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Course objectives: Nationalism aims to provide a general introduction to these twin concepts. Students will be given an overall survey of the origins of these ideas, the political consequences on world politics, and their continuing relevance. Such historical and theoretical knowledge will culminate in a deeper and nuanced understanding of the idea of nation and the ideology of nationalism. In due course, students will acquire the skills to unpack and decode some of the current pressing issues in the world ranging from Flemish nationalism to the Arab spring. In parallel, class discussions and written assignments will contribute to oral and written expression skills.

Content: Nationalism builds on the Political Science courses offered in the first and second years. The course starts with systems of political organisation before the advent of nationalism. This is followed by the emergence of the idea of popular legitimacy empowering the ‘people’ that was put into political practice with the French Revolution, and the subsequent impact this has had on world politics as the ‘people’ became the ‘nation’. The ideology that the ‘nation’ and ‘state’ should be congruent, i.e. nationalism, has since changed the political landscape of the world. During the 19th century, nationalism and popular democracy were inseparable in opposing the old order of royal and religious legitimacy (i.e. ‘let the people decide’), but the idea of nationalism later spawned violence and wars as well.

When the nation has been smaller than the state (the Habsburg and Ottoman multination empires), nationalism has led to new smaller nation-states, when the nation has been bigger than the state (German and Italian nations divided into various states), nationalism has created new bigger nation-states. Many current conflicts around the world reflect the enduring impact of nationalism. Nationalism also examines deviations from the Westphalian nation-state ideal including multination states (e.g. Belgium, Canada), nations that span across various states (e.g. Albanians across Albania proper, Kosova, and Macedonia), stateless nations (e.g. Kurds spread across Turkey, Iran and Iraq), minority nations (Quebec, Catalonia), and the accompanying potential lines of conflict.

Methods of Instruction

Following two weeks of lectures providing general introduction, the course will be divided into lectures and class discussions on the topics and reading assignments. There will be an in-class examination and a final paper.
Part of the course will be devoted to discussing the transition of multination empires into nation-states. The scholarly literature will be unpacked within the context of three novels set in the time-period. Students will choose one amongst the following three titles, and critically examine the novels in the light of the themes discussed in class.

Gregor von Rezzori, Snows of yesteryear
Ivo Andric, The Bridge over Drina
Louis de Bernières, Birds without wings

Study Material

Required readings will be made available electronically.


Learning aim Assessment Percentage Deadline Interactive engagement with course material In-class attendance, participation, and optional presentations 10% attendance
20% participation Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7 Understanding of course content In-class 2 hour exam 20% Week 8, Critical examination of literature Two book summaries
(1,000 words each) 20% Week 3 and 5 Expression of holistic understanding of the course Final research essay
(3,000 words) 30% Week 8Schedule:
dinsdag 5 februari t/m 26 maart, 15.00-17.00 uur, 5B16 en
donderdag 7 februari t/m 28 maart, 15.00-17.00 uur, 1A47

Entrance Requirements

Comparative Analysis of Political Systems