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La franc-maçonnerie et la construction d’identités nationales en Belgique (long XIXe siècle)

woensdag, 9 mei, 2012 - 14:00
Campus: Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering campus
Faculteit: Arts and Philosophy
Anaïs Maes

This study questions the relationship between Belgian freemasonry and nationalism.
Because freemasonry is in essence a cosmopolitan organisation, the tension between
cosmopolitanism and nationalism is at the heart of our investigations. To discover how Belgian
freemasons have reacted to the emergence of national identities in the 19th century two main
research questions have guided us. To which extent did broader societal, patriotic, national or
nationalistic processes get mirrored inside temple walls and did freemasonry itself produce ideas,
traditions and practices of a national or nationalistic nature ? The elaboration of a conceptual
framework has enabled us to draw specific research questions from the greater theoretical and
historiographical debates concerning nationalism. Through concepts as nation, state, nationalism,
patriotism, citizenship and cosmopolitanism and through the theoretical implications of their
interrelationships, we have been able to reinterpret and complement the history of 19th-century
Belgian freemasonry.

In order to present a broad and well-balanced image we have made use of Belgian
masonic sources that were believed to be lost for over half a century (the ‘Moscow-archives’), of
foreign masonic sources and of non-masonic source material. This last documents have allowed
us to interpret the interaction between freemasonry and the broader societal and political world
and have made it possible to avoid telling a purely masonic story. In concrete terms, we have
investigated if there existed a ‘Belgian’ feeling among freemasons prior to 1830 and how they
reacted to the Belgian revolution and the emergence of the Belgian nation-state. Furthermore, we
examined how the different liberal (and socialist) currents within Belgian freemasonry have
contributed to the construction of citizenship and the sovereign nation through an analysis of
discourse and action concerning universal suffrage, education and the social question. The links
between freemasonry and the Flemish and Walloon movements have also and self-evidently been
addressed. The masonic efforts regarding international relations and colonialism throughout the
19th century have further informed us about the tension between nationalism and
cosmopolitanism. Finally, the experiences of Belgian freemasonry during and after the First
World War were analysed, because this period saw the exacerbation of the tensions between the
different levels of identity that arose in the previous century.