Leigh French

Job Title:

PhD Research Student




Variant Magazine
Edited by Leigh French

Variant Magazine


Leigh French

Curating public discourse under competitive nationalism.

Supervisors: Dr Ken Neil, Prof Alex Law (University of Abertay)

From a position in Scotland at this pivotal juncture of a resurgent independence movement, this study will examine contemporary curatorial practices that have addressed themselves to processes of 'national cultural intimacy' (the interactions and conflicts whereby nationalist feelings lodge in social consciousness - Herzfeld) and the conditions of 'cultural democracy' (the siting of public space as domains of democratic communication).
It will explore the curation of public discourse with regard to 'cultural intimacy' under the cultural-economic policy approaches of 'competitive nationalism', where aspects of life and identity, including education, arts, sports and culture, are harnessed as factors of national economic advantage.

For this it will draw on a case study approach of curatorial practices in Northern European countries also undergoing contested and reformulated nationalist assertions of identity, whilst acknowledging the differing historical configurations upon which they are contingent.

Sharing exposure to post-industrial economic restructuring, where 'creativity' is linked to economic advantage in the pursuit of international competitive 'marks of distinction' (Harvey), a strengthening nationalist tendency is discernable (Muukkonen) where culture is to also contribute a cohering of nationhood through the integration of the aesthetic disciplines into the nation's general production of value (CAE).

The inter-relations between the cultural, political, and economic are complex, raising issues of actor autonomy (of that of cultural practitioners as well as policy makers) and the location of agency in governance processes.

How are assertions of national identity informing the economising of culture and the policies that shape culture?
How is contested public space situated as regards communicative freedom and cultural provision under resurgent nationalisms?
How have critical curatorial trends publicly situated power and the politics of cultural domination in relation to national 'cultural intimacy'?

What are the experiences of inter-national competitive place-making in contexts of nationalist production of space?