Friday, February 07, 2020

Colleges say Europe invented national conflict

Razib Khan writes:
It is quite common in various parts of the educated set to assert that nationalism and ethnicity and identity have shallow roots. The academic view can often be distilled down to Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (apparently this is the most assigned book among undergraduates, explaining its influence). Though Anderson’s thesis is not quite as general as people make it out to be, I do think it leads one toward the conclusion that national, ethnic, and communal identity is shallow, superficial, recent, and, of European causal origin.

If one takes these as a given then the essential, necessary, and causal role of the Belgians in fomenting conflict in Ruanda-Urundi is perhaps warranted. As it happens, I reject the generality of Anderson’s thesis. Rather, I believe that Azar Gat’s argument in Nations: The Long History and Deep Roots of Political Ethnicity and Nationalism is much more persuasive. Gat is not saying that the French nation originated with Vercingetorix. But, he does argue that the elements of national identity which crystallized and converged with the French Revolution were deep and longstanding.

The same is clearly true of many non-European ethnicities and nationalities. They existed long before the arrival of European colonialism and political ideology.
According to this, today's college students are being taught that nationalism is just some superficial evil that was invented by Europeans and recently imposed on colonial subjects.

Sure, Europe has a bunch of national identities, and a history of fighting each other. But there is a long history of ethnic conflict in the rest of the world also.

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