Attachment to Place in a World of Nations 2023-2024


Though some have claimed that globalization would spell the death of the prevailing international order, the nation-state remains the basic territorial unit of governance, law, economy, and culture in today’s world. Yet it has never been the only way to organize political geography. For much of global history, other modes of structuring political space were dominant -- from empires and independent cities to religious communities. Even today, many people continue to define their identities in relation to other forms of “attachment to place.” Alternative ways of tracing the boundaries that unite us, and divide us -- from the natural environment and cultural spheres to local communities, indigenous lands and religious sites -- all vie with the modern nation-state system.

What roles do these diverse forms of “attachment to place” play in the life of contemporary democracies that are built upon the nation-state system? Which kinds of attachment to place are most significant, most constructive, or most destabilizing for democratic societies? And what legitimate claims might “place” make upon such societies? Not infrequently, for example, locally rooted indigenous populations and religious institutions have found themselves at odds with the agenda of modernizing states, which have challenged their autonomy–and, at times, threatened their very survival. The same may be said of transnational movements, institutions, and legal regimes that crisscross the world today. How can contending forms of sovereignty, and political space, coexist with the modern democratic nation-state? How do sacred places -- civic, religious or other -- both reinforce and challenge the claim of nation-states to define, and to rule, the territories in which we live?

To reflect on these questions, the Clough Center is dedicating its 2023-2024 year of programming to the theme of “Attachment to Place in a World of Nations.” The Center’s calendar will offer the Boston College community the opportunity to engage in conversation with renowned scholars, civic leaders and public intellectuals, all with distinctive viewpoints on our theme. We will consider this topic from a variety of angles, through our fellowship program, publications, and public events. The class of 2023-24 Clough Fellows -- drawn from fields as diverse as English and Neuroscience, Political Science and Theology -- will study these themes in regular seminars and will contribute research articles to the Clough Journal.

The Center is also pleased to welcome its first visiting faculty fellow and delighted to be joined by a core of twelve professors from across the University, who share an interest in these questions and who have established distinguished records in related fields. Faculty Affiliates will contribute to the center’s seminars and to our rich lineup of public events on “Attachment to Place”, bookended by a major fall workshop and a two-day spring symposium.

Events are open to the wider BC community and the general public, and many will be streamed online. Please join us for our year-long exploration of “Attachment to Place in a World of Nations,” and add your voice to the conversation.