Re: foundations of the nations

John H. Stevens, Jr. (jhs14@CORNELL.EDU)
Tue, 13 Aug 1996 09:16:43 -0400

Howdy TK!

Thanks for the qualifier; I only used the term because Gisela had put it in
her post. Also, it's still getting tossed around in various poli sci
disciplines by those with a sociological bent, thanks to Smith's frequent
use of it. I wish I had Smith's book handy to provide his definition to
you; if I can dig it up I'll pass it on to you and the list. It tends to
get used in two ways in this context: as a vaguely primordial group
boundary marker (sometimes working off of Geertz, sometimes Barth) or as a
resource for symbolic capital based on a common feature such as religion,
geographic area, etc.(which I think is where Smith is coming from; see
Olzak 1983 for more details).

According to some authors, the current tension between ethnicity and
nationalism is the result of a larger clash between tradition and
modernity. There is a view common among scholars of nationalism "that
modern nations are based on ethnic identities that are in some sense
ancient, primordial, possibly even natural or at least prior to any
political mobilization" (Calhoun 1993:214), thus the reliance on *an*
ethnie. Calhoun himself posits a different reason for nationalism's rise
as "the preeeminent discourse form for modern claims to political autonomy
and self-determination" (Calhoun 1993:213). He suggests rather that
nationalism is the latest expression of collective identity rather than
something completely opposite to ethnicity or something that has sprung
progressively from ethnicity's chest. He links it to the rise of the state
and the need for states to have a distinct international identity (Calhoun
1993b:23, 27). Nationalism in this sense often tries to build on ethnicity
for authority to its claim as a distinctive political identity.

I think this is a less essentialized way to talk about the linkages between
nationalism and ethnicity than relying on Smith's "ethnies."

If anyone's interested in more of my thoughts on the problems of
nationalism and ethnicity, I'd be happy to zap them a copy of a paper I
wrote in the spring on Mohawk nationalism.

Happy trails!!


Calhoun, Craig
1993a Nationalism and Ethnicity. Annual Review of Sociology 19:211-39.

1993b Why Nationalism? Sovereignty, Self-Determination and
Identity in a World-System of States. Occasional Paper #93-1.1, Global
Forum Series on Nationalism, National Identity, and Interethnic Identity.
Center for International Studies, Duke University.

Olzak, Susan
1983 Contemporary Ethnic Mobilization. Annual Review of Sociology

>Hi John.
>It will take a bit of time to fully respond, but "ethnies" is a neologism
>without merit. The precedent term, for what its worth, is from the Soviet
>ethnograhic literature: "ethnos" and "ethnoses."
>See Bromley, Yuri
>1983 Ethic Processes. Moscow: Social Sciences Today
>1984 Theortetical Ethnography. Moscow: General Editorial Board for
> Foreign Publications
>1987-88 Ethnic Processes in the USSR [original Russian text 1983]. Soviet
> Anthropology and Archaeology. [winter]

Best regards,

John H. Stevens, Jr.,
Graduate Student
Department of Anthropology
Cornell University

snail: c/o Dept. Of Anthropology, 265 McGraw Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853
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