‘Nationalidentity is stronger when it is based on ethnic identity.’ Discuss. Nationalism is thought to be a belief in an ‘imaginedcommunity’ with shared culture, history, and common goals1. How this links to an ethnic identity may seem obviousat first, since it is likely this ethnic identity has lived together for a longperiod of time and hence have a shared history and culture. However, it is alsopossible for other ethnicities to have either historically shared the cultureof another group or to assimilate into it upon arrival in the nation.
Thequestion of how ethnic identity influences that of national identity seems tobe impossible to maintain a general rule on, since it experiences suchvariation across all cultures and ethnic groups. This is mainly because membersof any national do not completely agree on the attributes used to define theiridentity. Zubrzycki discusses tension in Poland betweenthose who prefer an “ethno-religious vision of the nation and aConstitution based on traditional values” and those who prefer “acivic national identity based on the political community of citizens.”2.Furthermore, conceptions of nationalism are radically different both betweenthe West and post-colonial states, as well as between majority ethnic andminority ethnic groups. Tounderstand this question fully, we must first examine what is generally thoughtto be the causes of the strength of national identity.
Frederick Solt foundthat the primary driver of nationalism was economic inequality, showing a clearcorrelation between the two3. The secondmost important factor in shaping national pride and emotional attachment to thecountry (which has been cited by many as the most important factor) was that of’war guilt’, namely the ‘decades of antinationalist pressure’ which followedthe Second World War in Axis countries. Other factors which presented a stronginfluence on both national pride and emotional attachment to the country were age,the presence of international conflict, and whether the individual was marriedor not. However, Solt’s results clearly showed that there was no correlationbetween ethnic diversity and either national pride and emotional attachment toone’s country. Both results yielded correlations that were within the margin oferror4. However, Iam critical of this study. To begin, it seems that ‘ethnic diversity’ is not aperfect measure to understand whether ethnic identity strengthens nationalidentity. Countries with a large ethnic minority population may strengthen thenationalism of the ethnic majority, which weakening that of the minority, thuscancelling out the effect.
Furthermore, it only examines 78 countries, many ofwhich are European, and this model seems not to be applicable to the rest ofthe world. I contrasted this paper with Elliott Green’s paper examining howethnic and national pride shifted based on the leadership of Sub-SaharanAfrican nations. He argues that one of the key determinants of nationalidentification is whether or not the ethnic group that an individual belongs tois in power. He gives the example of Uganda to show that, when the majorityethnic group is in power, members of this group identify more with the nation,but when it is not, members actually identify more with their ethnic group, tothe extent that the majority ethnic group being in power ‘adds on average 12%to the percentage of people who identify with the nation’5. Obviously,this shows a disconnect between the links of ethnic and national identity inthe West and Africa.Nationalism in the West is very different to that of nationalism in states inthe more developing world. European countries have been evolving in theirstatehood for thousands of years, enabling a stronger sense of civicnationalism to overcome the ethnic nationalism we often see in newerdemocracies. A clear example of this process took place in France as documentedextensively by Eugen Weber6, who explainedthat economic growth, the extension of public services and militaryconscription all led to the incorporation of ethno-linguistic minorities intothe French nation during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
This is simply notthe case in countries such as Uganda, which have been fully independent foronly around 50 years. Furthermore, rather than ethno-linguistic minoritiesbeing assimilated into the population over a period of hundreds of years, thishas been essentially impossible in many post-colonial states. Many of thecultural cores of the national identity, such as language and religion, derivenot from the majority ethnic group, but instead from the former colonial ruler.Not only do the majority of African countries have Christianity as theirmajority religion, and a majority continue to use the language of their excolonial states as their official language, but the way that these countries’borders have evolved over time has not been organically expanding andassimilating the population over time such as in European history, but instead througharbitrary colonial borders drawn in the last 150 years. In essence, this gives manyAfrican countries a weak civic identity to be attached to, forcing them toinstead resort to ethnic nationalism. To continue the discussion of ethnicityin post-colonial states, it is worth identifying that Salih and Markakisconnect ethnicity and nationalism by identifying ethnic identity as aninfluence which has a greater salience in a state vacuum7,which is far more likely to be the case in post-colonial states. When statescollapse or power distribution structures are unequal, conflict over resourcesbecomes a social conflict, meaning that when the state fails to meet the needsof citizens, its power and ideology is discredited.
Other power distributionmodels might contend, such as religion or democratisation, but often ethnicidentity will take the states’ place as a power distribution model. Todivert this essay away from purely African views of nationalism and ethnicity,we can also focus on how the West has strong links between the two. The 2013/14’taking part’ survey that was done throughout the United Kingdom found thatethnic minorities and white participants gave significantly different answersto the question “What, if anything, makes you most proud of Britain?”8.White people were almost twice as likely to cite British history, suggestingmore of a focus on the colonial past. However, ethnic minorities were much morelikely to cite more traditionally civic nationalist concepts such as theBritish Monarchy, legal system, and education. This would imply that whileethnic identity can influence nationalism, it does not ‘strengthen’ it as such,but merely divert support for certain aspects of the national identity intoless civic nationalistic ideas. This discussion can be put into the context ofmodern politics, with the rise of nationalist populism in the West.
Whenexamining the voters of far right nationalist candidates, studies haveconsistently found a strong correlation between support for these candidatesand levels of racial resentment. One paper found that voters’ levels ofracial resentment correlated much more closely with support for Donald Trump asPresident in 2016 than other factors, such as economic dissatisfaction9.Perhaps more significantly, another study found that if people who stronglyidentified as white were told that ethnic minorities would outnumber whitepeople in 2042, they became more likely to support Trump10.This would suggest that those with a strong connection to an ethnic identitywill strengthen their support for nationalistic candidates when they see theirethnicity as being ‘under attack’, contributing to the wave of nationalism wesee in the West today. Despitethe fact that the majority ethnic group may strengthen its national identitybased on ethnic identity, this does not seem to be the case for ethnicminorities. De le Garza found that ‘Mexican-Americans who were stronglyattached to their ethnic heritage were no less nationalistic than Mexican-Americanswith weak ethnic attachments’11. Furthermore,he proved that there was no correlation between the strength of this ethnicidentity and ‘core American values’ such as individualism12. We mustalso consider sub-state nationalism, which while often discussed in the contextof ethnicity and its effect on nationalism, is very rarely considered whendiscussing the views of ethnic minorities within these sub-states.
Focusingspecifically on Scotland, there is a large body of research that has shown astrong support for Scottish identity among ethnic minority groups.13One study has said that ‘multiculturalism and sub-state nationalism have notmerely coexisted but actually interacted positively within Scotland’14. Kymlickaargues that since ethnic minorities exhibit ‘the same mixture ofpolitical-constitutional positions as people in Scotland more generally: thatis (British) unionist, devolutionist and secessionist’, they have adopted thenational identity of Scotland without need for an ethnic identity to compelthem to do so15. This wasespecially the case with Pakistani immigrants, as they felt less of aconnection to a previous country, but instead to a religion (Islam), makingtheir national identity of Scottish easily adopted.16 Thisis less the case in Wales, perhaps because of the importance of language andculture in Welsh identity making it harder for ethnic minority immigrants toproperly connect to the national identity. However, this evidence shows thatethnic minorities are not hampered in their national identity by their lack of beingpart of the majority ethnic group. Toreturn to Solt’s research, while I may have somewhat disagreed with the overallconclusion of his paper, it is still valuable for understanding how ethnicidentity arises and influences national identity to begin with.
We must realisethat national and ethnic identity is fundamentally interlinked, and nationalismis not simply a dependent variable in this equation. Members of majority ethnicgroups who have strong nationalist pride can be ‘nudged’ into xenophobic andracist views far more easily than most17,reinforcing their ethnic identity. These leads Solt to state that ‘by leadingto the creation of more national pride, higher levels of inequality produceenvironments favorable to those who would inflame ethnic animosities.’18 Furthermore, the very concepts of bothnational and ethnic identity are too complex to simply draw a line between thetwo. We have found that in the West, the majority ethnic group seems far more susceptibleto being pushed towards nationalism by ethnic identity, and that minorityethnic groups seem to focus more on civil nationalism and sub-state nationalismin certain environments. But these rules do not necessarily apply to everyWestern country, and certainly don’t apply to post-colonial nations.
What constitutesnationalism and the reasons for its support are far too varied and complexacross states and sub-states to simply state that ethnic identity strengthensit.1 B. Anderson1991 “Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism”Verso Books2 G. Zubrzycki 2001) “”We,the polish nation”: Ethnic and civic visions of nationhood in post-communistconstitutional debates” Theory and Society, 30(5), 629-668.3 F. Solt2011 “Diversionary Nationalism: Economic Inequality and the Formation ofNational Pride.
” The Journal of Politics 73(03): 821–830. 4 Ibid.5 E. Green2017 “Ethnicity, national identity and the state: Evidence from sub-SaharanAfrica” British Journal of Political Science6 E. Weber1976 “The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914″7 M. Salih,J.
Markakis 1998 “Ethnicity and the State in Eastern Africa” The Nordic AfricaInstitute8 ” Taking Part: Statistical Releases -GOV.UK “. 2017. Gov.Uk.
Accessed January 27 2018. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/sat–2.9 B. Schaffner M. MacWilliams.
, T. Nteta, 2017 “ExplainingWhite polarization in the 2016 vote for President: The sobering role of racismand sexism” Paper presented at the conference on the U.S. elections of 2016:Domestic and international aspects, Herzliya, Israel.10 B. Major, A. Blodorn, G. Major Blascovich 2016 “Thethreat of increasing diversity: Why many White Americans support Trump in the2016 presidential election” Group Processes & Intergroup Relations.
Advanceonline publication. Accessed January 27 2018 http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1368430216677304 11 R. de laGarza, A.
Falcon, F Garcia 1996 “Will the real Americans please stand up: Angloand Mexican-American support of core American political values” AmericanJournal of Political Science, 40, 335-351.12 Ibid.13 Hussain, A., and W. Miller.
2006. “Multicultural Nationalism:Islamophobia, Anglophobia, and Devolution” Oxford: Oxford University Press.14 Ibid.15 W. Kymlicka, 2011. “Multicultural Citizenshipwithin Multination States.
” Ethnicities 11 (3): 281–302. doi: 10.1177/146879681140781316 Ibid.17 Q. Li, and M. Brewer.
“What Does It Mean to Be anAmerican? Patriotism, Nationalism, and American Identity after 9/11.” Political Psychology 25, no. 5(2004): 727-39. 18 F.
Solt2011 “Diversionary Nationalism: Economic Inequality and the Formation ofNational Pride.” The Journal of Politics 73(03): 821–830.