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Race and nationality as the cornerstone of Empire 
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Laughs at Einstein


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Post Re: Race and nationality as the cornerstone of Empire
Mad: For the moment, at least, I'd say that the problem isn't so much that Middle Easterners can't decide on a focal point for national identity but rather than the focal points that they would choose don't necessarily mesh with the national identities imposed on them by foreign powers in the period described by Fromkin's books.

That makes sense -- in a sense, it's irrelevant what the dominant focus of any given 'nationhood' in the region if they've all had their various borders drawn by outside forces.

But yes, reading on....

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

Loricat's Book Nook
Celebrating the Absurd




Wed Jul 19, 2006 11:32 pm
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Post Re: Race and nationality as the cornerstone of Empire
Loricat: Could we say then that part of the problem in the Middle East is perhaps a cacophony of competing elements in their national identities? It's not mostly geography, or mostly religion, or mostly 'racial homogeniety', but all of it mixed together, without a single thing to focus on.

I thought your entire post was very interesting. Whether you meant it to be a kind of summing up of some of the other posts or not, it had that effect on me. This quote at the end points in a productive direction. To me the nation thing consists of a package of affinities. At this time in relation to the Middle East (excluding Turkey and Iran and Israel), I'd say that the forces of national identity are often too weak to overcome other forces (some of these forces are discussed by Fromkin). This subject becomes more important in the latter stages of the book when the post-war phase plays itself out.

MadArchitect: I don't know if they really defined "nation" loosely.

I reread the thread, and I don't think we have major disagreements. There were a couple of things I wanted to mention in order to clarify what I said in other posts.

One has to do with my objections to using the term nation in certain ways. My view is that since we ultimately are talking about nation-state building then when the term nation is used to describe a dispersed community that cannot hope to include everyone in a potential nation then it creates problems to call that dispersed community a nation. That usage is proper from a dictionary standpoint, but I feel that it gets a bit confusing, so I labeled it as being defined "loosely".

Another clarification I wanted to make has to do with my objections to using race as a "rallying point" (remember that phrase from the beginning of the thread?) is that as a biologically based affinity it is a weaker notion than, let's say, kinship or tribe (with "tribe" being loosely used to mean some local extended family). If you want to argue for blood connections and you want those blood connections to be racial then you must simultaneously argue against the stronger notions of kinship and tribe to have an effective national community. In order to argue against the stronger notions of kinship and tribe then you need to tap into the package of affinities that make up a national identity. So, to me these things are all connected together--difficult to parse.




Thu Jul 20, 2006 10:33 pm
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Laughs at Einstein


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Post Re: Race and nationality as the cornerstone of Empire
J Seabolt: Whether you meant it to be a kind of summing up of some of the other posts or not, it had that effect on me.

Yeah, it was meant as a summing up. You two had done so much in the days I was not paying attention, it was how I was processing your comments, mixed with my own pet theories.

J Seabolt: ...difficult to parse.

Understatement of the year. :p

Off of dictionary.com:

Quote:
na·tion n.

1.
1. A relatively large group of people organized under a single, usually independent government; a country.
2. The territory occupied by such a group of people: All across the nation, people are voting their representatives out.
2. The government of a sovereign state.
3. A people who share common customs, origins, history, and frequently language; a nationality: "Historically the Ukrainians are an ancient nation which has persisted and survived through terrible calamity" (Robert Conquest).
4.
1. A federation or tribe, especially one composed of Native Americans.
2. The territory occupied by such a federation or tribe.



So, how about some stylistic clarification: a nation is the political entity, for which we, here, could just use country. There's a geographical concept of nation, which we can use the word territory for. If it is a tribe-like nation, then we can use tribe. If it is a group that is self-identified through a rallying point of religion/race/language/etc./etc., then we use nation.

[Lori has a teacher moment.]

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

Loricat's Book Nook
Celebrating the Absurd




Fri Jul 21, 2006 10:22 am
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Post Re: Race and nationality as the cornerstone of Empire
Loricat: So, how about some stylistic clarification

That seems reasonable. I don't have a problem with sticking to agreed conventions, although in place of "country" I'd prefer "nation-state" and "state." I have a feeling that the difference between a nation-state and a state might have some bearing on the situation in the Mideast.




Fri Jul 21, 2006 6:48 pm
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Laughs at Einstein


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Post Re: Race and nationality as the cornerstone of Empire
better distinction, yes.

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

Loricat's Book Nook
Celebrating the Absurd




Mon Jul 24, 2006 12:45 pm
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The Pope of Literature


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Post Re: Race and nationality as the cornerstone of Empire
Starting a new book today, I had one of those mental clicks that you get occasionally when you struggle with ideas like these. The book is "The Challenge of the American Revolution", by Edmund S. Morgan, and the click came from reading the first paragraph of the introduction, as follows:

Every nation needs a history. Without the collective memory embodied in history a people would lose their collective identity in the same way that an individual suffering from amnesia loses his personal identity. But collective memory, like the memory of an individual, is apt to be faulty; it suppresses some events and reshapes others, and because it fades with the passage of time it often needs refreshing. "The Challenge of the American Revolution", p. ix.

The thought that occurred to me, reading this, is that all of the various centers that we've talked of as serving as the focal point for building a national identity may all be limited expressions of a mutual history. What is necessary in building the idea of a nation, then, would be some sense that a people are united through their shared past, in whatever sense that's possible.

Further, each potential nation picks a limited historical viewpoint by picking some particular element of culture or myth. It's a form of suppression, really, that says, we're going to pay attention to what happened at this time but not at that time. So, when the Germans built their national identity around shared folk culture -- particularly the kitchen stories compiled by the Brothers Grimm -- they were drawing on a limited shared history and ignoring, say, the history of inter-tribal conflicts. The Serbians drew on a different aspect of culture, and thus created a different historical focal, but drawing on the myth of their long persecution as a people. But in both cases, it's the past that serves as the anchor for national identity, and some form of history is necessary for securing that identity.

In the wake of that mental click, I also thought about the chapters in Mircea Eliade's "The Sacred and the Profane" in which he discusses the concept of sacred time. Religious conceptions of identity also depend on a historical elements, one that highlight's the divine nature of a particular moment in the past (whether real or imagined) while simultaneously ignoring or suppressing historical events of equal standing.




Mon Jul 24, 2006 4:44 pm
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