Quenching a thirst for nationalism

This article is the on-line version of my proposal accepted for the International conference on « Nationalism and the market » in La Sapienza University (June 21st-22nd). Ch.-P. Ghillebaert


 Quenching a thirst for nationalism :

The incidental role of traditional taverns in the expansion of Flemish nationalism

In Northern France the estaminets (flamands) are often referred to whenever the local version of dolce vita (under grey skies) is to be exemplified. As conviviality and generosity are commonly blazoned as core values of les gens du Nord, the tourism industry, some institutional actors and many cultural associations capitalise on those supposedly traditional taverns famous for their jovial atmosphere and their hearty meals to improve the image of a region plagued with high unemployment rate and erratic weather. Of the historical conditions for their expansion little is known yet.

My paper aims at unveiling the dark side of some estaminets whose business model is originally not disconnected from specific nationalitarian purposes in the early 1980s. Not only did they seek to break or reverse the trend of rural café depopulation and the attraction of urban entertainment facilities (sectorial micro-protectionism), but they also contribute(d) to fuel cross-border and autochthonous Flemish nationalism with financial capitals, human resources and ideology-free acceptance, unbeknownst to most of their patrons though.

Scoping estaminets from the iconic Blauwershof in Godewaersvelde, the headquarters of French Flemish nationalists in the 1980-1990s, to La Citadelle in Lille, a den for extreme-right radicals in the 2010s, I will study them as outlets for nationalitarian merchandise, sources of an undeclared tithe for nationalist movements, showcases of an over-idealised community, public spaces used for nationalist meetings, not just the bread and butter of some activists.


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