nl en

Nations and Nationalism




Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 100-level and 200-level courses. Students that do not meet this prerequisite should contact the instructor regarding the required competencies before course allocation.


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. Students will work on their own case study and have the opportunity to put theory into practice. 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 methodological and ethical implications of studying nationalism in contemporary international politics. The course is divided into three parts:

Part I (Seminar 1, 2, 3) 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 (Seminar 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 (Seminar 10, 11, 12, 13) means to interpret and analyse some of key issues related to nations and nationalism in international politics. The concluding seminar (Seminar 14) will ask whether it is possible to go beyond nationalism in international politics.

Course 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.


To be confirmed in course syllabus:

Assessment: Presentation
Percentage: 25%

Assessment: Participation
Percentage: 15%

Assessment: Book Review (1,000 words)
Percentage: 20%

Assessment: Final Research Paper (3,000 words)
Percentage: 40%


The acquisition of the following two books is highly recommended. They are also available at your local libraries in The Hague and the Leiden University libraries. Readings outside of these two books will be provided electronically through blackboard.

  • Mulhall, Stephen and Adam Swift. Liberals and Communitarians (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992).

  • Ozkirimli, Umut. Theories of Nationalism: A Critical Introduction (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000).

Contact Information

Yih-Jye Hwang

Weekly Overview

Part I: why (or why not) ‘nationality’ matters?

    1. Is there a ‘Dutch’, ‘Chinese’, or whatever people? – An introduction to theories of nationalism and nationalism in international politics
    1. (Why) does ‘nationality’ matter? – Liberals versus Communitarians (1)
    1. (Why) does ‘nationality’ matter? – Liberals versus Communitarians (2)

Part II: ‘what is a nation’?

    1. Genetic, cultural, or civil? – Primordialism vs. Liberalism (1)
    1. Genetic, cultural, or civil? – Primordialism vs. Liberalism (2)
    1. Nation as ‘imagined communities’? Modernism vs. Ethnic-Symbolism (1)
    1. Nation as ‘imagined communities’? Modernism vs. Ethnic-Symbolism (2)
    1. The social construction of nationality: invention of tradition vs. discursive formation (1)
    1. The social construction of nationality: invention of tradition vs. discursive formation (2)

Part III: Nationalism in international politics

    1. Imperialism, Colonialism and the World-System of Nation-States
    1. Sovereignty and Self-Determination: Conflicting Norms as the Basis for International Conflict
    1. Nationalism and Bilateral Hostility among Transborder States
    1. Nationalism in a Globalised World
    1. Conclusion: Beyond Nationalism?

Preparation for first session