Thursday, March 23, 2006

Final seminar updates of term

Yes, I've been slack of late. Term finished last week and I never updated details of the final seminars of term. Both were extremely interesting, with Emanuela Hedayat presenting on a project she's going to do comparing and contrasting Costa Rican exceptionalism with Uruguay and Chile. In particular she wants to place Costa Rica as unique in terms of its long-lasting democracy owing to the decisions taken in 1870 by the elite that saw it create a national myth of democracy, peace and stability. Where she departs from the usual descriptive approach is in her effort to test a new theory of discursive strategy in developing this argument.

I find the whole notion of Costa Rican exceptionalism quite interesting. To what extent is it really the case? Or, if we look at the other case studies, might we not suggest that Chile is the unique case, since it was arguably more democratic than Costa Rica before 1973? Or could we say that Uruguay is the exception, since like Costa Rica it had a national myth before 1973 but was unable to translate it into a consensus in the 1970s?

Susana Carvalho's presentation served as a bookend to the term, as the other Portuguese in the class had begun the year. She wants to examine the Portuguese military and its claim to nationalism as the means for explaining its shift from 'defenders of the empire' to 'guardians of the people'.

While nationalism is the focus of her work, I made an incomprehensible comment that require clarification from others in the seminar. In particular I was curious to know whether nationalism was the driving force for the army. Surely all militaries dress themselves up in such garb. If she was interested in the relationship and dynamic between military and civilians and the shift from dictatorship to democracy, nationalism was the window dressing of a more complex game of power relations. Consequently, wasn't her project more about power and how people perceive and use it?

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