This conference will examine the state and the fate of national myths in a sample of societies around the world. Old national myths are now seriously challenged, if not collapsing, in a number of contemporary societies. In many Western nations, for instance, painful memory of the failures of the 20th century, post-modern disenchantment, rising individualism, ethnic diversification, globalization, declining power of the Nation-State, and regional or local tensions have combined to destabilize the symbolic foundation of collective integration and identity.
The diagnosis of a cultural crisis is quite common (who has not heard about the loss of meaning, the erosion of common values, the undermining of social cohesion, and so forth?). For many observers, a weakening of national identities raises the threat of fragmentation and implosion. Yet, those pessimistic views are stranger to other societies which enjoy robust national myths or are engaged in a vigorous process of myth-building.
For each nation under scrutiny, the Conference will address several basic issues, such as: What is the situation of the national myths? Are they strong and resilient, threatened, collapsing, restructuring? How to account for their sustainability or for their demise? What is the underlying historical, social or political dynamic at work? What factors or mechanisms drive the rise and the fall of a myth? Can or must nations do without that sort of overarching symbolic configurations? If so, how to re-think the fabrics and the future of our societies? And if it appears that the framework of nation has become inappropriate to provide the symbolic glue of modern (or post-modern) societies, what would be an appropriate substitute?