NATION LIBRARY: Nations & Nationalism
Notions of Nationalism
Edited by Sukumar Periwal
published by Central European University Press
Budapest, London, New York
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Hans van Amersfoort is Professor at the Institute for Social Geography,
University of Amsterdam.
John Armstrong is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of
Ernest Gellner is Professor Emeritus, University of Cambridge, and Director
of the Centre for the Study of Nationalism at the Central European
John Hall is Professor of Sociology at McGill University, Canada.
Chris Hann is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Kent.
Miroslav Hroch is Professor of History at Charles University, Prague.
John Keane is Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, University
Michael Mann is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los
Hudson Meadwell is Associate Professor of Political Science at McGill
Sukumar Periwal is Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of
Nationalism, Central European University.
Elzbieta Skotnicka-Illasiewicz cooperates with the Institute of Philosophy
and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw.
Nicholas Stargardt is Lecturer in Twentieth-century European History at the
University of London.
Wlodzimierz Wesolowski is Professor of the Polish Academy of Sciences,
from the conclusion:
"...'Yet another volume on nationalism?' a tired reader sighs, browsing
through a bookshop or library. 'Why?'
In recent years 'nationalism' has become an eponymous word, a word one cannot
escape, a word like 'modern' or 'politics' or 'identity', a word one encounters
so many times every day, whether in the morning newspaper or in the evening news
on television, a word which has become so much part of our daily vocabulary that
it passes submerged into the diffused mental structures that allow us to
comprehend the world in which we live. Everyone has some intuition about what
This book seeks to clarify the meaning of the word 'nationalism' as it is used
in daily discourse. The authors who
have contributed to this volume are important participants in a debate which
is central to contemporary social science...
....all the contributors to this book share the basic premises that
'nationalism' is not a self-evident phenomenon or notion, and that the attempt
to understand nationalism is important because nationalism is a crucial and
inescapable component of politics and identity in the modern world.
'Politics', 'identity', 'modernity': these words point to two aspects of the
debate on nationalism. First, far from being a unitary concept with sharp,
clearly defined boundaries, the very notion 'nationalism' is inextricably
intertwined in an intricate web with other complex concepts. (Furthermore, as
several of the essays in this book remind us, 'nationalism' itself is
analytically divisible into other concepts: secession, irredentism,
self-determination, to name just three.) Secondly, the use of the words
'politics', 'identity' and 'modernity' in this context points to ... an
understanding that nationalism is all about the construction and contestation of
concepts of identity in the social conditions specific to modernity; that it is,
in this sense, essentially political.
This understanding contrasts sharply with the common intuition that nationalism
is somehow 'natural'. Insofar as most people think about nationalism at all,
they seem to assume rather vaguely that since people live in groups, speak
different languages, cook in diverse ways, and above all else, look different,
then such divisions of the world must always have been the case, 'nations' must
always have existed, and states are synonymous with 'nations'.
We have the United Nations, relations between states are called
relations, international peacekeepers try to defuse tensions in various
trouble-spots around the world, elections are monitored by international
observers . . . Such a list could go on indefinitely, but the point, of course,
is that the prevalent worldview assumes the equation of 'state' and 'nation', an
assumption which is itself essentially nationalist...
This assumption that the state and the nation are synonymous entities is so
deeply entrenched in the late-twentieth-century worldview precisely because of
the success of nationalist ideology. Furthermore, the assumption that 'state'
and 'nation' are synonymous causes us to feel uneasy when the political unit and
the national unit are not congruent. They should be. Nothing provokes greater
outrage than 'imperialism', when groups who claim the privileged status of
'nation' are denied the 'right' to 'self-determination', whether in the form of
enforced belonging to an 'alien' state or in the form of a more powerful state
bullying a weaker one.... We might not think of ourselves as nationalists,
indeed, we might well think of ourselves as being positively internationalists,
but the point is that nationalism and internationalism are two sides of the same
coin and that the very ubiquity of the words debases the value of the conceptual