National identity

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National identity is one’s identity or sense of belonging to one state or to one nation.[1][2] It is the sense of a nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, language and politics.[3] National identity may refer to the subjective feeling one shares with a group of people about a nation, regardless of one's legal citizenship status.[4] National identity is viewed in psychological terms as "an awareness of difference", a "feeling and recognition of 'we' and 'they'".[5]

The expression of one's national identity seen in a positive light is patriotism which is characterized by national pride and positive emotion of love for one's country. The extreme expression of national identity is chauvinism, which refers to the firm belief in the country's superiority and extreme loyalty toward one's country.[1]

Formation and development[edit]

National identity is not an inborn trait, but is essentially socially constructed.[6] A person's national identity results directly from the presence of elements from the "common points" in people's daily lives: national symbols, language, colours, nation's history, blood ties, culture, music, cuisine, radio, television, and so on.[7][8] Under various social influences, people incorporate national identity into their personal identities by adopting beliefs, values, assumptions and expectations which align with one’s national identity.[8] People with identification of their nation view national beliefs and values as personally meaningful, and translate these beliefs and values into daily practices.[1]

According to Social Identity Theory, the conceptualization of national identity includes both self-categorization and affect. Self-categorization refers to identifying with a nation, and view oneself as a member of a nation. The affect part refers to the emotion a person has with this identification, such as a sense of belonging, or emotional attachment toward one's nation.[2] The mere awareness of belonging to a certain group invokes positive emotions about the group, and leads to a tendency to act on behalf of that group, even when the group members are sometimes unknown personally.[2] National identity, like other social identities, engenders positive emotions such as pride and love to one's nation, and feeling of obligations toward other citizens.[9] The socialization of national identity, such as socializing national pride and a sense of the country's exceptionalism contributes to harmony among ethnic groups in the U.S. By integrating diverse ethnic groups in an overarching identity of being an American, people are united by a shared emotion of national pride and the feeling of belonging to the U.S, tend to mitigate ethnic conflicts.[10]

National identity can be salient when the nation confronts external or internal enemy[4] and natural disasters.[11] An example of this phenomenon is the rise in patriotism and national identity in the U.S after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.[12][13] The identity of being an American are salient after the terrorist attacks and American national identity are evoked.[1] Having a common threat or having a common goal unite people in a nation and enhance national identity.[14]

Sociologist Anthony Smith argues that national identity has the feature of continuity that can transmit and persist through generations. By expressing the myths of having common descent and common destiny, people's sense of belonging to nation is enhanced.[15] However, national identities can disappear across time as more people live in foreign countries, and can be challenged by supranational identities, which refers to identifying with an more inclusive, larger group that includes people from multiple nations.[16]

National identity involves both the identification of in-group (identifying with one's nation), and differentiation of out-groups (other nations). According Social Identity Theory, it implies a positive relationship between identification of a nation and derogation of other nations. By identifying with one's nation, people involve in intergroup comparisons, and derogate out-groups.[2][17] However, several studies have investigated this relationship between national identity and derogating other countries, and found that identifying with national identity does not necessarily result in out-group derogation.[18]

National Identity and Immigration[edit]

As the world becomes increasingly globalized and as immigration increases, many countries face the challenges of constructing national identity and accommodating immigrants. Some countries are more inclusive in terms of encouraging immigrants to develop their new national identity, while other countries are less inclusive.

Canada has the highest permanent immigration rates in the world. The Canadian government encourages immigrants to build a sense of belonging to Canada, and has fosters a more inclusive concept of national identity which includes both people born in Canada and people born in foreign countries.[19] Russia has experienced two major waves of immigration influx, one in the 1990s, and the other one after 1998. Immigrants were perceived negatively by Russian population and were viewed as "unwelcome and abusive guests." They were considered outsiders and were excluded from sharing the national identity of belonging to Russia.[20]


In some cases where national identity collides with a person's civil identity. For example, many Israeli Arabs associate themselves or are associated with the Arab or Palestinian nationality, while at the same time they are citizens of the state of Israel, which is in conflict with the Palestinians and with many Arab countries.[21] Taiwanese also face a conflict of national identity with civil identity as there have been movements advocating formal "Taiwan Independence" and renaming "Republic of China" to "Republic of Taiwan.[22]" Residents in Taiwan are issued national identification cards and passports under the country name "Republic of China", and a portion of them do not identify themselves with "Republic of China," but rather with "Republic of Taiwan.[23]"


National identity markers are those characteristics used to identify a person as possessing a particular national identity. These markers are not fixed but fluid, varying from culture to culture and also within a culture over time. Such markers may include common language or dialect, national dress, birthplace, family affiliation, etc.[24]

Other resources[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Ashmore, Richard; Jussim, Lee; Wilder, David (2001). Social Identity, Intergroup Conflict, and Conflict Reduction. USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 74–75. ISBN 0198031432. 
  2. ^ a b c d Tajfel, H; Turner, J.C (1986). "The Social Identity Theory of Inter-group Behavior.". Psychology of Intergroup Relations. 
  3. ^ "Definition of National Identity in English". Oxford Dictionaries. 
  4. ^ a b Guibernau, Montserrat (2004). "Anothony D. Smith on Nations and National Identity: a critical assessment". Nations and Nationalism. doi:10.1111/j.1354-5078.2004.00159.x. 
  5. ^ Lee, Yoonmi (2012). Modern Education, Textbooks, and the Image of the Nation: Politics and Modernization and Nationalism in Korean Education. Routledge. p. 29. ISBN 9781136600791. 
  6. ^ Anderson, Benedict (1991). Imagined Communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. Verso. p. 133. ISBN 0860915468. 
  7. ^ László, János (2013). Historical Tales and National Identity: An introduction to narrative social psychology. Routledge. p. 1917. ISBN 1134746504. 
  8. ^ a b Bar-Tal, Daniel; Staub, Ervin (1997). Patriotism in the Lives of Individuals and Nations. Chicago: Nelson-Hall Publishers. pp. 171–172. ISBN 083041410X. 
  9. ^ Tajfel, Henri (1978). Differentiation between Social Groups: studies in the social psychology of intergroup relations. Academic Press. 
  10. ^ Horowitz, Donald (1985). Ethnic Groups in Conflict. University of California Press. ISBN 0520053850. 
  11. ^ West, Brad; Smith, Philip (1997). "Natural Disasters and National Identity: time, space, and mythology". Journal of Sociology. doi:10.1177/144078339703300205. 
  12. ^ Ross, Michael (Jul 4, 2005). "Poll: U.S. Patriotism Continues to Soar". NBC News. 
  13. ^ Lyon, Grant (Sep 8, 2011). "Patriotism vs. Nationalism in a Post 9/11 World". Huffington Post. 
  14. ^ Uko-Ima, Barrister (2014). National Identity: Pragmatic Solutions for Democratic Governance in African Nations. Xlibris LLC. p. 141. ISBN 9781499047950. 
  15. ^ Smith, Anthony (1991). National Identity. University of Nevada Press. pp. 8–15. ISBN 0874172047. 
  16. ^ Adair, John; Belanger, David; Dion, Kenneth (1998). Advances in Psychological Science: social, personal, and cultural aspects. Psychology Press. pp. 250–251. ISBN 0863774709. 
  17. ^ Turner, J.C (1999). Social Identity Context, Commimtment, Content. Some Current Issues in Research on Social Identity and Self-categorization Theories. Oxford: Blackwell. 
  18. ^ Hopkins, Nick (2001). "Commentary. National Identity: Pride and prejudice?". British Journal of Social Psychology. 
  19. ^ de Zavala, Agnieszka; Cichocka, Aleksandra (2012). Social Psychology of Social Problems: The intergroup context. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 102–104. ISBN 1137272228. 
  20. ^ Liedy, Amy (Jul 7, 2011). "National Identity through the Prism of Immigration: The Case Study of Modern Russia". Kennan Institute. 
  21. ^ Gibson, Stephen (2002). "Social Psychological Studies of National Identity: A literature review" (PDF). Sociology Youth and European Identity. 
  22. ^ Sullivan, Jonathan (Aug 18, 2014). "Taiwan's Identity Crisis". The National Interest. 
  23. ^ Seth, Sushil (Nov 15, 2005). "Taiwan's national identity in crisis". Taipei Times. 
  24. ^ Kiely, R.; Bechhofer, F.; Stewart, R.; McCrone, D. (2001). "The markers and rules of Scottish national identity". The Sociological Review 49: 033–55. doi:10.1111/1467-954X.00243.