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Nation-Shaping in a Postmodern World

3
Nation-Shaping in a Postmodern World
In the late 1990s, amid bloody struggles between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo,
Slobodan Milosevic and other Serbian leaders attempted to justify and bolster support for their
position through frequent invocations of the Battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389 and the fourteenthcentury hero and self-proclaimed “ruler of all Serbs,” Prince Lazar (Brown 1999, 1). During
that same decade, as South Africa negotiated a fragile transition to a post-Apartheid era,
among concerns about the economy and the need to build democratic institutions were
references to the absence of a South African nation. Some dissenters questioned the need or
desire for nation-building in a “postmodern age” (Degenaar 1994), but its proponents won out
and attempted to forge a South African nation through symbols such as a flag, anthem, media
slogans, and exclusionary rhetoric directed at non-South Africans (Croucher 1998).
Meanwhile, as Europe proceeded down the bumpy path to full-scale integration, discussion
and debate turned increasingly to the question of belonging: how to create a sense of
commonality among the peoples of Europe and an attachment to the institutions and ideals of a
united Europe. European Union (EU) citizenship, as discussed in chapter 2, was seen as one
avenue, but giving form and content to that citizenship turns frequently to invocations of
Europe’s shared history, culture, and values— what might arguably be described as building a
nation of Europe (Guibernau 1996). Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s comments in
the wake of September 11 offer one of the more hyperbolic examples of the role that culture
may play in shaping a sense of Europeaness:
An earlier version of chapter 3 was published as Sheila Croucher 2003,
“Perpetual Imagining: Nationhood in a Global Era,” in International Studies
Review 5, no. 1. It appears here with permission from Blackwell Publishing.
We must be aware of the superiority of our civilization, a system that has
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guaranteed well-being, respect for human rights and—in contrast with Islamic
countries—respect for religious and political rights, a system that has as its
values understandings of diversity and tolerance. (“War on Terror” 2001a, 17)
Each of these cases constitutes a form of nation-building, and each offers a vivid example of
what many scholars have already argued about nations: that they provide and/or consist of a
potent sense of community and shared consciousness that typically attaches to and serves the
interests of a given polity; that this sense of community often reaches far back in historical
memory and relies heavily on symbols and myth; that governing elites play a central role in
shaping the nation; and that the forging of a national “Us” typically involves differentiation
from a “Them.” What is peculiar about these examples, however, is that taken as a whole and
in the context of the advent of the twenty-first century, they defy the prominent theories of
nations and nationalism. This is the case regarding the modernist and postnationalist
perspectives that imply or proclaim the end of the era of nations, as well as the primordialist
approaches that explain the persistence of nations by reference to their historical and cultural
continuity and ethnic potency. In fact, the contemporary perpetuation of nations and nationalism
presents a seeming paradox—not unlike the paradox introduced in the introduction to this book
of a world that is simultaneously coming together and coming apart, experiencing integration
and homogenization via various aspects of globalization while also witnessing fragmentation
and differentiation related to the persistence and even resurrection of seemingly ancient and
primordial ties.
“the contemporary perpetuation of nations and nationalism presents a
seeming paradox—not unlike the paradox … of a world that is simultaneously
coming together and coming apart, experiencing integration and
homogenization via various aspects of globalization while also witnessing
fragmentation and differentiation.”
This chapter focuses on this apparent paradox as it relates to nations and nationalism.
Specifically, what follows is an examination of the implications of globalization for
nationhood, or what Benedict Anderson (1991) terms “nation-ness,” as a form of belonging.
We begin with a discussion of the ambiguity that surrounds the term nation—an ambiguity that
itself contributes to the persistence of the national form. Next, and before turning to the
question of globalization, the chapter discusses a prominent body of literature that locates
nations and nationalism in a context prior to and distinct from the contemporary one—namely,
“modernity.” A subsequent section assesses a variety of current explanations for why nations
persist in a context variably described as postmodern or postnational, and draws upon
different empirical examples to illustrate the need for a more refined understanding. The final
section demonstrates that by recognizing the contingency of nations, it is possible to locate in
globalization both the conditions and mechanisms that support national imaginings. Because
nationhood—conceptually and in practice—is malleable, there is no reason to believe that
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nations will not be perpetually imagined—although they will change in content and form.
The Definitional Dilemma
Globalization and citizenship, as discussed in the preceding chapters, pose numerous
conceptual challenges but pale in comparison to the struggle for a clear or widely agreed upon
definition of the nation. In 1978, Walker Connor published a seminal article, “A Nation Is a
Nation, Is a State, Is an Ethnic Group, Is a …” in which he bemoans the terminological chaos
that surrounds the study of nations and nationalism. Nor was he alone in acknowledging this
definitional dilemma. As early as 1939, a study by the Royal Institute of International Affairs
stated that “among other difficulties which impede the study of ‘nationalism,’ that of language
holds a leading place” (“Nationalism,” 1939, xvi). In 1977, renowned historian of nationalism
Hugh Seton-Watson proclaimed, “Thus I am driven to the conclusion that no ‘scientific
definition’ of the nation can be devised; yet the phenomenon has existed and exists” (1977, 5).
Charles Tilly, in his influential work on state-building, characterized “nation” as “one of the
most puzzling and tendentious items in the political lexicon” (1975, 6). In the twenty or more
years that have passed since these concerns were articulated, little progress has been made.
Surveying the state of the field in 2000, Valery Tishkov concludes that “All attempts to develop
terminological consensus around nation resulted in grand failure” (2000, 627).
Of all these scholars, Connor went the furthest in focusing needed attention on several
“barriers to understanding,” and foremost among his concerns has been the misguided
interutilization of the terms “nation” and “state.” States, Connor claims, are the major political
subdivisions of the world and are readily identifiable through quantitative criteria. Peru, he
writes, “can be defined in an easily conceptualized manner as the territorial-political unit
consisting of the sixteen million inhabitants of the 514,060 square miles located on the west
coast of South America between 69° and 80° West, and 2° and 18° 21’ South” (1978, 379).
Nations, on the other hand, have an intangible essence and must ultimately be conceptualized
through subjective or psychological criteria.
In addition to concern about the widespread interchangeable use of the terms nation and
state, evident, for example, in phrases like international relations instead of inter-state
relations, or gross national product instead of gross state product, Connor also challenges the
related assumption that the two entities are, or should be, congruent. He correctly cautions that
many groups who believe themselves to be a nation do not have a state and/or are spread
across different states; and many states contain within them more than one nation. For Connor,
these misunderstandings have affected the capacity not only of scholars to understand or
anticipate nationalist turmoil and failed states in much of the developing world, but also of
policymakers to devise appropriate responses (Connor 1978, 1994). This was certainly the
case, as he argues, with regard to the postcolonial world—where social scientists and
policymakers assumed that by simply establishing states, for example, Nigeria, a loyal nation
would follow.
Connor himself devotes more energy to explaining what nations are not than clarifying what
they are, but he comes close to a definition when he draws upon Rupert Emerson’s claim that a
nation is “a body of people who feel that they are a nation” (cited in Connor 1978, 396). This
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emphasis on the psychological and subjective nature of nationhood, however unsatisfactory to
many social scientists, predominates in the most well-known and respected literature on the
topic. Ernest Renan famously described the nation as a “daily plebiscite” (see Bhabha 1990,
19), and Max Weber (1948) stated that nations cannot be defined in terms of empirical
qualities—language, religion, blood. Rather, nations must be understood by reference to a
“sentiment of solidarity.” Some scholars of nations and nationalism have, however, attempted
to specify objective criteria. Josef Stalin, for example, declared:
A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the
basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological makeup manifested in a common culture…. It is only when all these characteristics are
present together that we have a nation. (quoted in Hutchinson and Smith 1994,
20-21)
This definition allowed Stalin to declare that Jews, spread across Russia, Galicia, Armenia,
Georgia, and the Caucasus, were not a nation. Many others have also pursued a definition of
the nation rooted in objective criteria, but they inevitably run into cases of groups of people
who perceive themselves to be and are perceived as a nation, but who do not meet all of the
specified objective criteria. Or, they encounter cases that do seem to meet the objective
criteria, but lack the sentiment of solidarity to which Weber referred. Ultimately, efforts at
objective definitions of nation-ness tend to result in subjective judgments about what the
objective criteria are and who does or does not meet them.
Rather than remain tangled in this conundrum, many scholars turn their attention away from
the pursuit of a universal definition of nation to classify or categorize different types of nations
and nationalisms (Hall 1993). This has often taken the form of describing historical phases,
stages, or waves of nationalism that are typically distinguished by type, such as “from above”
or “from below,” and correspond to the socioeconomic and political context of the time and
region (Hobsbawm 1990; Hroch 1985). Many of these efforts at categorization have and
continue to be quite illuminating (O’Leary 2001), and all agree with John Hall that “No single,
universal theory of nationalism is possible. As the historical record is diverse, so too must be
our concepts” (1993, 1).
By far, the most common distinction that has surfaced in the literature on nationalism is that
between civic nations and ethnic nations. Civic is the term used to refer to national
communities that are purportedly rooted in or based upon a shared commitment to a set of
political principles and institutions. Ethnic nations are those said to be based upon shared
ancestry and cultural community. The United States, France, and Canada are frequently cited
examples of the former, and Germany, Japan, and countries throughout Eastern Europe of the
latter. The distinction has a long history in the works of prominent historians and political
theorists, and corresponds to associated distinctions such as Western and Eastern nationalisms,
rational and irrational nationalisms, and liberal democratic versus illiberal authoritarian
nationalisms. As is evident in the latter descriptions, the distinction is not simply a descriptive
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or analytical one, but also a prescriptive and normative one. To be civic is good, and to be
ethnic is bad.
Historian Hans Kohn was one of the earliest scholars to use this typology. Writing in the
aftermath of World War II, Kohn drew a distinction between Western and Eastern nationalisms,
with the Rhine River as the divider between the two. Western nationalisms, of which England,
France, and the United States were examples, he characterized as rational and voluntaristic.
Nationalism in these countries was, according to Kohn, “a predominantly political
occurrence,” “without too much sentimental regard for the past,” and based on the obligation of
a social contract. The nation was a free association of rational individuals. Eastern
nationalisms, on the other hand (Germany was the prime example), he portrayed as organic and
determinist. Group belonging was determined at birth and found its expression in the field of
culture, ethnicity, language, and assumptions about the “natural” fact of a community. Of
German nationhood, Kohn writes: “Its roots seemed to reach into the dark soil of primitive
times and to have grown through thousands of hidden channels of unconscious development,
not in the bright light of rational political ends, but in the mysterious womb of the people,
deemed to be so much nearer the forces of nature” (1944, 331).
In the decades that followed, countless other scholars would make similar distinctions. Eric
Hobsbawm’s seminal work on Nations and Nationalism since 1780 describes the period of
1870 to 1914 as one of significant transformation in the nature of nationalism—from “civic and
democratic” as in the case of France, to “ethnic and linguistic” as was the case throughout
much of Eastern Europe (1990, 101-30). James Kellas borrowed directly from Kohn’s
typology to contrast the social, inclusive, liberal, and democratic nationalism of the West with
the ethnically exclusive, intolerant, and authoritarian nationalism of Eastern Europe (1991, 73-
74). Liah Greenfeld (1992) has drawn a similar distinction between “individualisticlibertarian” and “collectivist-authoritarian” models of nationalism. And in 1992, Rogers
Brubaker turned to these different conceptions of national belonging to explain variations in
immigration policy in France and Germany. Because national belonging in the former was
rooted in territory, the French state developed a civic immigration policy that naturalized
immigrants on the basis of residence (jus soli). Whereas the German notion of nation, rooted in
blood, led the German state to develop a very restrictive immigration policy that tied
citizenship to German ethnicity (jus sanguinis).
As noted above, many scholars use the civic/ethnic distinction not simply to describe
differences in nations or nationalism, but also as a way to prescribe solutions to the problems
and conflicts associated with national belonging. In a recent book titled Blood and Belonging,
Canadian scholar Michael Ignatieff acknowledges, although sadly, that the enlightenment dream
of a cosmopolitan world society of rational individuals has and will likely continue to clash
with the individual’s need to belong. Ethnic nationalism, he argues, is not an acceptable
solution to this dilemma because individuals are not free to choose their identity or source of
belonging—it is chosen for them by the community into which they are born. Civic nationalism,
however, according to Ignatieff, preserves the enlightenment’s promise to the individual by
allowing him or her to rationally choose an attachment and belonging based on shared values
or ideals (1993, 7-11). When applied to the case of Canada, this framework leads Ignatieff to
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characterize Canadian national identity as civic and Quebecois national identity as ethnic.
Jürgen Habermas has struggled with a similar political dilemma as it relates to the
reunification of Germany and the threat of a resurgent German ethnic chauvinism. Habermas
proposes that the reunification project focus not on the revival of “the pre-political unity of a
community with a shared historical destiny,” but rather on the restoration of “democracy and a
constitutional state in a territory where civil rights had been suspended … since 1933” (1995,
256). What he advocates is “constitutional patriotism” —where the community’s sense of
attachment, loyalty, and pride are focused on political principles and ideals of democracy and
the state institutions that protect or uphold them. This same notion of constitutional patriotism
is seen as a common characterization of nationalism in the U.S. context. In rejecting
philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s call for Americans to become more cosmopolitan and less
patriotic, Benjamin Barber argues that patriotism in the United States is quintessentially civic
or constitutional: ”The success of the American experiment [is] in grafting the sentiments of
patriotism onto a constitutional frame…. Our ‘tribal’ sources from which we derive our sense
of national identity are the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of
Rights” (1996, 30, 32).
In whatever ways the civic/ethnic distinction may have been useful for pointing to variations
in nations and national belonging, some scholars now contend, and correctly so, that it is vastly
overdrawn. Bernard Yack makes this case persuasively in his critique of the civic nation as a
myth:
[T]he civic/ethnic distinction itself reflects a considerable dose of
ethnocentrism, as if the political identities French and American were not also
culturally inherited artifacts…. The characterization of political community in the
so-called civic nations as a rational and freely chosen allegiance to a set of
political principles seems untenable to me, a mixture of self-congratulations and
wishful thinking. (1999, 105)
Anthony Smith shares Yack’s view, pointing out that “even the most ‘civic’ and ‘political’
nationalisms often turn out on closer inspection to be also ‘ethnic’ and linguistic” (1998, 126).
Certainly this critique of the civic/ethnic distinction holds up when applied to the U.S. case.
The claim, by Barber (1996) and others, that “our tribal sources are constitutional,” overlooks
the very real, and sometimes tragic, role that race, religion, and language have, and in some
cases continue, to play as dimensions of belonging, or not, to the American nation. In this
regard, Anthony Smith is correct to conclude that very few national states possess only one
form of nationalism. The types frequently overlap and shift within and across historical
periods. Although ethnic nations may tend toward exclusivity, he rightly points out that civic
nations may be impatient with ethnic differences and tend toward radical assimilation (1998,
212). Not only has the American melting pot often been, in practice, more about Angloconformity, but neither does the portrayal of French nationhood as rooted in territorial and
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political identity likely sit well with the thousands of African Muslims living, in some cases,
for generations, in France and still struggling for acceptance as full members of the nation
(Hargreaves 1995).
For our purposes, the conceptualizations of civic and ethnic nationhood are important
because they relate to and demonstrate the interconnections between other forms of belonging
discussed in this book. For example, if nationhood was or could be purely civic in nature,
focused solely on political principles and institutions, then how, or would, it need to be
distinguished from citizenship—membership in or belonging to a state? Or, if nation-ness is
synonymous with ethnicity, then is there a need for both concepts or terms and if so, why? The
short answer to these questions is that citizenship, as it has been conventionally instituted, has
proven to be too thin to alone satisfy the human need for belonging, and nation is a construction
of community endowed with more passion or meaning. Unfortunately, inclusion, even if it
attempts to be neutral, inevitably relies on exclusion, and ethnicity, race, religion, language,
and so forth are fruitful bases of exclusion. Nonetheless, all nations are not primarily ethnic
ones, nor are all ethnic groups necessarily nations. They do not, in other words, all have or
aspire to have their own state.
The concluding section of this chapter returns to the definitional dilemma, and the
complexities of terminology will continue to be illuminated throughout the book. For now,
however, nation does appear to be a particularly slippery concept and term in the lexicon of
belonging. The scholarship reviewed above has gone a long way toward clarifying the topic at
hand, but it is significant and troubling to note that many of the concerns put forth by Walker
Connor and others hold as true today as they did thirty years ago. This has been particularly
evident in recent discourse on the war in Afghanistan.
On October 21, 2001, the New York Times published an article on the war in Afghanistan
titled “After the War, Rebuild a Nation. If It’s a Nation” (Schmemann 2001). This title hints at
an analysis of the many different ethnic groups that comprise the Afghan population, the
historical tensions among them, and the obstacles that this has and will pose to the formation
and maintenance of a community with a distinctive consciousness and shared sense of mission,
or, a nation. Yet, the article falls short in this regard. Its discussion of the obstacles confronting
nation builders in Afghanistan mentions “an array of warring tribes,” but focuses primarily on
the absence of, and need for, a civil administration and an army. The next day, an editorial by
Fareed Zakaria, titled “Next: Nation-Building Lite,” appeared in Newsweek. In that article,
Zakaria expresses concern about the power vacuum that is being created in Afghanistan and
commends President Bush for shifting his position on nation-building to support “the
stabilization of a future government.” Zakaria declares that “We have no option but to create
some political order in that country. Call it nation-building lite.” The “lite” refers to the limited
nature of the goal, which in Zakaria’s view is not to turn Afghanistan into a Jeffersonian
democracy, “but into a quasi-functioning state, restoring order, roads, bridges and water
supplies and ending the famine-like conditions that are producing refugees” (2001, 53).
As central as factors such as a civil administration, an army, roads, and bridges may be to
future stability in Afghanistan, in the pristine sense of the terms state and nation (the former
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referring to a territorial-political unit and the latter to a human collectivity conscious of and in
some way committed to its shared identity and mission), the concerns emphasized in both of the
above-mentioned articles are issues of state—not nation—building. The distinction might
appear subtle, and the two entities are certainly not unrelated; but failure to differentiate nation
from state and to clarify the relationship between them weakens our understanding, particularly
of the former. Nor is the problem a purely academic one. It has important policy ramifications
as well. Zakaria’s Newsweek article, for example, does recognize that any new governmental
structure in Afghanistan will need legitimacy and that the ethnic and tribal diversity and
divisiveness of the country will pose a major obstacle in that regard (2001, 53). Yet, Connor’s
1978 lament remains just as accurate today: “One searches the literature in vain for techniques
by which group ties predicated upon such things as a sense of separate origin, development,
and destiny are to be supplanted by loyalty to a state-structure, whose population has never
shared such common feelings” (p. 384). In other words, politicians and policymakers
interested in or committed to nation-building in the pristine sense of the term, or in accurately
assessing its promises and pitfalls, have little to go on.
To further complicate the field, new concepts and terms have emerged recently that have the
potential to increase or perpetuate the confusion. “Transnationalism” and “post-nationalism”
became buzzwords during the 1990s, and even their proponents acknowledge that the sudden
prominence of these concepts has been accompanied by their increasing ambiguity (Smith and
Guarnizo 1998, 3). What is often unclear, for example, is what exactly is being transcended in
transnationalism and what is being surpassed or superseded in postnationalism? Furthermore,
it seems that much of the ambiguity continues to be rooted in the interutilization of the terms
nation and state, and, fundamentally, in the lack of an agreed upon definition of what constitutes
a nation.
“What is often unclear … is what exactly is being transcended in
transnationalism and what is being surpassed or superseded in
postnationalism? Furthermore, it seems that much of the ambiguity continues
to be rooted in the interutilization of the terms nation and state, and,
fundamentally, in the lack of an agreed upon definition of what constitutes a
nation.”
The literature on transnationalism, although relatively new, is voluminous (Basch, GlickSchiller, and Blanc 1994; Portes 1999a, 1999b; Smith and Guarnizo 1998; Vertovec 1999).
Analytically, the term refers to a new conceptual model for understanding qualitatively
different flows, networks, and practices of people, ideas, and capital. Empirically, emphasis is
placed repeatedly on the crossing of borders, the breaking of boundaries, and the transgression
of established forms of belonging. What becomes clear in most every discussion of
transnationalism, however, is that the borders and boundaries that are being transcended or
transgressed are those of states. For example, transnationalism as a concept is closely
associated with immigration studies. By the 1990s, numerous immigration scholars began
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calling attention to an increase in and intensification of links between immigrants’ home
countries and host countries. In some cases these networks are described as social in nature,
characterized by frequent contact as migrants continue to move back and forth between
locations, or, for example, by the remittances sent back to the home community by migrants and
the community of origin’s reliance upon them. In other cases, transnationalism is characterized
more by political ties—whether long-distance participation in elections by citizens abroad or
dual citizens or the growing incidence of candidates campaigning for and winning elected
office in a country where they do not currently reside (Basch, Glick-Schiller, and Blanc 1994;
Portes 1999a, 1999b; Smith and Guarnizo 1998; Vertovec 1999).
Basch et al. (1994), for example, write about the Haitian community in New York, and how
Haitians have been and continue to be intimately involved socially, culturally, politically, and
economically with their homeland. In fact, Haiti itself is divided into nine administrative
districts, known as departments, yet Haitians in the United States are commonly referred to as
the Tenth Department. Similarly, Alejandro Portes (1986, 1998) frequently uses as an example
of transnationalism the efforts of a Mexican enclave in Brooklyn to provide a water
purification system for their Mexican village of origin. Luis Guarnizo has inventoried the
economic, political, and sociocultural ties that bind Colombians in cities like New York and
Los Angeles with their home country (Guarnizo, Sanchez, and Roach 1999).
What this interesting and timely literature highlights is that geographic borders are now less
significant and territory less determinant than once was the case, and that crossing borders is a
much less permanent, unidirectional, or irreversible process. What is not clear, however, is
whether the boundaries that are being crossed or the borders that are being transcended are
actually those of nations, as the terminology suggests. The most widely used examples of
transnationalism do reveal that the territorial and political borders of states have become more
porous—more easily and more frequently traversed. Yet, if it is appropriate to speak, for
example, of a Haitian, Mexican, or Colombian nation, then what the above examples suggest is
not the transcendence of nations, but rather their maintenance or perpetuation; consequently, the
more accurate terminology for the phenomena at hand would be trans-state-nationalism.
Similar complexities surround the use of the term postnationalism. This concept also has
emerged over the past decade and addresses many of the same circumstances to which the
concept transnationalism is applied. One of postnationalism’s most articulate proponents,
Arjun Appadurai, writes:
We are looking at the birth of a variety of complex, postnational social
formations…. The new organizational forms are more diverse, more fluid, more
ad hoc, more provisional, less coherent, less organized, and simply less
implicated in the comparative advantages of the nation-state. (1996, 168)
Appadurai delineates the contours of a “postnational global order,” and in doing so, he
identifies various organizations ranging from Amnesty International, to Oxfam, to the
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Unification Church that act in opposition to, outside of, or around nation-states. Appadurai’s
decision to use the term nation-state may be a conscious attempt at operationalizing nations as
conjoined, by definition, with states. If this is the case, the examples he uses, which are
examples of a proliferation of nonstate, trans-state, or antistate actors are illustrative. Still, the
global order they suggest would be more accurately characterized as post-state, or post-nationstate, not postnational.
Appadurai and theorists of transnationalism noted above are not being singled out as
uniquely sloppy in their use of the terms nation and state, in fact, the contrary. If analysts of this
caliber and experience become entangled in the terminological morass, all the more proof that
its implications are significant. Furthermore, and to avoid creating a straw-person of the
literature on trans- and postnationalism, many of these scholars are well aware of the murky
waters into which they tread. Often explicit in much of this scholarship is a keen awareness of
contemporary social and political realities for which conventional terms, or conventional
understandings of these terms, are inadequate, and new ones do not yet exist.
We will return to these concerns below, but for now, the point is that the question of
terminology is not simply a minor issue of semantics. It is related to the theoretical debates
about the origins and implications of nationhood and is consequential for understanding the
future of nations and nationhood in a global context. Although the search for a firm definition of
nation has not yielded definitive results, a great deal of theorizing about nations and
nationalism has taken place. Some of this scholarship provides insights into the meaning of
nation, but it also provides a necessary backdrop to examining how nationhood is being
affected by contemporary processes of globalization. Particularly relevant, given this chapter’s
interest in the implications for nationhood of a context many would characterize as
postmodern, is the large body of literature that defines nations by reference to the conditions of
modernity.
The Modernity of Nations
As is to be logically expected, the lack of a clear or widely accepted definition of what a
nation is has had significant implications for theorizing about the origins, essence, or
implications of nations. Identifying the historical birth of nations or nationhood depends, for
example, on how these concepts are defined. How an analyst or policymaker determines the
best course of action, or even the available options, with regard to nationalist conflict depends
upon how he or she conceptualizes nationhood. Finally, any normative assessment of the
promises or pitfalls of nation-building or nationalist politics is also obviously rooted in the
meaning of nation. Given these constraints, it is no wonder some scholars of nations express
disappointment at the current state of theoretical understanding. Nonetheless, significant
insights have accrued, and most have been related to the recognition of nations as distinctly
modern, as opposed to ancient, identities and attachments. This section will review some of
the prominent explanations for nations and nationalism with a focus on those scholars who
locate nations in the context of modernity. There have certainly been dissenters to this view (J.
Armstrong 1982; Greenfeld 1992; Hutchinson 2000; A. Smith 1986), some of whom will be
discussed below, but since the 1960s the modernist perspective has become somewhat of an
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orthodoxy. Furthermore, given this book’s interest in how nationhood is affected by conditions
many would characterize as postmodern, understanding the nation’s relationship to the context
or conditions of the modern era is a necessary foundation.
Prior to the 1960s, most scholars who studied nationalism portrayed nations as organic
entities existing in nature since time immemorial. Nations were invoked as independent
variables to explain international events and relations, and scholarship on nations typically
took the form of describing the history, symbols, and heroes of the nation. Anthony Smith
(1998) has described this older generation of scholars as both “perennial-ists” and
“primordialists” because of their belief in the persistent and immemorial nature of nations as
seamless wholes stretching back centuries and in their emphasis on nations as deeply rooted in
ethno-cultural and ancestral ties. He also points out that many of these scholars seemed to
adopt, however tacitly, the premises of the nationalist ideologies they studied (p. 18).
By the 1960s, a new body of thought on nations and nationalism emerged that directly
challenged the assumptions and ideas upon which this older school was based. A number of
different scholars contributed to this school, and their analyses varied in important ways, but
all shared a belief in the historical specificity of nations and nationalism. Specifically, they
shared the belief that nations and nationalism are distinctly modern phenomena, and that the
context and conditions of modernity both demanded and facilitated the birth of these national
phenomena. “Modern,” as it was used in this literature, signified relatively recent, not ancient,
with most scholars marking the beginning of nations and nationalism at the time of the French
Revolution in the late eighteenth century, or, in some cases, the middle of the nineteenth
century. Modernity also referred to the modernization process itself, and to the socioeconomic,
cultural, and political trends that comprised it—namely, industrialization, urbanization,
increased literacy and social mobility, and the consolidation of the modern state (B. Anderson
1991; Gellner 1983; Giddens 1985; Hobsbawm 1990).
In addition to the emphasis on the historical specificity of nations, this school of thought was
characterized by a related set of assumptions that contrasted sharply with those of earlier
studies. Modernists have and continue to emphasize the recentness and constructedness of
nations as social creations engineered by elites in pursuit of political and economic goals and
for which objective ethnic or ancestral commonality is not a necessary or a sufficient
precondition. Because modernists broke with the earlier view of nations as organic preexisting
entities, and instead defined nations and nationalism as products and aspects of the epoch of
modernity, they have been left to explain why and how these formations emerged when and as
they did. The bulk of scholarship on nations and nationalism focuses on these questions
precisely and, despite variations, reaches a general agreement that modernity not only
contained within it the conditions that made the formation of nations feasible, but also the
conditions that made nations functional or even necessary. In explaining what facilitated and/or
made the nation form functional, emphases range from the sociocultural to the economic to the
political, and each of these functions and contexts is recognized as closely interrelated with the
others.
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“Modernists continue to emphasize the recentness and constructedness of
nations as social creations engineered by elites in pursuit of political and
economic goals and for which objective ethnic or ancestral commonality is
not a necessary or a sufficient precondition. “
Ernest Gellner (1964, 1983), for example, is well known for his thesis on nations as
sociologically necessary to the era of industrialization. Nationalism, Gellner maintains, “is not
the awakening of an old, latent, dormant force…. It is in reality the consequence of a new form
of social organization, based on deeply internalized, education-dependent high cultures, each
protected by its own state” (1983, 48). Nations, for Gellner, do not emerge until the period of
industrialization because the conditions that make nations necessary and functional did not
previously exist. Modernization, and specifically industrialization, demanded social mobility
and a degree of sociocultural homogenization, in contrast to the social stratification and local
differentiation that was characteristic of the premodern period. In agricultural societies, for
example, culture and language were used to separate elites from peasants, but modern, growthoriented societies required a literate populous and a high degree of cultural standardization.
The modern state provided the mechanism for forging and managing these conditions, and
nations were the vehicles or emergent sociocultural and political formations in and through
which these conditions were met and maintained (Gellner 1983). Gellner’s analysis has been
criticized frequently for its functionalism (explaining the existence of nations after the fact by
reference to the functions they fulfilled), but his historical account of when nations emerge and
his explanations as to why and how were and continue to be widely influential (J. Hall 1998).
Gellner’s analysis dealt with the economy, and specifically with the functional demands of a
modern capitalist society, but other proponents of the modernist paradigm have made this an
even more central focus of their explanations of the emergence of nations. From a Marxist or
neo-Marxist perspective, many scholars argue that the nation-state and nationalism are rooted
in the rise of capitalism. Immanuel Wallerstein, for example, describes nation as a modal term
that hinges on the basic structural features of the capitalist world economy—namely, sovereign
states that comprise a political superstructure to the global capitalist economy (1991, 79).
Specifically, the state is seen as the political formation necessary for the free movement of
goods and the regulation and maintenance of a market economy Yet, states have problems of
cohesion and a need for uniformity. Nations or national communities provide both. In other
words, nations are a part of the ideological superstructure that legitimates and reproduces a
particular stage of capitalist development. Tom Nairn (1977) developed this argument further,
attributing nationalism to uneven capitalist development. Nairn locates the emergence of
nationalism in underdeveloped societies that are on the periphery of the world economic core.
The elite of these societies use nationalism, and typically a shared language and culture, to
mobilize the masses around goals of political and economic development. Scottish
nationalism, for example, has been fueled by the reality of its regional economic backwardness
in contrast to English dominance in Great Britain.
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In addition to emphasizing the sociocultural and socioeconomic functions of, and
explanations for, nations and nationalism, several scholars focus on the nation as derivative of
the modern state. One of the earliest voices of modernization theory, Karl Deutsch (1966),
characterized nation-building and nations as the efforts and outcome of a modern state in need
of a political community. Charles Tilly’s (1975) seminal scholarship on state-building treated
states as historically prior to nations, and nations as constructs forged or designed by states.
Anthony Giddens has also made a significant contribution to this view of nations as politically
functional and politically derived constructs. For Giddens, as for Deutsch, Tilly, and others,
modernity represented a revolution in administration, bureaucratization, communication, and
state consolidation. The state, Giddens famously argues, is “the pre-eminent power-container
of the modern era” (1985, 120), and nations are the necessary accompanying form of human
association—a distinctive property of the modern state, or what Appadurai later characterizes
as “the ideological alibi of the state” (1996, 159). Scholars operating from this perspective
also tend to emphasize that it is nationalism as a political ideology that makes nations, not the
other way around (Hobsbawm 1990). These authors recognize, like Walker Connor, that states
and nations are distinct entities, but unlike Connor they do not see them as separable.
One of the most influential voices among those tying nations to the modern era is that of
Benedict Anderson. His highly influential thesis on nations as Imagined Communities (1991)
encompasses the range of insights outlined above and pulls these together in a comprehensive
analysis of when, how, and why the nation emerges and proliferates as a, actually the,
universally salient cultural and political formation of the modern era. Anderson conceptualizes
nations as cultural artifacts created toward the end of the eighteenth century as a result of “the
spontaneous distillation of a complex crossing of discrete historical forces” (p. 4). These
forces include the decline of sacred communities held together by sacred languages, the
collapse of the dynastic realm, and fundamental changes in the apprehension of time. These
factors comprised the context or conditions for imagining nations, whereas print-capitalism,
state functionaries, maps, museums, and the census provided the mechanisms. His book
develops this thesis skillfully and succinctly and provides the basis for his famous definition of
the nation as “an imagined political community—and imagined as both inherently limited and
sovereign” (p. 6).
The nation, according to Anderson, is imagined because the members will never know most
of their fellow members. It is limited because it has finite, although elastic, boundaries. No
nation, in other words, imagines itself as coterminous with humankind. Nations are sovereign
because the concept is born in the midst of the age of the enlightenment, the delegiti-mation of
divine hierarchy, and attainable dreams and expectations of being free. Here, Anderson ties
nations directly to states by noting that “the gage and emblem of this freedom is the sovereign
state” (1991, 7). Significantly, Anderson also emphasizes, and much of his analysis makes the
case that, once created, nations “became ‘modular,’ capable of being transplanted, with
varying degrees of self-consciousness, to a great variety of social terrains, to merge and be
merged with a correspondingly wide variety of political and ideological constellations” (p. 4).
In this way, Benedict Anderson’s scholarship, despite its close association with the modernist
paradigm, lays the groundwork for postmodern understandings of nationhood as well.
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Postmodern Implications
Much of what makes the present analysis potentially interesting or relevant hinges on whether
the world has actually entered or is entering a new historical epoch different in some
significant ways from the one preceding it. In other words, has “modernity” indeed come to an
end and, if so, what constitutes the epoch that follows it? This is a hugely complex debate that
cannot and, fortunately, need not be settled here. As a topic of philosophical and empirical
inquiry, the debate surfaces in a variety of disciplines, focuses on realms that range from the
socioeconomic (Harvey 1990; Jameson 1984), to the political (J. Rosenau 1990; Strange
1996), to the cultural (Appadurai 1996; Bhabha 1990), and includes a wide spectrum of views,
some of which proclaim a fundamentally new world and others that see little qualitative
change in the current patterns or processes of the global system. The term postmodern can and
has been used in reference to all of these different contexts and occurrences (P. Rosenau 1992).
Most of this discussion and debate referred to above also takes place in relation to or under
the rubric of globalization. Globalization, as defined in chapter 1, entails a cluster of related
changes occurring in, but not limited to, economic, technological, cultural, and political realms
that are increasing the interconnectedness of the world. The theoretical and empirical
scholarship about globalization is substantial, and for each thesis generated about fundamental
change in the world order, there is a counterargument about continuity. The most useful
insights, and those employed here, come from scholars who acknowledge the value of a middle
ground position; namely, that although the constituent processes of globalization may not be
entirely new, they arguably have intensified in recent decades. As David Harvey wrote in
1990, “we have been experiencing, these last two decades, an intense phase of time-space
compression that has had a disorienting and disruptive impact on political—economic
practices, the balance of class power, as well as upon cultural and social life” (1990, 284).
Harvey acknowledges a “sea-change” but ultimately rejects the emergence of an entirely new
postcapitalist or even postindustrial society.
What, then, are the implications of this contemporary context of globalization for nations and
national belonging? Different scholars have explored this question, some more systematically
than others. Among those who operate within the modernist framework, Eric Hobsbawm has
been the most explicit in terms of anticipating the nation’s future demise: “Nation-states and
nations will be seen as retreating before, resisting, adapting to, being absorbed or dislocated
by, the new supranational restructuring of the globe” (1990, 182). Historian William McNeill,
in his treatise on Polyethnicity and National Unity in World History (1986), also predicted
the end of the nation and the withering away of nationalism.
More recently, and writing within the literature on postnationalism discussed above, several
analysts have argued that contemporary conditions ranging from technological advancement to
the rise of various forms of international political and economic governance have superseded
states and diminished the need for or relevance of national belonging. In her research on
immigrants and refugees in Europe, Yasemin Soysal (1994, 2000) emphasizes the diminishing
centrality of the nation-state as a model of community and attributes its demise to the increasing
intensification of transnational discourse and legal instruments, the diffusion of sovereignty,
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and the emergence of multilevel polities such as the EU (2000). Meanwhile, Homi Bhabha
(1990) characterizes the contemporary period as one of fragmentation and cultural hybridity
amid which the notions of cultural homogeneity upon which or through which nations were
formed have been thoroughly delegitimized. As noted earlier, it is not always clear whether
these postnationalist scholars are describing the supersession and destabilization of the nation
or of the state. More problematic, however, is that neither the postnationalists nor the
modernists who suggest the nation’s demise can account adequately for the contemporary
persistence, even resurgence, of nationhood as a form of belonging. And, as discussed in the
opening paragraphs of this chapter, the allure of nationhood persists not only among
established nation-states, but also among new or newly transitioned states—whether in the
case of South Africa or in projects of regional integration like the EU.
“neither the postnationalists nor the modernists who suggest the nation’s
demise can account adequately for the contemporary persistence, even
resurgence, of nationhood as a form of belonging. “
For some observers and analysts, this persistence and/or resurgence of nations and
nationalism comes as no surprise and serves as validation or vindication of the earlier
primordialist or perennialist approaches. Nations persist, according to this view, because they
are real, historic entities with distinct ethnic cores that naturally or essentially inspire strong
emotional attachments and loyalties. Anthony Smith has been a longtime proponent of
conceptualizing nations via reference to their ethnic core. Nations, according to Smith, must be
understood as historically embedded, “derived from pre-existing and highly particularized
cultural heritages and ethnic formations” (1995, viii). In Nations and Nationalism in a Global
Era, Smith applies his analytical framework to “the paradox of global interdependence and
fissiparous nationalism” (p. 5). He argues that both postmodernists and modernists miss the
mark in explaining the contemporary rebirth of nationalism. The former approach, according to
Smith, is flawed in its insistence on identity, national and otherwise, as hybridized and
ambivalent, and the latter in its ahistorical depiction of nations as inevitable products of
modernity. Smith writes:
Only by grasping the power of nationalism and the continuing appeal of national
identity through their rootedness in pre-modern ethnic symbolism and modes of
organization is there some chance of understanding the resurgence of ethnic
nationalism at a time when “objective” conditions might render it obsolete. (p.
7)
John Hutchinson has also examined what he describes as the “vexed questions of
relationships between national identity and globalization” (2000, 651). In doing so, he, like
Smith, criticizes the modernists’ focus on the rationality and novelty of nations and emphasizes
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instead the ethnic continuity of cultural differences across the premodern/modern divide.
Ethnicity, which Hutchinson like Smith views as the core of nations, cannot be dismissed as
residual or reactive (p. 653); and, nations must be understood as “long term historical
collectivities that structure the forms of modernity” (p. 651) rather than being structured by
them. Nations, then, are not mere products or outcomes of something else. They are
independent variables in their own right. Although neither Smith or Hutchinson uses Samuel
Huntington’s (1993) language of civilizational clash, they operate on similar assumptions about
the real, basic, and fixed nature of cultural differences.
Despite some meaningful insights, this type of approach, and the assumptions on which it is
based, remain open to the same problems that originally gave rise to the modernist paradigm in
the early 1960s. Many of the nations that are now capturing attention on the world stage do not
constitute, either in content or form, seamless wholes stretching back centuries. President
Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu sought not to revive an ancient or preexisting South
African nation, but to forge anew a “Rainbow Nation” that would be based in large part on a
rejection of the country’s divisive past. The symbols, heroes, memories, and myths being
invoked by leaders like Slobodan Milosevic may have a long historical past, but the ways in
which they are being interpreted, and the populations and circumstances to which they are
being applied, are arguably distinct from the history being resurrected. Or, at the very least, so
many of the claims put forth by these and other nationalists are contestable and contested; and
the blood ties being implied or invoked are of limited credibility. In fact, nationalist claims of
shared blood ties, common though they are, rarely, if ever, have much basis in fact. They are,
nevertheless, powerful methods of unification and dangerous in their exclusionary
implications.
“nationalist claims of shared blood ties, common though they are, rarely, if
ever, have much basis in fact. They are, nevertheless, powerful methods of
unification and dangerous in their exclusionary implications.”
The value of the primordialist view is currently weakened not only by the fact that the
number of nations in the world and their individual contours or constituencies are fluid, but by
evidence that the form of nationhood as a mechanism of belonging is also in a state of flux. The
best example, already mentioned above and seemingly on the rise, is the phenomena of
transnationalism—or what would more accurately be described as trans-state nationalism. At
first glance, the extension of national community and belonging across two or more states may
appear to vindicate the primordialist claims that nations are entities that predate or in any case
are not determined by states, and that the bonds of which they are comprised are so strong and
so basic as to transcend the political and (from the perspective of the organic nation) arbitrary
borders of states. However, the scholarship on transnationalism points not just to the
continuation or extension of preexisting or static national ties across states, but also to the
emergence of new identities, social spaces, and “transnational localities” (A. Smith 1998).
One such example involves the increasing practice and policies of dual nationality (JonesCroucher, Sheila. Globalization and Belonging : The Politics of Identity in a Changing World, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003. ProQuest Ebook Central,
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Correa 2000; Renshon 2001). All of this poses problems for both the primordialist and
modernist approaches. If nationhood is a deeply felt essential attachment, how then can it be
split simultaneously among two or more different nations, and if nations are created by and
attached to states, how is it that they now transcend them?
Finally, the European Union also offers an example of the persistent appeal of nation-ness,
but in a reconfigured form that constitutes what might best be described as trans-state nationbuilding. As Europe’s emphasis on economic union has expanded to include efforts at political
and social integration, discourse has turned to the need for a sense of belonging to the EU and
the possibility of creating a European cultural identity that transcends individual member states
(Wiener 1998). Montserrat Guibernau explains that “The engineers of the new Europe will
have to look at ‘common European trends’ and design a myth of origin, rewrite history, invent
traditions, rituals and symbols that will create a new identity” (1996, 114). They have done
just that and the process, as Anthony Smith notes, has involved the centralized use of the
cultural media, student exchanges, the invention and dissemination of pan-European myths, and
the reinterpretation and popularization of pan-European history (1992). Writing in 1985, the
Commission of the European Communities (CEC) stated that “European culture is marked by
its diversity: diversity of climate, countryside, architecture, language, beliefs, taste and artistic
style…. But underlying this variety there is an affinity, a family likeness, a common European
identity” (CEC 1985,1).
Europe’s efforts at imagining a cultural and political community that transcends the limits of
a single state represent a significant reconfiguration of some conventional models of
membership (as discussed in chapter 2). Yet, what is notable is the continued importance of
boundaries—territorial, cultural, social, and otherwise. As Michael Billig observes: “Thus,
Europe will be imagined as a totality, either as a homeland itself or as a homeland of
homelands. Either way, the ideological traditions of nationhood, including its boundaryconsciousness, are not transcended” (1995, 142).
“Europe’s efforts at imagining a cultural and political community that
transcends the limits of a single state represent a significant reconfiguration
of some conventional models of membership…. Yet, what is notable is the
continued importance of boundaries—territorial, cultural, social, and
otherwise.”
There is, then, ample evidence that nations and nationhood as a form of belonging persist,
but are not unchanged. How and why is this the case? Intended as a critique of the modernist
literature, but applicable to the postnationalist and primordialist as well, John Hutchinson
writes: “[T]hese interpretations cannot satisfactorily explain the current national revival
sweeping much of the globe. Moreover, since this national differentiation is occurring in a
period of an allegedly global homogenization of peoples, we need a more nuanced account”
(2000, 655). The following section aims to offer such an account.
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Perpetual Imagining
If we accept the persistence of nations—a fact that seems currently indisputable—and reject
explanations that attribute this persistence to some static, organic, essential nature of nations,
then where does that leave us? One possible response is to claim that the national form is
indeed a product, or at the very least an aspect, of modernity, but that the world is still in, or
has not yet moved far enough beyond, that era to witness the ultimate demise of nations and
nationalism. Such a response is not without merit. If, for example, the current era is best
characterized as “high,” “late,” or “hypermodern,” meaning that the economic, social, and
political dimensions and demands of modernity have advanced and/or intensified, then we
might reasonably expect hypernationalism as an accompanying social formation.
In fact, many analysts, from opposing ideological positions, make precisely this argument
when they suggest, for example, that the contemporary persistence or resurgence of
ethnonationalism is a response to the homogenization and sense of anomie that accompanies
globalization (Barber 1992; Huntington 1993). Others argue, from a Marxist perspective, that
nations, as is the case with other social formations, continue to be reducible to the workings of
the world capitalist economy, however altered or intensified those workings may be
(Wallerstein 1991). Both responses are problematic. The former risks invoking, implicitly if
not explicitly, primordialist assumptions about nationhood by assuming a ready-made, static set
of cultural attachments and traits that constitute an automatic and unified source of resistance or
response to global change. The latter falls prey, as many Marxist-inspired analyses do, to
economic determinism by reducing all social and political realities to the material conditions
and structures of capitalism—even if those conditions and structures change. Both explanations
fail to recognize that if nations are indeed constructs, then they are by definition malleable,
contextual, and capable of persistence and reconfiguration amid socioeconomic and political
change. A more promising explanation is one that accepts the modernist thesis that nations are
historically contextual formations, shaped by the social and material conditions that surround
them, but goes on to recognize that it is the very malleability of nations and nationhood that
accounts for why and how they persist. Such is the case both in terms of the content with, or of
which, nations are imagined and the form they assume.
Such an explanation, and the one advocated here, takes to heart Rogers Brubaker’s call that
we cease treating nations as “stable axioms of being,” and recognize them instead as “form,
category and event” (1996, 13). The next step entails a fuller understanding of the
contemporary relationship between the national form, category, or event on the one hand, and
the processes and politics of globalization on the other. Avoiding the issue of how precisely to
label the contemporary era or how to determine whether it is fundamentally and qualitatively
new, the analysis presented here accepts that at least since the 1970s the world has been
experiencing an intensification of global interconnectedness. Corporations, capital, people,
and ideas are moving back and forth more freely, rapidly, and at greater distances than at any
time in the past. Movement and interchange are facilitated by advances in communications and
transportation technology and are also facilitated by (and contribute to) diminishing territorial
and political borders. As noted above, states are affected profoundly by these changes—
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weakened in some arenas and strengthened in others. A careful look at these conditions of
globalization, and how they are refracted through the state, can provide valuable insight into
the persistence and the contemporary reconfigurations of nations and nationhood.
First, to the extent that the national form is linked to the state (though some analysts debate
the nature or degree of this link, few deny that it exists), the persistence of states, however
challenged or changed by globalization they may be, offers a partial explanation for the
continuation of nationhood as a salient form of belonging. As was argued in chapter 2 with
regard to citizenship, certain aspects of globalization that challenge the autonomy of the state
serve simultaneously to invigorate the importance or appeal of nationhood. This invigoration
stems both from states themselves as well as from the people who comprise a national
community or potential national community. In fact, much of what is presented here regarding
globalization’s implications for nationhood parallels the discussion of citizenship, but with an
understanding that the two forms of belonging, while related, are not synonymous.
States have long relied on nations as their raison d’être and in a period of threatened
sovereignty tend to use and act to fortify the nation as an ideological alibi. This has been
powerfully evident in the United States in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The
attacks exposed the contemporary vulnerability of states, and in particular, the United States.
The rhetoric in the wake of those attacks has revolved around and relied heavily on protecting
the nation and the homeland. Whether in the form of Homeland Security or the USA PATRIOT
Act, what has occurred is a state-led closing of ranks around the nation and a heightened sense
of the need or desire to clarify who does and does not belong to the national community.
Formal, legal membership in the state, or citizenship, is one boundary that is being invoked, but
other cultural, religious, and in the most insidious cases, racial criteria have come into play as
well. Despite President George W. Bush’s repeated assurances to Muslim Americans that “we
respect your faith,” God has been central to the discourse of American nationhood, and it
seems clear in most every instance that the “god” being invoked is a Christian one.
Furthermore, since 9/11, the news has been filled with reports of Arabs in the United States,
many of whom are U.S. citizens, and individuals that may in some way resemble Arabs, being
victims of discrimination, harassment, and violence—by the U.S. government as well as by
individual U.S. citizens. In addition to the widespread detention and investigation by the state
of innocent immigrants and legal residents who are Arab or Muslim (detentions that have been
harshly criticized by Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union), U.S.
federal agents have also staged raids on the homes and institutions of what are described as
among the “most respected” Muslim leaders and organizations in the United States. Throughout
the country, and in other parts of the world as well, mosques have been vandalized and
individual Muslim residents report no longer feeling safe in their homes, their schools, or the
streets (Dunne 2002). The introduction to this book included examples from the United States,
but in the north of England, shortly after 9/11, the phrase “Avenge USA—kill a Muslim now”
was spray painted near a mosque (Ford 2001). And in Denmark, an anti-immigrant party that
saw its popularity surge after 9/11 created a campaign poster featuring a young blonde girl and
the slogan: “When she retires, Denmark will have a Muslim majority” (Finn 2002).
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Muslims, and Arabs, are not being attacked and denigrated because they are not citizens,
many in fact are, but because they are perceived—whether due to physical appearance, dress,
or religious and cultural custom and affiliation—as not belonging to the national community.
The rise of post-9/11 xenophobia indicates a distinction between belonging to a national
community and possessing formal membership or residence in a state—even in the most civicminded and purportedly ethnically neutral political communities in the world. Nor is this
tendency unique to the post-September 11 context. What is important to note, however, is that
the invocation by states of the interests of a national community not only allows states to guard
their sovereignty in the midst of globalization, but also legitimizes and maintains the
ideological and practical centrality of national belonging in a postmodern world.
Other aspects of contemporary globalization, migration in particular, also compel states to
clarify and reinforce the boundaries of the nation. As noted in previous chapters, the world
has, in recent decades, witnessed unprecedented human migration—whether in the form of
refugees, legal migrants, or illegal aliens—all of which has posed a fundamental challenge to
the sovereignty of states—namely, their right to regulate their borders. What is evident,
however, is that discourse and policy related to immigration are rarely restricted to the issue of
territorial borders or laws surrounding passage across those borders. Instead, state officials
typically justify and pursue their border-fortification policies in the name of protecting the
nation. In a recent report, Blueprint for an Ideal Legal Immigration Policy, former Colorado
governor Richard Lamm writes: “Defining who comprises a nation will become more
important as commerce becomes more global and less accountable to any one nation or
community” (Center for Immigration Studies 2001, 2) The alleged threat to the national
community is perceived as not only an economic one (i.e., loss of jobs), but also a cultural one.
Witness the frequent references in the United States to the need to preserve American values or
the English language. Similar discourse takes place throughout Europe, Australia, Japan, and
other parts of the world. The result is that as states respond to encroachments upon their
sovereignty, whether in the form of the unprecedented movement of people across international
borders or terrorism, they not only invoke the purported interests of a national community and
their role in defending it, but, in the process, they also clarify the boundaries and fortify the
salience and significance of belonging to a nation.
“discourse and policy related to immigration are rarely restricted to the issue
of territorial borders or laws surrounding passage across those borders.
Instead, state officials typically justify and pursue their border fortification
policies in the name of protecting the nation.”
Furthermore, this occurs not only within and by established states, but within newly formed
or forming states as well. The new South Africa provides a telling example. Having made the
transition to a post-Apartheid state, South African officials not only confronted the demands of
state building, whether in the form of establishing democratic institutions or regulating the
economy, but they also perceived the need to build a South African nation. This was no small
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task given the country’s divisive past. How, for example, could the new government unite a
population deeply, historically, and sometimes violently divided along lines of race, ethnicity,
and class? Immigration, although not as a necessarily intentional or well-coordinated strategy,
emerged as one arena in which state officials (most notably Minister of Home Affairs
Mangosuthu Buthelezi), politicians, and the media forged a South African “Us” against a
foreign or alien “Them.” The result is a discourse in South Africa similar to that in the United
States and other immigrant-receiving states that blames immigrants for problems that range
from unemployment and crime to disease—all the while invoking the interests and needs of the
South African nation (Croucher 1998). In 1994, for example, Buthelezi announced, “I am
thinking of proposing to Cabinet to consider legislation which will impose severe punishment
on people who employ illegal aliens as it is unpatriotic to employ them at the expense of our
people” (Sowetan Comment 1994, 8). When asked to respond to the charges that South Africa
is engaging in xenophobic discrimination against fellow blacks, Buthelezi stated: “1 challenge
the idea that if one is trying to look after the interests of South Africa, one is xenophobic”
(Economist 1995, 40).
The South African state, however, is not the sole participant in the nation-formation process.
The politics of “Us versus Them” resonates and is perpetuated by individuals in South Africa
as well. As Hobsbawm (1990) has explained, nationalism is not simply a top-down process
initiated by the state, but also a bottom-up one. In the context of globalization, or what James
Rosenau (1990) calls, “turbulence,” citizens, as well as states, experience insecurity.
Xenophobia among South Africans, black and white, skyrocketed in the mid- to late 1990s.
Public opinion polls, letters to the editor in all major newspapers, and political protests
conveyed a widespread intolerance of “foreigners.” In the most insidious cases, this
intolerance took the form of armed gangs of South Africans forcibly removing immigrants from
their homes (Minaar and Hough 1996). In each case, disgruntled South Africans declared that
the state has a duty to protect South Africans, and that the rights and privileges of the new
South Africa belong to the people of South Africa—the nation. States as actors are weakened
by globalization, but they may still constitute the best bet for individuals seeking protection
from the uncertainties of a changing world. Moreover, claiming membership in a nation is the
best way to secure access to the state and exclude others from it—to differentiate an “Us” from
a “Them.”
Nationhood, then, continues to be a functional, familiar, and legitimate mechanism for
belonging. We see evidence of its persistent appeal in the United States in popular support for
legislation such as Proposition 187 in California and English-only movements at the local,
state, and federal levels. The same is true with regard to popular support for and mobilization
around restrictionist and xenophobic politics and policies in other countries as well. Across
Europe, public opinion polls and elections results show voters fearful of the dilution of their
national identity and of outsiders who do not share or respect their national values or culture
(Finn 2002; Ford 2001).
This bottom-up thrust of nationhood is also evident among the many groups who do not
currently have a state of their own, seek one, and recognize proclamations of nationhood as the
most promising, although by no means guaranteed, pathway. Well-known examples include the
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Palestinians, Basques, Kurds, and Quebecois who are fighting for a state of their own, as well
as other groups such as the Catalans, Scots, Welsh, or indigenous peoples around the world
who may not be seeking an independent state, but who do desire some enhanced degree of
political autonomy and invoke their nationhood to make the case. Repeatedly, these groups
articulate and attempt to bolster their political demands by reference to the nation-ness—
whether defined by reference to history, culture, language, even blood type.
Finally, not only does globalization create conditions in which nationhood continues to be a
valued and functional sociopolitical formation, but it also provides mechanisms that enhance
the capacity for constructing, imagining, or maintaining nations. The primary example here
points to recent advances in communications technology. Karl Deutsch (1966), one of the
earliest and most influential writers on nations and modernity, focused on the central role of
communications in nation-building. Similarly, Benedict Anderson’s (1991) thesis on imagined
communities relies heavily on the role of print media as a precondition for and primary tool of
nation formation. Globalization, because it has been accompanied and propelled by advances
in technology ranging from the Internet, satellites, fax machines, cell phones, as well as the
sophistication and spread of existing technologies such as television, offers new and more
effective opportunities for imagining nations. Anderson, himself, in a 1992 essay on “The New
World Disorder,” warns of the “long-distance nationalist” who “finds it tempting to play
identity politics by participating (via propaganda, money, weapons, any way but voting) in the
conflicts of his imagined Heimat—now only fax-time away” (p. 13).
“not only does globalization create conditions in which nationhood continues
to be a valued and functional sociopolitical formation, but it also provides
mechanisms that enhance the capacity for constructing, imagining, or
maintaining nations.”
From the perspective of states, television has proven to be a valuable technological tool for
nation-shaping. Although not a new technology, television has spread exponentially over the
past decades. As noted in chapter 1, between 1965 and 1996, the number of television
receivers in the world went from 192 million to 1,361 million, and the number of televisions
per 1,000 people worldwide went from 57 to 236 (UNDP 1999, 4). South Africa again proves
to be an illustrative case, this time regarding the use of television in nation formation. As noted
above, in the post-Apartheid context, the new South African government turned to signs and
symbolism of nationhood in an effort to unite a disparate population. In addition to the
exclusionary reliance on an immigrant “Other” to fortify a South African “Us,” the state, via the
South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), mounted a massive public broadcasting
effort to promote national unity through cultural diversity. Centered on the slogan Simunye—a
Zulu word that in English translates into “we are one”—all three SABC stations broadcast
repeated images of South Africans with varied skin tones, accents, and attire singing, dancing,
and joyfully proclaiming “Simunye—we are one.” Writing about the South African case, Chris
Barker acknowledges that no television slogan, however well intended, will create a utopian
Croucher, Sheila. Globalization and Belonging : The Politics of Identity in a Changing World, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003. ProQuest Ebook Central,
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nation out of the chaos that has been South Africa: “Yet, success in material terms depends in
good measure on how people think about themselves and others, that is, how they are
constituted culturally…. Imagining ‘us’ as ‘one’ is part of the process of nation building and
there is no medium which has been able to speak to as many people in pursuit of that goal as
television” (1999, 5-6).
Arguments about the role of television in constructing national identity have also been made
with reference to broadcasts of national sporting events and telenovelas (Latin soap operas) in
Latin America (Martin-Barbero 1995). Furthermore, the telenovelas broadcast to the U.S.
Spanish-speaking market have also been significant in terms of their promotion of a shared
sense of Latino cultural identity in the United States (Lopez 1995). In this particular case,
television is helping to forge a sense of “nation” that is not tied to any particular state.
Television has also been instrumental in attempting to create a sense of trans-state
Europeanness within the European Union. Recognizing the importance of a sense of belonging
to the project of European integration, and the difficulty of rooting such belonging in criteria of
ethnicity, language, or religion, EU officials turned to public television broadcasting as a
means to form a European public sphere and common European culture (Morley and Robins
1995). In 1984, the European Community published a Green Paper on Television without
Frontiers, noting that “Information is a decisive, perhaps the only decisive factor in European
unification…. A European identity will only develop if Europeans are adequately informed. At
present, information via the mass media is controlled at the national level” (cited in P.
Schlesinger 1994, 28). In the years that followed, similar documents were published such as
the Council of Europe’s European Convention on Transfrontier Television; and, in 1991, the
EC’s Television without Frontiers directive went into effect, designed to encourage and
facilitate television broadcasting across national frontiers and a market for European
audiovisual production. This development of European television has been encouraged via
regulatory measures and conventions, and production has been stimulated by various EUfunded ventures—the largest of which was known as MEDIA, and consumed $280 million
between 1991 and 1995.
As in the South African case, these efforts at “nation”-building also relied upon an “Other”
to forge an “Us”—in this case the United States constituted the “Other.” Schlesinger writes:
“Characteristically, the role of audiovisual media in constructing a European identity has been
officially defined by counterposition to a culturally invasive other, namely the United States”
(1994, 28). He also quotes various EU officials and prominent figures in Europe’s culture
industry who describe a “culture war” with the United States. Of primary concern is the
cultural domination of Hollywood and the perceived threat of Americanization. The American
share of Europe’s film industry hovers, for example, around 75 percent, while in the United
States, the non-American share of the box office is a mere 2 percent (Morley and Robins 1995,
18). Europe has imposed quotas on non-European programming, and many Europeans see a
common European culture, forged largely through television and cinematic production, as the
only form of cultural defense. At a 1989 conference held in Paris, then president of the
European Commission Jacques Delors declared: “I would simply like to pose a question to our
American friends: do we have the right to exist? Have we the right to preserve our traditions,
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our heritage, our languages?” (quoted in J. Schlesinger 1994, 29).
The European Union offers only one example of how communications technology facilitates
the imagining of community beyond the geographic boundaries of individual states, and
television is just one vehicle for nation formation or maintenance. Furthermore, although the
examples above point to states, or a suprastate, using technology to shape a national
community, technology also offers opportunities for stateless nations or ethnic groups to
subvert the control of a state or states. With regard to public broadcasting, for example,
satellite dishes and cable networks offer hundreds of channels from which to choose, lessening
the impact of state-sponsored programming. Through this and various other forms of
globalizing technology—cell phones, e-mail, the World Wide Web—individu—als and groups
within and across states may resist state-led efforts at nation-building and/or pursue alternative
forms of national community. Chris Barker suggests precisely this when he writes that “the
globalization of television has provided a proliferating resource for both the deconstruction
and reconstruction of cultural identities” (1999, 3).
What these various examples indicate is that aspects of contemporary globalization, whether
in the form of international economic interdependence, technological advancement, or
unprecedented human migration, create a context in which nationhood as a form of belonging
persists and even flourishes. States that find their autonomy and sovereignty under siege turn, in
defense, to their role as representatives and defenders of nations. Individuals and groups who
inhabit a particular state view membership in that state as a refuge from global turbulence and
nationhood as a mechanism for clarifying the boundaries of who belongs to the political
community and who does not. Newly emerging polities, whether in the form of states or
suprastate organizations like the EU, see the signs and symbols of nationhood as the most
promising path for the consolidation of a community identified with and attached to said polity.
Groups of people who desire greater political autonomy or a state of their own also recognize
that claiming the status of nation legitimizes and hence improves their chances of achieving that
goal. And all of these actors make their claims with the aid of new and sophisticated
communications technology. Significantly, the content being invoked, whether by states or by
nations with political aspirations, is not static or “natural”; nor are the formations of
nationhood that take shape consistent or standard.
On the basis of this evidence, then, it seems safe to conclude that the imagining of nations is,
can, and likely will continue irrespective of the specific historical epoch at hand. But specific
political and socioeconomic conditions will shape and reshape the content, the form, and the
process of the imagining. This conclusion is consistent with a recent essay by Alexander Motyl
(2002) in which he critiques the artificial and misleading rivalry between constructivist and
modernist approaches to nations on the one hand and primordial and perennial ones on the
other. Recognizing nations as constructed rather than primordial need not restrict their
construction to the modern era. Nor does an acknowledgment of the persistence of nations
imply an acceptance of their primordiality. Nations, in other words, can be perennially, or
perpetually, constructed. Motyl’s essay focuses on how constructivist insights can be extended
backward to account for the existence of nations and nationalism in a premodern era. This
analysis extends the theoretical reach of constructivism forward to explain national phenomena
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in a context past or post modernity.
It is important to acknowledge that although the contemporary world context differs in
significant respects—economically, technologically, culturally, and politically—from that to
which Benedict Anderson attributed the imagining of nations, little of what is now occurring in
the world, or what is being presented here as explanation, is inconsistent with Anderson’s
theorizing. He, himself, wrote in 1983, and saw no need to revise in 1991, that “the ‘end of the
era of nationalism’, so long prophesied, is not remotely in sight. Indeed, nation-ness is the most
universally legitimate value in the political life of our time” (1991, 3). Furthermore, the thrust
of Anderson’s analysis focuses on the historically contextual variations in the national form,
and the ways in which the idea of the nation once conceived could be, and was, widely
pirated: “nation proved an invention on which it was impossible to secure a patent” (p. 67).
Industrialization and capitalism as they existed in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
have clearly given way to a different socioeconomic context—whether we describe it as
postindustrialism, post-Fordism, late capitalism, or some other such moniker. In the process,
the role of states has been reconfigured, but states continue to be key actors in the world
system. This contemporary context does not diminish, and may invigorate, the need for national
legitimacy on the part of states, and the need, on the part of individuals, for secure membership
in a nation-state. Yet, the interconnectedness that results from economic, political, cultural, and
technological globalization also motivates and facilitates new forms of imagining that
transcend states. Meanwhile, the mechanisms of imagining have also shifted from print
capitalism, as Anderson emphasized, to mass media and the Internet. In other words, the
contemporary context of globalization necessitates an updated understanding of the politics and
process of national imaginings. This analysis aims to contribute to that understanding.
Conclusion
This chapter maintains that, contrary to the claims of postnationalists and the predictions of
some modernists, nations, nationalism, and nation-states have not disappeared. Instead,
“nation” continues to be widely available and resonant as a cultural and political category. Nor
can the persistence of nations and nationhood be explained by invoking their eternal or organic
essence. Rather, it is the very malleability of nationhood, both in content and form, that
explains its persistence. Yet, as useful as this emphasis on malleability is for explaining the
persistence and reconfiguration of nations and nationhood, it is vulnerable to two related
criticisms.
“it is the very malleability of nationhood, both in content and form, that
explains its persistence. Yet, as useful as this emphasis on malleability is for
explaining the persistence and reconfiguration of nations and nationhood, it
is vulnerable to criticism. “
The first of these criticisms, and one frequently leveled at the modernist approach to
nationalism in general, is the charge of functionalism. Essentially, this chapter maintains that
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the contemporary conditions of globalization provide the motivation and mechanisms for
imagining, and perpetuating already imagined, nations. In short, nationhood persists as a form
of belonging, despite significant changes in the social and material conditions of its imagining,
because it tends to work. This is not a meaningless conclusion, but what it fails to explain is
why nations are so functional; or what about the national form is so appealing or effective. One
response to these questions, and a response that moves somewhat beyond the mere
functionality of nations, suggests that, once imagined, social formations and concomitant social
science concepts are not easily unimagined. Nationhood as a form of belonging is deeply
embedded in an international system (read: inter-state system) that has long enshrined the dual
principles of national self-determination and state sovereignty. Valery Tishkov alludes to this
embeddedness when he notes, “nation is a metaphorical category that has acquired emotional
and political legitimacy” (2000, 640). He also goes on to argue that this vague but “politically
alluring” term persists, in large part, because states continue to comprise the most powerful
form of human collectivities and possess the resources and legitimacy to be called nations (pp.
640-41).
Yet, the term nation has allure not only for practitioners of or participants in nationalist
politics, but also for analysts. Basch et al. (1994) recognize this in their book Nations
Unbound, when they emphasize the need for social science itself to become unbound from
static categories and units of analysis—namely, the nation-state. Yasemin Soysal echoes this
concern in her critique of Diaspora as an analytical category that is so wedded to the nationstate model that it fails to capture “the transgressions of the national” and “the new dynamics
and topography of membership” (2000, 1). These concerns echo those of Thorstein Veblen who
warned of “trained incapacity.” This refers to the tendency of some concepts or models (in this
case nationhood) to become so predominant as to obscure the capacity of analysts to see or
think beyond them (quoted in R. Smith 1998, 197). However, as was suggested in the earlier
discussion of the terms transnational and postnational, even the scholarship that attempts to
transcend or move beyond the conceptual reliance on nations and states gets trapped by both
the predominance and ambiguity of these terms. This trap can be attributed in large part to the
very malleability of nation—the social reality and the terminology—both of which are so
poorly defined as to be amenable to widely varied application and interpretation by both
analysts and practitioners.
Herein lies a second weakness of the “perpetual imagining” thesis presented here, and one
that returns to the definitional dilemma introduced earlier. Namely, of what use is the concept
of nation if it cannot be clearly defined and can be so widely applied and loosely interpreted
as to lack any degree of analytical precision? In other words, of course nations will be
perpetually imagined if any and every form of human association has access to the title and
analysts can appropriately apply it to any form of human association. In this regard, Tishkov
offers what appears, at least in the theory, to be a promising solution—namely, that we “forget
the nation” (2000, 625). Having argued that nation is a “ghost word, escalated to a level of
meta-category through historic accident and inertia of intellectual prescription” (p. 625), he
proposes that the major clients for being a nation—states and ethnic groups—be prohibited the
luxury of the label, and that that prohibition begin with intellectuals mustering the courage to
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dispense with nation as an academic concept. In other words, neither states nor ethnic groups
can any longer defend or justify their actions and existence, or base their legitimacy on claims
of nationhood—eliminating simultaneously both civic and ethnic claims to nationhood.
Scholars themselves must stop relying uncritically on the concept of nation to explain political
behavior. Also critical of the confusion surrounding the term nation, Alexander Motyl suggests
that perhaps it is ethnic group, or Anthony Smith’s term “ethnie,” that should be consigned to
the conceptual ash heap (Motyl 2002, 245).
These suggestions are appealing in certain respects, but not likely practical. Whereas it is
clear that analysts play a crucial role in constructing that which we seek to explain, it is not
clear that simply choosing to ignore the widespread use and appeal of the notion or
terminology of nation will advance our understanding of it. This is particularly the case given
that globalization has done little to diminish the nation’s political, ideological, terminological,
or academic appeal, and in many cases has invigorated it. We are, then, stuck with the
“nation”—politically and academically, practically and theoretically. Motyl seems to reach a
similar conclusion when he writes: “If only because the field is bereft of conceptual
contenders, modernity can only continue to breed nationalism” (1999, 113). To argue that
nations will be perpetually imagined need not, however, reify their existence as real or static
entities. Instead, students and analysts of nationalism are called upon to accept the nation as a
social construction, to continue to examine the political implications and applications of the
construction, and to ground the content, form, and practice of nationhood in the social and
material conditions of their making—particularly as those conditions are now in a state of
profound flux. Accomplishing these goals will also require a sound understanding of ethnicity
—a topic the next chapter addresses.
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We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.

When will I get my paper?

You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.

Will anyone find out that I used your services?

We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.

How our Assignment Help Service Works

1. Place an order

You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.

2. Pay for the order

Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.

3. Track the progress

You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.

4. Download the paper

The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.

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550 words
We'll send you the first draft for approval by September 11, 2018 at 10:52 AM
Total price:
$26
The price is based on these factors:
Academic level
Number of pages
Urgency
Basic features
  • Free title page and bibliography
  • Unlimited revisions
  • Plagiarism-free guarantee
  • Money-back guarantee
  • 24/7 support
On-demand options
  • Writer’s samples
  • Part-by-part delivery
  • Overnight delivery
  • Copies of used sources
  • Expert Proofreading
Paper format
  • 275 words per page
  • 12 pt Arial/Times New Roman
  • Double line spacing
  • Any citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, Harvard)

Our guarantees

Delivering a high-quality product at a reasonable price is not enough anymore.
That’s why we have developed 5 beneficial guarantees that will make your experience with our service enjoyable, easy, and safe.

Money-back guarantee

You have to be 100% sure of the quality of your product to give a money-back guarantee. This describes us perfectly. Make sure that this guarantee is totally transparent.

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Zero-plagiarism guarantee

Each paper is composed from scratch, according to your instructions. It is then checked by our plagiarism-detection software. There is no gap where plagiarism could squeeze in.

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Free-revision policy

Thanks to our free revisions, there is no way for you to be unsatisfied. We will work on your paper until you are completely happy with the result.

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Privacy policy

Your email is safe, as we store it according to international data protection rules. Your bank details are secure, as we use only reliable payment systems.

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Fair-cooperation guarantee

By sending us your money, you buy the service we provide. Check out our terms and conditions if you prefer business talks to be laid out in official language.

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