Ethnic nationalism

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Ethnic nationalism, also known as ethnonationalism, is a form of nationalism wherein the nation is defined in terms of ethnicity. [1]


The central theme of ethnic nationalists is that "nations are defined by a shared heritage, which usually includes a common language, a common faith, and a common ethnic ancestry". [2] It also includes ideas of a culture shared between members of the group, and with their ancestors.

While some types of ethnic nationalism are firmly rooted in the idea of ethnicity (or race) as an immutable inherited characteristic (for example black nationalism or white nationalism), often ethnic nationalism also manifests in the assimilation of minority ethnic groups into the dominant group (for example as with Italianisation). This assimilation may or may not be predicated on a belief in some common ancestry with assimilated groups (for example with Germanisation in the Second World war).

While in some cases the division between ethnic and civic nationalism is clear (France being the archetypal example of a national identity rooted in civic and linguistic nationalism), in other cases the division is less clear, for example with Turkish nationalism.


Herodotus is the first who stated the main characteristics of ethnicity, with his famous account of what defines Greek identity. He lists kinship (Greek: ὁμόαιμον, homόaimon, "of the same blood" [3] ), language (Greek: ὁμόγλωσσον, homoglōsson, "speaking the same language" [4] ), cults and customs (Greek: ὁμότροπον, homόtropon, "of the same habits or life"). [5] [6]


The central political tenet of ethnic nationalism is that ethnic groups can be identified unambiguously, and that each such group is entitled to self-determination.

The outcome of this right to self-determination may vary, from calls for self-regulated administrative bodies within an already-established society, to an autonomous entity separate from that society, to a sovereign state removed from that society. In international relations, it also leads to policies and movements for irredentism to claim a common nation based upon ethnicity.

In scholarly literature, ethnic nationalism is usually contrasted with civic nationalism. Ethnic nationalism bases membership of the nation on descent or heredity, often articulated in terms of common blood or kinship, rather than on political membership. Hence, nation-states with strong traditions of ethnic nationalism tend to define nationality or citizenship by jus sanguinis (the law of blood, descent from a person of that nationality), and countries with strong traditions of civic nationalism tend to define nationality or citizenship by jus soli (the law of soil, birth within the nation state). Ethnic nationalism is, therefore, seen as exclusive, while civic nationalism tends to be inclusive. Rather than allegiance to common civic ideals and cultural traditions, then, ethnic nationalism tends to emphasise narratives of common descent.

The theorist Anthony D. Smith uses the term "ethnic nationalism" for non-Western concepts of nationalism as opposed to Western views of a nation defined by its geographical territory. Diaspora studies scholars extend this non-geographically bound concept of "nation" among diasporic communities, at times using the term ethnonation or ethnonationalism to describe a conceptual collective of dispersed ethnics. [7]

Ethnic nationalism is also present in many states' immigration policies in the form of repatriation laws. States such as Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and Turkey provide automatic or rapid citizenship to members of diasporas of their own dominant ethnic group, if desired. [2]

In Malaysia, the Bumiputera principle recognises the "special position" of the Malays provided in the Constitution of Malaysia, in particular Article 153. However, the constitution does not use the term bumiputra; it defines only "Malay" and "indigenous peoples" (Article 160(2)), [8] "natives" of Sarawak (161A(6)(a)), [9] and "natives" of Sabah (Article 161A(6) (b)). [9] Certain but not all pro-bumiputra policies exist as affirmative action for bumiputras, for NEP is racial-based and not deprivation-based. For instance, all Bumiputra, regardless of their financial standing, are entitled to a 7 percent discount on houses or property, including luxurious units, whilst a low-income non-Bumiputra receives no such financial assistance. Other preferential policies include quotas for the following: admission to government educational institutions, qualification for public scholarships, marking of universities exam papers, special bumiputras-only classes prior to university's end of term exams, for positions in government, and ownership of businesses. Most of the policies were established in the Malaysian New Economic Policy (NEP) period. Many policies focus on trying to achieve a bumiputra share of corporate equity, comprising at least 30% of the total. Ismail Abdul Rahman proposed this target after the government was unable to agree on a suitable policy goal.[ citation needed ]

In German nationality law, citizenship is open to ethnic Germans. According to the Greek nationality law, Greeks born abroad may transmit citizenship to their children from generation to generation indefinitely. As of 2013 this is also true in the case of the Philippine nationality law which, has conferred Philippine citizenship on children born after 15 October 1986, with at least one Philippine citizen parent.

On the other hand, civic nationalism defines membership as an individual's duty to observe given laws and in turn receive legal privileges.

A nation-state for the ethnic group derives political legitimacy from its status as homeland of that ethnic group, from its protective function against colonization, persecution, or racism, and from its claim to facilitate the shared cultural and social life, which may not have been possible under the ethnic group's previous status as an ethnic minority.

Recent theorizing and empirical data suggest that people maintain dual lay beliefs about nationality, such that it can be both inherited biologically at birth and acquired culturally in life. [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

Citizenship Denotes the link between a person and a state or an association of states

Citizenship is the status of a person recognized under the custom or law of a sovereign state as a member of or belonging to the state. Each state is free to determine the conditions under which it will recognize persons as its citizens, and the conditions under which that status will be withdrawn. Recognition by a state as a citizen generally carries with it recognition of civil, political, and social rights which are not afforded to non-citizens.

Nationality is a legal relationship between an individual person and a state. Nationality affords the state jurisdiction over the person and affords the person the protection of the state. What these rights and duties are varies from state to state. This relationship generally enables intervention by a State to provide help and protection to its nationals when they are harmed by other States.

Nation state Political term for a state that is based around a nation

A nation state is a state in which a great majority shares the same culture and is conscious of it. The nation state is an ideal in which cultural boundaries match up with political boundaries. According to one definition, "a nation state is a sovereign state of which most of its subjects are united also by factors which defined a nation such as language or common descent." It is a more precise concept than "country", since a country does not need to have a predominant ethnic group.

Nationalism is an ideology and movement that promotes the interests of a particular nation especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining the nation's sovereignty (self-governance) over its homeland. Nationalism holds that each nation should govern itself, free from outside interference (self-determination), that a nation is a natural and ideal basis for a polity, and that the nation is the only rightful source of political power. It further aims to build and maintain a single national identity—based on shared social characteristics of culture, ethnicity, geographic location, language, politics, religion, traditions and belief in a shared singular history —and to promote national unity or solidarity. Nationalism, therefore, seeks to preserve and foster a nation's traditional cultures, and cultural revivals have been associated with nationalist movements. It also encourages pride in national achievements, and is closely linked to patriotism. Nationalism is often combined with other ideologies, such as conservatism or socialism.

A nation is a stable community of humans formed on the basis of a common language, territory, history, ethnicity, or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture. A nation is more overtly political than an ethnic group; it has been described as "a fully mobilized or institutionalized ethnic group". Some nations are ethnic groups and some are not. A nation has also been defined as a cultural-political community that has become conscious of its autonomy, unity and particular interests.

Patriotism Love and attachment to ones country

Patriotism or national pride is the feeling of love, devotion and sense of attachment to a homeland and alliance with other citizens who share the same sentiment. This attachment can be a combination of many different feelings relating to one's own homeland, including ethnic, cultural, political or historical aspects. It encompasses a set of concepts closely related to nationalism.

An ethnic group or ethnicity is a category of people who identify with each other, usually on the basis of presumed similarities such as a common language, ancestry, history, society, culture, nation, race or social treatment within their residing area. Ethnicity is often used synonymously with the term nation, particularly in cases of ethnic nationalism, and is separate from, but related to the concept of races.

Bumiputera or Bumiputra is a term used in Malaysia to describe Malays and Orang Asli or indigenous peoples of Malaysia or Southeast Asia. The term is sometimes controversial, and has similar usage in the Malay world, used similarly in Indonesia and Brunei.

Polyculturalism is an ideological approach to the consequences of intercultural engagements within a geographical area which emphasises similarities between, and the enduring interconnectedness of, groups which self-identify as distinct, thus blurring the boundaries which may be perceived by members of those groups.

American nationalism Nationalism in support of the collective identity of the United States

American nationalism, or United States nationalism, is a form of civic nationalism, cultural nationalism, economic nationalism or ethnic nationalism found in the United States. Essentially, it indicates the aspects that characterize and distinguish the United States as an autonomous political community. The term often serves to explain efforts to reinforce its national identity and self-determination within their national and international affairs.

An ethnocracy is a type of political structure in which the state apparatus is controlled by a dominant ethnic group to further its interests, power and resources. Ethnocratic regimes typically display a 'thin' democratic façade covering a more profound ethnic structure, in which ethnicity – and not citizenship – is the key to securing power and resources. An ethnocratic society facilitates the ethnicization of the state by the dominant group, through the expansion of control likely accompanied by conflict with minorities or neighbouring states. A theory of ethnocratic regimes was developed by critical geographer Oren Yiftachel during the 1990s and later developed by a range of international scholars.

Social contract (Malaysia) Understanding that non-Malays can be citizens of Malaysia if they accept a special role for Malays

The social contract in Malaysia refers to the understanding made by Malaya's founding fathers in the Constitution, nearing its independence. The social contract refers to a trade-off through Articles 14–18 of the Constitution, pertaining to the granting of citizenship to the non-Bumiputera of Malaya, and this was carried over to Article 153 when Malaysia was formed on 16 September 1963, which grants the Malays a special position in the country. This circumstance does not apply in Sarawak as all racial groups were citizens, bestowed by the legitimate Brooke government, way before the founding of Malaysia.

Ethnopluralism, sometimes called ethno-differentialism, is a Nouvelle Droite concept which relies on preserving and mutually respecting separate and bordered ethno-cultural regions. Among the key components are the "right to difference" and a strong support for cultural diversity at a worldwide rather than at a national level. According to its promoters, significant foreign cultural elements in a given region ought to be culturally assimilated to seek cultural homogenization in this territory, in order to let different cultures thrive in their respective geographical areas.

Civic nationalism, also known as liberal nationalism, is a form of nationalism identified by political philosophers who believe in an inclusive form of nationalism that adheres to traditional liberal values of freedom, tolerance, equality, and individual rights.

Constitutional patriotism

Constitutional patriotism is the idea that people should form a political attachment to the norms and values of a pluralistic liberal democratic constitution rather than a national culture or cosmopolitan society. It is associated with post-nationalist identity, because it is seen as a similar concept to nationalism, but as an attachment based on values of the constitution rather than a national culture. In essence, it is an attempt to re-conceptualise group identity with a focus on the interpretation of citizenship as a loyalty that goes beyond individuals' ethnocultural identification. Theorists believe this to be more defensible than other forms of shared commitment in a diverse modern state with multiple languages and group identities. It is particularly relevant in post-national democratic states in which multiple cultural and ethnic groups coexist. It was influential in the development of the European Union and a key to Europeanism as a basis for multiple countries belonging to a supranational union.

Ethnic democracy is a political system that combines a structured ethnic dominance with democratic, political and civil rights for all. Both the dominant ethnic group and the minority ethnic groups have citizenship and are able to fully participate in the political process. Ethnic democracy differs from ethnocracy in that elements of it are more purely democratic. It provides the non-core groups with more political participation, influence and improvement of status than ethnocracy supposedly does. Nor is an ethnic democracy a Herrenvolk democracy which is by definition a democracy officially limited to the core ethnic nation only.

Kurdish nationalism political ideology

Kurdish nationalism holds that the Kurdish people are deserving of a sovereign nation that would be partitioned out of areas in Turkey, northern Iraq, and Syria based on the promised nation of Kurdistan under the Treaty of Sèvres.

Many scholars argue that there is more than one type of nationalism. Nationalism may manifest itself as part of official state ideology or as a popular non-state movement and may be expressed along civic, ethnic, cultural, language, religious or ideological lines. These self-definitions of the nation are used to classify types of nationalism. However, such categories are not mutually exclusive and many nationalist movements combine some or all of these elements to varying degrees. Nationalist movements can also be classified by other criteria, such as scale and location.

There has historically been, and continues to be, several rival nationalisms in Canada. Canadians have differing cultural and political identifications which often overlap. Loyalty towards Canada is tempered by strong regional and ethnic identities, and an affinity toward a common North American culture shared with the United States.

History of citizenship aspect of history

History of citizenship describes the changing relation between an individual and the state, commonly known as citizenship. Citizenship is generally identified not as an aspect of Eastern civilization but of Western civilization. There is a general view that citizenship in ancient times was a simpler relation than modern forms of citizenship, although this view has been challenged.


  1. "The Website of Political Research Associates". Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  2. 1 2 Muller, Jerry Z. "Us and Them." Current Issue 501 Mar/Apr 2008 9–14
  3. "Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, ὅμαιμ-ος". Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  4. "Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, ὁμό-γλωσσος". Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  5. "Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, ὁμό-τροπος". Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  6. Herodotus, 8.144.2: "The kinship of all Greeks in blood and speech, and the shrines of gods and the sacrifices that we have in common, and the likeness of our way of life."
  7. "Language, ethnicity and religion: a complex and persistent linkag..." ingentaconnect. 1 January 2008. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  8. "Part XII: General and Miscellaneous, Constitution of Malaysia (Articles 152–160)", Accessed 30 May 2007
  9. 1 2 Part XIIA: Additional Protections for States of Sabah and Sarawak, Constitution of Malaysia (Articles 161 – 161h), helplinelaw. Accessed 30 May 2007
  10. Rad, Mostafa Salari; Ginges, Jeremy (16 April 2018). "Folk theories of nationality and anti-immigrant attitudes". Nature Human Behaviour. 2 (5): 343–347. doi:10.1038/s41562-018-0334-3. PMID   30962601.

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