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(Re)Mapping the centres Membership and State

Trevor Harris


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1How is it possible to belong to a territory when its boundaries are no longer exclusively physical? How can we define the centre, or allegiance to that centre, at the beginning of the third millennium, if that centre cannot hold?

2In an age when appeals are made both to sovereignty and "the global village", when terms such as "subsidiarity" and "the international community" have become common currency, the notion of membership is irrevocably plural.

3This obviously invites reflection upon the fluctuating relations between central authority and secessionist tendencies in a historical perspective. Today one might consider that the issues of federalism and devolution are not necessarily incompatible. Another case in point would be the tensions between competing conceptions of nationhood experienced in America, between the "melting pot" and a genuinely multicultural society, and between the various linguistic, social, religious and ideological identities.

4Linguists consider the historical imposition of a national language and its subversion, today, by the languages of the mass media and information technology. Can the purity of a (national) language be retained by legislation from above? Or does language evolve through the "democratic voice"?

5In literature, the whole notion of literary value has become problematised: the traditional Western canon has been radically challenged by a variety of critical discourses that demand either its extension or its explosion. When a committed regional writer can go online, is it still meaningful to speak of a mainstream?

6In short the purpose of the conference was to locate or identify the paradoxes and flashpoints created by these shifts from the centre to the margins, from nationhood to membership (and community).

7The Conference Organisers

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2000

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