In recent decades, nationalism has become a bad word among many liberal Western scholars, who have highlighted the political agendas and usages of nationalist discourse, frequently associating it with fascism, patriarchy, conservatism and protectionism. Unlike many Western countries in which right-wing groups have attempted to monopolize nationalism, in the Koreas, it has been associated primarily with the ‘left’: in South Korea, with anti-authoritarian democratic movements, and in North Korea, where nationalism has been one of the founding principles of the Communist Party. Dennis Hart argues, however, that there are multiple nationalisms on the Korean peninsula that cannot necessarily be subsumed under simple left-right rubric: some are more open and inclusive, some more grassroots-based and self-affirming, and others more aggressive, exclusive, state-driven, and exceptionalist. What both Koreas have shared in their respective official nationalist discourses, however, has been the state-led effort to show their citizens that they are the only legitimate representative of ‘true’ Korean identity, and that the other Korea is a pretender or puppet state. Needless to say, both sides have targeted history in their attempts to compete for hegemony over Korean nationalist discourse. In this lecture, Dennis Hart juxtaposes North and South Korean state narratives to show how the same historical moments and events are remembered (in other words, appropriated and mobilized) by each state in different ways. Also discussed are how people of North and South Korea respond to or protest against the state narratives of the nation, and how they struggle to articulate alternative memories and by extension alternative nationalisms.
Dennis Hart is the associate director of the Asian Studies Center at the University of Pittsburgh, and an affiliate professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. He received his PhD in political science from the University of Washington. Professor Hart’s research and teaching interests include nationalism, culture and identity, and politics in North and South Korea.
He is currently working on a pair of book projects: Politics and Culture in North and South Korea, which will be published by Routledge Press, and Letters from the Empire, a collection of political essays.