Re: foundations of the nations

thomas w kavanagh (tkavanag@INDIANA.EDU)
Tue, 13 Aug 1996 14:42:10 -0500

Hi John

So I went out and found Calhoun's 1993 Annual Rev. Soc article, and
Smith's 1986 book, Ethnic Origins of Nations.

Smith's discussion of 'ethnies' parallels many of the 1960s discussions of
"tribe" which lead to Fried's "The Problem [Notion] of Tribe." For Smith,
'ethnies' exhibit collective history, a myth of descent, shared history,
distinctive shared culture, territory, and most of all a "sense of
solidarity". He does not imply a primordiality to 'ethnies', putting their
origins in the bronze age [Fried put the origin of Tribes in the
neolithic]. Rather they are, as you say, 'symbolic capital'. But that is
also what Abner Cohen said in 1969 under 'retribalization':

the process by which a group ... involved in a struggle for power
and privilege with another [group] manipulates some customs,
values, myths, symbols, and ceremonials from their cultural
tradition in order to articulate a political organization, which
is then used as a weapon in that struggle

Others have called it ethnogenesis.

I suppose my problem is that the usual focus on 'ethnies', ethnic groups,
and 'nations', often takes those characteristics as givens rather than as
processual variables.