Archive for September, 2009

What makes a national team ‘national’? Does it matter what the composition of the side is so long as everyone wears the shirt/jersey/tracksuit? These questions crop up time and again – not least in relation to the recent suggestion that ‘Team GB’ should field a football side for the London Olympics.

My own sport of choice is cricket and I just came across this  piece by a lecturer in sports journalism. Reflecting on the number of South African born/schooled players in the ‘English’ (a problematic label in itself) cricket team  Rob Steen argues that:

‘”Today’s cricket hero… does not wish to carry the responsibility for nationalist pride, regional integration and the viability of the nation-state. He sees himself as an apolitical, trans-national, global professional.” And yet still we expect him to put nation before self.’

See here for the full article and comments: http://www.cricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/427344.html

What is your take on this? Would you care if Scotland qualified for the world-cup with a team of Brazilians of fictitious Scottish ancestry? Would the team be any less ‘Scottish’ as a consequence? I suppose it might sound a bit odd to hear the commentators waxing lyrical about the samba rhythms, natural ability and flair of the Scottish players but would that offend your national sensibilities?

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’tis the season to announce seminars …. three within the University of Edinburgh’s Migration & Citizenship series this Autumn that might be of interest:

Thurs 29 Oct
Lisa Pilgram (University of Edinburgh)
Empowered citizenship: Muslim communities in Britain and Europe
1-2pm Seminar Room 5, Chrystal Macmillan Building

Thurs 12 Nov
Igor Stiks (University of Edinburgh)
Being Citizen the Bosnian Way: Transformations of Citizenship in Bosnia-Herzegovina
1-2pm Seminar Room 5, Chrystal Macmillan Building

Thurs 26 Nov
Caroline Sawyer (Oxford Brookes University)
The Fragility of Britishness
1-2pm Seminar Room 5 Chrystal MacmillanBuilding

More info on this series will appear (shortly) here:


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Anyone interested in the topic is welome to attend a couple of the University of Edinburgh Sociology Seminars this semester:

Jon Fox (Bristol) ‘Everyday Nationhood’ on 30th Sept.

Mike Savage (Manchster) ‘Constructing the Modern Nation: Rethinking the History of the Social Sciences in Post-war Britain’ on 25th Nov..

Both 11 am-1pm, at the Chrystal Macmillan Building, Seminar Room 5.

For more on these seminars:

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This article caught my eye and is worth a look for anyone interested in the malleability of definitions of ‘nationalism’:


I particularly liked the idea that wearing a particular sloganising t-shirt could build momentum for political and/or value change (clearly Billy Bragg was wrong: wearing badges is enough, in days like these).

So a foaming glass of fine Scottish ale to the best suggestion for a Scottish “Nasyonalismo” t-shirt slogan …

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Habermas had already warned of the “New Normality of the Berlin Republic”. An article in the German TAZ  (The Forced Normality) today complained about the opening of a Bundeswehr memorial that is seen as part of the Kohlian tradition to normalise Germany as an equal nation within a world of nations: ‘The performance shall show that Germany is not different to other countries’. This appears to be  the next step after several efforts to relativise the past from above since the 1980s. Defence minister Jung stated that the Bundeswehr is an army ‘we can be proud of’, that the German army is a normal army. Habermas (1995) explained that Auschwitz turned Germany into a liberal society, a truth that is still hard to be realised. But the crimes committed during the Third Reich have been tried to be realised by the Federal Republican mainstream. It is this successful culture of “coming to terms with the past” that now seems to disappear.

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There is a moving commemorative tribute to Rajani Thiranagama – a Tamil peace activist assassinated by the LTTE in 1989 in Himal magazine:


The article points out how critiques voiced by Rajani and others twenty years ago are still relevant and offer insights into possible ways forward at this juncture. As the article concludes:

‘written two decades ago, The Broken Palmyrah has defined the tasks for the younger generations, and set out the kind of politics that can lead the country out of violence under the mantle of justice and democratisation. Such politics should challenge the continuing repression and authoritarian politics that pervades Sri Lanka in its post-war moments’.

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