The rise of ‘barbaric nationalism’ – 2018 Humanities Horizons lecture

World-renowned postcolonial expert Homi K Bhabha delivers 2018 Humanities Horizons lecture in Trinity

The rise of ‘barbaric nationalism’ and the global migration crisis was the focus of the 2018 Humanities Horizons lecture delivered by Harvard’s Professor Homi K Bhabha in Trinity College Dublin on Monday, September 24th, 2018.

One of the most important figures in contemporary postcolonial studies, Professor Bhabha has published numerous works exploring postcolonial theory, cultural change and power, contemporary art and cosmopolitanism. He is Professor of English and American Literature and Language as well as Director of the Mahindra Humanities C enter at Harvard University.

The Annual Humanities Horizons lecture is organised by Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute.

In the free public lecture entitled ‘Dignity in Distress: Thoughts on Migration and Mortality’, Professor Bhabha addressed the global migration crisis and its causes from the humanities perspective. He spoke of how discrimination and dishonour, the two faces of “barbaric nationalism”, have been mobilised to denigrate minority populations whether they are in flight or ‘at home’, and of how divisive ethno nationalism has been fuelled by leaders with utter contempt for democratic party-politics, who project themselves as pioneers of a mercurial ‘movement’ politics.

Drawing on real-life events and literary references, Professor Bhabha examined how, for today’s migrants and refugees, the very act of hope and survival, the decision to flee, can become a close encounter with mortality.

Speaking at the event Prof Bhabha said: “Discrimination and dishonour are two faces of barbaric nationalism mobilised to denigrate minority and marginalised populations whether they are in flight or “at home” — national, regional or international. Their dignity – as citizens, workers, members of civil society is arrested; and their humanity as parents and children, individuals and communities is relentlessly attacked. On the borders; on the streets; in detention centres and camps.”

Commenting on the state of world politics today he added: “Discrimination relies on a biopolitics of calculation and quantification to make its case for advocacy: quotas, data, statistics, numbers, ratios etc. Dishonour is a biopolitics of affect: anxiety, fear, death, destruction. You can imagine and ‘end’ to discrimination; there can be no formal closure to the informal indignity of dishonour. For all their brave talk, the line-up of inflated male leaders who dominate the world today – Putin, Trump, Erdogan, Modi, Duterte, Maduro etc. etc. etc. – are not politicians of charisma; they are politicians of miasma. And the political rhetoric of dishonour and humiliation operates to create the fog of war that emanates from their divisive ethnic-nationalisms as they rise in the guise of saviours to return to “the people” a sense of their true blood and primordial belonging.”

More about Professor Homi K. Bhabha

Professor Homi K. Bhabha is the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of English and American Literature and Language and Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University. Professor Bhabha is one of the most important figures in contemporary postcolonial studies and has published numerous works exploring postcolonial theory, cultural change and power, contemporary art and cosmopolitanism.

Homi K. Bhabha is the author of numerous works exploring postcolonial theory, cultural change and power, contemporary art, and cosmopolitanism, including Nation and Narration, and The Location of Culture, which was reprinted as a Routledge Classic in 2004. His next book will be published by the University of Chicago Press.

He is a member of the Academic Committee for the Shanghai Power Station of Art, and the Mobilising the Humanities Initiating Advisory Board (British Council), an advisor on the Contemporary and Modern Art Perspectives (C-MAP) project at the Museum of Modern Art New York, a Trustee of the UNESCO World Report on Cultural Diversity, and the Curator in Residence of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. In 1997 he was profiled by Newsweek as one of “100 Americans for the Next Century.” He holds honorary degrees from Université Paris 8, University College London, and the Free University Berlin. In 2012 he was conferred the Government of India’s Padma Bhushan Presidential Award in the field of literature and education, and he received the Humboldt Research Prize in 2015.