New Article Spotlights, September-October 2013

Read on for some SEN articles that reflect on recent news reported on the blog over the past several weeks:

Identity Politics, Reform and Protest in Jordan, Curtis R. Ryan, Volume 11, Issue 3, December 2011, pp. 564-578

This article provides a brief examination of the main ethnic and national fault lines within Jordanian politics, and how these affected – and are affected by – the 2011 uprisings in the Arab world.

The Nation-State Form and the Emergence of ‘Minorities’ in Syria, Benjamin White, Volume 7, Issue 1, March 2007, pp. 64-85.

Minorities are specifically modern political groupings: they belong to the era of nation-states. This article explores the emergence of minorities in Syria under the French mandate. It examines the contradictions caused by French attempts to impose a religious political order within the secular form of the nation-state, showing how that form created minorities, most of whom cannot simply be mapped onto the millets, or religious communities, of the Ottoman Empire.

Using French and Syrian sources from the archives of the French High Commission, the article examines various religious and ethnolinguistic minorities to show how their emergence was governed by the nation-state form. French colonial policy influenced their development, but not their existence. The article draws on publications from the nationalist press of the period to show how the formation of minority and majority consciousness constitutes a larger process that is intimately linked to the nationstate form. The Syrian case is presented for comparative study and warns against an unreflective use of ‘minority’ as an analytical category.

Nationalism, Exclusion, and Violence: A Territorial Approach, John Robert Etherington, Volume 7, Issue 3, December 2007, pp. 24-44.

Nationalism can be understood as a doctrine of territorial political legitimacy, in the sense that demands for national self-government necessarily involve claims over a given territory. Such claims are ultimately justified by establishing a relationship of mutual belonging between the nation and ‘its’ territory. This makes nationalism intrinsically exclusionary and potentially violent, since purely civic nations become impossible in practice. Shared political and social values on their own fail to bind nation and territory together, and as such the nation’s ‘home’ might be anywhere, and thus, in a world of competing political claims over territory, nowhere. Ethnic elements of national identity are therefore necessary if an exclusive relationship is to be established between the nation and ‘its’ territory. These arguments are illustrated by analysing a series of nationalisms that have been traditionally considered to be ‘civic,’ such as those found in the United States, Canada and England.

Zionist Awareness of the Jewish Past: Inventing Tradition or Renewing the Ethnic Past, Yitzhak Conforti, Volume 12, Issue 1, April 2012, pp. 155-171.

Since the 1980s, the question of how nations are formed has been the topic of historiographic debate: is it correct to define nation-building in terms of inventing traditions, or is the ethnic-symbolic viewpoint more useful in understanding the process of development of the nation-state? This debate is also reflected in research on Jewish nationalism. In this article, I will examine this issue in relation to the Zionist movement, focusing on several clear examples of forging the nation and nation-building: 1) the change in configuration of traditional Jewish holidays; 2) ceremonies and Zionist holidays on kibbutzim; 3) the status of the Bible in the Zionist movement; and 4) Jewish history and Zionist historiography. These examples indicate that the process of nation-building reveals a strong ethnic-cultural link to the Jewish past. I will argue that modern political explanations such as inventing tradition do not offer a full explanation of the phenomenon of Jewish nationalism. In order to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the success of Zionism in consolidating around it a group willing to commit such a high level of personal sacrifice over time, we must give consideration to cultural-ethnic continuity as well as the feeling of commitment and sanctity that Jewish nationalism offered to its believers, both religious and secular.

Intercultural Citizenship, Civic Nationalism, and Nation Building in Québec: From Common Public Language to Laïcité, Jean-Francois Dupre, Volume 12, Issue 2, October 2012, pp. 227-248.

This article analyses the current citizenship-nation building nexus in Québec in light of government publications and recent public discourses on ethnocultural pluralism and immigrant integration. First, the article surveys the changing relationship between Québécois nationalism and citizenship according to political circumstances in Québec, suggesting that debates over immigrant integration have played a central role in the creation of a civic Québécois identity, initially based on French as the public language and interculturalism. The article then analyses recent public debates surrounding ‘reasonable accommodation’ in Québec, and identifies a growing emphasis on laïcité – the secularisation of the public space – as identity marker. This article attributes this growing focus on secularism to dissatisfied nationalists seeking to reclaim the cultural prominence of the French Canadian majority in provincial institutions and press for measures aimed at enhancing Québec’s distinctiveness and autonomy within the Canadian institutional framework. On a more normative note, the article argues that while language nationalism is reconcilable with ethnocultural pluralism, recent discourses on the secularisation of the public space constrain the emergence of an openly pluralistic stance on national belonging in the province, and undermines the legitimacy of Québec interculturalism.

Between the National and the Global: Exploring Tensions in Canadian Citizenship Education, George H. Richardson and Laurence Abbott, Volume 9, Issue 3, December 2009, pp. 377-394.

Over the last fifteen years, most national public education systems have added some component of ‘global citizenship education’ to their existing civic education curricula. This move to expand the confines of citizenship education has generally been applauded as a way in which schools might better prepare students to understand and address the challenges and possibilities of globalisation. However, a close analysis of curriculum documents in Canada tends to highlight the fact that in terms of civic education, significant ideological tensions exist between global citizenship and national citizenship. In this article, we draw on Canadian civics and social studies curricula from across Canada to examine the different sources of civic tensions between the ‘national’ and the ‘global’.

The Relevance of Kohn’s Dichotomy to the Russian Nineteenth-Century Concept of Nationalism, Susanna Rabow-Edling, Volume 8, Issue 3, December 2008, pp. 560-578.

This article challenges the common distinction between a Western and an Eastern type of nationalism with regard to Russian nationalism. Analysing the civic nationalism of the Decembrists and the cultural nationalism of the Slavophiles, it argues that the type of nationalism that appears in a specific country has more to do with timing than with place or social conditions. The article also suggests that intellectual thought should be studied in an international rather than a national context and that the world of ideas has to be granted a considerable degree of autonomy from socioeconomic conditions.

Nationalism, Ethnicity and Self-determination: A Paradigm Shift?, Ephraim Nimni, Volume 9, Issue 2, September 2009, pp. 319-332.

An ongoing paradigm shift is giving birth to a more multidimensional understanding of the relationship between nationalism, sovereignty, self-determination and democratic governance. A common element among the various versions of the new paradigm is the dispersal of democratic governance across multiple and overlapping jurisdictions. Governmental processes are no longer seen as discrete, centralised and homogenous (as in the old nation-state model) but as asymmetrical, multilayered, multicultural and devolved into multiple jurisdictions. These changes have hardly affected the two main conceptual frameworks that dominate the study of nationalism: modernism and ethnosymbolism. As a result, these frameworks risk becoming irrelevant to the new forms of national self-determination, asymmetrical governance and shared sovereignty. Modernism and ethnosymbolism insist that nationalism seeks to equate the nation with a sovereign state, while in reality the overwhelming majority of nations are stateless and unable to build nation states because they often inhabit territories shared with other nations. The paradigm shift occurs through the realisation that nation-state sovereignty is no longer a feasible solution to the demands of stateless nations. Ethnosymbolism is in a much better position to adapt to the paradigm shift provided it abandons the claim that the nation state is the best shell for the nation.

The Ethnic and Civic Foundations of Citizenship and Identity in the Horn of Africa, Redie Bereketeab, Volume 11, Issue 1, April 2011, pp. 63-81.

The article seeks to analyse the ethic and civic forms of citizenship and identity in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia and to some extent Sudan are pursuing the ethnic model. While Eritrea and Djibouti pursue the civic model, Somalia represents a special case. Ethnic citizenship may guarantee equal rights, self-rule, and self-fulfilment; however, it could also be a cause of division and irredentism. Civic citizenship could create unity and cohesion in polyethnic societies; it could also lead to majority domination. The article contends that both models are relevant where the national level could be served by the civic model and the sub-national is served by the ethnic model. The article concludes that the politics of domination are the main obstacle to the equal rights of citizens, and therefore politics of domination should be replaced by the politics of rights.

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