Nordic Political Science Congress at Åbo Akademi Vaasa

Jaanika Erne |

Åbo Akademi Vaasa

Åbo Akademi Vaasa inside

From 9 to 12 August 2011 I participated in the XVI Nordic Political Science Congress at Abo Akademi at Vaasa (Finland). The Congress website is here:  

Although meant more for political science associations from Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland, I found many Estonian delegates – Kadri Simm (University of Tartu) with presentation “Nordic Reflections in the Estonian Political Elite” under WS “Models of democracy: What are they and do they travel?”; Külliki Seppel (University of Tartu) with presentation “Democracy Discourse of the Estonian Political Leaders” under the same WS, and me (Tallinn University) with presentation “The Concept of Nation in Arab-Israeli Conflict: Regulating International Community under International Law” under WS “Religion and Nationalism: Meeting Points, Conflicts and Challenges”, but also participants from Grønland University, Moscow State University, Istanbul Technical University, University of Malta, Colombo International Centre for Ethnic Studies, University of Brighton, University of Melbourne, University of Málaga, University of San Martin, University of Exeter, University of Amstedam, University of Mannheim, University of Vienna, Chung Ang University, University of Bologna, University of Antwerp, Simon Fraser University (British Columbia), Université Jean Moulin, Plymouth University, Free University of Brussels, UMB/Fafo, Universidad de Guadaljara, University of Birmingham, London School of Economics, University of Oxford, University of Hamburg, University of Münster, Trinity College Dublin, Oxford University College.  

Shortly about my Paper – Short Abstract: 

“The aim of the paper is not to define nationhood but with the pattern of Egypt to demonstrate the importance of understanding the liberal concept of nation as challenged by the Arab, Islamic, and Muslim worlds in their diversity, plurality, and inherent dynamism against the background of general geostrategic positioning in the contemporary World as the understandings of democracy are related to people who frequently tend to identify themselves as belonging to a nation group. The first part of the Paper compares the Western thought and Islamic thought, the second part of the Paper distinguishes between the categories Arabic, Muslim, and Islamic in their diversity, and in their relation with liberalism and democracy. The third part of the Paper distinguishes between different historical and cultural epochs, layers, and influences in Egypt.  The main conclusions of the Paper are: although the problems related to a position of a nation within larger societal layers are diverse, embracing different aspects, and incoherent, they allow the conclusion that there are strong trends toward nationalism in Egypt that may influence the Arabic and Islam worlds. It was not possible to treat all the aspects coherently in this paper but the author hopes that she could at least point out some problems for further research and inter alia challenge the presumption that the cause of Arab-Israeli conflict and „Arab Spring“ has been bad internal governance.”  

But the Paper also raises other related issues – included issues of methodology as the most difficult part with composition of this Paper was methodology. Not that I do not understand what methodology design is and not that I do not understand that a high level academic research can also base solely on newspaper articles and other so called alternative sources as sources. I have read some works of Chalmers, Kuhn, Popper, Gadamer, Kant, Hume, etc. about research methodology, but I still am confused because first, I quite recently found an article from Foreign Affairs that first names the 1952 Egyptian Revolution “Nasser Revolution” guided by Nasser; and comparing the 1952 revolution with the 2011 revolution concludes that the ideological bases of these two revolts differ, saying that the dominant ideology of the 1952 revolution was pan-Arabism that focused on external threats (gaining independence from imperialism and confronting Israel) whereas the 2011 revolution was internally-driven (with the causes being jobs and political representation); and finally the article names the 2011 revolution synchronized anarchy. I would partially disagree. First, to my mind also the 1952 revolution contained internal elements as the Free Officers overthrew the monarchy and established a republic that was initially lead not by Nasser but General Muhammad Naguib (the difference in facts here confesses about how little do we actually know and how much do we depend on the research sources we use). Second, I see also in the 2011 revolution’s confrontation of West-Islam, because for example  the revolution was synchronized with other Arabic States. And third, the latter argument also refers that the 2011 revolution had leadership. 

My other big problems with research methods relate the old question – How to measure unmeasurable objects, and here I am trying (though with difficulties) to accommodate my thought with some already existing solutions to that problem. 

About the conference in more detail: 

9 August 2011 

After the official opening welcome by the Rector of Åbo Akademi University, Christina Nygren-Landgärds, and Workshop meeting, the participants could select between two options – either to participate in an excursion “World Heritage” or in an art tour. I selected the World Heritage tour. Why? – Here is the description of the tours:  

10 August 

The day was full of workshop discussions relating both content and research methodology. For me, as a lawyer by diploma, it was very useful to see how a research as a narrative could be built up based mainly on two websites, one website containing narrative, and another website containing counter-narrative. The only critique that I can think of is – what if the websites are removed from Internet (that frequently happens)? And a question unanswered with regard to another presentation in different area – Does theology belong under cultural studies or should it be regarded as a separate category? 

After the Workshops the participants were invited to the evening reception to Vaasa City Hall. 

11 August 

The day began with keynote address by professor Susan Banducci from the University of Exeter: “Citizens, Context and Mobilisation”. Under this topic professor Banducci spoke about elections, the role of political parties in elections, and the relation between media and elections. 

Today evening, after the Workshops, the participants are invited to the Congress Dinner. Tonight is also the annual Night of the Arts in Vaasa where attendance of thousands of visitors, cultural activities, and performances are promised. 

12 August 

Final day of workshops (our group has finished) and departure. I am re-reading the materials and notes and making generalizations.