Employing the cosmopolitan work by W.E.B. Du Bois as a starting point, this lecture surveys the “populist” politics of race and nation in contemporary Europe. With those growing perils in mind, it pleads for serious, academic engagement with the resurgence of fascism in forms that can be difficult to identify.
It will suggest that historical scholarship centred on cultural processes can play a pivotal role in producing compelling responses to those dangers. However, answering racism and nationalism is not undertaken to serve the interests of their immediate victims but to defend and deepen democratic institutions and habits. The traditional concerns of broad, humanistic education are still required by today’s open-ended inquiries into the limits and entanglements of the human. That educational mission remains important not just for the answers it gives to racism, but also for the contribution it can make to the practical problems associated with the social effects of environmental crisis.
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