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Alain Dieckhoff, Nationalism and the Multination State (translated by Cynthia Schoch), London, Hurst and New York, Oxford University Press, September 2016. An interview with the author.
- Let’s start with a short historical reminder: when and how did the concept of nationalism emerge? You situate it at the heart of modernity. Can you tell us more?
- Nationalism is both an ideology and a political movement that aims to make the nation—a human community sharing common characteristics, be they cultural (language, religion, shared history) and/or political (belonging to the same territorialized political community)—the focus of collective expression. The term originated in the main European languages, first timidly at the end of the 18th century, and then firmly took hold in the following century. This means that it is a modern phenomenon related to a major transformation: political sovereignty is vested in the people, no more in monarchs.
- How do you explain that nationalism has switched from a ‘positive’ connotation, synonymous with freedom and emancipation, to a ‘negative’ connotation, synonymous with exclusion and withdrawing into oneself?
- Because the idea of nation was at odds with the unequal society of the Ancien Regime, it was inseparable from the rise of democracy as government by the people. Nationalism originally had a truly revolutionary and emancipatory dimension.
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