Postgraduate Course: Theorising Nationalism (PGSP11579)
|School||School of Social and Political Science
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||This course provides a comprehensive introduction to major theories and theorists of nationalism. It does this in two ways. First, by examining some of the theoretical answers that have been given to basic questions in the study of nationalism, such as--what is nationalism? when and where does it emerge? who generates nationalism and how? does it have a basis in human nature? Second, by looking in depth at the approaches of some of the key figures (e.g. Ernest Gellner, Anthony D. Smith, Benedict Anderson) in the study of nationalism, and why they have been influential. The lectures are accompanied by student led seminars, which include both discussions of key debates, and cases that illustrate key issues.
This course provides a comprehensive introduction to major theories and theorists of nationalism. It does this in two ways. First, by examining some of the theoretical answers that have been given to basic questions in the study of nationalism--what is nationalism? When and where does it emerge? How does it relate to ethnicity and democracy? Can it be normatively justified? Second, by looking in depth at the approaches of some of the key figures in the study of nationalism.
The first three lectures explore issues around: (1) defining and conceptualising nationalism, (2) ethnicity, democracy, and the origins of nationalism, and (3) power, legitimacy, and mobilisation. The next six lectures each focus on a major figure in the field, appraising the theorists' unique perspective and contribution, and why it has been influential. The last class explores attempts both to critique and defend nationalism on a normative basis.
This course functions as the first half of the required core course in the MSc in Nationalism Studies. In this half we focus on 'theories and theorists', the second half (Spring) focuses on 'cases and comparisons'.
1. THE PROBLEM OF DEFINITION
We begin by considering the problem of defining the terms 'nation', and 'nationalism'. What are the key features? What are the main varieties? What do we take to be 'typical' examples of nations/nationalism? How do nations and nationalism relate to cognate concepts such as 'race', 'ethnicity' and 'the state'?
2. ETHNICITY, DEMOCRACY, AND PROBLEMS OF ORIGINS
What are the origins of nationalism, is it an inheritance from the past, or an artifact of modern conditions? And what does the distinction between ethnic and civic (or cultural and political) forms of nationalism tell us about this puzzle? Does it begin at a particular time and place? Is it fundamentally 'modern'? How do we use notions of causation, change and continuity to tackle these questions? Is nationalism a peculiarly European phenomenon? If so, what does this imply about nationalisms arising outside of Europe?
3. POWER, ORGANISATION AND MOBILISATION
Whether or not one believes nationalism is ultimately about the pursuit of power, power dynamics are fundamental to understanding nationalism. We examine a set of perennial themes: the role of the state; elites and popular mobilisation; competition and conflict. We advance the thesis that power depends on social organisation, and nationalism is a way of organising people.
4. THEORIST IN QUESTION - ERNEST GELLNER
Gellner is probably the single most influential figure on the contemporary study of nationalism, offering one of the most comprehensive and imposing theories; a figure to be reckoned with.
5. THEORIST IN QUESTION - ANTHONY D. SMITH
Probably the most widely published and read author on the subject, Smith was a student of Gellner's, but formulated many if his key ideas about nationalism in opposition to Gellner's approach.
6. THEORIST IN QUESTION - BENEDICT ANDERSON
Anderson's phrase 'imagined communities' captured the academic imagination, but the subtleties and novelty of his thinking are often lost. Interestingly, he gets portrayed both as a key modernist theorist, and as a progenitor of postmodern approaches.
7. THEORIST IN QUESTION - LIAH GREENFELD
Probably the most thorough-going 'Weberian' in the field, Greenfeld ties nationalism to modernism, but in a way that emphasises ideas over more material/economic processes.
8. THEORIST IN QUESTION - MICHAEL MANN
Mann's analysis of nationalism fits into his broader world historical account of the evolution of social power. His 'Weberianism' is more 'materialist' than Greenfeld's. He believes that far from being over, the age of nationalism is just coming into its own.
9. THEORIST IN QUESTION - ROGERS BRUBAKER
Brubaker is one of the current leading figures in the study of nationalism. He is influenced by the work of Pierre Bourdieu, and provides a particularly sceptical view of conceptions of nationhood, ethnicity and identity in the social sciences. Substantively his work has focused on central-eastern and post-soviet Europe. He also is very concerned with questions of theoretical conceptualisation.
10. THE PROBLEM OF WORTH
We conclude by exploring some diverse arguments about the moral evaluation of nationalism - should we view it positively, or negatively, or some combination of both? Does our normative judgement have any practical bearing on the future of nations and nationalism? Now that we have covered many of the key theories and theorists of nationalism, have your views changed about its 'worth'? Is it valid to have views about whether nationalism is a 'good' or 'bad' thing anyway?
This course meets for two hours once a week. The first hour will be a lecture and the second hour a seminar. In the first hour there will be a lecture on the set topic. Lectures aim to provide both an overview of key issues, and highlight points from the core readings. Students are encouraged to raise question during the lecture. In the second hour, seminars will use various formats to generate discussion. In weeks 1-3 and 9-10 students will be asked to break up into small groups to talk through key issues/readings assigned. In the second half of the hour the class will come back together to compare discussions. In weeks 4-8, each week one subgroup of students will take the lead in generating seminar discussion about the theorist in question that week. It will do this by using the Nationalism Studies blog (http://nationalismstudies.wordpress.com/) to post entries (text, links, etc.) relating the theorist to some topical issue of nationalism currently in the news, further developing the issues raised in the blog in the seminar. The purpose of the exercise is threefold: (1) to develop the skill of relating theory to complex, real-world cases, (2) to develop the ability to stimulate and engage in productive, critical discussion with your peers, and (3) to strengthen, through application, our understanding of the theories under review that week.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Not being delivered|
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Be able to compare contending definitions and theoretical explanations of nationalism, both critically and analytically.
- Know how to identify and evaluate key debates around the nature and historical formation of nations and nationalism.
- Be able to demonstrate a good comprehension of the theoretical arguments of several major figures in the field of nationalism studies.
- Have improved their capacities for critical intellectual discussion in small groups.
- Be able to present and write informatively on topics in the field of nationalism studies
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Course organiser||Dr Michael Rosie
Tel: (0131 6)51 1651
|Course secretary||Mr Dave Nicol
Tel: (0131 6)51 1485