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Project results

The new conceptual paradigm that project A5 had sought to investigate revolved around the links between royal dynasties and nation construction in the early modern and modern periods. The broader theoretical questions – How do royal-dynastic and nation forms converse with each other? Are there symbiotic dialogues between them that exceed the conventional assumptions of dichotomy and difference between monarchic and national forms of statehood? – were tested out through individual case studies on late medieval and early modern France, and late 19th and early 20th century China and India. From the very beginning, the individual members assumed that, notwithstanding the differences in their specific times and spaces of research, they could engage in fruitful dialogue about concepts of royalty, dynasty, empire, and nation. The A5 members regularly met and discussed as to how to define and utilize these concepts in their research, about what divergences there were with respect to these concepts of authority between the different societies that they studied, and what transcultural links could be discovered that flowed across social-geographical boundaries. These discussions proved to be remarkably fruitful. The specialists on China (Schneider and Büchsel) and India (Banerjee), for instance, found common ground in how late 19th and early 20th c. nationalists in both regions utilized dynastic concepts of territoriality, heredity, and ritual legitimacy to conceptualize emerging structures of national statehood in Asia. They also found it remarkably productive to study how the European exemplars of dynasty-nation nexus invoked by Asian nationalists had themselves evolved from, and been contested within, late medieval and early modern European settings. Fascinating parallels, for instance, were discovered between the organization of early modern French, and colonial-modern British Indian, spectacles of kingship, and thematic parallels were found between anti-royal disenchantment in Bourbon France and Raj India. The specialists on late medieval and early modern France (Wintz and Gander-Lauer) had productive discussions on how concepts of nationhood and the idea of the public gradually changed between the 15th and 18th centuries in Europe, discussions which in turn illuminated the fragmented and plural meanings of nationhood in colonial-modern Asia. The most important result was the discovery that dynastic concepts and nation structures have historically often been inter-dependent on each other, a discovery whose radical conceptual implications have often been obscured in existing scholarship (for instance, as classically discussed by theorists of nationalism such as Benedict Anderson). To further interrogate this discovery, a conference was held in Los Angeles in April 2012, in cooperation with UCLA and Prof Patrick Geary. The three keynote speakers presented results on France and Japan, China, and Afghanistan, which lent support to the research hypothesis of A5 about the dynasty-nation nexus. Graduate students as well as established faculty members who presented at the conference argued about the dynasty-nation symbiosis with respect to a fascinatingly diverse array of societies, ranging from late medieval and early modern Britain and France to 19th and 20th century Japan, Thailand, Morocco, Monaco, Spain, Brazil, and China. The members of A5 also presented their findings here. Through ensuing discussions, as well as through follow-up conferences and workshops attended by project members, and further intra-group conversations, it has by now become clear that the links between royal and national forms of authority constitute one of the most significant (and as yet, also least studied) arenas through which modern state forms have emerged. As such, an understanding of these links is indispensable to a comprehensive understanding of modern ideas of sovereignty, governance, politics, identity-formation, and even myth and theology. These links continue to have practical reverberations, whether in understanding Chinese territorial claims and political rhetoric, or Indian peasant politics and its regalized discourses, or European structures of monistic sovereignty and civic loyalty. The project has also highlighted how these reverberations are also transculturally linked to each other – modern Chinese or Indian politics can be better understood in entanglement with early modern European concepts of kingship; while early modern European ideas of nationhood, in their multi-layered and fragmented complexity, also get more illumination when studied in relation to 19th century Indian or Chinese discourses on the relationship between kingship and civic politics. To summarize in brief, the project A5 has opened up a new domain of enquiry about studying the evolution of modern concepts of statehood and politics, and has instantiated this conceptual breakthrough through empirically-grounded case studies on France, China, and India, and furthermore has carried out successful transnational academic cooperation for deepening the thematic impact of this new theoretical paradigm.

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