Surveying the Coming Storm:Works on Nationalism Prior to WWII

word cloud created from the text of the Nationalism collection

““We are like storm-tossed passengers in a sinking ship, groping about aimlessly, knocking up against each other, without a clear perception of the situation and without plan of action.” 
Political myths and economic realities by Francis Delaisi (1927)

With the benefit of hindsight, modern scholars can identify unbridled nationalism as a leading cause of World War II. However, it is crucial to explore whether scholars of the time foresaw the impending storm caused by nationalist movements in the first half of the 20th century and if they could have predicted the grave, mass-scale atrocities that unfolded. To shed light on the perspectives of scholars from a century ago, the IAS library has curated a Hathi Trust collection titled “Surveying the Coming Storm: Works on Nationalism Prior to WWII.” This collection aims to provide texts available at the time, enabling modern researchers to delve into the theories and conclusions formulated by scholars a hundred years ago regarding the waves of nationalist movements that swept across the globe.

Nationalism in The Interwar Period 

The interwar period serves as a particularly significant juncture for the study of nationalism. Following the First World War, the collapse of several empires left a power vacuum in various parts of the world. In the process of reconstructing and defining new states, a movement emerged to establish nations based on national identities1. The underlying belief at this time was that a state founded on a national identity would best safeguard the interests and rights of the respective national group. While national identities and nation-states existed before and after this period, these nationalist movements differed from their predecessors, such as the American and French national movements, as they aimed to create a state centered around a specific nationality rather than a nation formed by people belonging to a state2. This branch of Nationalism places a great deal of importance on defining a national identity based on ethnic, linguistic, religious affiliations or other social constructs.

This method of Nationalism brought to the forefront the complex issues surrounding human rights and Nationalism. The endeavor to categorize nationalities into fixed identities inevitably marginalized certain groups, leaving them without a place or protection within the new nation-state. These marginalized groups were perceived as a constant threat to the nation-state because their mere existence challenged the Nationalist ideals upon which the new nation-states were built, often resulting in the forced expulsion of perceived minorities. Widespread population transfers became a characteristic of this system, where people faced pressure or were forcibly displaced from their homes to their purported nation-state, regardless of whether they or their ancestors had ever resided in that territory. An example of this can be seen in the case of Greeks who were forcibly uprooted from their homes in Turkey and relocated to Greece during and after World War I3. Moreover, those who lacked a formal nation-state aligned with their national identity suffered even worse fates. The targeting of Jewish communities, who did not possess a nation-state of their own, during the Second World War exemplifies the dire consequences of Nationalist violence for minorities in states dominated by Nationalist ideals4. The texts included in this collection reveal that scholars of the 1920’s-30’s were aware that the surge of Nationalism worldwide could and would lead to violence, but others focused on the promises of these movements.

As shown by the texts in this collection, not everyone was a devotee of Nationalism. Sydney Herbert wrote in his 1920 publication Nationality and Its Problems that “It needs no long argument to prove the dangers which must arise when a state … is in the hands of men with nationalist aims”.  Many scholars preferred more cosmopolitan ideas, such as Internationalism, a movement that encourages the international cooperation of states and nations.  While the Internationalists ultimately failed to block the Nationalist movements that took over Europe, they did make significant contributions to international politics. The League of Nations, for example, followed the Internationalist ideals of greater global connections, even though it was severely limited by Isolationist and Nationalist movements. These contrasting movements are discussed at length in this collection and provide interesting fodder for further understanding of the scholars’ viewpoints on the movements. 

Why bibliographies?

When examining scholarly works from the past, bibliographies serve as invaluable tools. A bibliography is a curated collection of citations centered around a specific topic. The most useful bibliographies are compiled by experts in the field, ensuring that the listed works are highly relevant to the study at hand. In the pre-internet era, bibliographies were particularly crucial for anyone seeking to delve into a particular subject since they provided a consolidated resource of books and articles on a given topic. Even in the digital age, bibliographies remain invaluable as they are carefully curated, emphasizing scholarly value over generic search engine results.

Some bibliographies also offer annotations, providing the editor’s summaries or thoughts on the listed works. These annotations further assist in assessing the value of each work. For instance, Koppel Pinson, the editor of one of the bibliographies used for this project, offers insights into foundational works, comprehensive summaries of the field, and works that are comparatively weaker. Although these annotations cannot be directly added to the Hathi Trust collection items, they can be found in the original bibliographies.

For this project, two bibliographies were instrumental in identifying contemporary texts on nationalism. Florence S. Hellman of The Library of Congress published a bibliography in 1934 titled “Nationalism: a selected list of writings since 1918, with a section on economic nationalism,” which proved to be an invaluable resource. The second bibliography used was Koppel Pinson’s 1935 work “A bibliographical introduction to nationalism, with a foreword by Carlton J.H. Hayes.” Pinson’s bibliography offered a more comprehensive range of resources, wider language coverage, and extensive annotations compared to the Library of Congress bibliography. Despite their differences, both bibliographies featured considerable overlap in terms of coverage. It is worth noting that these bibliographies are American publications, which may introduce a bias in the listed resources—a factor that researchers utilizing the collection should bear in mind. For example, neither bibliography includes the writing of Rosa Luxemburg, a revolutionary socialist and Marxist philosopher, who wrote extensively on the issue of nations and Nationalism in this time.

About this collection

The two bibliographies collectively listed over six hundred unique resources, spanning five languages and originating from various countries. Within the Hathi Trust collection, 379 titles are available, with 264 of the titles available for full text viewing. The remaining 115 titles are in the “Limited Search Only” capacity due to copyright restrictions, but researchers can still conduct text searches within these items to determine their relevance. It is important to mention that certain resources listed in the bibliographies, such as articles from periodicals or specific sections of textbooks or encyclopedias, were not included in this collection. The inability to add specific sections of a publication to the collection and the potential negative impact on text analysis projects influenced this decision. However, researchers specifically seeking articles will find a significant collection of articles in the Library of Congress bibliography.

Potential for the Collection

Apart from its research potential, this project has highlighted the need to digitize and add certain resources to Hathi Trust. Several works considered important by the bibliographies’ authors are not yet available in full text or limited search on Hathi Trust, such as Bernard Joseph’s Nationality: Its Nature and Problems and Conrad Gill’s National Power and Prosperity, a Study of the Economic Causes of Modern Warfare. Identifying historically significant books in the field of nationalism that have not yet been widely digitized is an essential step in their preservation.

Furthermore, the collection has room for expansion. Both bibliographies used as the basis for this collection are American publications from a specific time period, suggesting the existence of additional works significant to the study of nationalism that were not included due to their time and place of publication. Discovering more bibliographies to incorporate into the collection would be a valuable endeavor.

In addition to conveniently gathering historically important resources for reading, this collection holds immense potential for text analysis. The Hathi Trust Research Center Analytics provides essential tools for applying analytical algorithms to the Hathi Trust digital library. Researchers embarking on such analyses typically begin by creating a collection of texts to analyze, a step this collection already fulfills. For more information on how to use the Hathi Trust Research Center Analytics, please refer to their “Getting Started” page and “HTRC Workset Tutorials”.

The “Surveying the Coming Storm: Works on Nationalism Prior to WWII” collection offers an invaluable resource for exploring the perspectives of scholars from a century ago and understanding their theories and conclusions about the nationalist movements that shaped the world. By providing access to the texts available at the time, this collection enables researchers to delve into the complexities of nationalism in the interwar period and its far-reaching consequences. Moreover, the collection’s potential for expansion and its compatibility with text analysis tools further enhance its value as a tool for comprehensive research and examination of this significant historical topic.


  1. Zimmer, O. (2013). Nationalism in Europe, 1918–45. In J. Breuilly (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism. Oxford University Press.
  2. Grant, S. (2006). A nation before nationalism: The civic and ethnic construction of America. SAGE Publications Ltd.
  3. Roshwald, A. (2013). Nationalism in the Middle East, 1876–1945. In J. Breuilly (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism. Oxford University Press.
  4. Smith, A. (2006). Ethnicity and nationalism. SAGE Publications Ltd,
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New and Noteworthy Books on Globalization

The International and Area Studies Library is always working on expanding its collections and keeping students in touch with the most important and influential works in the field of Global Studies.  New books can be found in the IAS Library on the third floor of the Main Library, so feel free to stop by and browse our newest additions! Here are some highlights of our newest titles, handpicked by Global Studies librarian, Steven Witt. The global studies collections, aim to support interdisciplinary teaching and research on globalization and the resolution of what are commonly called global grand challenges. The collections are supported by a a US Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center grant to the Center for Global Studies at the University of Illinois. 

This handbook focuses on the global realities of moving out of our current ‘interregnum’ – or a period of uncertainty where the old hegemony is fading and the new ones have not yet been fully realized. The theories of transition, current examples of transformation in the fields of socio-politics, socio-ecology and socio-economics, and hypotheses of the future past this transition are covered in the selected articles from a diverse cohort of researchers. These researchers tackle the seemingly ingrained systems of capitalism, colonialism, neoliberalism, patriarchy, war and violence that have marked our current realities and explore what the foundations of a post-capitalist, feminist, decolonial and unoppressive world would look like. Specific topics of education, development, worker’s rights, migration, austerity, climate change etc. are explored within the framework of transition and globalization

The Dark Side of Globalisation

Talani, Leila Simona, and Roberto Roccu. 2019. The Dark Side of Globalisation. International Political Economy Series. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.

Globalization is often lauded as a mark of the progressive nature of the world, with more globalization equating to better societies. But beneath its shiny veneer, the behemoth Globalization leaves a dark shadow on the globe. With technology, not humans, in the driver seat, Globalization fails at meeting the hopes of equalizing the world, and instead intensifies the existing divides and issues of communities around the world. This volume looks specifically at the dark side of globalization from the economic viewpoint with close examinations into food markets, production, migration, organized crime, austerity, and conflict.

Contemporary Issues on Globalization and Sustainable Development

Sengupta, Partha Pratim. 2018. Contemporary Issues on Globalization and Sustainable Development. New Delhi, India: Serials Publications Pvt. Ltd.

How much more can our globalized world grow in the face of our fixed ecological budget? The “sustainable” aspect of development is far too often ignored due to beliefs that advancements in technology, socio-economics, politics, and other fields will compensate for the deficits in the ecological budget. This two volume publication moves this deficit into the forefront and highlights scholarship that takes an informative stance on the issue of sustainable development. Specific topics include Informal inequality Measures, financial deregulation, taxation, debt, food expenditure, intellectual property, growth unemployment nexus, and woman empowerment.  


These books and thousands more are available to you! Stop by the International and Area Studies Library today to find all the resources you need to add a global perspective to your research.

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Comics to Thrill, Chill, and Scare You!

By Jason Larsen

Covers of comics mentioned in this blog post

The University Library comic collection offers an impressive array of comics between the holdings in the Main Stacks as well as those available in the ComicsPlus application! To celebrate the arrival of Fall, and the creeping approach of Halloween, we wanted to share some comic recommendations that we thought might offer up skin-crawling goose bumps, bone-chilling thrills, or dare we say… mind-numbing fear?!

6 Comics Available on the Shelf

BTTM FDRS (Ezra Clayton Daniels and Ben Passmore)

An aspiring fashion designer and her vain friend move to a warehouse in a blighted Chicago neighborhood because the rent is so cheap. They soon find there is something dark and dangerous in the walls of their new home. Using the backdrops of gentrification and urban blight this book is an Afrofuturist-centered tale of horror and cultural appropriation.

The Crossroads at Midnight (Abby Howard)

 An anthology of five stories that each explore what happens when the lonely are willing (or desperate) enough to seek out connections with the things that go bump in the night. Will these creatures be the comfort or true friends they are seeking? Or are they pretending to be a friend to those lonely souls while waiting for the perfect moment to reveal their true natures?

Friend of the Devil: A Reckless Book (Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips)

In the mid-1980s a former 60s radical, who happened to be a federal agent, has a career as a privately contracted problem solver. When a friend asks him to help find her missing sister, he finds himself thrown deep into the dark underbelly of Hollywood’s 70s occult movement. Will he find the truth behind the missing women or are some things best left buried?

Cover of Friend of the Devil comic

I Breathed a Body (Zac Thompson and Andy MacDonald)

A book that takes social media and influencer culture and mashes it up with body and science fiction horror! The story centers on the world’s largest influencer committing a horrific act online and follows what his social media manager is willing to do to make it a viral sensation… what could possibly go wrong?

Something is Killing the Children (James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera)

In a small middle American town, local children are going missing in a disturbing number yet the town seems largely unmoved by these events. The children who do make it home tell tales of monstrous creatures in the shadows around the town. All hope seems lost until a mysterious woman arrives whose mission is simple, kill all the monsters no matter what the cost.

Stray Dogs (Tony Fleecs and Trish Forstner)

Find out what happens when Silence of the Lambs meets the artistic style of All Dogs Go to Heaven. Sophie awakens to find herself in a strange place with fragmented memories of something horrific. As she starts to figure out where she is and what happened, she also realizes she must find a way to survive. Oh, did we forget to mention that Sophie is a dog?

6 Comics Available in ComicsPlus

Abbott (Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivelä)

Meet Elena Abbott. She is the toughest tabloid reporter in the city and is recovering from a deep loss. She is on a mission to investigate a series of gruesome crimes the police are ignoring. Not only does she plan to expose the crimes, but also to destroy the dark forces behind them in search for the truth.

Ghost Tree (Bobby Curnow and Simon Gane)

The story of a man seeking shelter from the storms of life in his ancestral home. He discovers a tree on the property that seems to draw in the souls of the dead. Can he find some solace for his troubles by helping the souls of the tree resolve their own traumatic pasts? Or will he find that the unliving can be just as cold as those who remain behind?

Cover of Ghost Tree Comic

Murder Book: A Graphic Memoir of a True Crime Obsession (Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell)

New Yorker cartoonist Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell explores why as a society we are so into enjoying true crime stories. In this memoir, she explores several facets of the genre like armchair sleuthing and high-profile murders cases. And while she does focus on the thrilling aspects, she also takes time to examine the cultural criticism of the genre and the most often forgotten part of these stories, the victims and their families.

The Neil Gaiman Library Volume 1 (Neil Gaiman and Various)

While many readers may be familiar with Neil Gaiman’s seminal comic work The Sandman, many may not know of his other horror/thriller works that he has created outside of his prose novels. This library edition collects four of these smaller graphic novel works into one collection. This volume contains stories ranging from Sherlock Holmes imagined in Lovecraftian terms to an unheard-of murder in heaven and the consequences it brings.

Trese Vol #1: Murder on Balete Drive (Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo)

The debut series from Filipino comic creators Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo focuses on the creatures in the dark and other things that go bump in the night in Manila’s streets. When crimes involving these occur, the police turn to Alexandra Trese for help. Follow Alexandra as she battles these and other terrors of the night in the quest for justice.

Your Turn to Die: Majority Vote Death Game, Vol. 1 (Nankidai and Tatsuya Ikegami)

Life ling friends Sara and Joe are kidnapped and awaken locked to strange tables. As this nightmare world unfolds it becomes clear death is coming. Sara has always known Joe to be selfless and would be willing to take a bullet for her. However, as the disturbing game unfolds, it becomes clear that Joe has the means to save only one of them. Is their wit, trust, and friendship strong enough to save them both?

Cover of Your Turn to Die

6 Comics of Honorable Mention

The below comics, while amazing, just didn’t quite make the…cut. Check them out if you dare!

While the above are our favorite picks, there are many more to choose from between both the catalog and the ComicsPlus application. Some wonderful features about the ComicsPlus Application are it can be viewed on any computer or mobile device and the content is free to all university faculty, staff, and students. We encourage you to not only try out our picks but to explore and find your next new favorite comic.

If you are unfamiliar with the ComicsPlus application, the service provides our students, staff, and patrons with access to over 20,000 comics from 86 different publishers in a digital format. Check out the video links below as they provide additional details on the application.

Welcome to ComicsPlus

How to Locate and Access ComicsPlus

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The Trauma of War and Displacement in the Poetry of John Guzlowski

By Marek Sroka

One of the most interesting examples of traumatic experiences of war and displacement are the poems of John Guzlowski, “arguably the most accomplished Polish-American poet on the contemporary scene.”[1]  Guzlowski, who was born in a displaced persons’ camp in Vienenburg, Germany, after World War II, came with his parents and sister to the United States as “DPs” (“displaced persons,’ the term Guzlowski uses to describe their status) in 1951.  Inspired by the wartime experiences of his parents, the author has been writing poems about his parents’ lives addressing the tragedy of war, the trauma of displacement, and the anguish of immigration.  Moreover, the topics he highlights in his poetry did not disappear after World War II.  Instead, new conflicts erupted that resulted in massive displacement of populations in various parts of the world, including present war in Ukraine.                                                                                                                    In one of his most powerful poems, “Landscape with Dead Horses, 1939,” Guzlowski introduces audiences to the Polish experience of Nazi Germany invasion of Poland in 1939 and confronts them with tragedy of all wars.  Here is the opening verse:

War comes down like a hammer, heavy and hard

flattening the earth and killing the soft things:

horses and children, flowers and hope, love

and the smell of the farmers’ earth, the coolness

of the creek, the look of trees as they unfurl

their leaves in late March and early April

(from Echoes of Tattered Tongues)[2]

Another poem worth mentioning is “Cattle Train to Magdeburg,” in which Guzlowski recreates the experience of his mother’s deportation to Nazi Germany where she would work as a slave laborer.  The poem deals with the universal and often lifelong trauma of displacement caused by wars.  Here is a fragment:

My mother still remembers

The long train to Magdeburg

the box cars

bleached gray

by Baltic winters


The long twilight journey

to Magdeburg-

four days that became six years

six years that became sixty


And always a train of box cars

bleached to Baltic gray

(from Lightning and Ashes)[3]  

Guzlowski’s poems are emotionally powerful and are anchored in his parents experience as forced laborers and country-less refugees.  Yet, his poetry has universal relevance giving voice to countless refugees displaced and traumatized by wars in the past and current centuries.

Cover of John Guzlowski’s book of poetry “Echoes of Tattered Tongues” (2016)

[1] Thomas Napierkowski, “Lightning and Ashes: The Poetry of John Guzlowski,” Polish American Studies, no. 1 (Spring 2008): 86-93.

[2] John Z. Guzlowski, Echoes of Tattered Tongues (Los Angeles, California: Aquila Polonica Publishing, 2016).

[3] John Z. Guzlowski, Lightning and Ashes (Bowling Green, Kentucky: Steel Toe Books, 2007).




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From Charybdis to Scylla. Personal Reflection on the UIUC Library Hangouts.

By Atoma Batoma

Communication is not what we start out with, it is what we get to.
Françoise Armengaud

In order to ensure the continuation of the library’s work during the pandemic, Dean Wilkin organized in March 2020 weekly “Library hangouts,” online meetings for the library community that provide an opportunity for librarians to share their experience of the lockdown. These are still going on, but on a monthly basis since September 2020. I suggest that when a full record of this unique experiment is written and properly catalogued, two of the many tags we will attach to it as descriptors will be “education” and “dialogue” or, perhaps more appropriately, education through dialogue. In what follows, I will elaborate on the reasons these tags will serve us well; but first, let me give you a brief window into how these hangouts work.
To an outside observer, these digital hangouts might have the appearance of an online substitute for regular library meetings rendered impossible due to the pandemic and the related lockdown; but for me and, I suspect, my colleagues as well, they feel more like family reunions with two parallel tracks. One track is a laser-focused and solution-oriented discussion of serious issues, including those thrust upon the Library by Covid-19. The second track is a more relaxing one, a quasi-festive use of the chat space to stream the more personal experiences of the pandemic and the lockdown. My colleagues generously shared their personal experiences here, and I have always looked forward to this with pleasure and excitement. It is here that I have discovered what I would never have known otherwise. My fellow librarians possess a huge array of personal skills and hobbies. They are seasoned gardeners, amateurs of animal husbandry, and experienced cooks with a wide variety of their own recipes. I even learned some interesting tips, such as how to entrust your haircut to your significant other during the lockdown, and what corner of the house leads to the best results. Those chats revealed to me a spirit of goodwill, open mindedness, and generosity I had never had the occasion to see in my colleagues.
These librarians I work with are involved in vast and amazing research areas, and this became apparent to me a few years back when I sat on the Faculty Review Committee. However, I had never had the opportunity to be privy to the world of their extra-professional activities and hobbies. The hangouts gave me a glimpse of this profoundly human aspect of their lives. Not only did I discover their multifaceted worlds, I also genuinely felt invited into their homes to share their meals, pick flowers in their gardens, virtually pet their beautiful animal companions. Clearly, this was one silver lining of the Covid-19 pandemic and web conferencing technology. I wondered how we could harness and keep this friendship and warmth that permeates these hangouts. How could we continue to cultivate goodwill and genuine human sentiments within the academic structure that our institution desperately needs to function?
In his June 3, 2020 email to the Library, Dean Wilkin shared sentiments that were heart-felt and compassionate in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. He concluded by inviting us to think about steps forward to create an open and inclusive environment for our colleagues and for ourselves. At the June 9th hangout the following Monday, participants responded enthusiastically to this invitation by suggesting educational activities in the form of informal hangouts, reading lists, and discussion groups. Informal hangouts would be designed for us to get to know one another on a more personal, non-academic level, in order to foster a more friendly atmosphere within the library’s workspace. The reading lists would be created to keep us informed and updated on the problems of racism and related social issues. Discussion groups would be a place for us to share our understanding of the issues and, eo facto, ground our individual or collective engagement. Other suggestions were added during subsequent hangout sessions.
As someone who studied both Latin and Greek in high school, when I heard the expression “educational activities” it brought to mind ‘education’ in its quasi- etymological sense. To educate (from Latin ex ducare) is to guide, to lead from one place, say point A, to another place, point B. In childhood education, it is to guide a child from the innocent state of infancy toward the more complex and mature state of adulthood. In humanities in general, it is to lead from a place of confusion, of intellectual uncertainty or insecurity, to a place of less confusion, more clarity or intellectual safety. Whether in child rearing or humanities in general, human experience teaches us that sometimes point B becomes evanescent, becomes a new point A and vice versa. Although this process might look like a Sisyphean task, I see it as merely the manifestation of the unfinished business of the Enlightenment project. Education thus understood offers us pointing arrows and guidelines more than guides. Moreover, education often transforms educators into those being educated and vice versa. In other words, it puts educators and those being educated in the same boat, but a kind of Neurath’s ship that gets reconstructed on the open sea as its sailors go along, unable to start afresh from the bottom.
Our Library-ship, like the ships of other institutions around the world, has been jostled back and forth between the Charybdis of Coronavirus and the Scylla of racism and police brutality. Our Library has nonetheless withstood this jolting in great part thanks to the conversation that animated the weekly hangouts. I believed that these conversations, if maintained and carried forward dialogically, would help guide our institution towards firmer and more prosperous shores.
A lot has been achieved since the beginning of the hangouts, particularly on the front of the struggle against Charybdis: the constant sharing of information, the mutual moral support and encouragement among colleagues, the discipline with which the guidelines and instructions have been followed, all this outcome of the weekly and then monthly conversations has allowed the library to carry out its main tasks. Also, new programs and individual initiatives such as discussion groups and outreach activities have come to light. The results of the hangouts and the decisions made as well as their implementations, are recorded in the minutes and accessible on the library’s employee website. I wish to elaborate here on the less tangible, but not less important aspect of the desiderata of the hangouts, notably the interpersonal communication through dialogue.
We know instinctively and perhaps empirically that dialogue is a core component of the educational process. At the June 9th hangout following Floyd’s murder, several participants shared their experience of encounters with colleagues perceived as micro-aggressions, and which made them feel uncomfortable. Commenting on this, the Dean said, “I hope that when that happens, that there is a dialogue.” Here is the crux of the matter, the “hope” and the “dialogue” in the Dean’s response are inseparably linked, and that link defines the complexity of dialogue as the essential aspect of human communication and the most difficult to achieve. The word ‘hope’ points to the value of the desired thing to obtain or action to undertake, and the possibility of its future achievement. It also expresses an appeal to the mediation of human agency without which the achievable cannot be achieved. The difficulty of achieving authentic dialogue is twofold. On the one hand, it depends on the empirical situation in which the encounters occur, and on the other hand, it hinges on the socio-cultural identities of the those involved in the encounter.
The experiences recounted during the hangout took place in face-to-face encounters. In such situations, the spontaneity of the encounters can provoke rough emotions and, consequently, create obstacles to an accurate assessment of the sincerity of the feelings as well as the intention behind the verbal or physical expressions of the partners of the encounter. Although emotions should not be shoved aside and ignored, for they are one of the vital signs of our existential fabric, interpersonal or social contexts require us to maintain some control over their expression. What we can, and should do in such situations, is be open to other people’s reactions to our words or deeds, and if these turn out to be negative or hurtful, be ready to take them back; honest retraction of our words in emotion-charged or conflict-laden situations is the clearest indication of our good will.
Dialogue is difficult to achieve for a second reason related to the fact that, as stated by several sociologists and philosophers of communication, we never take part in communicative encounters as pure disembodied subjects, but as situated individuals with socio-cultural backgrounds and biographical trajectories. This multifaceted dimension of our identities can influence our viewpoints and impact our perception of others as well as our attitude toward them. In a multicultural community like the U of I community with its multitude of viewpoints and perspectives, this can be a challenge. But if we become aware of it through dialogue, it can be an opportunity for education and growth, for the aim of authentic dialogue is not to reduce this multitude of viewpoints to a common cultural or ideological denominator; the aim of authentic dialogue is to understand where the partners of a conversation come from so that they can search for consensus and build together an inclusive and vibrant community, a microcosm of humanity. As Chancellor Jones reminded us in his October 7, 2020 email, “the diversity of our community and the perspectives, talents, and life experiences reflected within it fuel our creativity, advance deep, critical thinking, as well as the innovations needed to address racism and social disparities to improve the world and lives”.
As suggested above, authentic dialogue may be also defined as a communicative search for consensus, that is, a communicative process by which we try to reach agreement on a set of propositions or claims, be they factual, value, or policy claims. But, as Simone Goya-Fabre warns us, the path to consensus is bumpy and offers no guarantee of success: “even when expressed with alacrity and ductility, the communicative discourse is rarely a linear discourse. It never runs like a quiet river. It is a constant debate” (my translation). But despite its uneven and bumpy nature, dialogue as search for consensus is worth undertaking, for as Francis Jacques puts it, “our conflicts are profound but the search for consensus can have a heuristic value (my translation).”

[1] Expression coined by the Austrian philosopher of science Otto Neurath and popularized in American philosophical literature by the American logician and philosopher of language Willard Van Orman Quine through his x book Word and Object. See also his y autobiography titled The Time of my Life.

[1] As Robert C. Solomon puts it in his book titled True to our feelings. What our emotions are really telling us, “our emotions are engagements with the world, not mere self-enclosed feelings” p.  204

[1] I am not oblivious to the fact that, as the French say, no one is deafer than he who does not want to listen (il n’y a pas plus sourd que celui qui ne veut pas écouter).

[1] Goya-Fabre, Simone. De l’Interrogation ou philosopher autrement. Paris : Les Editions du Cerf, 2011.  « Le discours communicationnel, quelles que puissent être en lui l’alacrité et la ductilité de l’expression, est donc rarement linéaire : il ne coule jamais comme un fleuve tranquille. Il est un constant débat ». P.126.

[1] Jacques, Francis. Consensus et conflit: une réévaluation. In Herman Parret, La communité en paroles: communication, consensus, ruptures. Liège : Pierre Mardaga, 1991. « Nos conflits sont plus profonds et notre recherche du consensus peut avoir une valeur heuristique… ». P. 120.

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