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Time Heals All Wounds

Le temps guérit toutes les blessures

Resisting the Authority of History in the Concepts of Nation and Nationalism

La Résistance à l’autorité de l’Histoire dans les concepts de nation et de nationalisme

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Published on Friday, September 21, 2012 by Elsa Zotian


The journée d’étude (research day), “Time Heals Time Heals All Wounds: Resisting the Authorityof History in the Concepts of Nation and Nationalism” will be held on May 31, 2013 at the University of Burgundy (Dijon). Papers will explore Benedict Anderson’s concept of the “reassurance of fratricide” in order to study how internal national conflicts are rewritten in the fields of history, literature and education to create an apparently harmonious national narrative.



Near the end of his now classic study, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism,[1] Benedict Anderson suggests that one powerful mechanism in the construction of national unity is a tendency to resist the authority of the past and to forget—or rather to simultaneously remember and forget—former divisive conflicts between often bitterly opposed groups and to recast these conflicts as internal disputes or “family feuds” that become inscribed as part of the national heritage or “family history,” often flying in the face of the facts of history to do so.  He cites Ernest Renan’s mention in his lecture “Qu’est qu’une nation” of the Saint Bartholomew Day’s massacre of 1572 and the Albigensian Crusade of the early thirteenth century as archetypical French examples of this phenomenon.  In both cases, Anderson notes, bloody conflicts were rewritten as “reassuringly fratricidal wars between—who else?—fellow Frenchmen.”  Other examples offered by Anderson include the Norman Conquest of England (in which an invading foreigner, William the Conqueror, is transformed into a sort of “Founding Father” of England) and the American Civil War (in which the bloodiest conflict in the history of the United States is represented as a “civil” war between “brothers”).  In the twentieth century, he suggests, similar processes of rewriting history can be seen in the “national” presentations of the Spanish Civil War and the Russian Civil War.

In part through an examination, exploration and (re)evaluation of Anderson’s concept of the “reassurance of fratricide,” this journée d’étude will focus on the tendency in all types of national and nationalistic discourse to resist the authority of history.  Questions that can be explored include: How, specifically, does this process function, either in the examples provided by Anderson or in other cases of similar rewritings of conflictual “national” episodes?  What mechanisms enable a nation to challenge the history of previous differences, rivalries, hatreds, betrayals or wars and transform them into simultaneously forgotten/remembered disputes among members of the same national “family”?  How much time must pass before such a process is possible?  Furthermore, can such a transformation of earlier conflicts always be effected, or are some national “wounds” simply incapable of being healed, is it sometimes, in fact, simply impossible to resist the authority of the facts of the past?

To submit

Papers (in either English or French) in the areas of history, literature, education, political science or other disciplines should focus on some aspect of the concepts of the “reassurance of fratricide” and the resisting of the authority of history as it is used to help strengthen national unity and mold national identity in order to create an, apparently, harmonious national narrative, or, on the contrary, as it seems to present an unrealizable (and unrealistic?) goal of transforming conflict into an image of a nation’s common and cherished past. 

Proposals (one page maximum) should be sent to Mark Niemeyer (mark.niemeyer@noos.fr)

by November 30.

Scientific coordinator

Mark Niemeyer, professeur (PR), Ph.D., HDR, Directeur du département d’anglais, UFR Langues et Communications, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon.

[1] Anderson, Benedict.  Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism.  Rev Ed.  London: Verso, 2006.  See especially chapter 11: “Memory and Forgetting.”


  • 2 bd Gabriel
    Dijon, France (21)


  • Friday, November 30, 2012


  • nation, nationalisme, identité nationale, unité nationale, conflits, réécriture


  • Mark Niemeyer
    courriel : mark [dot] niemeyer [at] u-bourgogne [dot] fr

Information source

  • Mark Niemeyer
    courriel : mark [dot] niemeyer [at] u-bourgogne [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Time Heals All Wounds », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, September 21, 2012, https://calenda.org/220633

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