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Summary: The four short pieces by the French-Bulgarian linguistic theorist and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva that are collected here reflect upon "the ups and downs of the identity struggle that human beings have been waging forever, [a struggle that has] lost its ideological masks and is being carried out protected only by the shield of origins" (1-2). In other words, the shields now borne by the combatants (which means all of us, to one degree or another) are those of nation and nationality. Together, these four pieces constitute Kristeva’s part in a dialogue with the French anti-xenophobia group SOS Racisme and its founder, Harlem Désir.

In "What of Tomorrow’s Nation?", the introductory essay written expressly for the English translation, Kristeva argues that fiercely local nationalism, on the one hand, and free-floating cosmopolitanism, on the other, are a pernicious dualism that we can only transcend by facing up to our origins, thinking our way through them, and then positioning ourselves at the crossing of boundaries. The essay briefly considers American and British attitudes to nationality before embarking on an examination of the concept of French nationality and the degree to which "nation" is a gendered category.

In an "Open Letter to Harlem Désir" of February 1990, Kristeva contemplates what an optimal definition of the national would be. She believes that its seed is to be found in Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws, where the concept of an esprit general is elaborated—a "general spirit" that is based on (i) historical identity, (ii) the layering of many constitutive elements, and (iii) the innate capability of reconceiving itself in broader and more inclusive terms.

The occasion for the third piece, "The Nation and the Word," was the centenary of Charles de Gaulle. Kristeva sees de Gaulle as having "concretized" the field of the political in terms of the nation. Through sheer rhetorical brilliance ("the Word") and an essentially symbolic vision, de Gaulle, she says, managed to unload an empire, defy both the Cold War blocs, and reinforce France’s commitment to a contractual, political conception of itself.

The last piece is an interview with Kristeva concerning her first novel, The Samurai. The interviewer draws out Kristeva on the novel’s account of French intellectual life between 1965 and 1990, and on her literary treatment of the theme of the eternal identity struggle.

Note to the potential reader of the book: The translation suffers from several syntactic errors. [Tom Donahue]


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Summary: This book, a work of literary and cultural theory, bases itself on the assumption that nationalism is narrative, and that assumption’s corollary: that national narratives propose and articulate "a rhetoric of the nation at the same time that they propose and enact a grammar of the nation" (11). From these postulates, Mary Layoun scrutinizes nationalist discourses and their figuring of liminality and boundaries, their dependence upon gendered concepts and categories, their dualistic views of citizenship and inclusion/exclusion, and their relations to capitalism.

Layoun uses novels, poems, film, and personal testimonies to analyze the nationalist discourses that arose in three historical-geographical conjunctures: (i) the forced exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey in the years after the First World War, (ii) the fallout from Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974, and (iii) the Palestinians’ expulsion from Beirut after Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. In her account of the Aegean resettlements, Layoun pays special attention to the contradictions involved in the forcible transfer of Asia Minor "Greeks" to a "national homeland" with whose residents they had almost nothing in common beyond the Greek Orthodox religion; she analyses their testimonies of their reluctance to leave the coastal towns they had shared with the Turks whom others had called their "national enemies." In her account of the sorrows of Cyprus, Layoun’s theme is the gendered purity of the category of the nation among both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and "the specific metaphorization of the nation and national land in the pure and virtuous body of a woman" (121). In her account of the sufferings of the Palestinians, Layoun takes up the question of what it means for a nation to have an inside and an outside, particularly when, as in the Palestinian case, it doesn’t (or didn’t, anyway) have any territory to speak of. (This chapter contains a particularly sensitive and insightful reading of Michel Khleifi’s 1987 film Wedding in Galilee.) The final chapter links all these themes together in a consideration of the antinomies of national citizenship and capitalism’s role in creating them: Layoun’s reflections lead her to the provocative conclusion that nations and their boundaries in some sense depend on continual crisis. [Tom Donahue]


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Summary: This book articulates and defends an approach to the dilemmas of multicultural, multiethnic, and multinational politics that is grounded in Judith Shklar’s "liberalism of fear." Jacob Levy takes the liberalism of fear to be "a liberalism which is centrally concerned with preventing political violence, cruelty, and institutional humiliation" (16). On the assumption that multicultural politics is an important source of such evils, Levy argues (i) that the liberalism of fear must incorporate an abiding concern for the dynamics of such politics, and (ii) that the resulting "multiculturalism of fear" offers a normative theory of cultural conflict that is superior to more idealistic multicultural theories, such as those committed to recognition, rights, or consociationalism.

Chapter 1 describes and defends the multiculturalism of fear, emphasizing its commitment to realistic thinking about the durability of cultural identities. Chapter 2 considers four dangers arising from cultural pluralism: forcible inclusion of minority groups into the majority group; forcible exclusion of minority groups from citizenship and the protection of the state; internal cruelty, i.e. attempts by leaders of minorities to prevent members from assimilating to other groups; and the pariah status of those who leave their ancestral communities. Chapter 3 argues that all universal theories of nationalism are irredeemably flawed, because national membership is neither intrinsically good nor intrinsically bad. Chapter 4 attempts to disentangle cultural pluralism from moral pluralism, arguing that the one does not instantiate the other, and that cross-cultural judgments, while sometimes dangerous, are not morally incoherent. Chapter 5 expounds a classificatory schema for different cultural-rights claims and uses the tenets of the multiculturalism of fear to evaluate the reasonableness of such claims’ being made into exemptions from laws. Chapter 6 examines three different modes of incorporating minority legal systems into a state’s dominant system, and considers which is most likely to promote intercultural interaction. Chapter 7 engages the problem of accommodating aboriginal conceptions of land within liberal societies. Chapter 8 turns a critical eye on symbolic ethnic politics, arguing that, since symbolic politics are ill-suited to compromise, a liberal society must seek to limit any such activity that would lead to humiliation. [Tom Donahue]


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