Joep Leerssen, 2020 Laureate of the ALLEA Madame de Staël Prize for Cultural Values, is one of the most remarkable figures in the critical analysis of ethnic and cultural stereotyping. In this conversation with Laura Hood, he gave insights into image shifts and trends of European identities.
Europe is defined by its memories, and many of those are Romantic in nature – Romantic, because they speak to the sentiments and affects, and because they were created by the artists and intellectuals of the Romantic 19th century – Goethe, Sir Walter Scott, Victor Hugo, Pushkin. Romantic sentiment nowadays is still with us. It is carried by tourism and streaming videos, but new media still celebrate heroism in the service of the nation, the discovery of exotic lands and lifestyles, and the wholesome comforts of traditional ruralism.
Political Romanticism also continues to be strong: loyalty to one’s nation is an unquestioned and universally-accepted political virtue. Nationalism has proved the most resilient of the 19th century political doctrines. It shows its colours most stridently in ethnopopulism but is also present, in a diffused, “banal” form, in all other sectors of the political spectrum.
With its first public webinar, ALLEA explores a new platform for intellectual dialogue between experts and the public. This digital event will analyze how “feelgood nationalism” is still an important part of consumer culture, and as such forms an unobtrusive but pervasive presence in our everyday lives without which we cannot understand the contemporary forces of xenophobia and illiberal anticosmopolitism.