Call for Papers 'Usages du Nord dans la communication politique ', BNU Straatsburg, 31 maart en 1 april 2022

5.11.2021 | Hans Beelen



Using the North in political communication
Building North and South at the crossroads of political and cultural fields in Europe (19th -
21st centuries)
Strasbourg – March 31st-April 1st, 2022

Key questions
- What are the possible definitions of the North (and of the South) in the construction of
collective identities in modern and recent history?
- Are there any recurring mechanisms in the discursive construction of North (and South)?
- How have these mechanisms been integrated in the construction in Northern European
(Dutch-speaking and Scandinavian areas) and, more generally, in the rest of Europe?
- How have these political and identity constructions influenced the shaping of North European
countries as colonial powers (vs. their Global South)?

Presentation of the topic
It is clearly not easy to give once and for all a definition of the concept of “North”. Since the North has defined itself and continues to define itself mostly in relation to the “South” – not only in its geographical connotation, but also in its conceptual dimension of North’s “Other” – it seems necessary to give a relational definition of both concepts. This relational definition has often ended up becoming a recurrent topos in the construction of political discourse in modern and contemporary nation-states.
Hence, one can find a North and a South of the world, a North and a South of specific countries, a
Northern Europe and a Southern Europe, etc. North and South, therefore, are characterized by their
complementarity, without being fully equivalent. For this reason, the imagination and values
associated with the North and the South are rarely the same, a discrepancy that generates a
hierarchical relationship between the two, often (but not entirely) in favour of the North. These two
concepts go beyond the mere geographical opposition and constitute one of the many examples of
relations between a dominant and a dominated, thereby providing the concept of North and its
opposition to the South with a persuasive force of which many politicians and intellectuals have been
and still are well aware. Without denying the existence of other oppositions equally rooted in
geography and quite present in political discourse (centre vs. periphery, West vs. East, etc.), North and South seem to play a dominant, albeit not exclusive, role in current debates (Global North vs. Global South; Northern Europe vs. Southern Europe). However, tracing a borderline to clearly separate North from South remains a sketchy endeavour mainly depending on discursive practices that incessantly evolve over time. As Di Carpegna Falconieri (2011) has argued, in order to articulate this relationship of mutual dependence and separation, a vocabulary is often used referring to a mythologized past associated with variable oppositions, such as civilization vs. barbarism, faithful vs. infidel or rich vs. poor. According to Mohnike (2020), such a discursive relation is built upon basic semiotic units, which he defines through a reconceptualization of Lévi-Strauss’ mythèmes. More specifically, in the course of history, these mythemes have been constantly reused and manipulated and have received different adaptations and configurations according to the communicative needs of each period, national or regional context or political project. This seminar will focus on the dynamics of the discursive construction of the North and the South as well as on their manipulation by political communication actors at large, i.e. political system and media in their interaction with the "masses": politicians, parties, philosophers, historians, artists, journalists, etc. The main objective will be to identify recurrent rhetorical features referring to the “Norths” in political discourse, in Northern Europe and beyond.
Following Anderson's famous definition (2006, rev. ed.) that construction of collective national identities and massive deployment of nationalizing education and communication strategies are distinctive features of modernity, this colloquium will focus on the modern and contemporary period,´from the end of the 18th century to the present day. Mass identity creation – through rhetorical insistence on a “common destiny”, especially during major societal crises, from economic downturns to world wars (“the people's war”, Mosse 1999) – has assumed over time a multiplicity of forms in visual, textual and, in recent times, digital media. These various appearances of what we define here as “political discourse” (or, if one prefers, “discourses on politics”) have provided a framework for the creation, reinforcement and modification of collective identities, thereby influencing (or aiming at influencing) relations both between power and individuals and among individuals themselves in mass political systems, whether democratic, illiberal or totalitarian.

Possible approaches
This seminar is part of the annual program of the Journées sur le Nord, a collaboration between the National University Library (BNU) and the University of Strasbourg (Departments of Scandinavian and Dutch Studies, Research Unit 1341 - Germanic and North European Worlds). For this reason, the study days will focus primarily on the uses and self-definition of the North (possibly as an Anti-South) in political communication in the Scandinavian and Dutch-speaking area as well as in the broader Germanic area. However, it should be clear that it is virtually impossible to understand the political discourse on the North in this geographical area without assuming its insertion and interaction within a broader European and global context.
We will, therefore, particularly welcome proposals for papers exploring the (self-)definition of the North and the use of the North-South opposition in political and ideological communication in the countries and regions around the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the North Atlantic as well as in Europe at large, focussing more specifically (but not exclusively) on the following aspects:
* The North within the North: the self-building/self-definition of the North in the Nordic, Dutch and Germanic area; the North-South dynamics in these same areas (e.g. Netherlands vs. Flanders/Belgium; the Arctic space as the North of Nordic countries; Denmark as the "South" of Scandinavia; the construction of the natural imaginary related to the North Sea or the Baltic Sea: see, among many others, Leerssen 2008, Jensen 2018)
* The North and the South in European perspective; the use of references to Northern Europe, in order to stress similarities or to distance oneself, in the political communication of other European countries (processes of building an internal North in other European countries; the discursive construction of the oppositions between Northern and Southern Europe, e.g. Protestantism vs. Catholicism, frugal vs. spendthrift countries; the role of North-South oppositions in regionalisms/separatisms: see, among others, Saly et al. 1996).
* The global North: the construction of Europe and especially of Northern Europe in a global perspective in relation to the South of the world and especially the (former) colonies (memory of slavery, self-image and image of the colonizers in the South itself); colonial and postcolonial uses of the myth of the North.
Ideally, the colloquium programme will reflect a multiplicity of approaches (psychological, semiotic, linguistic, descriptive, see Mancini 1981, Greimas & Cortès 1977) aiming at the verbal and non-verbal analysis of informative, persuasive, commemorative or electoral political discourses. Most welcome
will, therefore, be papers presenting case studies on sources such as:
* Support(s) that can show the communicative interaction between politics, media, intellectuals and artists;
* Visual political communication (posters, electoral posters, use of colours and symbols, image-text-slogan relation, etc.);
* Textual political communication (press, pamphlets, written propaganda, literature, egodocuments, etc.);
* Digital, multimedia and transmedia communication (integration of political communication in digital media and in more than one medium at once).
The colloquium will take place on March 31st and April 1st, 2022 at the National University Library (BNU) in Strasbourg. All interested specialists, included early-career researchers, are encouraged to send in paper proposals in English or French (a 250-words abstract and a short biography) before November 21st, 2021. Proposals should be e-mailed to the colloquium organisers, Mr. Roberto Dagnino ( and Ms. Elisa Nistri (
A publication of the proceedings is foreseen. Colloquium papers will have the opportunity to be included in the 2013 issue of the journal Deshima. Arts, lettres et cultures des pays du nord (Presses Universitaires de Strasbourg), after passing a peer-reviewing procedure.

Works cited
Anderson, B., Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Verso Books, London, 2006 [19831].
Arndt, A. et al. (dir.), Imagologie des Nordens : Kulturelle Konstruktionen von Nördlichkeit in interdisziplinärer Perspektive. Frankfurt am Main, P. Lang, 2004.
Briens, S., « Boréalisme. Le Nord comme espace discursif », in: Etudes Germaniques (2016), 179‑88.
Briens, S., « Boréalisme. Pour un atlas sensible du Nord », in: Etudes Germaniques (2018), 151‑76.
Chartier, D., Bibliographie sur l’imaginaire du Nord : Arctique, hiver, Antarctique. Montréal, Imaginaire/Nord, 2007.
Di Carpegna Falconieri, T., Medioevo militante. La politica di oggi alle prese con barbari e crociati.
Einaudi, Turin, 2011. Greimas, A.J., Courtès, J., Sémiotique: Dictionnaire raisonné de la théorie du langage. Hachette, Paris, 1979.
Hobsbawm, E., The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991. Michael Joseph/Vintage, London/New York City, 1994.
Hormuth, D., Schmidt, M. (dir.), Norden und Nördlichkeit - Darstellung vom Eigenen und Fremden. Frankfurt am Main, P. Lang, 2010.
Jensen, L., Wij tegen het water. Een eeuwenoude strijd. Vantilt, Nijmegen, 2018.
Leerssen, J., De bronnen van het vaderland. Vantilt, Nijmegen, 2008.
Mancini, P., Il manifesto politico: per una semiologia del consenso. Edizioni Rai radiotelevisione italiana, Turin, 1980.
Mohnike, Th., Beaufils, Th. (dir.), Qu’est-ce que l’Europe du Nord ? Thematic issue of Deshima n° 10/2016. Presses Universitaires de Strasbourg, Strasbourg.
Mohnike, Th., “Narrating the North. Towards a theory of mythemes of social knowledge in cultural circulation”, in: Deshima n° 14/2020, Presses Universitaires de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, pp. 9-36.
Mosse, G.L., De la Grande Guerre au totalitarisme. La brutalisation des sociétés européennes. Hachette, Paris, 1999.
Saly, P. et al., Nations et Nationalismes en Europe 1848-1914. Armand Colin, Paris, 1996.