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2021 Spring


William Eddleston
For information about registration please contact our admissions.

Nations and Nationalism aims to provide students with a firm grounding in the history of the concept of the nation, national identity and nationalism in its European context from antiquity to the end of the Second World War. The seminar programme will focus on the major theories and theoreticians of nationalism.

The short historical lectures will examine the history of nationalism and the formation of European nation-states from the late mediaeval period to the end of the Second World War, with a particular emphasis on the period between 1789 and 1945. The course will devote attention to such questions as the problem of the origin of the nation state; the question of the existence of nations and nationalism in antiquity and the middle ages; the growth of the consciousness of national identity in the 18th century; the impact of the French Revolution on the growth of nationalism; the period of the liberal nationalism and its contradictions; the 1848 revolutions, especially in their Central European context; the rise of nationalist chauvinism and racism; the disastrous consequences of the treaty of Versailles in Eastern Europe and the Near East, and the culmination of extreme nationalism in fascism. The final class will look at the aggressive re-emergence of nationalism in Europe in the wake of the collapse of Yugoslavia and the Soviet empire.

Throughout the lectures there will be a discussion of the ideas of many of the founding fathers of nationalism, such Johann Gottfried Herder, Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Giuseppe Mazzini.

The seminar units – the real core of the course – will critically examine the writings of some of the major 20th century theoreticians of nationalism, focusing strongly on methodological disputes between the various competing schools of interpretation: primordialism, perennialism, ethnosymbolism, early modernism, modernism, Marxism and postmodernism.

Here is the course outline:

1. Introduction to POS 204 Nations and Nationalism

Feb 11

General introduction to the scope of the course. Distribution of syllabus. Explanation of course, grading structure and teaching method. In this first class, reading and seminar presentation groups will be decided upon and seminar presentations assigned.

2. Primordialism: Were there Nations in the Ancient World?

Feb 18

Although Ernest Renan had challenged the idea of the primordiality of nations in the late 19th century, most nationalists before the mid-20th century believed that nations had ancient roots, stretching back into the tribal past of European peoples. Following the pioneering scholarship of Carleton S. Hayes and Hans Kohn, this view was almost universally rejected in favour of the theory of the modernity of nations and nationalism – i.e., that no “nations” or “nationalism” had existed before the 18th or 17th centuries at the very earliest. But in the 1980s and 90s, this modernist paradigm was challenged by “primordialist” scholars like Steven Grosby. Seminar 1 – a lecturer presentation – examines the work of Grosby and other primordialist scholars who argue for the existence of nations in early antiquity. We also begin our exploration Anthony D. Smith’s “halfway house” between primordialism and modernism – “ethnosymbolism.”

3. Perennialism: Were there Nations and Nationalism in the European Middle Ages?

Feb 25

Most scholars of nationalism concur that nationalism and the nation itself are European phenomena which were subsequently spread to other parts of the world. But how old is the European nation? Did some peoples – such as the English – achieve a “national consciousness” long before other peoples did – perhaps as early as the middle ages? Seminar 2 explores the “perennialist” thesis of the late Adrian Hastings, mediaevalist and theologian. Like Seminar 1, it examines one of schools of thought which challenges the predominant paradigm of the modernity of nations and national sentiment.

4. Bible and Covenant: England, the Dutch Republic and Early Modern Nationalism

Mar 4

In his ground-breaking 1940s work The Idea of the Nation, pioneering scholar of nationalism Hans Kohn argued the case for 17th century revolutionary England as pioneer of the national idea and nationalism itself. In later years, other influential scholars like Liah Greenfeld have followed Kohn’s lead, seeing an English national identity emerging even as early as the 16th century Reformation. Other scholars have applied an early modern “biblical” or “Covenantal” model to other early modern states such as the Dutch Republic – and even the Hussite Czechs of the 15th and 16th centuries. This seminar will explore the work of these “early modern nationalism” scholars, with particular emphasis on concepts like a national “covenant” and “Chosen People.” We will also explore the possible connections between Reformation literacy, bible reading and a growing national consciousness amongst some early modern peoples.

5. Nationalism and Romanticism: From Herder to Fichte

Mar 11

The eighteenth-century German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder is usually credited with the title of the founding father of nationalism – or, at least, the integral nationalism characteristic of nations “East of the Rhine.” This seminar looks at Herder and those nationalists who followed him like Johann Gottlieb Fichte in terms of the Romantic movement of the late 18th and 19th centuries. The lecture - the first of three on the French Revolution and its consequences for nationalism - will look at the growth of French national sentiment during the Age of Absolutism.

6. Do Nations Have Navels? Ernest Gellner vs. Anthony D. Smith

Mar 18

Few modernist accounts of the rise of nations and nationalism are as intellectually cogent or have been as influential as that of Ernest Gellner – the legendary Czech Jewish sociologist and emigre to Great Britain. For Gellner, the rise of both nationalism and of nations themselves can only be understood as part of a wider and more profound transformation: the Industrial Revolution, the most important thing to happen in human history since the Neolithic agricultural revolution. Anthony D. Smith, Gellner’s student at the LSE in the 1960s, disputed Gellner’s modernism and came to believe that nations had developed from earlier ethnic attachments: configurations of myths, shared histories, geographies and cultural traditions that Smith termed ethnies. Smith doubted that nations could be created ex nihlo – as God had created Adam. This seminar thus poses Gellner’s question: do nations have navels?

7. Nations Imagined: Benedict Anderson and the Revolutions in the New World

Mar 25

Few books on nationalism have been as influential as Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities. Yet Anderson himself complained that his thesis was more talked about than it was actually read and understood. One of the principal aims of Anderson’s book was to explain the surprising and overlooked fact that the first great wave of nationalist revolutions took place not in Europe but in the New World. The seminar will examine Anderson’s ideas in the historical context of these revolutions, also looking critically at the extent to which the New Left Marxist Anderson’s theory is in any plausible sense “Marxist.”

8. Nationalism and Messianism: Elie Kedourie and the “Dark Gods” Theory of Nationalism

Apr 1

Today’s seminar examines the work of one the 20th century’s earliest and most cogent critics of nationalism, both in its European and post-colonial manifestations. Elie Kedourie was an Iraqi Jew and Orientalist who was forced to flee his country because of what he saw as the alien “virus” of nationalism. Kedourie believed that nationalism was a European disease of the mind, similar to the violent Messianic cults that had plagued late mediaeval Europe. Kedourie’s work questions whether Hans Kohn’s famous distinction between “good” Western civic and “bad” Eastern integral nationalism is an intellectually sustainable one.

9. From Folklorists to Nationalists: Miroslav Hroch and “Small Nation” Nationalism

Apr 15

Hailing from the same Charles University that produced Hans Kohn, few books on the history of nationalism have been as influential as Miroslav Hroch’s Social preconditions of national revival in Europe. His tripartite historical evolutionary scheme of the development of “small nation” national movements has proved to be one of the most recognisable and enduring of all modernist nationalist theories. This seminar will examine Hroch’s ideas, with special reference to the Czech national movement.

10. Nations Invented: Eric Hobsbawm and the Invention of Tradition

Apr 22

The late Eric Hobsbawm, perhaps the most famous Marxist historian of the 20th century, made profound contributions to the study of nationalism. A convinced modernist, Hobsbawm believed that nationalism and nationalists created nations, not the other way around. Nationalism was a way in which the world’s ruling classes negotiated the crisis of industrial modernity and staved off the threat of socialist internationalism. No study of nationalism can avoid engaging with Hobsbawm and Ranger’s famous thesis of “invented traditions.” This seminar will examine Hobsbawm’s work in the context of his modernism and Marxism.

11. Nationalism and Fascism: George L. Mosse

Apr 29

George L. Mosse was one of the most original historical thinkers of the 20th century, a scholar who revolutionised the study of Nazism and Fascism. At the core of Mosse’s approach to fascism was a belief that many of its principal characteristics could be traced to the French Revolution and its new “cult of the fallen soldier.” Mosse’s studies traced the rise of nationalist monuments, festivals and funerary cults through the 19th and early 20th centuries, showing how deeply the ritualistic and mass participatory aspects of Fascism were grounded in this legacy.

12. Film Class: Nationalism and Fascism in Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will.

May 6

We explore many of the themes examined in the previous seminar on George Mosse through a selective viewing of sections of Leni Reifenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (1935), a notorious (but brilliant) propaganda film of the Nazi’s 1935 Nuremberg rally.

13. Nationalism and Postmodernism: Umut Özkirimli and the Nationalistic Misappropriation of History a...

May 13

In the early 21st century, the young Turkish scholar Umut Özkirimli has established himself as one of the most prominent and wide-ranging of a new generation of “postmodernist” scholars challenging earlier approaches the study of nationalism. A wide-ranging designation, postmodernist approaches to the study of nationalism include postcolonial, poststructural and feminist readings of nationalist discourse. In Özkirimli’s work, competing “Greek” and “Turkish” national identities are deconstructed from something primordial and essential to things that have been shifting, historically contingent and performative. We examine Özkirimli’s postmodernism through his deconstruction of “Turkish” and “Greek” national identities, highlighting these competing nationalisms’ misappropriation and distortion of history and archaeology.

14. Final Essays Due

May 20

Final Essays are due will be uploaded to the Unicheck assignment for the this. Students will also be expected to submit printed copies of their essays by Thursday, December 10th by 8.15 am.

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