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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An issue that our group found particularly interesting in the context of this week’s theorist Ernest Gellner is the ongoing nationalist struggle of ethnic Malay Muslims  in southern Thailand for independence. The transformation of the agricultural state of Siam into the nation of Thailand drew on Buddhism as a primary feature of Thai identity. This was problematic for a Muslim minority included within Thailand which found the dominant Thai culture relatively inaccessible to them. The YouTube video above, produced by AlJazeera, provides a bit of background on this issue.

Gellner outlined several ways in which nations attempt to deal with or incorporate ethnicities and cultures into a unified nation-state.We believe that Thailand has attempted to use the process of education to create a compatibility  between different cultures and the state culture of the Thailand. In ‘The Coming  of Nationalism and Its Interpretation” found in the book Mapping the Nation Gellner wrote

“So this kind of [Industrial] society not merely permits but positively requires homogeneity of culture. It must be a culture of a specific kind, that is, a ‘high’ culture (needless to say, the term is used here in a sociological and not in an evaluative sense). It must be standardized and disciplined. All this can only be achieved by sustained education, and this kind of society is indeed marked by the near-complete implementation of the ideal of universal education. Men are no longer formed at their mother’s knee, but rather in the ecole maternelle.” (page 109)

For people striving to reclaim a cultural, nationalist identity separate from the dominant ‘high’ culture this kind of sustained education seeks to impose, the educators themselves can become symbols of cultural homogenization. For the militants in Thailand seeking nationalist independence from the Thai state, teachers have been targeted and killed as a symbolic resistance to this process, which is viewed as in indoctrination into Thai rather than Pattani culture. This Huffington Post article provides a helpful background on this issue.


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Nationalism does not have to be normal. If you are interested in biographical approaches to nationalism, or simply fascinated by fascist memory culture in public mining museums, you might want to consider spending a weekend in Klagenfurt. On Monday, exactly one year after Haider’s death, his exhibition opens in the shellproof undergound of the local Bergbaumuseum. The organisers assure they would only try to portray “the human Haider, his life, his visions” –  but for God’s sake “not the politician”. After the great success of last year under the title ‘Stories from the bunker – Klagenfurt laid to ashes’, the coming exhibition is expected to lure 70.000 visitors until January.

In Haider’s spirit, all sources I found on the news were only in German.



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There is a perennial tension between a sports-player’s loyalty to their club or their country. These tensions, however, have reached a point at which – as the Blackwell Encyclopedia of sociology puts it – ‘questions are increasingly being asked … about the future of the relationship between nationalism and sport’. Further evidence of the increasingly global nature of sport is offered in the changes sweeping through international cricket. Cricket is one of the team-sports where players have been far better rewarded for international appearances rather than for the ‘day-job’. All that, though may be changing with the introduction of international club competitions. One West Indian cricketer articulates this issue very well: ‘Dwayne Bravo said that if asked to choose between country and club, he would reflect first on the money on offer on either table’. Other leading players, when asked for their views spoke of mortgages, safeguarding their future and ‘staying comfortable’ for the rest of their lives. Jim Sillars famously felt that the Scots were 90 minute patriots, seems like players on the pitch increasongly don’t even feel that degree of national pride. Will national identities be reduced to consumer labels in an increasingly commoditised and corporate world? I wouldn’t bet against it though, as McCrone and others have shown, even national labels have an effect.

Click here for the story that prompted this: http://www.cricinfo.com/magazine/content/current/story/428849.html

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