There is a strong tendency among public commentators and many scholars to view nationalism as a phenomenon of yesteryears. Hence the 19th and beginning of 20th centuries are usually identified as the heyday of nationalist movements, whereas much of the 20th and the beginning of this century are analysed through the prism of apparently more universalist ideologies: liberalism, socialism, conservatism, religious fundamentalism, anarchism, fascism or racism. The past two decades are in particular viewed as being characterised by the strong forms of universalist creeds: the world-wide proliferation of the neo-liberal doctrines and practices; the ever increasing globalisation of the economy, politics and culture; the intensive expansion of cosmopolitanism, individualism and transnational identities; and conspicuous religious revivals. However, despite all these major organisational and ideological transformations that have taken place nationalism did not vanish. On the contrary, nationalist doctrines and practices have demonstrated resilience and ability to adapt to different political and economic conditions and to co-exist with very different belief systems. Hence, nationalist discourses were crucial for the justification of the communist rule in Romania of the 20th century and in Stroessner’s right wing dictatorship in Paraguay just as they were in the democratic USA and France. This has not changed dramatically in this century as the strong nationalist sentiments underpin such diverse political orders as Islamist Iran, communist North Korea, and liberal Denmark. Nationalism remains a potent source of popular legitimacy.
The significance and omnipresence of nationalism in different historical contexts and diverse political environments is well elaborated in this edited collection. The authors provide rich empirical analyses of nationalist ideas and practices in several regions of the world including the Balkans, Iberia, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East, Western Africa and Latin America. Thus J. O’Loughlin and G. O’Tuathail compare and contrast the results of large-scale surveys of popular attitudes towards the ethno-national separatism in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the North Caucasus. They find Bosnian ethnic groups more inclined towards separatism than those in the Caucasus. Interestingly enough this seems to be determined much more by the respondent’s professional status, religiosity and education more than one’s war experience. Thus, unlike the North Caucasus in Bosnia, all three dominant ethnic groups ‘with below average incomes express high preference for separatism’ (p. 17).
J. Munoz, D. Muro, F. Molina and P.J. Oiarzabal focus on the nationalist experiences in Spain. While Munoz examines the changing understandings of national pride in Spanish society before and after Franco, Muro and Molina and Oiarzabal study the specificities of the Basque case. Muro shows how radical Basque nationalists utilise the collective memory of past wars such as the 19th century Carlist Wars and the Spanish Civil War to justify their use of violence in the post Franco period. In contrast, to the neo-Durkhemian theories of nationalism, which interpret shared memories and myths as a source of collective solidarity, Muro emphasises the instrumental character of the ‘usable past’: the radical Basque elites invoke the images of martyrdom and victimhood to mobilise popular support and legitimise the deployment of violent strategy. Molina and Oiarzabal extend this analysis further by exploring the impact Basque diaspora had in the formation of nationalist movements in Spain, Argentina, and Venezuela. They argue that nation-building in the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America was often fostered by the transatlantic networks of minority and regional groupings so that Basques were influential in the development of different nationalisms with the most prominent example being the Venezuelan of Basque origin - Simon Bolivar.
C. Saracoglu’s analysis of the relationships between Turkish nationalism and Kurdish migrants in Izmir challenges the dominant perspectives which either treat ‘Kurdish problem’ as a question of security or economic underdevelopment, or alternatively see raising anti-Kurdish sentiments as a product of the state policies. Instead Saracoglu argues that popular hostility in some Turkish cities towards the Kurdish immigrants from Eastern Anatolia is grounded in the changing social relations on the grassroots level. Rather than passively following directions from the political parties or the government, the process of ‘ethnisation’ and ‘exclusive recognition’ develops ‘from below’: ordinary Turks ‘produce and reproduce a particular image of the Kurds based on their individual experiences and interactions in everyday life of Turkish cities’ (p. 59).
The contributions by U.B. Ikpe and L.P. Markowitz explore the different trajectories of nationalism and ethnic divides in Nigeria and Central Asia respectively. Using the Weberian framework Ikpe demonstrates the centrality of a patrimonial state in reproducing social animosities between main ethnic groups. The focus is on the clientelistic character of the Nigerian state, which allows for personalisation, commodification, and commercialisation of state offices that ultimately incite political elites to mobilise the population along ethnic lines to monopolise these offices. This emphasis on the role of political elites is also visible in Markowitz’s comparative analysis of nationalist movements in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. However unlike the Nigerian case in these two Central Asian states, it was the failure of ethno-nationalist movements that stands out. Markowitz argues that this can be explained by the poor tactical choices made by the movement leaders in both states: these leaders imitated their counterparts in the Baltics and adopted politically unsuitable ‘mater frames’ to articulate their nationalist massage.
This is a valuable collection of empirically rich case studies that will appeal not only to scholars and students across different disciplines but also to the wider audience interested in the study of nationalism. All seven chapters convincingly demonstrate that nationalism is far from being a marginal phenomenon in the contemporary world. On the contrary, what comes strongly across from the ample research collected in this book is precisely how vigorous and forceful nationalist ideas and practices remain in the apparently globalised world that we inhabit today. What is distinct about nationalism is its protean ability: since its inception at end of 18th century until the present nationalist ideology was always capable of metamorphosing and adapting to very different social, political, and economic conditions. Whether we like it or not nationalism endures as the principal source of political legitimacy in the contemporary world.