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Competitive Edges Symposium :
Culture, Nationalism & Migration

Saturday 28th March 2009
10.30am-5.30pm

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

Speakers: Femi Folorunso, Ronit Lentin, Sarah Glynn, Robbie McVeigh, Stephen Mullen

Introductions & Chairs: Owen Logan, Daniel Jewesbury, Alex Law

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?

 

BIOGRAPHIES

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

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 : the impact of neoliberalism on international development and patterns of migration.

Stephen Mullen - co-ordinator/researcher with GARA (Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance), forthcoming book provides an account of the role of slavery in Glasgow's history and formation of its urban environment, one which remains largely unacknowledged. Will consider the current 'Homecoming Scotland' media campaign, amongst other manifestations of contemporary 'Creative Scotland'.

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

Ronit Lentin - director of the MPhil in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Department of Sociology, Trinity College Dublin.

Daniel Jewesbury - artist & co-editor of Variant magazine

Alex Law - Lecturer in Sociology at University of Abertay, Dundee; research interests include Nation and Society, and Urbanism.

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.

 

PROGRAMME

10.30 am - 5 pm 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

10.30 am
Introduction
What do we mean by “Competitive Nationalism”? Critical perspectives on culture and commerce.
Owen Logan, photographer and researcher in the creative and performing Arts (University of Aberdeen)

10.40 am
Sarah Glynn
University of Edinburgh
Marxism and Multiculturalism

Current debate on multiculturalism has revolved around fundamental conflicts within liberalism, while political failures of multicultural policies are encouraging a more right-wing authoritarian reaction. Multiculturalism is in crisis, but the liberal hegemony has meant that the important and developed Marxist critique of the relationship between culture and social progress has been relegated to the historical margins. There is an irony here as multicultural theory itself originally grew out of developments within Marxism – developments that began as criticisms of emphasis but ended up rejecting fundamental Marxist principles. The Marxist debate starts from a very different perspective. Its focus is not on the rights of the individual or group, but on society as a whole. The contention of this research is that a re-examination of Marxist arguments and of their historical interpretations can throw a new light on issues today. An evolutionary history of the ideas is accompanied by an examination of how they were enacted in a geographical context that is continuing to make multicultural history: London’s East End.

11.10 am
Robbie McVeigh
James Connolly and the Dialectics of Scottishness and Irishness Reconstituting Racism and Sectarianism
Robbie McVeigh is a Derry-based human rights activist and researcher on racism and sectarianism, equality and human rights.

11.40 am
Stephen Mullen
Glasgow Anti Racist Alliance
The Kilt has many Colours

In this talk, the speaker 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. The speaker 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. Stephen Mullen - co-ordinator/researcher with GARA (Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance)

Lunch. 12.15 - 1.30 pm

Chair, Alex Law
(Lecturer in Sociology at University of Abertay Dundee whose research interests include Nation and Society, and Urbanism)

1.30 pm
Femi Folorunso
Multiculturalism in the age of neoliberalism and migration. 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. This presentation will focus on the interconnections between race, migration and international development.

2 pm
Ronit Lentin
This presentation develops the concept of 'interculturalism from below'. This idea is examined in relation to the perceived 'crisis of multiculturalism' and the Irish response to globalisation, migration. Ronit Lentin - director of the MPhil in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Department of Sociology, Trinity College Dublin.

2.30 pm
Summary Q&A
Alex Law

2.45 pm
Break.

3.15 pm
Cultural Freedoms: Discussion opening to the floor
Chaired by Alex Law and introduced by
Daniel Jewesbury (artist and co-editor of Variant magazine) & Owen Logan

Ends 5 pm

The symposium will be accompanied by RIB (Radical Independent Book Fair Project):
http://www.ribproject.org

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

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