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About this book

This widely-used and highly-acclaimed text provides a comprehensive and balanced introduction to the main theoretical perspectives on nationalism. The 3rd edition has been revised and updated throughout and includes a new chapter on the practical outworking of theory in the contemporary politics of nationalism.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstract
‘In our modern age, nationalism is not resurgent; it never died’, quipped Isaiah Berlin in an interview he gave back in 1991, at the height of ethnic and nationalist clashes triggered by the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet bloc (Gardels 1991). Curiously enough, this was also the time when several commentators had been predicting an imminent demise of both the nation-state and nationalism under conditions of increasing globalization, in fact ‘the end of history’ as such, ‘the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government’ (Fukuyama 1989: 4). Hegelian in spirit and reminiscent of the modernization theories of the 1950s and 1960s which portrayed the West as the model that the ‘rest’ would emulate, this talk of the end of history was no more than empty rhetoric for those caught up in the maelstrom of ethnic and nationalist violence in much of the world, including the so-called civilized, liberal democratic West – not to mention the less visible yet equally powerful forms of everyday nationalism which have continued to structure the way we make sense of social and political reality.
Umut Özkirimli

2. Discourses and Debates on Nationalism

Abstract
The academic study of nationalism may have taken off in the twentieth century, but nationalism itself, as an ideology and a social and political movement, has been very much in evidence since at least the end of the eighteenth century. Much ink has been spilled since then, first by philosophers and later by historians and the founding fathers of social sciences, trying to come to grips with it as it soon became clear that nationalism was not simply a temporary stage in the historical evolution of human societies. Interest in nationalism throughout much of this period was more ethical and political than analytical, but this was the ‘age of nationalism’, and no one involved in the intellectual or political debates of the time could remain indifferent to its emotional appeal. Political or not, however, these contemplations bequeathed important theoretical insights to succeeding generations, and it would be myopic to discuss contemporary theoretical debates on nationalism without taking this wider historical context into account.
Umut Özkirimli

3. Primordialism/Perennialism

Abstract
‘Primordialism’ is an umbrella term used to describe the belief that nationality is a natural part of human beings, as natural as speech, sight or smell, and that nations have existed from time immemorial. This is the view of nationalists themselves and was for some time the dominant paradigm among social scientists, notably the historians. Primordialism also constitutes the layperson’s view of nations and nationalism. The term comes from the adjective ‘primordial’, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as ‘of, relating to, or existing from the very beginning of time; earliest in time; primeval, primitive; (more generally) ancient, distant in time’ and ‘that constitutes the origin or starting point from which something else is derived or developed, or on which something else depends; fundamental, basic; elemental’ (2016). It is generally thought that Edward Shils is the first to have employed the term to describe relationships within the family. In his famous article, ‘Primordial, Personal, Sacred and Civil Ties’, Shils argues that the attachment family members feel for each other stems from ‘significant relational’ qualities which can only be described as ‘primordial’. It is not just a function of interaction; ‘it is because a certain ineffable significance is attributed to the tie of blood’ (1957: 142).
Umut Özkirimli

4. Modernism

Abstract
Modernism emerged as a reaction to the self-evident primordialism of the older generations who saw nationalism as a natural and universal, or at least perennial, feature of human societies. According to Smith, classical modernism, the belief that nations and nationalism are intrinsic to the modern world and the revolution of modernity, achieved its canonical formulation in the modernization theories of the 1960s, which achieved wide currency in social sciences in the wake of the movements for decolonization in Asia and Africa (1998a: 3). The common denominator of all these accounts is a belief in the modernity of nations and nationalism: both appeared in the last two centuries, and they are the products of specifically modern processes like capitalism, industrialization, urbanization, secularism and the emergence of the modern bureaucratic state. In that sense, modernists are making both a chronological and a structural claim. They do not simply hold that nations and nationalism are historically novel; they also argue that they have become a sociological necessity in the modern world, that there was no room for nations or nationalism in the premodern era (Smith 2003b: 358; Gorski 2006: 143).
Umut Özkirimli

5. Ethnosymbolism

Abstract
Ethnosymbolism emerges from the theoretical critique of modernism. Broadly speaking, the term refers to an approach which emphasizes the role of myths, symbols, memories, values and traditions in the formation, persistence and change of ethnicity and nationalism (Smith 2001d: 84). According to Anthony D. Smith, the ‘founding father’ of this approach, ethnosymbolism stresses the need for an analysis of collective cultural identities over la longue durée, that is a time span of many centuries; the importance of continuity, recurrence and appropriation as different modes of connecting the national past, present and future; the significance of pre-existing ethnic communities, or ethnies, in the formation of modern nations; the role of memories of golden ages, myths of origin and ethnic election, cults of heroes and ancestors, and the attachment to a homeland in the formation and persistence of national identities; the different kinds of ethnic groups that form the basis of various kinds of nations; and the special contribution of the modern ideology of nationalism to the dissemination of the ideal of the nation (2002a: 14–15; see also Smith 1999: Chapter 1, 2005: 98). Such an approach, Smith argues, differs from other explanations in underlining the importance of subjective elements in our understanding of ethnic groups and nations, in the weight it gives to popular cultures and practices and in how these set limits to elite understandings and strategies (2001d: 84).
Umut Özkirimli

6. Contemporary Approaches to Nationalism

Abstract
The post-1989 boom in nationalism studies has also witnessed a growing body of work which refused to remain confined to the bounds of the existing theoretical debate centred on the question of the origins of nations and nationalism. The most distinctive characteristic of this constellation of studies is their general critical attitude towards mainstream scholarship on nationalism. Despite the fact that each highlights a different problem with earlier theories, they all question the fundamental assumptions of their predecessors and seek to go beyond the classical debate by exploring the issues neglected or ignored by the latter, and by proposing new ways of thinking about national phenomena. It would not be inaccurate to say that these approaches have been at least partly affected by what has been widely referred to as the ‘cultural turn’ in social sciences, in turn precipitated by the rise of new social movements in the last quarter of the twentieth century which challenged the purported homogeneity of national cultures and identities in the West. In this context, the static notion of ‘culture’ as a coherent, harmonious whole is replaced by more fluid and dynamic interpretations which treat the latter as a deeply contested concept whose meaning is continually negotiated and revised by successive generations and by different groups that are presumed to make up the national body. In this view, culture is not divorced from social fragmentation and discrimination on the basis of class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and/or place in the life cycle, hence from hierarchies of power. Put differently, ‘culture is more often not what people share, but what they choose to fight over’ (Eley and Suny 1996a: 9).
Umut Özkirimli

7. Nationalism: Theory and Practice

Abstract
When Walker Connor presented a paper entitled ‘When is a Nation?’ in a conference on ‘Pre-Modern and Modern National Identity in Russia/the USSR and Eastern Europe’ at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in 1989, he could not have foreseen that this rather simple question would become so fundamental to the burgeoning field of nationalism studies in the years to come. ‘The article appears to have elicited a surprising amount of interest in LSE circles’, Connor later recalls. Why? He does not know: ‘at the risk of impersonating Dickens’ deceitfully self-deprecating Uriah Heep’, he writes, ‘my piece does not merit such attention’ (2004: 35). It is indeed true that ‘when is the nation?’ has been the central organizing question of the theoretical debate on nationalism, as the table of contents of most introductory texts on nationalism and relevant entries of assorted handbooks and encyclopaedias, including the ones published in the first quarter of the new millennium, would attest (see for example Smith 1998a; Ichijo and Uzelac 2005; Hearn 2006; see also Uzelac 2002: 35).
Umut Özkirimli
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