nationhood, orienting different bodies and objects across national space and time, binding these oriented bodies and objects together and persisting desires to identify with the nation.
On a methodological level, I experiment with an affective methodology that attempts to approach the contingencies, potentialities and elusiveness of affective nationalism. Through an autoethnographic research approach I advance the method of affective writing that intends to presence, rather than present, research material and remains open for continuous encounters and the emergence of bodies, objects and places constituting nationalisms.
On an empirical level, my research in Azerbaijan shows that, independent of elite-led nation- building propaganda, people in Azerbaijan feel invested and thus enjoy their national identifications through performing specific national rituals, commemorating martyrs or relating to the brother nation Turkey. Encounters with corporeal practices emerging through national folk dancing or through cultivating physical beauty ideals turn bodies into national bodies. The appropriate enactment of nationalised ideals of female dancing and female corporeality, promises feeling national belonging. Beyond a shared somatic pleasure in celebrating holidays and in encountering cultural customs, collective intensities of feeling pain and pride in remembering historical killings merge different people in contemporary Azerbaijan into experiences of national community. Despite past tragedies and the felt incompleteness in identifying as Azerbaijani, people continue to enjoy their experience of national identification. Especially the emergence of Turkey as the national other engenders an enduring happiness of identifying with Azerbaijan.
The thesis advances geographic scholarship on nationalism by suggesting to study nationalism not as a given, but as a potential and an emergent experience of living in a world divided into different nations. I propose to focus on moments of bodily encounter, on bodies’ different capacities to affect and to be affected and on the spatial and temporal contextualities of national becomings, if we want to understand the persistence of nationalism.

Abstract

This thesis unpacks the ways in which nationalism – understood as a feeling of national belonging and alienation – unfolds in moments of affective encounter between different bodies, objects and places in Azerbaijan. Focusing on the development of attachments and detachments to nationalising beliefs, corporeal experiences and everyday routines, rather than expanding on how narratives about the nation are represented, is relevant in times of a global trend to fight for the persistence of singular nations instead of dissolving national boundaries. Based on eight months of ethnographic fieldwork, consisting mainly of observant participation within families, field notes from attendance at public holidays and commemoration ceremonies and qualitative interviews conducted between 2012 and 2014 in Azerbaijan, the aim of the thesis is to explore the ways in which moments of bodily encounter perpetuate banal enactments and experiences of national belonging and alienation.
On a conceptual level, I combine feminist perspectives on Spinozist-Deleuzian affect with Lacanian psychoanalysis in order to develop my concept of affective nationalism – the banal affirmation of the national emerging in moments of encounter between different bodies and objects. I propose to examine the emergence of affective nationalism in Azerbaijan through an in-depth analysis of four processes: embodying nationhood, orienting different bodies and objects across national space and time, binding these oriented bodies and objects together and persisting desires to identify with the nation.
On a methodological level, I experiment with an affective methodology that attempts to approach the contingencies, potentialities and elusiveness of affective nationalism. Through an autoethnographic research approach I advance the method of affective writing that intends to presence, rather than present, research material and remains open for continuous encounters and the emergence of bodies, objects and places constituting nationalisms.
On an empirical level, my research in Azerbaijan shows that, independent of elite-led nation- building propaganda, people in Azerbaijan feel invested and thus enjoy their national identifications through performing specific national rituals, commemorating martyrs or relating to the brother nation Turkey. Encounters with corporeal practices emerging through national folk dancing or through cultivating physical beauty ideals turn bodies into national bodies. The appropriate enactment of nationalised ideals of female dancing and female corporeality, promises feeling national belonging. Beyond a shared somatic pleasure in celebrating holidays and in encountering cultural customs, collective intensities of feeling pain and pride in remembering historical killings merge different people in contemporary Azerbaijan into experiences of national community. Despite past tragedies and the felt incompleteness in identifying as Azerbaijani, people continue to enjoy their experience of national identification. Especially the emergence of Turkey as the national other engenders an enduring happiness of identifying with Azerbaijan.
The thesis advances geographic scholarship on nationalism by suggesting to study nationalism not as a given, but as a potential and an emergent experience of living in a world divided into different nations. I propose to focus on moments of bodily encounter, on bodies’ different capacities to affect and to be affected and on the spatial and temporal contextualities of national becomings, if we want to understand the persistence of nationalism.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Dissertation (monographical)
Referees:Müller Martin, Secor Anna, Korf Benedikt
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
UZH Dissertations
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Place of Publication:Zürich
Date:2017
Deposited On:14 Feb 2018 16:33
Last Modified:07 Apr 2020 07:08
Number of Pages:168
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Related URL. An embargo period may apply.
Related URLs:https://www.recherche-portal.ch/permalink/f/5u2s2l/ebi01_prod011029861 (Library Catalogue)

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