Nationalism Studies Program

 The most interesting developments of the last 20 years in nationalism studies

Nationalism studies is an integrated interdisciplinary field of inquiry that embraces ethnicity and ethnopolitics, race and racism, and nations and nationalism in all the varied forms they have assumed through time. The emergence of the field is a relatively new development in international academia, albeit with old roots.  Twenty or 30 years ago, the relevant literature was fragmented and compartmentalized along disciplinary lines, with little cross-fertilization among sociology, anthropology, political science, history, psychology, linguistics and legal studies.  The literature was also fragmented along regional lines with little sustained comparative work on cross-regional variation.  

CEU’s Nationalism Studies Program was established concurrently with the tranformation of the field. The program itself contributed to the appearance of a new field of study that is comparative, global and cross-disciplinary, and one that constructs ethnicity, race and nationhood as a single integrated family of forms of cultural understanding, social organization and political contestation.  Since  the time of its foundation, the Nationalism Studies Program at CEU was a pioneering response to the above developments in the field and among the first of the dozen such programs worldwide to gain accreditation as a teaching program.  Drawing upon the uniquely supranational milieu of CEU, the program succeeded in assembling an international network of eminent and influential scholars that represent a wide range of relevant disciplinary expertise including history, social theory, legal studies, sociology, anthropology, international relations and political science. Through the collaboration of this network in curriculum development, teaching, research and conferences, the program has been able to encourage a non-sectarian, critical and cross-disciplinary   approach to the study of nationalism.  

The most important contributions to the field by CEU’s Nationalism Studies Program and its members

Members of the program have produced pioneering comparative research. Rogers Brubaker  has been particularly influential in producing comparative works that look at, as units of analyisis, not only countries but empires, world regions, provinces, federal units and cities (Citizenship in France and Germany, 1992; Nationalism Reframed, 1996). Brubaker has also been very influential in critically engaging prevailing analytical stances in the study of ethnicity and nationalism, challenging "groupism,” a tendency to treat ethnic groups as internally homogeneous, externally bounded groups that are unitary collective actors with common purposes. He proposed to develop alternative analytical frameworks and shift the emphasis from studying what ethnicity, race and nation is to specify how race, ethnicity and nation work and thereby arrive at a more processual, dynamic understanding of ethnicity, an approach that acomodates the change in the saliance, strength, content and consequences of ethnic and national identifications over time (Ethnicity without Groups, 2004). Andras Kovacs applied this kind of analytical perspective in his comparative research on the changes in the choices of Jews across Europe related to boundary issues—who is to be included in the Jewish collective and who is not—and about which aspects of Jewish tradition to preserve in one’s own life and how these choices affect collective, communal claims making (New Jewish Identities: Contemporary Europe and Beyond, 2003). Michal Miller addressed similar dilemmas in the context of Czechs and Germans in the Bohemian lands in the late 19th century (Rabbis and Revolution, Jews of Moravia in the Age of Emancipation, 2011)Selim Deringil addressed issues of boundary changes in his research on religious conversion and apostasy in the late Ottoman Empire.

A number of members of the CEU Nationalism Program, among them, Anton Pelinka and Will Kymlicka, have conducted pioneering research in tracing global diffusion of understandings of ethnicity, race and nation as a quintessentally "modular” process in which nationalist models were made available for local adaptations (Pelinka, Democracy Indian Style, 2003;  Kymlicka, Can Liberal Pluralism be Exported? Western Political Theory and Ethnic Relations in Eastern Europe, 2002).  Kymlicka has produced tremendously influential studies in the area of political claims-making, shedding new light on the compatibility of normative liberal equality with the public recognition of national and cultural differences (Liberalism, Community and Culture,1991; Multicultural Citizenship,1995; Politics in the Vernacular: Nationalism, Multiculturalism, and Citizenship, 2000).  Kymlicka’s works have been translated into 38 languages and, in the past two decades, he has emerged among the most often quoted scholars in the field.  Kymlicka is also responding to the diffusion and institutionalization of notions of human rights and multiculturalism and the diffusion of ideas of indigeneity. Julia Szalai examined these problems in relation to the European Roma and the Roma of Hungary (The Politics of Recognition and the 'Gypsy Question,’ 2003; Conflicting Struggles for Recognition: Clashing Interests of Gender and Ethnicity in Contemporary Hungary, 2003.)

The interplay of ethnicity and politics has been a prominent area of research in the program. Anton Pelinka and Donald Horowitz have produced influential works in studies of constitutional design for divided societies, using materials drawn from India, Northern Ireland, Indonesia, Fiji, Bosnia and Cyprus. Donald  Horowitz,  Florian Bieber and Maria M. Kovacs have studied the post-1989 reconfiguration of states in Europe and wrote on the legal and political dilemmas of unit creation and boundary making in processes of  nationalist secessionism.

The faculty and students of the CEU Nationalism Studies Program exhibit a keen interest in studying ethnic, racial and nationalist violence, prejudice, xenophobia, anti-Roma sentiments and anti-Semitism (Maria  M. Kovacs: Liberal Professions, Illiberal Politics, 1994). Pioneering research on anti-Semitism in the communist and post-communist periods was launched by Andras Kovacs in the framework of the Jewish Studies specialization within the program.  (The Stranger at Hand, Anti-Semitic Prejudices in Post-Communist Hungary, 2010). Michael Stewart has studied Roma groups that are reluctant or unable to assimilate in the comparative context of marginal people accross the globe (The Time of the Gypsies, 1998) and has recently turned his attention to issues of the Roma Genocide.  Julia Szalai has established a track of research and teaching on understanding the complex interplay of race and poverty in the case of the Roma.  


Emerging new developments in the discipline 

The global social, economic, political and cultural transformations that have shaped configurations of ethnicity, race and natinalism are ongoing. Recent tranformations include the development and diffusion of innovative communications infrastructure and new modes of transportation that facilite the establishment and maintenance of transborder ties and thus encourage disasporic and transnational modes of identification and organization.  

1.  The policy implications of these transformations are being explored by a network of scholars related to the program in research on diaspora self-identification and ethno-political organization in the framework of collaborative European-wide research (European Union Observatory on Democracy).  Maria M. Kovacs, together with Szabolcs Pogonyi, have produced comparative research in the area of citizenship loss and acquisition, focusing on preferential, external ethnic citizenship (The Politics of Dual Citizenship, 2006; The Politics of External Kin-State Citizenship in East Central Europe, 2010). With the involvement of Rainer Baubock (Citizenship Policies in the New Europe, 2008) and Christian Joppke (Selecting by Origin, 2003), scholars connected to the program are exploring the policy implications of dual, non-resident citizenship across Europe, with a special focus on the East European region and Russia. András Kovács investigated the role of the media in developing a European public sphere in the framework of  an EU project (Media and Ethics of a European Public Sphere from the Treaty of Rome to the ‘War on Terror).

2.  Another recent transformation that has impacted the evolution of  the field has been the diffusion and institutionalization of human rights and multiculturalism, both of which impose limits on models of unitary and sovereign nation-statehood; and the diffusion of ideas of indigeneity and of associated models of organization and claims making. Concurrent with the diffusion and institutionalization of notions of human rights and multiculturalism, a new field of policy studies treats issues of migration, citizenship, statelessness and transnational and diaspora citizenship (Multicultural Odysseys: Navigating the New International Politics of Diversity, 2007). The contested area of institutionalized international and domestic minority rights and the related issues of the production and handling of ethnic data are also being examined by members of the program (Will Kymlicka, Andras Pap). 

3.  The challenges of multiculturalism and the emergence of other ideological movements, such as religious fundamentalism, have also presented a scholarly invitation to the field of nationalism studies to extend its scope from race, ethnicity and nationalism to the intersections of the former, with religion. An important debate exists about the religious aspects of nationalism and about the relationships between nationalism and “real” religion. Although this line of inquiry is not without tradition in the field, within the CEU program, Shlomo Avineri’s comparative work on the role of religion in the public sphere is an important addition to the field.  

4.  Another emerging topical issue in nationalism studies is the comparative analysis of the new right wing populist political movements in Europe. Andras Kovacs and Anton Pelinka study the rhetoric of anti-immigrant and anti-semitic radical political parties throughout the continent.

5.  Besides responding to the emergence of new research directions, the field is taking a cognitive turn insofar as new approaches are focusing not only on what congnitive sciences tell us about the ways of seeing and thinking in categories of race, ethnicity and nationhood, but also on how such categorization and classification are also constitutive of ethnicity, race and nationhood. Comparative research with a focus on the worldwide presence of similar classificatory logic underlying, what are on the surface strikingly different systems of racial, ethnic and national classification, opens up new research directions on racial encoding as a contingent byproduct of more fundamental cognitive processes. New work on state categorization practices, the imposition of legally consequential identities on people and the creation of official ethnic identities involve a growing complexity of perspectives and encourage further interdisciplinary methodological and theoretical awareness.