Everyday nationalism and urban culture – normalizing nationalist representations, discourses and practices in public space

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Public space research has engaged in depth with progressive social and political movements which have appropriated and reframed public space as a political sphere and a space for local, lived democracy. However, urban public spaces have not only been the place of these progressive movements’ protests and occupations in the face of crisis and austerity policies. I want to briefly sketch some of the different phenomena that show that public space has also become the place of anti-pluralist, xenophobic and nationalist protests: The Brexit-vote, a result of anti-immigrant sentiments and Euro-skipticism, brought increased xenophobic violence to public space. When the unleashed violence of terrorists has disconcerted public space yet again, the French government has extended the state of emergency curbing citizen’s rights such as the right to assembly and protest. Another example of urban space being used for rightist and nationalist strategies is Turkey. After the failed coup in Turkey, thousands followed the call of Erdogan for a “Democracy Watch” in Taksim square, re-appropriating the symbol of the 2013 Gezi Park Protests against the government with national symbolism. In 2015 the rightist movement Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident (PEGIDA) came to a head with 10.000 citizens protesting in Dresden ( These observations point to the relevance of urban public spaces in the operation of rightist political organisation. They postulate a closer look at urban public space as a central arena of the right’s antipluralist, xenophobic and nationalist agenda. Furthermore, they expose the city a contested space of both progressive and rightist appropriations. The aim of this paper is to pay attention not to the overt protests and demonstrations but to expose everyday and popular nationalism in public space. It seeks to address the representations, discourses and practices that normalize nationalism in public space. The research therefore challenges the notion of rightist spaces as rural phenomena as well as it challenges the notion of urbanity at the heart of inclusive and cosmopolitan societies. Based on Bulut’s (2006) definition of popular nationalism as “the exacerbation of nationalist feelings and the increased attachment to the idea of the nation in everyday representations, discourses and practices” (p.125) this paper points out the return of nationalisms to public space, drawing on the democracy watch protests and the popular festivities of the Austrian National Day. It aims to present first explorations of rightist appropriations and nationalism in public space to develop future research propositions.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Spaces of Dialog for Places of Dignity, Lisbon, 11-14th July, 2017
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