In our first lecture
we looked at Benedict Anderson's idea of nationalisms, which are dominant identities that frame themselves as including all who belong within a nation-state, and subnationalisms
, which are smaller groups within the larger nationalism which may seek for varying degrees of autonomy or recognition. In many cases, the subnational group may not feel included in the national group, potentially because of a unique cultural heritage or historical legacies of marginalization.
"Today we're expanding the conversation around nationalism," says Rohee Dasgupta, our lecturer. Questions that interest practitioners, researchers and policy makers aren't limited to who
these nationalist groups are, but also what
causes a particular nationalism, what
makes it strong or weak or whether
it is a settled phenomenon or in flux. There's also the question of how an idea of nationalism gains legitimacy, in what
cultural group's mind and under whose
definition. We can also examine different types.
The first we look at is civic nationalism
. This form of nationhood is defined by citizenship
rather than ethnic background – anyone can become part of the nation should they go through the process of getting a passport. Unity within diversity can be promoted as a virtue, though sometimes (as was the case in the USSR) authoritarian visions of unity resulted in the marginalization of ethnic communities who lived according to local traditions.
In theory, civic nationalism is based on choice, on an acceptance of the political creed that unites the state and is thus independent of race, colour, religion, language and other factors. Nationalism can be contrasted with regionalism
, which can be framed as a divisive force threatening the country's unity.
This form of nationalism is often promoted by various democracies and has its roots in the French and American Revolutions. While in practice results can vary, most constitutions aimed at civic belonging claim that citizens enjoy a rights-bearing status on par with any other citizen in the country.
Many countries may enshrine their civic nationalism with values like secularism
– but how secularism is expressed in these states differs. Secularism can imply the separation of church and state, the absence or accommodation of religion from the public sphere, a repressively atheistic system or a set of checks and balances ensuring the ability of minorities to practice freely.