Ethnic Nationalism Research Paper Starter

Ethnic Nationalism

(Research Starters)

This article introduces the concept of ethnic nationalism, first by highlighting several countries that have fruitfully adhered to such tenets, along with other regions who have initiated failed attempts. A movie analysis that contrasts nationalism and globalization is included, followed by biological and nonbiological factors that correlate with the human desire to gravitate toward nationalistic ideals. Finally, the tribulations associated with nationalism, such as ethnic genocide, are broached. In particular, Hitler's Nazi regime and the tragedies that transpired in Rwanda throughout the twentieth century are discussed.

Keywords Endogamy; Ethnic Genocides; Exogamy; Genetic Similarity Theory; Integrationist Framework; Jus Sanguini



Ethnic nationalism is an ideology asserting that groups of people are exclusively endowed with an identification that distinctly relates to the nation in which their ancestors originated. Adherents of this philosophical tenet feel that their birthright affords them the ability to partition distinct governmental dictates that correspond with their political and cultural ideals. They operate under the assumption that territorial rights are based on the biological inheritance that had been transmitted through their blood relations and lineage, and enable them to rightfully inhabit a given geographic region (Chilosi, 2007; Gledhill, 2005; Janis, 2008; Loizides, 2007; Morgan, 2008). Some experts trace the origins of contemporary European nationalism back to the French Revolution (Nationalism Gathers, 2008; Smith, 2008), which launched a global patterned trend toward the regional compartmentalization of common ties and a forged sense of unity.

Patriotism is the conduit for voicing expressions of nationalism, and when tragedy befell the United States on September 11, 2001 (Lukehart, 2002), citizens joined forces in bipartisan allegiance to collectively demonstrate their mutual bond of communal devotion. Nationalism is an inborn bequest that rejects manmade attempts that may tamper with or manipulate its existence. For example, Joan, a Swedish exile who moves to Italy based on her fondness for Italian culture and a desire for reinvention, finds it difficult to fully divorce herself from her Swedish nationalistic ties. Even though Joan falls in love and marries a man while living in Italian precincts, the pedigree that her offspring will claim includes semi-Swedish extractions. Another example of this premise can be epitomized in the following passage:

I conducted a survey in the fall of 2000 in South Korea; the results reveal similar views of nation and national identity. Ninety-three percent of the respondents reported, "Our nation has a single bloodline"; 95 percent agreed that "North Korean people are of the same Korean ethnic-nation." In addition, 83 percent felt that Koreans living abroad, whether they had emigrated and attained citizenship elsewhere or were born outside Korea and were considered legal citizens of a foreign country, still belong to the han race because of shared ancestry…South Koreans feel much stronger attachments to Korean descendants in Japan (62 percent) and the United States (63 percent) than they do to Japanese (18 percent) or Americans (17 percent) living in Korea (Shin, 2006, p. 2).

Attempts at creating nationalistic coalitions have been met with mixed results. The reunification of Germany, after the collapse of the Berlin Wall that separated the western region from its eastern communist counterpart, was established in 1989 (Buckley, 2004; Sims, 2002; Taylor, 2008). The deterioration of the Iron Curtain yielded a successful merge into political and relational solidarity and eradicated the violent and divisive barrier that had prevailed for 28 years. Conversely, toward the close of the Ottoman Empire in 1921, Britain formed the nation of Iraq, which was founded on Mesopotamian soil and suffered tumultuous, war-torn period for much of the century (Kandell, 2003; Rayburn, 2006). In part, such instability rests on the dissonance that has intertwined throughout Iraq's three distinct Islamic factions (i.e., the Sunnis, the Shiites, and the Kurds) who reside on shared terrain, yet are unable to coalesce as a united front (Kifner, 2005; McKiernan, 2006). Moreover, the former Soviet Union underwent uncertainty based on disjointed attempts at initiating cohesion amid distinct constituencies, resulting in the breakup of a collective, communist political regime that encompasses 15 distinct countries (Back to the U.S.S.R., 1996; Petrov, 2008).

Countries such as Japan and Germany uphold a philosophy that directly relates to ethnic nationalism, called "Jus Sanguini," in which citizenship directly corresponds with bloodlines that can be traced back to these respective regions, although Turkish inhabitants who have lived in Germany for several decades, and their children born after January 2000, are being granted residency. The opposite of ethnic nationalism, however, can be understood through cultural pluralism, or the validation of diverse modalities of thought. It behooves countries to uphold unconditional parameters that correspond with cultural pluralism, given that 90%[CCL1] of the world operates through variegated diversification. In Asia, for example, one can point to Indonesia as a region that contains residents from all walks of life, although Japan, on the other hand, remains highly homogenized. Countries renowned for utilizing diplomatic and harmonious tactics amid diversity include Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, and Australia, who advocate on behalf of individualistic expressions of multicultural value structures. In contrast, France employs an integrationist framework, in which all French citizens are legally protected and acknowledged despite their ethnic backgrounds, although they are expected to shed their minority status and assimilate to the culture at large (Cultural Pluralism, 1995).

A Cinematic Illustration

Burgoyne (2000) provides social commentary through a movie analysis of a film titled Before the Rain. In particular, he contrasts dialectical forces that exist internationally ranging between ethnic nationalism and globalization, through the symbolic depictions that are portrayed throughout the movie. In some respects, this differentiation can refer to a battle between "young" and "old" in that the historical, deep-rooted primordial influences imprinted into humanity conflict with the trendier tendency that leans toward multiculturalism, favored by youth culture that has been thrust into a world infiltrated by transnational exposure. Nationalistic inclinations lean in the direction of “blood and belonging” and are passionate, vengeful, existential, and regressive. Globalization, conversely, is progressive, idealistic, and adaptive. A scene in the movie that cross-sections these influences can be seen when Alex Kirkov informs his lover, Anne, that he will flee to Macedonia in order to be reacquainted with his birthplace, and as he departs, the vision of a young girl listening to modern-day rap music is replayed from an earlier scene. At that point, Anne examines a series of pictures that Alex left for her, including portraits of previous events that took place, as well as family members, some of whom are deceased. As Anne sorts through such images, the phone rings and the caller requests to speak to Alex; when asked to identify himself, the caller merely says it is "Macedonia calling." Burgoyne (2000) unravels the collage of imagery through the following interpretation:

These scenes create a very strong impression of different worlds converging, brought into intimate contact by the global media of music, photography, and telecommunications, and of different temporal regimes, premodern and postmodern, colliding together in a violent new configuration in which the most archaic human impulses are latticed together with postmodern media forms that seem to supply a necessary but indeterminate connection (p. 159).

Additionally, Burgoyne quotes international theorist Tom Nairn, who describes the irony that exists between globalization and homogenized ethnic communities, such as in the Balkans:

…Ah yes, we always thought we knew that the poor Macedonians would have to resign themselves to progress — to the erosion of their antique and colourful ways, to becoming more like everybody else. Now, we also know that progress must resign itself to being Macedonian (cited in Burgoyne, 2000, p. 159).

Further Insights


The terminology that people use while reflecting upon impassioned allegiance toward their country of origin includes expressions such as "motherland" and "fatherland," suggesting that a person's native landscape is permanently entrenched in his or her soul, perhaps even genetically. Rushton (2005) launches into his theoretical creation, aptly titled “genetic similarity theory” to illuminate the biological motivations that underlie nationalism. First, he provides a convincing and comprehensive literature review that focuses on the biological, Darwinian reasons why people extend partiality toward those with similar ethnic compositions. Charles Darwin equated human productivity with that which he found in the animal kingdom, and he claimed that all living beings seek to prolong their gene pool via procreation. Darwin argued that the natural world fights viciously on behalf of its young in order to nourish life and maintain genetic longevity, and that this "selfish gene" naturally propagates into subsequent generations. He was perplexed at contrary accounts in which animals demonstrate altruism, or acts of generous self-sacrifice. Logic suggests that while the altruist's charitable generosity is helpful to others, it is counterproductive to the altruist’s own survival — such as with bees, who sting adversaries in the process of protecting their hives, which render their own defense mechanisms useless. Darwin eventually explained altruism through the following statement: "sympathy is directed solely towards members of the same community, and therefore towards known, and more or less loved members, but not all the individuals of the same species" (cited in Rushton, 2005, pp. 492–493).

Darwin's bewilderment surrounding altruism among animals was eventually clarified by a biologist named William Hamilton in the 1960s and 1970s, who coined the term “inclusive fitness” that surpassed the notion of individual fitness. Due to sophisticated strides that had been accomplished within the scientific community throughout the early and mid twentieth century, Hamilton had access to a broader understanding of various concepts — such as the term "genetics," which was conceived in 1905, long after Darwin's era. Hamilton examined the genetic similarity that existed between families, particularly the fact that close family members shared more similar genetic codes with one another, but the farther apart two people resided on their family tree diminished these similarities. For example, on average, immediate family members, such as siblings, share 50% of their genetic makeup, while extended...

(The entire section is 4946 words.)