Ethnic nationalism

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Ethnic nationalism, also known as ethnonationalism,[1] is a form of nationalism wherein the nation and nationality are defined in terms of ethnicity,[2][3] with emphasis on an ethnocentric (and in some cases an ethnocratic) approach to various political issues related to national affirmation of a particular ethnic group.[4][5]

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".[6] Those of other ethnicities may be classified as second-class citizens.[7][8]

The theorist Anthony D. Smith uses 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.[9]


The central political tenet of ethnic nationalism is that ethnic groups are entitled to self-determination.[citation needed] 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 the institution of ethnic federalism within a multi-ethnic society, to a establishing an independent 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,[citation needed] or for the establishment of an ethnocratic (mono-ethnocratic or poly-ethnocratic) political structure in which the state apparatus is controlled by a politically and militarily dominant ethnic nationalist group or a group several ethnic nationalist groups from select ethnicities to further its interests, power and resources.[10]

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.[citation needed]

Some types of ethnic nationalism are firmly rooted in the idea of ethnicity as an inherited characteristic, for example black nationalism or white nationalism, often ethnic nationalism also manifests in the assimilation of minority ethnic groups into the dominant group, for example as with Italianisation. This assimilation may or may not be predicated on a belief in some common ancestry with assimilated groups (for example with Germanisation in the Second World war). An extreme version is racial nationalism.[citation needed]

Recent theories and empirical data suggest that people maintain dual lay beliefs about nationality, such that it can be both inherited biologically at birth and acquired culturally in life.[11]


In the context of the Mapuche conflict, the Coordinadora Arauco-Malleco (CAM) presents a strictly ethno-nationalist demand.[12]

Herodotus stated the main characteristics of Greek identity: kinship in blood, speech, religious worship, and customs.[13]

Ethnic nationalism is present in many states' immigration policies in the form of repatriation laws. Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Serbia, Turkey,[6]: 33  Estonia, Greece, Italy, Malaysia, Romania, India, China, Japan, the United Kingdom, Taiwan and Russia,[citation needed] provide automatic or rapid citizenship to members of diasporas of their predominant ethnic group, if desired.


In Malaysia, the Bumiputera principle recognises the "special position" of the Malays provided in the Constitution of Malaysia, in particular Article 153. However, the constitution does not use the term bumiputra; it defines only "Malay" and "indigenous peoples" (Article 160(2)),[14] "natives" of Sarawak (161A(6)(a)),[15] and "natives" of Sabah (Article 161A(6) (b)).[15] Certain but not all pro-bumiputra policies exist as affirmative action for bumiputras, for NEP is racial-based and not deprivation-based. For instance, all Bumiputra, regardless of their financial standing, are entitled to a 7 percent discount on houses or property, including luxurious units, whilst a low-income non-Bumiputra receives no such financial assistance. Other preferential policies include quotas for the following: admission to government educational institutions, qualification for public scholarships, marking of universities exam papers, special bumiputras-only classes prior to university's end of term exams, for positions in government, and ownership of businesses. Most of the policies were established in the Malaysian New Economic Policy (NEP) period. Many policies focus on trying to achieve a bumiputra share of corporate equity, comprising at least 30% of the total. Ismail Abdul Rahman proposed this target after the government was unable to agree on a suitable policy goal.


In German nationality law, citizenship is open to ethnic Germans. According to the Greek nationality law, Greeks born abroad may transmit citizenship to their children from generation to generation indefinitely.


More extreme forms of ethnic nationalism have been identified as a cause of various genocides and episodes of ethnic cleansing.[16][17][18] In his 2005 book The Great Game of Genocide, historian Donald Bloxham argued that the Armenian genocide "represents a clear logic of ethnic nationalism when carried to its absolute extreme in multinational societies".[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Leoussi 2001, p. 81-84.
  2. ^ Smith 1987, p. 134-138, 144–149.
  3. ^ Smith 2009, p. 61-80.
  4. ^ Smith 1981, p. 18.
  5. ^ Roshwald 2001.
  6. ^ a b Jerry Z. Muller (2008), "Us and Them: The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism", Foreign Affairs, 87 (2 (Mar. – Apr., 2008)): 18–35, JSTOR 20032578
  7. ^ Rangelov, Iavor (2013). Nationalism and the Rule of Law: Lessons from the Balkans and Beyond. Cambridge University Press. pp. 19–44. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511997938. ISBN 9780511997938.
  8. ^ Yilmaz, Muzaffer Ercan (2018). "The Rise of Ethnic Nationalism, Intra-State Conflicts and Conflict Resolution". Journal of TESAM Akademy. 5 (1): 11–33. doi:10.30626/tesamakademi.393051.
  9. ^ Safran, William (2008). "Language, ethnicity and religion: a complex and persistent linkage: Language, ethnicity and religion". Nations and Nationalism. 14 (1): 171–190. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8129.2008.00323.x.
  10. ^ Anderson, James (30 November 2016). "ETHNOCRACY: Exploring and Extending the Concept". Cosmopolitan Civil Societies. 8 (3): 1–29. doi:10.5130/ccs.v8i3.5143. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  11. ^ Rad, Mostafa Salari; Ginges, Jeremy (16 April 2018). "Folk theories of nationality and anti-immigrant attitudes". Nature Human Behaviour. 2 (5): 343–347. doi:10.1038/s41562-018-0334-3. PMID 30962601. S2CID 4898162.
  12. ^ ""La lucha mapuche es nacionalista, anticapitalista y revolucionaria"". Nodo50. April 2002. Nuestra lucha por la independencia, por la autodeterminación es tomar el planteamiento histórico de nuestro pueblo para mantenerse y seguir siendo pueblo
  13. ^ 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."
  14. ^ "Part XII: General and Miscellaneous, Constitution of Malaysia (Articles 152–160)", Accessed 30 May 2007
  15. ^ a b Part XIIA: Additional Protections for States of Sabah and Sarawak, Constitution of Malaysia (Articles 161 – 161h), helplinelaw. Accessed 30 May 2007
  16. ^ Scherrer, Christian P. (1999). "Towards a theory of modern genocide. Comparative genocide research: Definitions, criteria, typologies, cases, key elements, patterns and voids". Journal of Genocide Research. 1 (1): 13–23. doi:10.1080/14623529908413932.
  17. ^ Smith, Anthony D. (1994). "Ethnic Nationalism and the Plight of Minorities". Journal of Refugee Studies. 7 (2–3): 186–198. doi:10.1093/jrs/7.2-3.186.
  18. ^ Ahmed, Akbar S. (1995). "'Ethnic cleansing': A metaphor for our time?". Ethnic and Racial Studies. 18 (1): 1–25. doi:10.1080/01419870.1995.9993851.
  19. ^ Bloxham, Donald (2005). The Great Game of Genocide: Imperialism, Nationalism, and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians. Oxford University Press. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-19-150044-2.


Further reading[edit]