Almost every nation-state since their inception has had some kind of an ‘imagined’ desired citizen profile. This concept of desired citizen has its constitutive others too. Thus, while on the one hand nation-state endeavors to construct desired citizenship; on the other hand and simultaneously, it tries to assimilate or dissimilate the identities of the undesired citizens. In the Turkish case[1] despite a neither fixed nor static definition and changes with political and socio-economic contexts, the ‘undesired citizens’ consist of the pious Muslims, the Alevis, the Kurds and the non-Muslims – The Greeks, Jews and Armenians who are recognized as minorities in the Lausanne Peace Treaty.

A growing academic interest in the nation-building process dominated the 1960s and 1970s. Generally, earlier works discussed the process of nation-building as a result of modernizing forces while the literature on state-formation to-date has mainly concentrated on the political-military dimensions.

A Brief Overview Concerning Approaches to Nationalism

To explore the nature of the nation-building process, the main theoretical discussions concerning nationalism will be covered. Indeed, there is no general or single theory to explain and or help in understanding the social phenomena of nations, nationhood and nationalism. A nation can be seen as a particular way of thinking of what it means to be a people, and how this definition of people might fit into a broader world system (Calhoun, 1997: 99). According to Özkırımlı, “nationalism is a particular way of seeing and interpreting the world, a frame of reference that helps us make sense of and structure the reality that surrounds us.” (Özkırımlı, 2005: 9). Nationalism can be treated as an ideology produced by the resentment of new elites against older elites or opposing countries. Elites can find challenges and threats which mobilize national sentiments and feelings. In this regard, it can be said that nationalism also gives human beings a sense of belonging, offers rescue from alienation, and anonymity and assures individuals they have the right to equal status (Greenfeld, 1992: 487-488).

Some scholars define nations within the framework of subjectivist terms. For instance, for Connor (1972: 337) “the essence of the nation is not tangible. It is psychological, a matter of attitude rather than of fact.” Connor introduces one feature which, according to him, characterizes all nations and constitutes the intangible essence of nationality: the belief in common descent. Connor stresses that the psychological bond which brings co-nationals together is based on their common conviction that they are ethnically related (Connor, 1978: 377–389).

Ernest Renan, a famous French patriot and an important theorist of nationalism, states that nationalism is a solidarity sustained by a distinctive historical consciousness. The nation for Renan is a daily plebiscite. In the circumstances of late-nineteenth century France, Renan drew attention to the importance of the tensions masked in nationalist sentiments. Renan ([1882] 1990: 11) argues that while it was true that acts of violence like ethnic cleansing helped to form the nation it was also necessary for ordinary people to leave them behind and take the nation as given and not violently created. According to this view, it can be said that forgetting is a crucial factor in the making of a nation.

Categorizing different types of nationalisms has long been a scholarly endeavor. Meinecke’s work titled Cosmopolitan and the National State was one of the earliest attempts in this direction. Meinecke ([1907] 1970) divided nations into distinct groups as political nations (Staatsnationen) and cultural nations (Kulturnationen). The former are often linguistically defined and ethnically based. In theoretical works the German Kulturnation appears mostly as an antithesis to the French concept of a Staatsnation (cited in Wodak et. al., 2009: 19). In line with this, Kohn (1944) was among the first to elaborate on the distinction between Western and Eastern forms of nationalism. The binary distinction Kohn developed proved to be influential in nationalism studies. In France, England and America, according to Kohn, the nation was regarded as a rational association of common laws; by contrast, an authoritarian nationalism in Central and Eastern Europe emerged.

Accordingly, the ethnic form of nationalism is based on descent, race and kinship. In addition, vernacular culture, especially customs and language are key elements of an ethnic nation (Smith, 1991: 12). This form of nationalism is referred to as the German model and is defined by ancestry not by boundaries of a state. It is a community of birth and native culture where common descent is heavily emphasized. There is a focus on shared history and native language and the concept of religion is maintained. It is important to note here that eighteenth century German Romantics such as Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Johann Gottfried von Herder defined the linguistic and cultural identity of the German nation. According to them, language plays a key role in the process of reclaiming one’s true nature.

In the Western or civic model of nationalism, national unity arises from a historic territory, institutions and laws and the legal-political equality of members which is underpinned by a set of rights and duties. Smith (1991) argues that every type of nationalism contains civic and ethnic elements in varying degrees and different forms. The contrast in ethnic to civic nationalism is heavily influenced by that of Germany to France. Rogers Brubaker (1992) compared the histories of nationalism in France and Germany as expressions of different principles, the law of the soil versus the law of the blood. Brubaker describes the French model of nationhood as rationalist, universalist, state-centered and assimilationist unlike the German model which has been organic, particularistic and Volk-centered.

The aforementioned contrast has resulted in different understandings of citizenship. If there is a state-led nationalism employed in a top-down fashion which prioritize ethnic attachments or linguistic uniformity, then the nation-building process would inevitably lead to the exclusion of some certain segments of the population (the ‘undesired’ citizens). Especially those who do not share these common attachments from practicing all of the rights they have in black letter law. However, if the nation is conceived as a political community wherein community of laws and institutions are significant, then that division would be at a minimum level or would not even come into play. In other words, the manner in which the ideology of nationalism is employed and manifested plays a major role in shaping the hegemonic citizenship regime.

One of the biggest issues in nationalism literature is the divide between ‘constructivists’ or ‘modernists’ and ‘primordialists’. Geertz is often considered to be the scholar who introduced the primordial sentiments concept of an individual to the world. According to Geertz (1963) primordial attachments stem from the ‘givens’. Primordial attachments are natural rather than sociological. Primordialism is not a single theory, but rather an umbrella term which consists of a number of theories. Modernism is not a homogenous tradition either. The common denominator in modernist theories is that, unlike primordialists they assert that nations are modern phenomena. The modernists emphasize the historical and sociological processes by which nations are created. The modernist scholars see nationalism rooted in industrialization (Gellner, 1983), the rise of communications media (Anderson, 1983; Deutsch, 1966), the development of the modern bureaucratic state (Breuilly, 1982) and regard it as an invention (Hobsbawm, 1990).

Karl Deutsch (1966) a prominent figure working on the relationship between communication and nationalism argues that the objective of nationalist organizations is to strengthen and extend the channels of communication which can ensure a popular compliance with national symbols. The nation-state in Deutsch’s understanding plays no role in shaping communicative spaces. This improved with Ernest Gellner’s account. Gellner saw the state as a servant to an industrial capitalism. Gellner presents nationalism as a political ideology which argues that modern state should be congruent with the nation. Further, he (1983: 129) claims that nationalism as an ideology was the direct result of the expansion of the administrative scope of the state. For Gellner (1983: 39) a homogenous society should be the salient goal of nationalism and industrial society creates nations by promoting homogenization of national culture. In other words, it is suggested that the cultural homogeneity of modern societies is an ‘essential concomitant’ of industrial production with its reliance on science, technology and mass education.

Benedict Anderson another scholar who sees the roots of nationalism in the genres of collective imagination and rise of communication describes nations as “imagined political communities, because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow members, meet them, or even hear them, yet in minds of each lives the image of their communion.” (Anderson, 1991: 6).

In a similar vein, for the Marxist historian Hobsbawm, nations constitute “dual phenomena, constructed essentially from above, but which cannot be understood unless also analyzed from below, that is in terms of the assumptions, hopes, needs, longings and interests of ordinary people, which are not necessarily national and still less nationalist” (Hobsbawm, 1990: 10). Hobsbawm highlights the role of political transformations in understanding nationalism and goes as far as suggesting it is an invented phenomenon. In addition, he argues that the nation and its associated phenomena are the most pervasive of invented traditions. Hobsbawm and Ranger (1983) have examined a number of examples in which national traditions have been ‘invented’ by state-building elites. For instance, elites try to inculcate a unifying culture through state-run educational systems and the mass media. The notion of ‘invented tradition’ refers to the way in which an ideology is artificially linked to the past. In line with this, Miroslav Hroch argues that elites can invent nations only where “certain objective preconditions for the formation of a nation already exist.” (Hroch, 1993: 4).

In parallel to the modernist understandings of nationalism, nation can also be viewed as a discursive construction. The discursive construction of social groups has to be seen as a macro-strategy to create sameness and difference. Hence, the explicit analysis of positive self-presentation and negative other-presentation constitutes the initial step when investigating discourses of nationalism (Wodak, 2006: 105). For De Cillia, Reisigl and Wodak (1999: 153) nations are “discursively, by means of language and other semiotic systems, produced, reproduced, transformed and destructed.” According to this standpoint, the idea of a national community becomes reality in the realm of beliefs through reifying, figurative discourses performed by political elites and intellectuals and journalists and; is disseminated through the education, communication, militarization as well as through sports meetings (Ibid). Similarly, Calhoun (1997: 3) defines nationalism as a ‘discursive formation’. For Calhoun, the discourse of nationalism plays a fundamental role in providing social solidarity and integration.

On the other hand, Michael Billig (1995) challenges the orthodox conceptualizations of nationalism which tend to focus only on its extreme manifestations and project it on to others. Billig introduces the term ‘banal nationalism’ to cover beliefs, ideological habits, representations and unnoticed, routine practices which make the daily reproduction of nations in the West possible (cited in Yumul and Özkırımlı, 2000: 788). These practices are not removed from everyday life, as some observers have previously suggested. Daily, the concept of nation is indicated or ‘flagged’, in the lives of its citizens. Billig argues that newspapers nationalize news through the routine use of deictic language and assumptions on the spatial location of both the readers and the news agenda (Billig, 1995: 6).


¨ This article is a revised version of the theory chapter of my PhD Thesis.

[1]For the literature on Turkish citizenship regime, see İnce, 2012; Caymaz, 2007; İçduygu, 1996; Kadıoğlu, 2007; Oran, 2004; Üstel, 2011.

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