<CPOV> Videos of the Conference online

T.Koenig at surrey.ac.uk T.Koenig at surrey.ac.uk
Tue Apr 20 18:50:04 CEST 2010

Dear Juliana,

You wrote:
> -----Original Message-----> 
> I believe this has little to do with nationalism.

With all due respect, but most scholars of nationalism would dispute this assertion.

> It is just a matter of
> knowing where people come from and recognizing that there were
> ambassadors of different cultures present at the conference.

The concept of different distinct "cultures" is not very helpful, I'm afraid. There are undoubtedly important cultural traits and one can speak of cultures of collectivities, like homosexual culture, working class culture, even Belgian culture. But it is not at all helpful to emphasize one of these cultures over others, nor is it permissible to deduce from one's citizenship or place of residence the individual's belonging to a certain culture. In quantitative social science, that is called "ecological fallacy", Cultural Studies would probably say "essentialization". 

> I, as a
> social scientist from Brazil, who lived in Germany, am sure that the
> culture one person is born into have a strong influence in their way of
> thinking.

Undoubtedly, that is the case, but you conflate the nation state with culture, that is not a good idea, I think. 

> Maybe our definitions
> of nationalism are not the same.

I am almost certain they aren't. You seem to have a definition that many people in everyday live have in mind: A definition, where nationalism is confined to the extreme right, like the Lega Nord in Italy, the British National Party and so on. Standard social scientific definitions of nationalism are very different: For them, nationalism is prevalent across the whole political spectrum. Certainly, all European and North American parties I know of are nationalist in that sense.

> This might be due to our different
> cultural backgrounds.

Yes, I am coming from the culture of nationalism studies, and you do not seem to share that culture with me. 

> Was that banal sociological nationalism?

"Banal nationalism" is the nationalism almost all people in the world share, there are very few non- or anti-nationalists around the globe. It's present in everyday life, with the little red and white flags on Danish buses or Brazilians rooting for the Brazilian soccer team, to name just two examples.

"Sociological nationalism" is an altogether different concept, it is the naïve adoption of nations as main units of comparison, even when this is not sensible. Because the nation state is the most powerful actor in global politics, it often is sensible to compare on the basis of nation states. In case of Wikipedia, for instance, it evidently isn't. It's primarily language versions that matter (which is why the introduction of the Serbian, Croat, and Bosnian Wikipedias was a disastrous idea: The English, Spanish or even the German Wikipedia benefit enormously from crossing national borders, an opportunity that was floundered by not privileging the Serbo-Croatian over their even more nationalist siblings.)

I suspect, much of our misunderstandings come, because we are from different cultures, I am from the culture of sociological studies of nationalism, and, I naively thought that most people here were familiar with that area of sociology, only because a sociologist, who is familiar with theories of nationalism (or so I think), pointed me to this list, so I probably should have been a bit more elaborate in my first posting.

thomas koenig
department of sociology
university of surrey

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