Archive for October, 2011

Re the previous post on the 99% as an ‘imagined community’, see Frank Ferudi’s skeptical comments in Spiked Online, at:


Read Full Post »

Expanding ‘Imagined Communities’ to a Global Level (?)

Benedict Anderson argues the dissemination of ideas through mass production of nationally bound newspapers and books within the processes of print capitalism allows national communities to be imagined. These communities are imagined as limited, sovereign and as a community within what Walter Benjamin calls homogenous, empty time.

Deriving from Anderson’s idea of imagined communities/nations, we wonder whether it is possible to imagine communities beyond nations and nation-states – especially in the digital age.  This question has been recently brought up by Ulrich Beck (2011)* with his article “Cosmopolitanism as Imagined Communities of Global Risk.” As it can be seen from the very title of the article, he suggests we can extend Anderson’s idea of Imagined Communities to a global level. More specifically, he discusses that a global community can arise in response to global economic risks. Therefore, he argues that what is defined as ‘us’ and ‘other’ is being redefined and mixed.

A possible of example of this new global (?) community could be seen in Occupy Movement, whereby people imagine themselves as the 99 per cent.

As you can see from the blog (http://wearethe99percent.tumblr.com/), the movement has a bottom-up formation, whereby participants can put up their own photos, fliers and expressions and in this way emphasize the common experiences of the ’99 per cent.’ They imagine themselves beyond the boundaries of the nation-state by not necessarily referring to their national identities; rather, they imagine themselves with reference to their daily experience of capitalism and global risks. This imagination is – in part – made possible by the proliferation and expansion of communication technologies, i.e. the Internet, which brings with itself an understanding of simultaneity and the understanding of time as homogenous and empty.

Within this framework, we want to ask several critical questions:

1-      Whose imagined community is the Occupy Movement? Who is the 99%? Who is the 1 %?

2-      In whose language is the community imagined?

3-      What would be the controlling mechanism of this imagined community?

4-      What kind a power relationship would there be in this new imagination?

5-      Is it legitimate to extend Anderson’s idea of Imagined Community to a global level as Ulrich Beck did?

These questions reminded us of Michael Billig’s (1993) self-reflexive confessions in his book Banal Nationalism, where he admits that “I read ‘home news’ with greater interest; I do not object to its greater coverage; I expect it habitually” (p. 126).

Can an imagined global or cosmopolitan entity supersede the importance of the nation as an imagined community?

*You can access Ulrich Beck’s article from  http://abs.sagepub.com/content/55/10/1346.abstract

Nese, David, Jamie, Jim





Read Full Post »

A very interesting article from the opening of the SNP conference – Alex Salmond seems to be evoking Anthony Smith in a speech on Scotland’s claim to North Sea oil.

The report in the Scotsman likens Salmond’s rhetoric to that of the “chosen peoples”.

“We want to see these resources mobilised for the Scottish people,” Mr Salmond told delegates. “We believe that the natural resources of the nation bestowed on us by the creator of the universe that these natural resources should be at the disposal of this nation.”

Read Full Post »

Upcoming Workshop

‘Crossing Perspectives: Concepts and Methods in the Study of Nationalism’, 11 November 2011, Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh’s Ethnicity, Nationalism & National Identity Network (ENNIN) is pleased to announce a day-long workshop, Crossing Perspectives: Concepts and Methods in the Study of Nationalism, to be held on Friday, 11 November 2011. With addresses by Dr. John Hutchinson (LSE) and Professor David McCrone (University of Edinburgh), the workshop provides a unique opportunity for graduate students and staff from the University of Edinburgh, London School of Economics, Trinity College Dublin and beyond to discuss and exchange their ideas.

The workshop will not be based on the classical format of paper presentations but will be structured around two panels involving facilitators, and with full audience participation. The workshop’s first panel explores the differing perspectives on nationalism studies while the second panel focuses on methodology. All attendees are encouraged to participate. Space is limited.

To register for the workshop, please send an e-mail with your full name, school/program, university, year of study to ennin.rg@ed.ac.uk by 1 November 2011.

Read Full Post »

Anthony Smith, as most of you know by now, is the father of the ethnosymbolic approach to the study of nationalism.  According to himself, he does not completely denounce the modernist perspective, but attempts to fill what he feels are the gaps in modernism by taking into account ethnic communities or ethnies.

Smith, with his concern for ethnies and nations, and the connection between the two, defines each as such (showing also their differences):


*Self-definition, including a collective proper name

*a shared myth of common origins and ancestry

*shared myths and memories of past communal events, places, and personages

*one or more elements of shared culture

*some sentiments of solidarity, at least among the elites


*Self-definition, including a collective proper name

*shared myths and memories of origins, elections, etc.

*a distinctive common public culture

*possession/occupation of a historic homeland

*common rights and duties for all members

(Smith 2004:  18)

Smith states:  “Nationalism, the ideology and movement, must be closely related to national identity, a multidimensional concept, and extended to include a specific language, sentiments and symbolism.”

(Smith 1991:  vii)


I pose this question:  Does the United States fit solely into the modernist perspective or is it reasonable to say that it can fall into an ethno-symbolist perspective as well?

I say that it can.  Granted, the U.S. does have many “modern” attributes to it and the nation may have formed from nationalism created by the state, but what is the glue holding this “nation” together?  There must be some pre-existing cultural elements.  I believe it is fair to say that the Puritan work ethic, which does encompass the United States as a whole, definitely fits into an ethno-symbolist perspective.  Of course, not everyone is Protestant in the United States, but the Puritans were some of the first who settled in the country and their idea of hard work spread and became pervasive into the national culture (not to mention they were around before they came to the US).  This is why Capitalism has flourished in the US.   The dominance of the English language as the “official” language (even if it’s only de facto) shows the roots of the nation.  This also has resonance for those whose ancestors assimilated (originally being non-native English speakers), linking the shared “myth” of past communal events and of communal origins.  The fact that the US is a nation of immigrants is again, the shared myth of common ancestry, even if it is oxymoronic in the sense that “we are the same because we all came from different places.”  Yes, these cases may be modern, but there are still ethno-symbolic features to them.


My question is: Ethnie-building, is it possible? I think yes and here’s the example.

Two regions in Georgia – Abkhazia and South Osetia.

Abkhazia – historic-geographical part of north-west of Georgia. In Georgian historical sources Abkhazia is always considered as a part of a country, till 1931, when it become an autonomy within the Georgian Soviet Republic and this time is the beginning of separatist movement there. But this movement had a very small mass support in the region. However the fact, that some part of the population began to think about being Abkhazian, depart from Georgia, is that what I will call time bomb, which exploded in 1992. In this year was a war between Georgia and “Abkhazia” (with support of Russia) and almost 80% of population was expulsed from that territory. Abkhazia became new ruling elite, which was and till today is a marionette regime of Russia. After these events the history of Abkhazia is being rewritten, the new myth about old Abkhazian people as an independent ethnic and cultural unit is well established. Nowadays the young generation in this region believes that this territory was always populated by Abkhazs, which were trying to secede from enemy state Georgia. Even after almost twenty years after the war you can still find in this region population with Georgian surnames and relatives in different parts of the country. And now they claim to have an independent state. These claims are well argued and mainly based on what Smith calls ethnie, even though main features of it were invented and imposed by Soviet rulers.

The same scenario goes now in South Osetia. Indeed even the term “South Osetia” didn’t existed till 1918, when it was created in response to Georgian declaration of independence. From this year began permanent rebellions (again with support of Russia) claiming autonomy within the Georgian state and in 1922 – after one year when Georgia lost independence – this region became it. And this was another time bomb.  In 2008 Georgia had a war against Russia again. Putin claimed to be the defender of the “oppressed” people of the region and this was Casus belli at this time. Now there’s a situation that in Georgia are more than 200 000 refugees, the region is empty, and the ruling elite from Moscow is ready to continue the formation of nation within a nation on the basis of artificial “old” ethnie.



An island located in the south-west Indian ocean, Mauritius was still unpopulated when it was first discovered by the Dutch in 1598 ( http://www.gov.mu/portal/site/abtmtius/menuitem.163fea3f13ca22984d57241079b521ca/ ). It has subsequently been under both French and British rule, before becoming independent in 1968 (ibid). It’s population today is mainly a mix of  the descendants of French planters, African and Malagasy slaves, Indian indentured labourers and Chinese merchants (Eriksen, 1994. See/read article here )

According to Eriksen, the number of ethnic groups range from the 4 officially enshrined in the constitution, to 24 “depending on the social context” (ibid, p. 552). There are three main religions, and a great variety of languages spoken, of witch English is the official language and french is the language used in media (Ibid).

When it comes to national symbols, they are mostly heritages of colonial times, and make little reference to any particular ethnic group whatsoever (Ibid).

However, Eriksen seems to have no doubt that a sense of national identity exists at Mauritius.

How do we, following Smith’s emphasis on shared myths and memories of origin, understand Mauritius, when, according to Eriksen, “In Mauritian society, there are no myths of shared origins encompassing the entire population” (Ibid, p. 573)?


Reading articles by Smith, I always find something similar to the assertion by Japanese right-wing persons who tend to insist the purity and originality of Japan or Japanese. So, I’d like to throw a question to my classmates about the relation between ethnosymbolism and excluvinism.

In his article titled “The nation as an artichoke? A critique of ethnosymbolist interpretations of nationalism”, Özkirimli criticises ethnosymbolism that “it is more an attempt to resuscitate nationalism than to explain it”. Considering Özkirimli’s attitude toward nationalism, the word “nationalism” in this quote nuances “excluvism”. Is it true or not that the ideas of ethnosymbolists have something in common with excluvism?

Although theory(Smith does not recognize ethnosymbolism as a scientific theory) and practice or movement(if nationalism is defined as a movement) should be thought separately, Özkirimli’s criticism can be said true, if similarities between both ethnosymbolist and nationalists( for example, right-wing persons in Japan) who focus on stories of what is distinctive, unique and truly ours.

Populist Nationalism Growing in Japan:

Read Full Post »

The Invention of Germany

Radio 4, 8.00pm
New series from Misha Glenny, tracing the history of how Germany came to be a nation, as opposed to a loose federation of many states and principalities. In three half hours he will go from the siege (and burning) of Magdeburg in 1631 to how it has become the most powerful state in the EU. It was the turntable of Europe, says one of his contributors at the start. But we don’t know much about it because, says another, everything is obscured by the fog of Nazism. The big thing to remember, says Glenny, is that its frontiers are fluid.

Read Full Post »

Kurds as a Nation…or Not?

If Gellner’s model of nations and nationalism is correct, it should apply to a variety of situations in the real political and social world.  After spending the weekend reading everything Gellner has ever written, we decided to try this on the case of the Kurdish population in Turkey.

This article, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/06/turkey-kurdish-question-recep-tayyip-erdogan&gt;,  from the Guardian boldly proclaims that: “It should be clear to current Turkish leaders that the nine decades of militaristic policies in suppressing and denying Kurdish identity have failed. Turkey must realise that the Kurdish question requires a more nuanced approach.”

We ask a yet more nuanced question: where are the Kurds within Gellner’s theory of nations and nationalism?  In other words, are the Kurds, a people largely living off the land, an agrarian community?  Furthermore, are they an agrarian community living within a modern state? Or are the definitions here less precise?

Let’s look at Gellner’s definitions:

“Two men are of the same nation if and only if they share the same culture… and Two men are of the same nation if and only if they recognize each other as belonging to the nation” (Nations and Nationalism, 6-7).

“Nationalism is primarily a political principle which holds that the political and the national unit should be congruent” (Nations and Nationalism, 1).

Keep in mind while reading Gellner, what his idea is surrounding modernity vs. agrarian communities. This leads to our discussion questions…

1. Is Turkey, as a political entity, modern according to Gellner?

2. What does this mean for Gellner’s vision of modernity?

3. Are Kurds a modern nation in their own right?

4. How does Gellner’s theory of revolution tie in with the presence of the PKK in Turkey?

5. Where does Turkey fit in the big picture — as the Arab state in the European Union, or the European state in the Arab world?

6. Look to Gellner’s five stages of development towards a homogeneous nation. When reviewing the nacht und nebel stage, is there a danger that Turkey could use this strategy to curb the ‘Kurd question’?

Claire, Hannah, Sif, Eirik, and Gavin

Other articles:




Read Full Post »