Archive for October, 2009

Following the recent posts concerning Tom Gallagher’s book about Nationalism in Scotland and the (predictable) media noise it has generated, it was refreshing yesterday to attend another book launch yesterday which generated more light than noise and heat. Coincidentally, well-known political scientist and authority on ‘stateless nationalism’, Michael Keating, is publishing ‘The Independence of Scotland’ (see http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199545957.do?keyword=keating&sortby=bestMatches) at more or less the same time as the Gallagher tome. Keating was his usual lucid self but of equal value was the response of journalist Iain McWhirter (who is already on record criticising the Gallagher book). Both seemed agreed that the most likely future would involve a Scotland with more autonomy and that there was little prospect of a revived unionism based on Britishness as an overarching identity (a la Gordon Brown). Equally, neither was confident that we would see an independent Scotland any time soon. But for me the most interesting thing to emerge from the discussion was just what form any such ‘independence’ would take anyway. With the SNP (apparently) backing away from many of the commitments which some expected (or at least hoped) would be part of an independent Scotland (a republic, the Euro, de-militarisation, an independent foreign policy and a diplomatic presence on the world’s stage) what do we mean by ‘independence’ for small countries in the contemporary world? The line between independence and enhanced autonomy (or ‘devolution max’) may indeed be a grey one.

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Benedict Anderson’s memorable work Imagined Communities allowed the nation to be viewed through the indirect relationships of its people. Anderson claims that through the establishment of the printing press and the increase of vernacular languages due to the decline of Latin, a national consciousness which transcended immediate geographical boundaries of interaction was created. This interaction allowed its people to feel allegiance, pride and above all a sense of unity.

Anderson’s Nationalism was born in the Creole communities of America, which then expanded to Europe through “official Nationalisms” as a reaction from popular nationalism from below. This was followed by linguistic Nationalism and then finally what he calls the “last wave” of Nationalism which occurred in the colonial territories of Asia and Africa.

This week we want to concentrate on linguistic Nationalism and in particular how new modes of technology can bring a new perspective to the notion of Imagined Communities. Anderson has previously talked of how the Internet can serve to solidify feelings of national identity and our example below of the continuing relationship between Welsh speaking Patagonians and Welsh speaking people in Wales explores this idea.

In 2001, an internet linking programme was set up, with help from BBC Cymru, for young learners in Patagonia to link with Welsh speaking children in Wales. This project developed beyond just communication amongst children and is now managed by the Wales Argentine Society. This now acts as a point of communication between the two which reaches beyond the boundaries of Wales allowing a connection along linguistic boundaries which maintains the imagined sense of cultural/linguistic community.

The websites below show how the internet has created a linguistic reconnection allowing a space of interaction reaffirming a sense of imagined Welsh community.



For general information on the Links between Wales and Patagonia see the following



If you want to experience first hand the wonder that is the pantagonian welsh accent (and to learn more about Welsh speaking Patagonia) then visit the below link to this documentary on youtube:

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Following on from the comments in the last post discussing the civic nature of the SNP’s nationalism, I found this article in today’s Sunday Herald which offers a contrary view.


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This week our group is considering the work of Anthony Smith. Smith argues that ‘ethnies’ play an important role in the making of modern nationalist movements. He claims that shared memories, myths and symbols are fundamental to identity and provide the emotional sub-text to many nationalist organisations.

In this week’s Scotland on Sunday, we found this article:


For the first time in generations, the exclusively Protestant Orange Order in Scotland has politicised and is mobilising against the Scottish National Party (SNP) in order to defend the union of the United Kingdom. The order has previously played a significant role in the conflict in Northern Ireland.

We thought this article links clearly to Smith’s theories. The Orange Order is an organisation that expresses its identity through strong ethno-symbolism and ritual and, in so doing, has flourished for hundreds of years. The Order march through the streets of Glasgow each year in an annual celebration of the victory of the Protestant King William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. This year it is estimated there were 60,000 marchers.

We found it interesting that in Scotland we see two competing nationalisms; the civic Scottish nationalism of the SNP in contrast to the ethnic British nationalism of the Orange Order.

Please watch this short video which will demonstrate the power of their imagery.

The effectiveness of the Orange Order symbols is clearly demonstrated by this pair of signs from either side of the sectarian divide.

For a brief history of the Orange Order follow this link:


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Some interesting coverage in the last week or so of the ‘normalisation’ of Armenian-Turkish relations which has caused outrage and disappointment among the Armenia diaspora. Their complaint is: how can relations be ‘normal’ when Turkey refuses to recognise the attempted genocide of the Ottoman Armenians. A tricky and sensitive issue.





I’m posting this now because the issue puts into immediate relief the latest issue of Nationalities Papers (Volume 37 Issue 6) available on subscription to those of us at the University of Edinburgh. It’s a special issue on:


  • War Crimes and Genocide in History, and the Evolution of Responsive International Law, David M. Crowe
  • “The Last Bullet for the Last Serb”: The Ustaša Genocide against Serbs: 1941–1945, Michele Frucht Levy
  • Hitler’s Rassenkampf in the East: The Forgotten Genocide of Soviet POWs, Thomas Earl Porter
  • “Only the National Socialist”: Postwar US and West German Approaches to Nazi “Euthanasia” Crimes, 1946–1953, Michael Bryant
  • Justice 30 Years Later? The Cambodian Special Tribunal for the Punishment of Crimes against Humanity by the Khmer Rouge, Wolfgang Form
  • Adjudication Deferred: Command Responsibility for War Crimes and US Military Justice from My Lai to Haditha and Beyond, William C. Peters

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Found this particular article interesting as to where the future of the BNP lies. For a party which has famed itself for representing “a single brotherhood of peoples” I. e white British  and who are “committed to stemming and reversing the tide of non-white immigration”  it will be interesting to see  not only if any non-white British people attempt to join the party but also to what extent there will be fragmentation among its ranks if the constitution is accepted


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Couldn’t resist posting this fascinating story, which kind of updates the politics of ‘patron saints’ into the 21st Century …


The story also rather nicely highlights different – and in this case competing – markers of ‘national identity’: ethnicity/ancestry, place of birth, and residence/commitment.

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