Ethnic nationalism

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Ethnic nationalism, also known as ethno-nationalism, 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; however, it is different from purely cultural definitions of "the nation" (which allow people to become members of a nation by cultural assimilation) and a purely linguistic definitions (which see "the nation" as all speakers of a specific language).

Ethnic nationalism should not be confused with racial nationalism, though examples can overlap between the two.


Herodotus is the first who stated the main characteristics of ethnicity, with his famous account of what defines Greek identity, where he lists kinship (Greek: ὅμαιμον, homaimon, "of the same blood"[3]), language (Greek: ὁμόγλωσσον, homoglōsson, "speaking the same language"[4]), cults and customs (Greek: ὁμότροπον, homotropon, "of the same habits or life").[5][6][7]


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 used 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.[8]

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, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and Turkey provide automatic or rapid citizenship to members of diasporas of their own dominant ethnic group, if desired.[2] For example, Israel's Law of Return, grants every Jew the right to settle in Israel and automatically acquire citizenship.[9]

In Germany, citizenship is open to ethnic Germans (see also German nationality law). According to the Greek nationality law, Greeks born abroad may transmit citizenship to their children from generation to generation indefinitely. This is also true in the case of the Philippine nationality law, which has conferred Philippine citizenship on children born after October 15, 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.

See also


  1. "The Website of Political Research Associates". Retrieved 2015-05-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 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 2015-05-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, ὁμό-γλωσσος". Retrieved 2015-05-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, ὁμό-τροπος". Retrieved 2015-05-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  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. Athena S. Leoussi, Steven Grosby, Nationalism and Ethnosymbolism: History, Culture and Ethnicity in the Formation of Nations, Edinburgh University Press, 2006, p. 115
  8. "Language, ethnicity and religion: a complex and persistent linkag..." ingentaconnect. 2008-01-01. Retrieved 2015-05-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Hadary, Amnon. "Reclaiming Zionism". Judaism Vol. 48. Issue 1, Winter 1999 1-14.

Further reading

  • Armstrong, John. Nations before Nationalism (1982) excerpt and text search
  • Breuilly, John. Nationalism and the State (2nd ed. 1995) excerpt and text search
  • De Benoist, Alain. "Nationalism: Phenomenology & Critique.", 16 May 2012.
  • De Benoist, Alain. "On Identity." Telos, Vol. 2004, No. 128 (Summer 2004), pp. 9–64. Telos page, online text
  • De Benoist, Alain. Vu de droite: Anthologie critique des idées contemporaines (2002). excerpt
  • De Benoist, Alain. Les Idées à l’endroit (1979). text search
  • Esman, Milton J., and Itamar Rabinovich, eds. Ethnicity, Pluralism, and the State in the Middle East (1988)
  • Gurr, Ted Robert, and Barbara Harff. Ethnic Conflict in World Politics (1994) online
  • Jones, Larry Eugene & Retallack, James, eds.. Between Reform, Reaction, and Resistance. Studies in the History of German Conservatism from 1789 to 1945 (1993). text search
  • Kramer, Lloyd. Nationalism in Europe & America: Politics, Cultures, and Identities since 1775 (2011) online
  • Mohler, Armin. Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918–1932 (1972). excerpt and text search
  • Smith, Anthony D. The Ethnic Origins of Nations (1986) excerpt and text search
  • Smith, Anthony D. The Nation in History: Historiographical Debates about Ethnicity and Nationalism (2000) excerpt and text search
  • Smith, Anthony D. The Antiquity of Nations (2004)
  • Sunic, Tomislav. Postmortem Report: Cultural Examinations from Postmodernity. Shamley Green, UK: The Paligenesis Project, 2010.
  • Venner, Dominique. Le Siècle de 1914. Utopies, guerres et révolutions en Europe au XXe siècle (2006). text search

External links