Forging the Nation: The Making and Faking of Nationalisms
Time of visit: May — June 2022
Ronald Grigor Suny is the William H. Sewell, Jr. Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Michigan and Emeritus Professor of Political Science and History at the University of Chicago. He was the first holder of the Alex Manoogian Chair in Modern Armenian History at the University of Michigan, where he founded and directed the Armenian Studies Program. He is the author of The Baku Commune (Princeton University Press, 1972), The Making of the Georgian Nation (Indiana University Press, 1988,1994), Looking Toward Ararat (Indiana University Press, 1993), The Revenge of the Past (Stanford University Press, 1993), The Soviet Experiment (Oxford University Press, 1998, 2011), “They Can Live in the Desert But Nowhere Else”: A History of the Armenian Genocide (Princeton University Press, 2015), Red Flag Unfurled: History, Historians, and the Russian Revolution (Verso, 2017), and co-author with Valerie Kivelson of Russia’s Empires (Oxford University Press, 2016). He has finished a biography of the young Stalin – Stalin: Passage to Revolution – for Princeton University Press and a series of historiographical essays on Stalinism and Soviet history – Red Flag Wounded: Historians, Stalinism, and the Soviet Experience – for Verso Books.
Current research project
The recent resurgence of nationalism, national isolationism and populism, and the problems facing transnational projects like the European Union have produced new questions that require new research and thinking about the latest turns in the history of the nation-form. Despite the constructivist turn thirty years ago, nations continue to be imagined as primordial and perennial, in which transient emotions and cognitive associations have been reified into national identifications for which people are ready to fight, kill, and die. Differences and boundaries between ethnic and national communities have been hardened to the point of being mutually exclusive, even hostile to those right next door.
At the Aleksanteri Institute, Professor Suny plans to conduct research and begin the writing of a book, Forging the Nation: The Making and Faking of Nationalisms, which involves several important case studies that illustrate different national trajectories, among them: the destruction of Ottoman Armenians and the making of the ethnonational republic of Turkey; the breakup of the USSR and the forging of new nations within emergent states, most particularly Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan; and the making of the Finnish nation within the tsarist empire, a nation created by patriotic intellectuals often of ethnic Swedish origin. In each case, the historical stories will be brought up to date in order to discuss the insights that might be employed to reflect on the American, European, and Asian populist nationalisms that currently appear to be on the rise. Professor Suny will explore how globalizing capitalism, and the uncertainties and instabilities it produces, affects societies that are (or imagine themselves to be) culturally homogeneous. Among the responses in many developed nations have been populist nationalisms (both on the Left and the Right), the rise of anti-liberal movements, the building of walls, and exclusionary politics.
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Markku Kangaspuro, Judith Pallot