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What is ethnicity - Essay Example

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What is ethnicity

Certainly, they often co-exist and it is hardly uncommon that the latter be invoked by the former but, both contemporary and historical events evidence the fact that nationalism can be independent from the nation.2 Not only may feelings of nationalism precede the geo-political realization of the nation, as in the case of Palestine or Kurdistan but it often survives the demise of the nation, as in the case of Armenia, to name but one example. While some scholars have disputed the separation between nationalism and the nation, others have maintained it to be an undeniable reality which is influenced by the ethnic roots of nationalism. Pending the presentation of definitions for both the nation and nationalism, through reference to several examples, this essay will show that nationalism is more ethnic-based than it is nation-based.

Some political scientists maintain that nationalism and the nation are inseparable contrasts, wherein the one cannot exist without the other. This is precisely the argument forwarded by Seymour (1999), a political scholar. As he argues, defining the concept of nationalism without first defining that of the nation is nothing other than a futile and impossible undertaking. The nation must first be defined and to this end, Seymour proposes the following definition: "a sovereign state founded upon the will of the people," and an area which a people of specific ethnic origin claims to be theirs and are prepared to defend this claim against any aggression.3 The nation, in other words, is defined in specific geopolitical terms and refers to a well-defined geographic space. That space invokes nationalism, or feelings of pride, often even defensiveness when real or imagined threats are perceived. When invoked by real or imagined threats, whether internal, as in emanating from within that space, or external, as in emerging from without it, nationalism tends to assume an ethnic undertone. In such instance, the nationalism becomes ethno-nationalism, leading to the redefinition of the nation in ethnic terms.4 The implication here is that not only are the concepts of the nation and nationalism inextricably linked but that the invocation of nationalist sentiments, of nationalism, is dependant upon the existence of the nation.
Should one reflect upon Seymour's definition and argument, however, one will find that it is somewhat self-contradictory. On the one hand, it maintains that nationalism can only be invoked by the nation, following which it proceeds to define the nation as a concrete geopolitical entity. On the other hand, however, it argues that when the nation, that concrete geopolitical entity, is exposed to threat, not only does nationalism become ethno-nationalism but that the nation itself is redefined along ethnic lines. The implication here is that the core of nationalism is not the nation but is ethnicity which, at the same time, is the center-force of the nation. This is precisely the argument forwarded by May, Modood and Squires (2005). As may be inferred from their argument, nations are formed by ethnic communities and are founded upon ethnicity, wherein nationalism becomes the celebration of a particular ethnic or religious group and the nation the space which protects and sustains this group. 5 Israel is a case in point. As Yiftachel (2006) points out, Jewish nationalism, sometimes referred to as Zionism, preceded formation of the Jewish nation and, indeed, the nation was predicated upon pre-existing nationalism6 and not, as Seymour (1999) argues, ...Show more

Summary

This research will conclude with an affirmation of the fact that nationalism can precede the nation and can exist independent of it. This is because nationalism is informed by ethnicity and a shared ethnic identity, as opposed to a specific geo-political space…
Author : casperhazel
What is ethnicity essay example
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