Nation may refer to a large group of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, or history. Nation can refer to “a people, race, or tribe; those having the same descent, language, and history.” Webster’s New Encyclopedic Dictionary defines nation as “a community of people composed of one or more nationalities with its own territory and government” and also as “a tribe or federation of tribes (as of American Indians)”. Nation carries varying meanings, and the connotation of the term has changed over time.
An ethnic community, or ethnie, shares a common myth of origins and descent, a common history, elements of distinctive culture, a common territorial association, and sense of group solidarity. A nation is much more impersonal, abstract, and overtly political than an ethnic group. It is a cultural-political community that has become conscious of its coherence, unity, and particular interests.
As an example of how the word natio was employed in classical Latin, the following quote from Cicero's Philippics Against Mark Antony in 44 BC contrasts the external, inferior nationes ("races of people") with the Roman civitas ("community"):
"Omnes nationes servitutem ferre possunt: nostra civitas non potest."
("All races are able to bear enslavement, but our community cannot.")—Cicero, Orationes: Pro Milone, Pro Marcello, Pro Ligario, Pro rege Deiotaro
A significant early use of the term nation, as natio, occurred at mediaeval universities to describe the colleagues in a college or students, above all at the University of Paris, who were all born within a pays, spoke the same language and expected to be ruled by their own familiar law. In 1383 and 1384, while studying theology at Paris, Jean Gerson was elected twice as a procurator for the French natio. The University of Prague adopted the division of students into nationes: from its opening in 1349 the studium generale which consisted of Bohemian, Bavarian, Saxon and Silesian nations.
In a similar way, the nationes were segregated by the Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem, who maintained at Rhodes the hostels from which they took their name "where foreigners eat and have their places of meeting, each nation apart from the others, and a Knight has charge of each one of these hostels, and provides for the necessities of the inmates according to their religion", as the Spanish traveller Pedro Tafur noted in 1436.
The African diaspora
The 18th century brought an alteration to the meaning of the term "nation", which became more narrowly referred to as a group with a recognizable and sovereign government with physical borders. This new definition aligns more with the concept of a nation-state. The nation began to emerge in the late 18th century as the leading form of government and social organization. The catalyst that brought about this change in meaning was the influence of the African diaspora and its people in other states, specifically in the United States. National identity brought rights to vote, to hold office, and independence for a growing number of black territories held under colonial rule.
This change occurred in the New World as Africans were brought as enslaved peoples. The white population of the new world considered these aliens to be in one category of nation that was based entirely on color and continent of origin. The identity of the enslaved at the time was then shaped by their skin color rather than what nation or tribe they truly originated from. Prior to the 18th and 19th century, the term mainly referred to a group of people unified by language, region and cultural background; what is now considered to be one's ethnicity. It was through the process of emancipation and the end of the slave trade that the concept of nation began to shift. As the previously enslaved began to fight for rights they had to discover what kind of rights they were searching for. It was in this process of emancipation that nationality began to take on a different meaning. Language and cultural background were no longer the only requirements of nation. Instead, now the idea of an established government and physical boundaries also shaped what it meant to be a nation.
However, within the diaspora, particularly among groups that have been politicized, the term nation has been used to describe a more abstract national experience, one that transcends physical borders and language differences. This description of nation is pinned to the shared experience of being radicalized and termed as Black. The expansion of Black Nationalism demonstrates that although some expanded the view that nation requires definable boundaries, those who shared the experience of the diaspora also found a nationality among themselves.
- Ethnic group
- Identity (social science)
- Identity politics
- Imagined communities
- Indigenous peoples
- Intercultural competence
- Invented traditions
- List of sovereign states
- List of states with limited recognition
- Lists of ethnic groups
- Lists of people by nationality
- Multinational state
- Nation (university)
- National emblem
- Nation state
- Race (classification of humans)
- Sovereign state
- Territorial dispute
- Territory (country subdivision)
- United Nations
- See, Anthony D. Smith, "Ethnie and Nation in the Modern World", Millennium, 14:2 (1983), 128-32; Peter Alter, Nationalism (London: Edward Arnold, 1989), 17.
- Harper, Douglas. "Nation". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 5 June 2011..
- see: nation (university)
- Pedro Tafur, Andanças e viajes.
- Bauböck, Rainer, and Thomas Faist. Diaspora and Transnationalism: Concepts, Theories and Methods. Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP, 2010. Print.
- Manning, Patrick (2013). The African Diaspora: A History through Culture. Columbia studies in international and global history. Columbia University Press. p. np. ISBN 9780231513555. Retrieved 2014-01-02. "The nation began to emerge, in the late eighteenth century, as the leading form of government and social organization."
- Manning, Patrick (2013). The African Diaspora: A History through Culture. Columbia studies in international and global history. Columbia University Press. p. np. ISBN 9780231513555. Retrieved 2014-01-02. "Haiti and Liberia stand out as early black nations; the United States and Brazil stand out as early, multicultural nations with large black populations. Nationhood came gradually to all black people. National identity brought rights to vote, to hold office, and independence for a growing number of black territories held under colonial rule."
- Manning, Patrick. The African Diaspora: A History through Culture. New York: Columbia UP, 2009. Print.