Nationalism (Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity)
The twentieth century has been defined as the century of nationalism and genocide. How intense is the relationship between the two, given the fact they so often tend to occur simultaneously? Nationalism is the doctrine that "the rulers should belong to the same ethnic (that is, national) group as the ruled" (Gellner, 1983, p. 1). The doctrine assumes that a ruler belonging to an alien nationality or ethnic group is not fully legitimate. However, the inverse formula is a sure recipe for ethnic cleansing, mass deportation, and genocide: to claim that the inhabitants of a specific constituency must share the same ethnic lineage as its leaders is effectively to give full legitimacy to the mass expulsion of different ethnicity and the drastic redrawing of boundaries to suit the group's pedigree. Nationalism also holds that "nation and political power should be congruent" (Gellner, 1983, p. 1). This longing for congruence, or ethnopolitical purity, is the historical hallmark of most nationalist attempts to erase ethnic distinctiveness by homogenizing entire populations.
Nationalism is a modern Western phenomenon that has mutated and adapted its chameleonic shape according to geography and history. Industrialization, accompanied or preceded by state militarism, changed the shape of the world forever. Nationalism in the post-industrializing era was most often accompanied by assimilationism and the elimination of minorities. The very assimilationist (hence intolerant) nature of the modern state has created the preconditions for turning its unprecedented powers against hapless minorities. Thus, the modern itinerary of genocide follows the spread of nationalism and modernity.
However, nationalism in itself cannot account for the worst episodes of genocide. Nationalism can only become fully lethal if it is infused with the power of the modern state. It is ultimately state power, with its repressive, bureaucratic, media, and military machine, that can account for the most tragic occurrences of genocide. Among other things, state institutions can define the criteria of citizenship. If the state's definition of citizenship is based on ethnicity, it can provide the basis for inciting intolerance, crimes against humanity, and even genocide.
The connection between Westernization, modernity, war, and genocide has become well established in academia. All of these terms are strictly related to both state formation and nationalism. Many Holocaust scholars describe genocide as an entirely modern phenomenon, with its unprecedented systematic technological dimension. Leon Poliakov, in his 1974 volume, The Aryan Myth, argued that the Nazis envisaged the Holocaust as a triumph of Western civilization, the latter being conceived in terms of racial superiority against spurious Oriental, non-Western influences. Genocide is therefore intensively related to European state expansion and interstate rivalry, including the state's intrusion into the private realm via the consolidation of central power. Patriotism and nationalism provided the state with its ideological glue and emotional underpinning.
The earliest avatar of this tragic trend was probably the Armenian genocide. Systematic pogroms had already occurred between 1894 and 1896, when Westernizing nationalism emerged as an influential force among Turkish elites. But the mass extermination campaigns that took place between 1914 and 1916 were unprecedented by any standard, and were the direct consequences of rapidly modernizing state structures emulating Western models in the wake of the Ottoman Empire's collapse. Young Turk army officials fought against victorious nationalist uprisings in the Balkans and ended up imitating them, while forging links with German and other nationalisms. In addition, the Young Turks' nationalist movement was inspired by, and mimicked, its post-1789 Western archetypes. Paradoxically, the main victim's of Turkey's secular and anti-Islamic nationalism were non-Muslim minorities that had previously enjoyed protection and prosperity under the more liberal consociational laws of the Ottoman Empire.
Historically, genocide occurred in the wake of both imperial expansion and its disintegration. Even before the conquest of the Americas, the fate of the indigenous Guanches of the Fortunate Islands (present-day Canaries) anticipated a pattern of European expansion leading to cultural destruction, environmental collapse, and physical extermination. Downsizing semi-authoritarian states or contracting autocratic empires, such as the French in Algeria during the 1950s or the Ottoman Empire in its death throes, also occasionally display genocidal behavior.
Typically, genocides have been carried out by modern totalitarian regimes (the Nazis, the Soviet Union, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia) and authoritarian states (post-Ottoman Turkey, Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia, and Vladimir Putin's Russia). Most of these have used a patriotic defense of national security to justify the extermination of minorities. Dehumanization and demonization of the ethnically defined "other" are recurring harbingers and symptoms of genocide: "seeing or treating the other as a threat is . . . an intrinsic part of the process of genocide" (Rummel, 1994, p. 40). In the nationalist Weltanschauung, the main internal threat comes from the ethnically different, whether assimilated or not. Moreover, nationalist history typically attempts to erase all evidence that implies complicity in genocide, while exaggerating the pain that the ethnic in-group has had to undergo in one's own nation. Revisionism, denial, and a general temptation to forget inconvenient historical facts are therefore in-built into nationalist historiography.
Modern genocides and inter-ethnic wars are rarely, if ever, directed against wholly differentiated groups. With the exception of the Roma and several indigenous victims of imperial expansion, most nationalist-led mass murders are directed against minorities that are fully integrated and assimilated into the mainstream culture. Therefore, cultural factors are never in themselves a cause of genocide, nor any other form of political murder. Instead, the target victims are most frequently similar looking groups, often sharing the same language, outlook, and customs as their persecutors. The Tutsis in Rwanda, the Croats and Muslims in Bosnia and the Jews in Nazi Germany were fully integrated into their societies and assimilated into the mainstream culture of their time. A possible counter-argument to this view may be the case of the Porajmos (the Gypsy Holocaust): The Roma were typically seen as a stateless people, and hence as incompatible with the nationalist project of an homogeneous nation-state. They have therefore often been targeted by nationalist regimes and ultra-nationalist groups.
The relationship between genocide and nationalism or patriotism is among the most powerful ones. The three terms have common roots (genos, from gens, meaning lineage; nation from the Latin nasci, meaning to be born; patria from the Latin pater, meaning father). They all relate to the idea of shared descent and of belonging into a single extended family. The exaltation by the state of a dominant nation as superior to all others inevitably leads to a series of discriminatory acts against competing stateless nations, ranging from assimilation and marginalization to genocide. The role of central governments and the military appears to be of key importance in most instances of genocide, in tandem with media censorship and popular misinformation. Globalization provides a third, still unexplored, item in a triangular relationship that includes nationalism and genocide. Like nationalism, globalization destroys whole communities and lifestyles, exerting unprecedented homogenizing pressures.
SEE ALSO Ethnic Cleansing; Ethnicity
Bauman, Zygmunt (1989). Modernity and the Holocaust. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press/Polity Press.
Cigar, Norman L. (1995). Genocide in Bosnia: The Policy of "Ethnic Cleansing". College Station: Texas A&M University Press.
Cohen, Stan (2000). States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity.
Connor, Walker (2004). "Nationalism and Political Illegitimacy." In Ethnonationalism in the Contemporary World, ed. Daniele Conversi. London: Routledge.
Conversi, Daniele (1999). "Nationalism, Boundaries, and Violence." Millennium: Journal of International Studies 28(3):55384.
Crosby, Alfred W. (1986). "The Fortunate Isles." In Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900900. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
Cushman, Tom, and Stipe Mestrovic, eds. (1996). This Time We Knew. Western Responses to the War in Bosnia. New York: New York University Press.
Melson, Robert (1996). "The Armenian Genocide as Precursor and Prototype of Twentieth Century Genocide." In Is the Holocaust Unique? ed. Alan S. Rosenbaum. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.
Poliakov, Leon (1974). The Aryan Myth: A History of Racist and Nationalist Ideas in Europe. London: Chatto & Windus Heinemann for Sussex University Press.
Rummel, R. J. (1994). Death by Government. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transactions Publishers.
Shaw, Martin (2003). War and Genocide. Organized Killing in Modern Society. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press.
Smith, Anthony D. (1998). Nationalism and Modernism: A Critical Survey of Recent Theories of Nations and Nationalism. London: Routledge.
Van den Berghe, Pierre, ed. (1990). State, Violence, and Ethnicity. Niwot, Colo.: University Press of Colorado.
Nationalism (Political Theories For Students)
Nationalism is sometimes labeled a political phenomenon or ideology that is not truly a theory. Some political activists and scholars see nationalism not as something to be theorized about but merely as a strong, sentimental feeling about one's own country, a patriotic fervor directed toward advancing the "national interest." Others view nationalism as the driving philosophy behind social movements that can both infect and inspire (depending on one's viewpoint)...
(The entire section is 16403 words.)