Archive for November, 2016

A seminar co-sponsored by our friends at the Centre for Canadian Studies and by the Citizens Nations and Migration Network, with clear relevance to Nationalism Studies:

Strange Bedfellows? Attitudes toward religious minority symbols in Quebec
Speaker        Luc Turgeon (University of Ottawa)

Date             Thursday 24th November
Time            1pm – 2.30pm
Location       Project Room, 50 George Square, Edinburgh
There will be a sandwich lunch at 12.30pm prior to the presentation. Please RSVP at this link to let us know if you are coming, so we can plan how much food to order: http://whoozin.com/DEP-DDG-XPRA 


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Many commentators – particularly on the left – are throwing accusations of ‘fascism’ at US President-elect Donald Trump.

In this measured and thoughtful blog Jane Caplan considers whether this is a useful analytical term ..

Trump and Fascism. A View from the Past

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Rogers Brubaker – 17 November 2016



Rogers Brubaker is an American sociologist and has been a professor at the University of California Los Angeles since 1991. His works focus on ideas of social theory, immigration, citizenship, nationalism, and ethnicity. His early works Citizenship (1992), Nationhood in France and Germany, and Nationalism reframed: nationhood and the national question in New Europe (1996) sought to analyse nationalism in Europe from a historical and comparative perspective. His subsequent analytical essays collected in Ethnicity without Groups (2004) sought to develop alternatives to the predominant analytical approaches to the issues of ethnicity, race and nationalism, and applied his approach to the collaborative Nationalist Politics and Everyday Ethnicity in a Transylvanian Town (2006). His book, Grounds for Difference (2015) identifies and engages with three prominent contexts for the politics of difference: the return of inequality, the return of biology, and the return of the sacred; and his most recent work Trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities (2016) seeks to rethink race and ethnicity to the lens of the transgender experience, with the aim of emphasizing the malleability and arbitrariness of racial classification.  


What is the role of commemoration ceremonies? 

According to Brubaker, the creation of a National Day is part of the historization of a nation, in which the date of such commemorations is linked to a constitutive event in the “national history”. Take for example the 1848 revolutions, in particular the Hungarian rebellion against the Austrian Empire.

Brubaker presents two models of interpretation. In the “desacralized” model, the Hungarian revolution is part of the liberal Pan-European movements against Old Regimes. In the “sacralized model,” the rebellion is nothing more than the struggle for liberation. In that sense, the role of commemoration ceremonies is to support political ideologies. Nowadays, this rebellion can be mobilised as a tool for or against European integration.

What can explain the birth of nationalistic claims in a plural society?

Brubaker’s “triadic nexus” describes the relationship among national minorities, nationalizing states, and external national homelands. This relationship is sometimes conflictual but can also not be. Additionally, the relationship is very interdependent; responsive and interactive; and mediated. Brubaker uses his triadic nexus to discuss the breakup of Yugoslavia.

National minority: The definition of a national minority varies and can range from attempts to introduce the minority language into aspects of the government and education/administration or to full-fledged claims for independence, depending on how deeply it perceives itself to be oppressed.

Nationalizing state: This is a dynamic situation in which the state is not yet a nation-state but might aspire to be one day through efforts such as homogenizing language and culture, improving the economy, etc. The nationalizing state does not have to articulate that it wants to become a nation-state, but rather it simply needs to be perceived by the national minority and/or the external national homeland to be considered as such. If the minority is attempting to assert its rights, the nationalizing state may consider it disloyal and increase its nationalistic policies.

External national homeland: Nationhood extends across territorial boundaries and the homeland feels responsible not only for its own citizens but also for those “ethnic conationals” living in other states. The extent to which the homeland intervenes varies.  

What is the difference between Race, Ethnicity and Nationalism?

Brubaker thinks the literature on Nationalism issues tends to be essentialist. Despite the fact that recent researches have a more multidisciplinary scope, scholars tend to consider ethnicity, race and nations as “static groups.” Brubaker does not give a clear definition of these three terms. According to him, the fundamental research object is the understanding of a definition. He explains that a notion such as ethnicity has to be understood as dynamic and cognitive. To understand ethnicity, one needs to observe the practices of a group, which can change over time, thereby changing the classification of the group. The intersubjective perception of the group depends on everyday narratives such as the words that we use to describe objects.


With Brubaker we revisit the idea of ethnic vs. civic understandings of nationhood. In Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany, he describes the French understanding of nationhood to be ‘state-centred and assimilationist’, whilst the German understanding is described to be ‘Volk-centred and differentialist’ (Brubaker, 1992:1). He discusses a number of reasons why this difference came about, including geographical, political and cultural circumstances.

In France, the nation is conceived in relation to the state’s institutional and territorial frame. The unitarist, universalist and secular definitions of nationhood and citizenship, which stem from the revolutionary and republican past, reinforce the essentially political understanding of nationhood already present in the ancien régime. Yet, whilst French nationhood is constituted by political unity, cultural unity is a major aspiration, which is why political inclusion entails cultural assimilation, both for regional cultural minorities and immigrants.

In contrast, national feeling in Germany predates the nation-state, and is not originally a political idea, nor linked to the abstract idea of citizenship. Instead, it is an organic cultural, linguistic, or racial community. Thus nationhood is understood in ethnocultural terms (based on blood, descent and ancestry), not as a political fact. The Volksgeist is constitutive of nationhood, while the state, though important, merely lends to its expression.

These differences result in a stark contrast when it comes to citizenship ascription. Whilst in France, citizenship is ascribed to most persons born on French territory, even if of foreign parents (ius soli), Germany used to ascribe citizenship only on the basis of descent (ius sanguinis). In his 2001 article The return of assimilation, Brubaker mentions the changes introduced in 1999 in Germany, through which this principle was liberalised. Henceforth, citizenship is attributed to children born in Germany to foreign parents, under the condition that at least one parent resided legally in Germany for at least eight years.


In various instances, Brubaker emphasizes his aim to present a perspective on concepts as nationalism and ethnicity that moves away from scholars who ‘defined the axes of debate on nationalism in the 1970s and 1980s’. Brubaker confirms this aim once again in his article on the construction of ethnicity, race, and nationalism (Brubaker 2009), as he argues that these core concepts must not be analysed as separate classifications that only work in bounded ethnic and racial groups, and nations.

Brubaker criticizes Smith, Gellner and Anderson for their ‘macroanalytic’ theories of nationalism: “[Their focus on] long-term formation of nations involves profound socioeconomic, political, and cultural transformations; but once formed, nations are treated as static, substantial entities” (ibid: 30).


A contemporary issue that can perhaps be analyzed using Brubaker’s triadic nexus is Ukraine and the Russian annexation of Crimea, an area of Ukraine that has historically been populated by ethnic Russians. Russia has often been perceived as taking an active “homeland” stance towards its ethnic conationals in Ukraine. In 2009, ethnic Russians living in Crimea held anti-Ukrainian protests. In 2013, Ukrainian President Yanukovych failed to sign the Ukrainian-EU Association Agreement, leading to more protests. By 2014, Yanukovych had fled the capital amid protests, and Russian President Putin stated they needed to work to return Crimea to Russia and that Russia had a right to protect Russians in Ukraine. However, how much of this was fueled by political reasons rather than the actions of a genuine national homeland “protecting” its people?  

The Ukraine Russia Conflict Explained –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdxG-fLv0vI


  1. Do you think Brubaker’s critique on the stasis of Smith, Gellner and Anderson is justifiable? Discuss.
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of studying ethnicity without groups, as Brubaker advocates?
  3. Does the role of commemoration ceremonies change over time? What are some examples where the context and meaning of the ceremony might have changed?

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A clutch of nationalism-related seminars at the University of Edinburgh over the next few days …


1pm, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, 2 Hope Park Square.

Dr Luc Turgeon (University of Ottawa, IASH-SSPS Fellow): A Tale of Two Liberalisms? Attitudes toward Religious Minority Symbols in Quebec and the Rest of Canada.

[Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities Work in Progress talk]


3pm, Neil MacCormick Room, David Hume Tower.

Dr Balazs Majtenyi (Eotvos Lorand University): How the EU Becomes the Other: A Comparison of Hungarian Constitutional Crises and Brexit.

[Constitutional Law Discussion Group]


5pm, Room G16, William Robertson Wing, Medical School, Teviot Place.

Mark Jones (UCD): Killing under the Shadow of the Schießbefehl: Political and Cultural Mobilisation during the ‘March Uprising’ of 1919.                                                            

[Centre for the Study of Modern Conflict]


5.15pm, Room 2.13, Old Infirmary, 1 Drummond Street.

Professor Philip Goad (University of Melbourne. ESALA Geddes Visiting Fellow): Bauhaus Australia: modernism, migration and exile.

[Architectural History and Theory Seminar Series]


5.30pm, University of Edinburgh Chaplaincy.

Aaqil Ahmed (Head of Religion & Ethics and Commissioning Editor of Religion at the BBC): Fear mongering, Faith and the Responsibility of the Media.                         

[Alwaleed Centre / Scottish Inter-Faith Week]




2pm, Seminar Room, Chrystal Macmillan Building.

Malathi de Alwis; Trauma, Memory & Forgetting in Post-war Sri Lanka.

[School of Social and Political Science]



To join the IASH mailing list of seminars at the University of Edinburgh click on the link below and send the email, keeping the subject blank.


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An interesting piece contrasting the ‘dark’ nationalism sweeping the west with more progressive and ‘civic’ nationalisms from one of Scotland’s leading social commentators.

Iain Macwhirter: “The far right is on the rise and its weapon is dark nationalism”


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Liah Greenfeld

greenfeldLiah Greenfeld was born in Russia in 1954 and relocated to Israel with her parents in 1972. Upon the publication of Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Harvard University Press, 1992), she emerged as a preeminent authority on nationalism, a distinction reinforced by the publication of The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth (Harvard University Press, 2001; Donald Kagan Best Book in European History Prize).

Unlike most modernists who assert that nationalism is a product of modernity, Greenfeld argues that rather modernity is a product of nationalism. She believes that nationalism is what prompted the transformation from old society to modern society. Greenfeld asserts that one of the defining characteristics of modernity is the division of territory into nations. This is a “realization of nationalist imagination”. (Greenfeld, 1992: 487).

According to Greenfeld, national identity is acquired when all citizens identify as members of a nation. This national identity blurs the lines of class and elevates everyone’s status. Everyone is considered equal. She also draws strong ties between nationalism and democracy as they are both defined by the existence of a sovereign people. In her view, the two are intertwined; “democracy was born with the sense of nationalism” (Greenfeld, 1992: 10). The two differentiated, however, when “the emphasis in the idea of a nation moved from the sovereign character to the uniqueness of the people, the original equivalence between it and democratic principles were lost” (Greenfeld, 1992: 10). One reason for this, as Greenfeld asserts, could be that democracy is “not exportable”.

Greenfeld states that England was the first nation. This was the first region in which the term “the people” moved beyond defining the elite and spread to encompass all citizens. The transformation in England was prompted by a number of factors, including the Protestant Reformation, when Henry VII broke away from Rome and the Catholic Church, and The English Bible, “and the unprecedented stimulation of literacy” (Greenfeld, 1992: 87). This growing national sentiment continued under the reign of Elizabeth, and by the mid 17th century, a nation had emerged.

Greenfeld has also done extensive research on the relationship between nationalism and the economy. The Spirit of Capitalism answers a fundamental question of economics, a question neither economists nor economic historians have been able to answer: what are the reasons (rather than just the conditions) for sustained economic growth? Taking her title from Max Weber’s famous study on the same subject, Liah Greenfeld focuses on the problem of motivation behind the epochal change in behavior, which from the sixteenth century on has reoriented one economy after another from subsistence to profit, transforming the nature of economic activity.

Greenfeld argues that the motivation, or “spirit,” behind the modern, growth-oriented economy was not the liberation of the “rational economic actor,” but rather nationalism. Nationalism committed masses of people to an endless race for national prestige and thus brought into being the phenomenon of economic competitiveness.

In Nationalism and the Mind, Greenfeld defines Anomie, which could be translated as “normalessness”, as a built-in feature of modernity, and could produce “a sense of disorientation, of uncertainty as to one’s place in society, and therefore as to one’s identity” (Greenfeld 2005, 332). Therefore she proposed that “Nationalism inhibits the formation and normal functioning of the human mind” (Greenfeld 2005, 333), because nationalism as a modern culture has a presupposition of fundamental equality of national membership, popular sovereignty and focuses on anomic culture, which cannot provide people with a clear sense of defined and stable self-identity, thus causing “socially paralyzing mental disorders” (Greenfeld 2005, 340).

Case Study


Greenfeld states that the EU is an instrumental union, and that member countries use it as a tool to promote its own national interest. The European states need to unite to compete effectively against strong market such as USA and China. Capitalistic blocs are not inevitable if nations can compete individually. For example, in 2005 the French and Dutch vetoed the ratification of the European Constitutional Treaty. Those two countries rejected the treaty because the plan indicated further European integration on the political field. There was a possibility to lose a degree of sovereignty. The European countries possess a strong sense of nationalism, which prompted them to veto the treaty.


  • Greenfeld emphasises the superficial nature of the division created by status and class. Do you think having a shared national identity blurs the line of status and class? Are national identities inherently stronger?
  • “The United States of the World, which will perhaps exist in the future, with sovereignty vested in the population, and the various segments of the latter regarded as equal, would be a nation in the strict sense of the word within the framework of nationalism” (Greenfeld 1992, p.7-8). Do you agree? Will “United States of the World” ever exist?
  • Is democracy exportable to other nations? Is it something that is inherent to certain nations but alien to others? Is nationalism a factor in this distinction?


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This seminar is a joint presentation between Centre for Canadian Studies, and CNaM (Citizens, Nation and Migration Network)


Speaker        Luc Turgeon (University of Ottawa)

Date             Thursday 24th November

Time            1pm – 2.30pm

Location       Project Room, 50 George Square, Edinburgh

There will be a sandwich lunch at 12.30pm prior to the presentation.


Over the last decades, in both Europe and North America, debates have multiplied over the place of minority religious symbols in public spaces. A number of European studies have explored the sources of support for a ban on minority religious symbols. In this study, conducted with Antoine Bilodeau (Concordia University), Ailsa Henderson (University of Edinburgh) and Stephen White (Carleton University), we argue that to understand the sources of such support, it is essential to distinguish those who would ban minority religious symbols from those who would forbid all religious symbols, including those of the majority. While these two groups might share some similar motivations, their opposition to minority religious symbols might also be rooted in different impulses, and as such they might constitute “strange bedfellows”. Echoing European debates, we test this argument by drawing on a survey conducted in the province of Quebec in Canada. In 2013, the provincial government proposed a ban on the wearing of religious symbols, including the headscarf, by public employees. While the legislation would have banned the wearing of all religious symbols, public debates focused overwhelmingly on the wearing of headscarves by Muslim women. However, this debate coincided with another one on the removal of the crucifix from the province’s legislative body. As such, the Quebec case allows us to test the potentially distinct motivations of those who would ban only minority religious symbols and those who would ban all religious symbols.

To register following link http://whoozin.com/DEP-DDG-XPRA

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