Archive for March, 2011

Some final thoughts….

Below are some ideas Group 1 came up with for the final class discussion, informal in nature. Please comment with additions, amendments, agreements and disagreements!

How would we pitch a proposal for research funding aimed at initiating a new research agenda and programme for nationalism studies?— Important first to provide an accurate explanation of what the study of nationalism studies is since few understand it from title.  Discuss how broad it is, how it encompasses not just radical political agendas, but also economic and cultural aspects. [Kate]
— Understanding nationalism and its effects are even more important in a globalizing world, not less.  As financial systems, information technologies, and foreign policies become more intertwined in the global world, nations, their motivations and agendas are more, not less relevant. [Kate]
— At its broadest, nationalism is the study of identity.  Despite the changing dynamics of the world order, the desire to belong to a specific community is never erased and always relevant.  Nationalism studies provides a unique, interdisciplinary look at identity and its effects and the interrelationship between economics, politics, culture and religion in forming identities. [Kate]
— Nationalism is increasingly important and still the source of many conflicts throughout the world.  If we are to understand these wars and conflicts it is important that we have a grasp of the specific forces which give rise to it [Katrina].
— Nationalism is pervasive and nearly universal; its negative connotation need not be completely eliminated – after all, negative forms of nationalism continue to exist –  but rather this connotation should be complemented with a positive meaning, one that represents the nationalism that many see as a noble and just cause. This programme will show that nationalism as a field of study is not as specific as one might imagine, but instead it is a study broadly relevant to so many sociological, political, religious and economic issues that dominate today’s headlines [Brandon]. 

What are the new emerging issues that need to be addressed within the context of nationalism studies?

– Devolution, and the direction that nations within states like the UK are going. What is the best solution for scenarios like this, a federalist system, an uneven distribution of devolved powers as currently exists, or perhaps an eventual dissolution of the UK? [Brandon]
– Agreeing with Brandon, the study of nationalism will be focused less on the creation of new states (as it was with the dissolution of the Soviet Union), but rather how to handle multiple, complex national identities existing alongside each other in single states. [Kate]
– Macro- and micro-identities: Is a European identity competing against national  (regional, local) identities, or can micro-identities simply be embedded in larger ones? [Chris]
– Going off what Chris said above, an interesting new element to nationalism is the use of large regional entities such as the EU by smaller stateless nations such as Wales/Scotland/Catalonia/Flanders in order to gain legitimacy in the international community. The irony that small nations are using a large regional actor to gain momentum for more autonomy should not be lost [Brandon].
– Nationalism and Religion.  Following our lecture with Michael Rosie and the current growth of Islamic movements (and other religious groups) eg. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, it seems that religion and nationalism are becoming more intertwined in certain parts of the world.  We have talked a lot about measures taken in France to preserve a secular state – this has a direct impact on how people conceptualize ‘Frenchness’ [Katrina].

Are there new ‘hot spots’, or neglected areas, either geographically, or theoretically?

– English nationalism? This is already being addressed as the so-called “dog that didn’t bark”, and I think the rise of Scottish and Welsh nationalism warrant additional research into the English response (or lack thereof) [Brandon].
– Disconnect / Dissonance between nationalism in Europe (West/North) and Africa.  More attention could be paid to finding patterns and examining past and future of nationalism in Africa. [Kate]
– Nationalism studies became an academically relevant topic largely through the dissolution of the Soviet Union and rise of resulting new states.  Middle East is and will remain geographical hot spot for what we think of as traditional nationalism for the foreseeable future. [Kate].
– Continuing what Kate said about Middle East and with the readings we’ve done for Middle Eastern class, it would be interesting to observe if the revolutions in those countries will lead to a more nationalist state structure or if they will be closer to a pan-Arabist movement. (Ceren)
– I think the article that Kate posted on the blog regarding nations without states deserves more academic attention eg. Kosovo.  I also think the Kurdish question is an interesting one, especially given the instability in the Middle East [Katrina].
– As mentioned, the Middle East is a must for this century. It will most likely be the “century of the people” as Professor Saouli recently said. At the same time, Africa should not be ignored. As Hearn points out, the economic “south” has “remained relatively powerless in the global political economy”, leaving what I believe is a great opportunity to study emerging nationalisms within the continent. Specifically, more studies regarding the identity and nationalism of refugees would be interesting and relevant [Brandon].

What do you think we need to know more about and what kinds of interdisciplinary work might be especially fruitful?

– It would be beneficial to look at nationalism through an international relations lens, determining whether one must have a constructivist perspective when studying nationalism, or whether realism can accommodate the subject while still taking the role of identity seriously. [Brandon]
– Nationalism and economics: Assuming that the EU is more and more developing to a transfer union (in which economically stronger members finance weaker ones), what role plays a common identity in the willingness of specific groups to make (financial) concessions in favor of other ones? [Chris]
– The effect of different languages in the same state, i.e. can mulitlingual states maintain their stability or are they doomed to fail? (Ceren)
– Psychology – National identity is a powerful social construct and can be a highly emotive force.  Anderson and others touch on this but there seems remarkably little interdisciplinary cooperation here given that it is such a fundamental part of personal and social identity for many people [Katrina].
– Social Anthropology.  It was helpful to get a grass roots perspective when studying the indigenous cultures that form nations.  Particularly interesting articles were ‘The Cult of Ataturk’, ‘The People’s Princess’ (Diana), the annual rituals of Francois Mitterand and concepts of sovereignty…etc. [Katrina].
– Postmodernism – As Hearn points out, postmodernists are skeptical of nations and nationalism, viewing them as “illusory”. I think theoretical research should be taken in order to prove that (my opinion) nations and nationalism are quite real phenomena. As Hearn says, though, they will be transformed over time [Brandon].

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An excellent opportunity for anyone interested in studying the emergence into power of the Scottish Nationalists …


The SNP: From Opposition to Government

Since the 1990’s the SNP has moved from being a fringe political party with little representation in the state legislature, to being the party of opposition in the national legislature, to the party of government of that nation. This shift has seen the party have to adapt to an emerging political arena, in which the opportunity to govern within a devolved system had to balanced with the fundamental, historical aims of the party itself – independence for Scotland. The SNP has, since 2007, had the opportunity to show the voters of Scotland that it is a political party able to govern effectively and that it is not, as it has so often been historically painted ‘a one tune band’. However, it has been challenged during its tenure on a variety of fronts, including; being too focused on putting the goal of independence, of agitating for change and seeking confrontation with Westminster rather than working within the devolved system, and of producing populist policy ahead of long term solutions.

This PhD studentship will focus on the SNP in government, from 2007 to 2011 (or beyond) and examine the opportunities and challenges the party has faced, its behaviour in office, the nature and timbre of the policies it has pursued as well as seeking to measure the success it has seen, whether they be policy or politically oriented.

Funding Notes

Successful candidates will receive a £6000 stipend and payment of tuition fees (current value £3400).
This studentship is open to Home/EU candidates with a first degree in a relevant discipline.
Non-EU students can apply, but will not receive the stipend and will be required to pay fees.
Candidates must be available to commence their studies in October 2011.

More information:


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Nationalism and Nature

One of the key elements of the modern nation is its possession over a specific and limited territory. In nationalistic rhetoric the nation is often represented as living within a specific natural territory that has nurtured its people which in turn have gained special national characteristics from living off the land. We are going to focus on how the national territory that a nation inhabits is used in the building of the national identity and promotion of national symbols.

Just as a brief reminder – Smith (2001: 521) comments that symbols are indispensable to the creation and maintaining of a shared national identity: “Collectively, they [symbols] constitute an important force for social solidarity, transformation, and renewal…necessary for the establishment of social cohesion, the legitimization of institutions and of political authority, and the inculcation of beliefs and conventions of behaviour”. National symbols have thus become an essential part of how societies are organized today and are not only manifested in the most obvious such as national flags, anthems, and armies but also in – to somewhat blindly draw on Billig’s (1995) terminology – most banal situations. Some symbols are recreated in daily routines and others surround us every day, frequently unnoticed.

The two examples we are going to use when looking at the way the national identity is connected to the natural territory of the nation are national food and national animals. Both elements can be a real source of pride within nations, but they can also present disputes between countries and its meanings can be contested.

All cuisines are a product of migration, cultural exchanges, colonialism and of course, trade. Cuisines, therefore, are not only influenced by, but are directly implicated in historical changes, political and ideological shifts and more obviously, economic considerations. A case in point is that of Israel and Lebanon and their ‘war over hummus‘. Israel, in forging a national identity, has choosen to focus positively on the biblical period of Jewish history, fostering a closer connection with the land. This is reflected in the ‚local products‘ campaign of the 1920s which resulted in what Schwartz (quoted in Raviv 2002) termed ‘Zionism in the kitchen’. Purchasing food produced locally by Jewish labour, became an act of patriotism reflected in designations such as Hebrew bananas, Hebrew milk, Hebrew watermelon etc.  This nationalizing of food served as a unifying factor internally. By boycotting produce involving Arab labour, it also identified and then proceeded to ignore, the existence of ‘the other’.  Paradoxically , harking back to a biblical era and forging a new identity based on the land of Israel meant accepting some parts of Arab cuisine as their own. Hence, the designation of falafel and hummus as ‘Israeli’, with the corresponding tendency to ignore and erase their Arab ancestry.  This has given rise to great resentment within the Arab nations in the region, sparking the ‘hummus wars’ of recent years.  As part of their independence day celebrations in 2008, Israel came up with an exceptionally large vat of hummus, which led to Lebanon vying for the Guinness World Record in 2009 for the largest bowl of hummus, weighing in at about 2 tons. In January 2010, Israel responded by putting together a 4 ton bowl of hummus.  In May 2010, Lebanon fired a responding salvo by creating an almost unbelievable 10 ton bowl of hummus, vowing to sue Israel over its claims of hummus being an Israeli dish.  The video below gives a brief account of the Lebanese grievance over Israeli ‘food aggression’.

Apart from emphasising the national distinctiveness of food, national symbols have also drawn from another resource of nature: animals. Most states have unofficial but commonly accepted animals whose status as ‘national’ already gives them a privileged position. These may already evoke affiliation with a certain nation – think of the Giant Panda or the Bald Eagle. In official national symbolism animals incorporated into the Coat of Arms and the Emblem are however not necessarily indigenous but can be from a range of predators. In most European countries, for example, the Coat of Arms shows either a lion or an eagle. These two seem to be chosen in most occasions when deviating from animals that live within a state’s territory. In total, they appear in thirty-nine of the world’s recorded national symbols. Some countries moreover display a mythical creature such as a unicorn (UK and Canada) or a dragon (Bhutan). Does the national animal become more significant for a shared national identity if it is incorporated into the official symbolism of a country? Does it lose its significance as unique national symbol if it is shared with other nations?


Billig, M. (1995). Banal Nationalism. London: Sage.

Smith, A. D. (2001). Nationalism: Theory, Ideology, History. Cambridge: Polity Press.


Group 4: Leonie, Roger, Sunnefa and Tehmina

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Full-Face Veil Ban to include citizenship class

As has been brought up previously in class discussion, this April France will implement their ban on full-face veils. The ban includes most public space, space outside the home, with the exception of religious places of worship or traveling in a car. Aside from a fine of about £130, they will be required to take a “citizenship class to remind them of the republican values of secular France and gender equality”.

In an article from the Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/03/niqab-ban-france-muslim-veil, it brings to the forefront France’s problem of an ‘identity crisis’. Along with the full-face veil ban, Sarkozy ‘has ordered a nationwide debate on Islam’s place in secular France’ going so far as to ‘brief journalists he wants no halal food options in school canteens, no prayers outside and no minarets…giving a speech lauding the Christian heritage of France’.

With recent polls showing Marine Le Pen gaining popularity, it seems Sarkozy is trying to find new popularity in solving France’s perceived ‘identity crisis’.

Either way, it provides an interesting analysis of a country seeking to otherize a sector of its citizens. It will be interesting to see the impact, if any, France’s ‘citizenship class’ will have on other countries like Switzerland and the Netherlands.

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Eurovision, Euronationalism…

“The key to understanding nationalism lies in the relationship between culture and structure, and especially the inverse relationship between the two.” David McCrone, reflecting on Ernest Gellner, The Sociology of Nationalism, p.67.

The Eurovision Song Contest began in 1956. Today it consists of 43 states battling it out for the title of best song in Europe. Although primarily a song competition, when one looks at the voting trends amongst the competing countries, it appears to be more political and nationalistic, and arguably nothing at all to do with the music!

Voting appears to be the mostly debated and problematic factor whilst analysing the contest. Certain features such as similar religious backgrounds, historical memories of the past, and other social-cultural contexts seem to dominate how countries vote.

Looking at the content and language of the music and the competition, it gives us great examples of both national and European identity. When looking at France’s participation in the Eurovision, we see a trend of reinforcing their national identity with every entry to date being at least partially sung in French and sometimes also singing about their national identity. See below the somewhat controversial 1993 hit song ‘Mama Corsica’ by  Patrick Fiori, and the United Kingdom’s 2007 entry ‘Flying the Flag (For you)’ by Scooch, for examples of counties using the Eurovision to reinforce their national identity.

On the flipside of things, the Eurovision song contest could be seen as a prime example of European cultural identity. Over the past decade or so, we have seen a popular trend of countries (both winners and losers) entering songs which are Euro-disco or Euro-pop in genre. As the winning song is decided by voting from all of the peer countries, perhaps this gives us an idea of a pan-European taste in music. See below France’s 2010 entry ‘Allez Ola Olé’ Jesse Matador which certainly contains elements Euro-pop whilst retaining French elements as the entire song is sung in French.

On the financial side of things, the Eurovision song contest is a very expensive competition, highly invested in by both host and competing countries. The Financial crisis has arguably turned the Eurovision into a battle for losing! Furthermore one could say, the purpose of seeking a European identity the Eastern European Countries has made them more enthusiastic about investing in the Eurovision.

We have seen the Eurovision Song Contest grow and expand alongside the European Union – the original members of both (bar one) were the same, and there have been similar surges in membership throughout the decades. These two social projects are linked in providing an overarching identity; a supra-state identity whilst celebrating the diversity of each member. European identity, a nebulous identity at best, seems once again to have to expand and incorporate greater members in order to solidify its identity.

A collaboration by Irene Young, Tornike Metreveli, Eva Dowling, Yuanwei He, and Jennie Love.

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