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Nations and Nationalism




Admission requirements

One of the 100-level WP courses, preferably Birth of the Modern World.

Course description

To what extent can theories of nationalism provide adequate conceptual frameworks to analyse and comprehend the complexities of nationalism in contemporary international politics and their related issues? What are the limitations of nationalism theories and how do contemporary issues highlight these theoretical deficiencies? The course aims to provide an in-depth specialisation in various theories of nationalism and the application of these theories to various cases in international politics. In addition to providing a detailed understanding of rival perspectives and the issues that divide them, it poses the question of whether it is possible to go beyond nationalism. Students are expected to critically reflect on the theoretical implications of studying nationalism in contemporary international politics.

The course is divided into three parts:

  • PART I (Session 1, 2) is intended to demonstrate why (or why not) ‘nationality’ matters. This part will particularly focus on the debate between communitarians and liberals in political philosophy.

  • PART II (Session 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) is designed to answer the question, ‘what is a nation’? Is nation a nation, a state, an ethnic group or anything else? This part aims to give students a basic knowledge of the range and importance of nationalism theories.

  • PART III (Session 10, 11, 12, 13, 14) means to interpret and analyse some of key issues related to nations and nationalism in international politics. The concluding seminar (Session 14) will ask whether it is possible to go beyond nationalism in international politics.

1. An introduction to nations and nationalism in world politics
2. (Why) does ‘nationality’ matter? – Liberals versus communitarians
3. Genetic, cultural, or civil? – Primordialism vs. liberalism
4. Nation as ‘imagined communities’? – Modernism vs. ethnic-symbolism
5. The social construction of nationality – Invention of tradition vs. discursive formation
6. Hot and Banal nationalism
7. History, memory and nation
8. Motherland or fatherland? – Nation as gender formation
9. Good and bad nationalisms?
10. Nationalism and the society of the states
11. Sovereignty and self-determination
12. Imperialism, Colonialism and nationalism
13. Nationalism in a globalised world
14. Conclusion: Beyond Nationalism?

Each student will work on her/his own case study in her/his final research paper and have the opportunity to put theory into practice.

Learning objectives

In this course, students will learn valuable theoretical, methodological and analytical skills enabling them to interpret key issues in the nationalism of international politics. By the end of the course each student is expected to develop the following skills:

  • a critical awareness of the key debates concerning the historiography of nationalism theory;

  • Critically identify and discuss key issues surrounding the history and development of nationalism in international politics;

  • critically reflect upon key theories and concepts using a variety of case studies in contemporary nationalism movements/phenomena in international politics;

  • critically identify the methodological and epistemological implications of a wide range of theoretical positions

  • display the confidence to present and discuss their ideas in relevant academic contexts, i.e. seminars, workshops, conferences.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour seminars. During the course of the seminar students are expected to take part in both large and small group discussions; participate in seminar discussions; present and defend their ideas within an academic setting; and take part in group projects. The role of the instructor is to ensure the efficient running of the discussion. Each seminar has a ‘required reading’ list that must be read in advance of each seminar. Students are also recommended to read some of the items listed under ‘suggested reading’ prior to each seminar and use the extended list as a starting point in their preparation for essay writing.


Presentation (20%)
Participation (15%)
Book Review (1,000 words, 25%)
Final Research Paper (3,000 words, 40%)

Compulsory textbook

The acquisition of the following book is highly recommended. Readings outside of that book will be provided electronically through blackboard.

Ozkirimli, Umut. Theories of Nationalism: A Critical Introduction (Basingstoke: Palgrave).

Contact information

Yih-Jye Hwang ,