Archive for January, 2011

This post is expanding a bit on my mention of a language being  ‘a dialect with an army and a navy.’ The relevant point I’d like to make about English nationalism is that a characteristic of a dominant group which exerts its influence upon surrounding groups becomes seen as general to all of them, and ultimately the central group, now lacking anything specific to them in that category, is seen as missing part of an identity.


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Sport & Nationalism

Whilst national teams are often held up as embodying national pride and spirit, they ofte divide opinion. As an Indian cricket fan I was keen to find out which players would be sent to the forthcoming World Cup. That I was not alone may be seen in the 1,600+ comments on one site alone. Amongst the many offerings, this one stood out:
by Kartik Prasad on (January 18 2011, 06:08 AM GMT)
This is not the Indian team, this is north Indian team.

This led me to wonder how many (if any) teams really represent their countries. can you think of examples?
There is a rich literature for those with an interest in such questions. The following is a nice place to start:
Qadri Ismail “Batting Against the Break: On Cricket, Nationalism and the Swashbuckling Sri Lankans.” Social Text No. 50 Spring 1997 http://www.jstor.org/stable/466813

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This being Burns’ day/night, the on-line Guardian devoted its regular food blog to a discussion of haggis:


While the article and many of the comments dwell (understandably) on the culinary merits (or demerits) of the dish, a fair bit of the debate also relates to the national dimension rather than the food itself. What does it mean to have a ‘national dish’ and what, if anything does it say about a nation? Along with national days (and arguably Burns’ birthday is as much that as is St Andrews day), national dress, etc., is having a ‘national’ dish an important element of national expression, or is it in fact a sign of a lack of national self-confidence? A judicious skim of the comments on the article raises some interesting questions, not least, do you go for the meat or veggie version, or neither?

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In the reflection of our small group discussion on Hroch’s explanation of the term ”nationalism” in ”Nationalism and national movements: comparing the past and the present of Central and Eastern Europe”, I considered relevant to post a piece that I bumped today online from “Learning from Small Nations”, interview with Miroslav Hroch, New Left Review, 58, 2, pp. 49-50.

Q: Could you explain why you feel the term ‘nationalism’ is so dysfunctional?

A: It is very easy to label as ‘nationalism’ every phenomenon or attribute that has anything to do with the nation or national matters, rather than differentiating between national identity, national consciousness, national awareness, patriotism, chauvinism, loyalty and so on. And it is not at all a ‘neutral’ term, as many Anglophone authors believe. In the American case, this supposed neutrality is pure hypocrisy: you find thousands of titles about ‘American patriotism’ but almost none about ‘American nationalism’—the others are nasty nationalists, but we are noble-minded patriots! According to this terminology, both an ss man in occupied Norway and a member of the Norwegian resistance are ‘nationalists’. In that case, what use does the term serve? Naturally, one can add adjectives to it, as Carlton Hayes did early in the 20th century. Tom Nairn’s concept of nationalism as Janus-faced is helpful, to a certain extent. But does nationalism refer to an activity or a state of mind, or both?

We also need to bear in mind that the word ‘nation’, from which the term derives, has different connotations in different languages. In English, ‘nationalism’ is understood to imply a struggle for statehood, but this is not the case in German or Czech. In 18th-century definitions one can already see a difference between a ‘political’ concept of the nation in English and a ‘cultural’ one in German and Czech. The French understanding is somewhere in between, with both state and linguistic unification forming the basis for a nation. Anglo-Saxon authors writing on Slovene, Czech or Slovak national movements describe them as ‘nationalist’, with the explicit or implicit view that they were focused on a struggle for statehood, and then seem surprised when these leaderships did not fight for independence. This is an error, based on the fiction that a nation cannot exist without a state.

…I use the term ‘nationalism’ only for extreme cases, where expressions of national identity extend into overestimation of one’s own nation and hatred towards others, as in the case of Croatia in the 1990s, for example.

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Whilst browsing the internet I came upon this personification of Flanders and Wallonia as husband and wife, which I thought other nationalism students would find as interesting as I did. It’s taken from Mnookin and Verbeke 2009, and can be read below the cut.


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A new state in Sudan?

Part of our conversation today about nationalism as allegedly purely political phenomenon in pursuit of the ultimate goal of statehood let me recall the article I’ve read about the referendum in Sudan. In case secession is successful, there are whole bunch of problems to arise from the new state and its border. Possibly one of the most interesting is the fate of the semi-nomadic Misseryia (not sure if they classify as tribe or some other term in sociology, being a primarily political science student). Again, does nationalism necessarily imply a path to statehood? Can another perception of it exist?  As the Misseryia will suffer from the decisions of other (so far still) Sudanese, it seems to me that another (non-secessionist) form of nationalism that does not pursue statehood would be favourable and worth studying as scholars have already done (although from the top of my head I cannot think of any right now, sorry). What do you think?



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