Anyone who has followed Dutch politics for the past few years must know Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch ultra-right political movement PVV (which translates to: Party of Liberty). Those who have even examined Wilders’s speeches and pamphlets must be familiar with that curious and controversial little phrase: ‘the judaeo-christian tradition’, or alternatively, ‘our judaeo-christian tradition’. This concept, so little elaborated, is sometimes presented as the core of Wilders’s anti-Islamic stance, which in turn can be described as the core of Wilders’s political programme. If the judaeo-christian tradition can be termed the core of the core of Wilders’s politics, then it is absolutely crucial to get a clear sense of what the judaeo-christian tradition means. Only once we understand what maneuvers Wilders is making by using this phrase in the way that he does, we can effectively counter this concept or expose it for what it really is: a poorly concealed desire to have an uneducated and sheepish Dutch people to carry out his every wish.
In my last post, I explained briefly what kinds of questions I find appealing in the fields of history and utopian theory. In this post, I would like to elaborate on where I believe these questions come to the fore most vividly, and how the historical location of such questions influences my choice regarding subject-matter and period. The alert reader can see that I am writing in a strangely ‘passive’ voice: I do not simply pick the subject-matter – the subject-matter suggests itself to me, given my commitments. To some extent, this is the product of the fact that academia is a calling, and perhaps history (or the humanities in general) has an even higher ‘calling-potential’ than most other academic fields.* But I have to admit it’s also partly a personal defect and occupational hazard: to historicise even oneself beyond the recognition of agency. This is something I’m still working on, I promise.
For many, the onset of Autumn signifies the start of the new academic year. For some, including myself, it rather means the beginning of the Sisyphossian labour called ‘university applications’. As I have to write a fresh research proposal in the coming weeks, I would like to dedicate this blog post to putting some thoughts on paper about the kind of research I can see myself doing in the coming years, in a relatively ‘safe’ and informal environment – as a kind of exercise in self-help. What kind of issues trigger my interest most within the intellectual space comprising Classics, Political Thought, and the Humanities more broadly? Is there a pattern discernable within the topics I have already worked on in the past? Is it possible, in the course of this blog post, to come to a rough sketch of my research proposal?
If there is one topic that has never ceased to captivate the (largely Western) political imagination, it is the civilisation-barbarism complex. Any superficial knowledge of the course of human history must include also knowledge of considerable cruelty, ignorance and hatred. For some scholars, the study of history provides plenty of reason to plunge into great pessimism about the future of civilisation, and about its ability to withstand the barbarians – who are always imagined ad portas; already ‘at the gates’ of human compassion, insight, and love. For the great English historian Eric Hobsbawm, for example, civilisation had receded to make way to the tide of barbarism since at least the start of the First World War.