A – Minorities, national belonging, and state-building

“Primitive” people in nation-states and empires: Global patterns of inclusion and exclusion

Event Details

  • Date

    Thursday, 25 June - 13:00 – 15:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    A – Minorities, national belonging, and state-building
Convenor
  • Francesca Fuoli (University of Bern)
  • Christof Dejung (University of Bern)
Commentator
  • Christof Dejung (University of Bern)
Chair
  • Francesca Fuoli (University of Bern)
Panelists
  • Francesca Fuoli (University of Bern)
  • Christof Dejung (University of Bern)
  • Franz L. Fillafer (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
  • Elisabeth Leake (Leeds University)

Papers

  • Francesca Fuoli
    Mountain people and bandits in Italy and Eritrea: primitiveness, marginalisation and exclusion across the metropole-colony divide

    Mountain people and bandits in Italy and Eritrea: primitiveness, marginalisation and exclusion across the metropole-colony divide

    During the 19th century administrations in both European nation-states and overseas empires developed remarkably similar ideas and understandings of the mountain peoples inhabiting their territories. Across the globe, these descriptions entailed both ideas of mountain people as primitive, backward and rebellious and idealised them as the archetypical noble savage. In the same period, mountain areas were becoming sites of increased state intervention and regulation as both nation-states and empires were stepping up their territorialisation processes and consolidating their administrations. Their encounter with these mountain areas led to increased state intervention, violence and regulation. At the local level, as Eric Hobsbawm has shown in his studies on social banditry, these encounters often developed into movements of social protest that manifested in banditry, millenarian movements and different forms of outlawry. State and colonial administrations resorted to ad hoc legal and administrative strategies to single out and manage these populations, for example the Indian Criminal Tribes Act (1871) or the Frontier Crimes Regulations (1887). This paper engages these processes from a comparative and connected perspective that links post-unification Italy and the first Italian colony of Eritrea. It looks at how the shared narratives of mountain people found in Europe and empire s converged in comparable forms of practices of state exclusion and marginalisation of hill populations both in Italy’s Apennines region and the Eritrean highlands. This paper argues that an approach linking these mountain peripheries across continents can offer a crucial opportunity for re-thinking these processes as connecting rather than dividing metropole and colony and moving beyond the standard divisions of race, religion, class and region.
  • Christof Dejung
    Primitiveness and Sovereignty: Conceptions of Temporality in Anthropology and Folklore Studies in Germany (1850s-1930s)

    Primitiveness and Sovereignty: Conceptions of Temporality in Anthropology and Folklore Studies in Germany (1850s-1930s)

    In this paper, I argue that in late nineteenth and early twentieth century European societies, claims for territorial sovereignty and social power were closely interlinked with particular notions of temporality. By looking at Germany as an exemplary case, the paper examines how notions of ‘backwardness’ and ‘primitiveness’, initially used by urban elites to legitimate colonial expansion and metropolitan predominance, could be redefined in order to become the foundation of both regional and national traditions. This was possible because the contemporary concept of ‘primitiveness’ involved two contradicting implications: On the one hand, it could be used within metropolitan centres for justifying the dominance of backward peripheries in the colonies and the European hinterland; on the other hand, it could be used to refer to timeless traditions and hence support regional and national quests for identity. This paper examines these ever-shifting implications of primitiveness by focusing on the emerging disciplines of anthropology and folklore studies, which were closely interrelated until the late nineteenth century. What did it mean that many anthropologists examined both, domestic and colonial peoples with the same methodology? And why were these ties gradually loosened at the turn of the century and why were folklorist examinations of domestic cultures increasingly integrated into national and regional historical narratives? The paper focuses on the modes of temporality which justified the dissociation between the two disciplines and explores in how far it was accompanied by an increased importance of racial theories in anthropological research. In particular, by analysing the different implications of primitiveness and by examining the sociopolitical processes involved, the paper analyses what was described as ‘inventions of tradition’ by European social historians on the one hand and the ‘othering’ of non-European civilisations studied by global historians and postcolonial scholars on the other within one field of analysis.
  • Franz L. Fillafer
    Global Villages: Communes as Nodes of Inter-Imperial Social Reform in the Nineteenth Century

    Global Villages: Communes as Nodes of Inter-Imperial Social Reform in the Nineteenth Century

    The village community, an apparently arcane and stodgy special subject of nineteenth-century ethnographers and erudites, reveals a fascinating, origami-like foldout of connective histories. It is these histories that the present paper seeks to recover. The commune possessed two distinctive features: the peasants’ co-proprietorship and regular redistribution of all arable land as well as their egalitarian self-governance. My contribution tries to unravel the status of the village community as a nineteenth-century phantom space: A social utopia that was colonized by competing political ideologies, it served as a conceptual interface that connected remote corners of the planet. The village community permitted its users to forge connections between e.g. India’s present which was modelled after the social organization of the ancient Saxons and became a blueprint of Ireland’s desired future of communal property-holding, while German responses to French utopian socialism came to shape legislation on co-proprietorship in imperial Russia.
  • Elisabeth Leake

Abstract

Which patterns of inclusion and exclusion determined ‘primitive’ peoples’ place in nation-states and empires in Europe and non-European areas such as Asia and Africa? This panel will engage with the role these communities played both in the process of state-building and the forging of national narratives. Rural and mountainous peripheries have been pinned as political and social constructs that elicited their own categories of knowledge and collective action (Debarbieux and Rudaz 2015). Their inhabitants have been seen both as bearers of a fundamental alterity to metropolitan populations and as personifying the collective identity of the nation as a whole. These people have been described as barbarians and primitives, lacking the fundamental characteristics to partake in ‘modern’ societies. In the construction of the nation, mountain people have been taken as bearers of national identity in countries such as Italy and Switzerland (Armiero 2011; Purtschert 2015). At the same time, the characteristics attributed to ‘primitive’ people have transcended the bounds of metropole and colony (Stoler and Cooper 1997). The peasantry and Alpine mountaineers have been compared to colonised people found in European empires, thus framing anew the debates around racial differences and social class (Hall 2002; Schär 2012). What is more, recent work on the transfer of legislative codes within the British empire and beyond has shown that mountain areas were subjected to similar forms of legal and administrative exclusion implemented in far-flung places such as the United States and Afghanistan (Hopkins, forth.). This panel will engage with these debates by approaching ethnic, linguistic, religious minorities and social, political outlaws found in peripheral areas from a perspective that highlights their global connections and similarities. The place of ‘primitive’ people is analysed in the framework of the changing understanding and forms of territoriality (Maier 2000), the expansion of European empires, the worldwide rise of the middle classes (Dejung, Motadel and Osterhammel 2019) that shaped the nineteenth century and the interactions that connected centres and peripheries around the world. In this way, the panel contributions will highlight how entanglements and networks that shaped the modern world originated along the world’s peripheries.