Dignity and the Modern Nation

Two things primed me to write a blog about Francis Fukuyama’s new book Identity: Contemporary Identity Politics and the Struggle for Recognition. First, last week I gave a lecture to students on our MSc in Nationalism Studies on the key theoretical ideas of Liah Greenfeld.  I was explaining to them the central role of theContinue reading “Dignity and the Modern Nation”

The Letter and the Spirit of Democracy

As I begin to write this on 19 October, 2019, Michael Gove is speaking for the government in Parliament against the Letwin Amendment, which requires that implementing legislation be passed before the Prime Minister’s ‘Brexit Deal’ is approved by Parliament.  Once again, he gives the refrain that respect for democracy requires that Parliament support aContinue reading “The Letter and the Spirit of Democracy”

The UK Parliament and Instrumental Populism

In Jan-Werner Müller’s recent short study What is Populism? (2017, Penguin) he defines it as a form of politics characterised by anti-elitism, the imagined oneness of ‘the people’ and their representatives (regardless of the mechanisms of representation), and the categorisation of political opponents as ‘enemies’ outside the body of ‘the people’.  Müller calls populism ‘theContinue reading “The UK Parliament and Instrumental Populism”

The Relevance of Nationalism Today

Some might argue that the wave of scholarship on nationalism stimulated by decolonisation and subsequently the collapse of the USSR has run its course.  Many leading scholars of this era have departed this world—Gellner, Smith, Hobsbawm, Anderson, and Connor.   On the other hand, it is easy to point to current developments—Trump, Brexit, Windrush, Syria, NorthContinue reading “The Relevance of Nationalism Today”

Trump’s Inaugural Address: Power, Identity, Narrative

(Jan. 2017) Presidential inaugural addresses tend to be broad vision statements with gestures towards national unity and purpose. A few policy directions may be outlined, but that is not their main purpose. Donald Trump’s address on 20 January 2017, sits strangely in this genre, stylistically nodding in this general direction, but primarily addressed to hisContinue reading “Trump’s Inaugural Address: Power, Identity, Narrative”

Whither Scotland Post-Referendum

(October 2014) When I was a graduate student studying anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was conventional to divide anthropological theory between ‘idealist’ and ‘materialist’ approaches.  Most students found this distinction meaningful, but at the same time too stark.  Today this distinction comes back to haunt me. Continue reading “Whither Scotland Post-Referendum”

On Nationalism and Freedom

(From: ISRF Bulletin, Sept. 2014) As I write this Scotland, where I live, is about a week away from an historic referendum on the question of whether or not to become independent from the UK.  The polls have narrowed—at the moment it is neck and neck between the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ options.  In this contextContinue reading “On Nationalism and Freedom”