Security, ethnicity, nationalism

Publisert: 27. sep. 2017

In this article, Neumann asks which aspects of ethnicity and nationalism that may be brought into sharper focus if we read these two phenomena with a view to how they have been shaped by security concerns.

The first part of the article clears up some problems inherent in such exercises in diachronic concept analysis, and establishes the temporal area of validity for the analysis.

The second part argues that the very emergence of the concept of ethnos (and its Roman translation, gens) was immersed in security thinking. It emerged as a way in which Greeks and Romans imposed order on what was outside that was not there before. Ethnic groups became ethnic by being interpellated by a stronger polity, and the process was driven first and foremost by security concerns.

The third part illustrates this with a case study of the emergence of Slavic ethnicity. The fourth part of the article discusses how, with the advent of nationalism, there is an inversion. If ethnicity was imposed on subaltern groups, then European empires attempted to deny nationalism to such groups by insisting that they did not have the history to deserve it. Once again, security concerns played a key role, for as rightly seen by empires, nationhood could be an important anti-colonial resource.

The paper ends by noting how nationalism invariably underlines the vitality of the Self, and juxtaposes it with the decrepitude of Others. With reference to present-day Russia, I note how the use of such organic metaphors in and of themselves securitize the relationship between nations, for the implication is that the old should disappear for the new to live, and that highlights security concerns on both sides of the relationship.